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Associate Dean

Professor, Art

Art Bldg, Room 207D

MFA – Vermont College, MS – University of Arizona

Ellen McMahon uses a range of media (artist books, writing, painting, drawing, photography, design and video) to investigate the relationship between visual art, daily life, and the ways we frame and study social and environmental problems.

McMahon came to the University of Arizona in 1980 to study Scientific Illustration (MS in Biology 1983). After several years of professional experience as an illustrator and graphic designer, she received an MFA in visual art (Vermont College, 1996) and was hired in a tenure track position in the UofA School of Art. Between 1990 and 2005 her work addressed the social and cultural construction of motherhood and the politics of intimacy in the mother-child relationship. Since 2005, fueled by her conviction that art and design are foundational in effecting positive change, she has developed a number of projects that support individual creative inquiry among her peers and students through interdisciplinary collaborations and partnerships with community organizations.

In 2007 McMahon received a Fulbright Fellowship to work as an artist/designer with the Center for the Study of Deserts and Oceans in Mexico and presented her work as a delegate to the World Design Congress (ICOGRADA) in Cuba.  From 2010-2012, she served as initiator and director of a collaborative faculty research project focused on regional water, which included 29 participants from art, design, humanities, the natural and social sciences, as well as city and regional water managers. The resulting book which McMahon art directed and co-edited, Ground|Water: Interdisciplinary Responses to a Dry River received national and international design awards and has been collected by over 40 public institutions worldwide.

McMahon’s artist books are in 15 public collections in several countries. Her visual work has been exhibited in numerous group exhibitions and in solo exhibitions “Redressing the Mother” at AIR Gallery in New York, “Maternal Matters” at Cal State San Marcos, and “In Nature | Of Nature | Perceptions of Place” at University of Wyoming. Her published writings include personal essays about motherhood, op-eds about design and the environment, and technical papers about scientific illustration.  Her autobiographic essays are published in Mother Reader: Essential Writings on Motherhood (Seven Stories Press, 2002), The Oldest We’ve Ever Been: Seven True Stories of Midlife Transition (University of Arizona Press, 2008), and The M Word: Real Mothers in Contemporary Art (Demeter Press, 2010). Her design work is featured in Clean New World: Culture, Politics, and Graphic Design, (MIT Press, 2002) and Graphic Design: Sustainable Principles and Practices, (Bloomsbury Publishing, 2016).


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1 day ago
Arizona Arts

The BFA Acting & Musical Theatre 2021 Showcase is now live! Today, the filmed edition of Showcase 2021 is being released online via an exclusive platform for viewing by thousands of agents, casting directors, and other industry professionals across the U.S. and Canada – a vital final step in the professional training of our emerging actors. The Showcase is also available for general viewing – watch our talented graduating seniors now at

Congratulations to our A/MT Class of 2021! Bear Down!
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3 days ago
Arizona Arts

May the Fourth Be With You.

No one captured the thrill of space exploration quite like artist Robert McCall, a major figure in the University of Arizona Museum of Art collection.

For more than 60 years, McCall chronicled the history of aviation, science and space flight and shared his vision with the world. His 35-year relationship with NASA gave Americans a view of its presence in space in ways never before imagined.

In addition to being a visual historian for NASA, McCall served as a conceptual artist for the entertainment industry. He painted the poster art for Stanley Kubrick's classic, "2001: A Space Odyssey."

He has been an inspiration to generations of astronomers, engineers, and astronauts and a model for young artists, designers and illustrators.

In 2007, McCall made the founding donation of 200 original paintings and drawings to UAMA, which helped establish UAMA’s Archive of Visual Arts.

1. Robert T. McCall, Rendezvous (from The Apollo Story portfolio), 1973, Lithograph on paper, Gift of Dr. Byron C. Butler
2. From sketchbook #304, page 7, Oct. 1994. Cactus in space?
3. From sketchbook #307, page 11, Aug. 1999.
4. Mars Metropolis
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