Featured CU Denver Professor: Joann Brennan

University of Colorado Denver

CU Denver’s College of Arts and Media Professor Joann Brennan was recently chosen to exhibit her work in the Smithsonian American Art Museum’s newest exhibition, “The Singing and The Silence: Birds in Contemporary Art.”

The power and beauty of the photographic image lies in its ability to convey a story, to incite inspiration or impact understanding all captured in the moment that the artist chooses to release the shutter. Nowhere is that story more compelling or relevant to our modern lives than in the work of Joann Brennan. Brennan has been recently selected as one of only 12 artists to share her story in the Smithsonian’s newest exhibit, “The Singing and the Silence: Birds in Contemporary Art,” where her work stands out in its ability to convey the fragile relationship that exists between humans and nature.

Far from a black and white criticism of human interference, Brennan’s photography focuses on the intimate codependence between people and nature. “In the beginning, I had no idea about the extent to which we manipulate wildness. People think we should step back and let wildness be, holding on to a romantic view of what wildness is… but through making this work, I know that our impact on the environment is so significant that if we step back we’ll lose it,” says Brennan. “We have the power to completely eliminate a species, and we have the power to bring a species back from the edge of extinction. We are constantly testing, learning, and adapting in an effort to create a balance between human concerns and wildness. And the reality of it is that the balance is human-made and precarious.”

Learning is a key component of Brennan’s work throughout the six photographs featured at the Smithsonian and through her work on the “Managing Eden” series, which Brennan has put together over the past 24 years.

Brennan’s work as a photographer has had far reaching impact and she has earned numerous accolades along the way, including prestigious fellowships with both the Smithsonian and the Guggenheim, but even more impressive has been the impact she has had across her many years as a CAM Professor and Administrator. In her 16 years as a faculty member and her current role as Associate Dean she has certainly played a major role in taking CAM to the next level. Brennan has been selected to lead academic program development and support the building of mutually beneficial relationships between educational programs, from all four CU campuses, and South Denver’s business communities in her new role as Associate Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs at CU’s South Denver location. But even with her new responsibilities and the national spotlight on her creative work, Brennan continues to remain focused on CAM and excited about the prospects ahead. “With the addition of our terrific new Dean and new initiatives underway, it is a great time to be a part of CAM,” she concludes. “I am very excited about the future of CAM, as our talented and experienced faculty, staff and administrators are focused on building innovative educational programs and creative opportunities from which our entrepreneurial students can launch exciting careers. I am grateful to have the opportunity to help the college grow.”