Rafael Francisco Salas receives Ripon College’s James Underkofler Award

Among the faculty honored at this spring’s Awards Convocation was Professor of Art Rafael Francisco Salas.

Salas received the James Underkofler Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching. The award is named in honor of James Underkofler, past president and chairman for Wisconsin Power and Light, for his 48 years of service to the utility industry and in tribute to his deep respect for undergraduate teaching. It is funded by an endowment from the Alliant Energy Foundation Inc. and administered by the Wisconsin Association of Independent Colleges and Universities (WAICU). Each spring, five distinguished faculty members are publicly recognized for outstanding teaching in the five WAICU-member colleges within the Alliant Energy service area: Beloit College in Beloit; Edgewood College in Madison; Lakeland University in Sheboygan; Marian University in Fond du Lac; and Ripon College.

Salas earned his bachelor’s degree from Macalester College and his master of fine arts from the New York Academy of Art. His courses at Ripon include Painting I, Drawing I, Painting II, Drawing II, The Contemporary Portrait, The Uncanny, Symbolic Archetypes, and Senior Seminar.

His work has been included in many solo and group exhibits around the country.

A nomination for Salas cited his dedication and multifaceted approach to teaching, his ability to embrace technology, his ability to balance responsibilities, ambition, critique, and his mastery in the world of studio art.

“Rafael (also) mentors and teaches students by serving as a role model in the art world,” the nomination states. “He excels as an artist, and he has established a solid reputation for his work. He frequently exhibits, including both solo and group shows, and I am pleased to say that his work is always interesting. Rafael has come to blend realistic imagery with abstraction in his paintings, in a way that is fascinating to view. He often begins with a landscape or interior, directly derived from real places and spaces. Then, by layering the imagery to include people and objects, the work becomes ever-more interesting and worthier of scrutiny. He often adds abstract elements, such as colorful spots or squares, obscuring parts of the work. This causes us to wonder about the portions images that are implied, rather than fully presented to us.”

Kourtney Camm ’22
Evansville, Wisconsin


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