Student of Distinction: Sarah Theller

Student of Distinction: Sarah Theller

Sarah Theller is a graduate student receiving her M.A. in Art History. She is the Dean’s Medal Honorable Mention for the Department of Art, Design and Art History.

Theller grew up in small-town Ohio, where she enrolled in her local college as a psychology major. After two semesters, Theller moved to California, where she developed a deep passion for the arts. 

Theller attended Fresno City College, where she earned her Associate’s degree in studio art with highest honors distinction in 2018. She then transferred to Fresno State and earned her B.A. with summa cum laude distinction in 2020, and simultaneously earned her certification as a special effects makeup artist. In the fall of 2020, she was accepted into the Master’s program. 

For her first two semesters in the program, Theller served as president of the Art History Club. Since the fall of 2021, she has worked as a Writing Consultant at the Graduate Student Success Center. Additionally, she is developing an art-focused writing group to encourage art graduate students to incorporate reading, researching and writing into their studio practices earlier. 

During her time in the program, she became interested in Viking art, spending two years independently researching a tiny gilt-silver figurine from Late Iron Age Scandinavia. From this, she was able to go on a solo research trip to Copenhagen, Denmark, in January of 2023, where she studied the figure in person. She is completing her M.A. thesis in art history titled “The Gilded Valkyrie: How Christianization and Binary Concepts Distort the Interpretation of Viking Iconography.” She has simultaneously explored this concept through a multimedia studio art exhibition, despite the amount of work involved.

“Sarah has helped put the Department of Art, Design and Art History, the College of Arts and Humanities, and California State University, Fresno ‘on the map’ for these European archaeologists,” said Dr. Keith Jordan. “Sarah’s projects represent a contribution to undermining a simplistic and oppressive gender ideology and creating a better, more just, and tolerant world.”

“I seek to address how the effects of trauma and limited scopes of personhood shape identity. In both my studio work and thesis scholarship, I investigate what it means to be ‘human’ across time,” said Theller.

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The College of Arts and Humanities provides a diverse student population with the communication skills, humanistic values and cultural awareness that form the foundation of scholarship. The college offers intellectual and artistic programs that engage students and faculty and the community in collaboration, dialog and discovery. These programs help preserve, illuminate and nourish the arts and humanities for the campus and for the wider community.

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