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KU professor — and former journalist — used multi-disciplinary education to connect with celebrities

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

John TibbettsFor journalists, interviews can sometimes be the most daunting part of the job. How one breaks the ice can set the tone for the rest of the interview.

However, John Tibbetts, a former journalist turned film and media professor at the University had the perfect ace up his sleeve for just that. Tibbetts painted portraits of celebrities, often as a character they portrayed, and had the portraits signed during the interview.

“Many of the portraits come from my time working at CBS television and NPR,” Tibbetts said. “I had access to musicians, actors, directors and all sorts of celebrities. Many times they would ask for copies of the paintings and people like Schwarzenegger, Michael Douglas, Julie Andrews and Gene Hackman were all people who had a lot of experience doing artwork themselves so it made the interview very friendly and fun.”

Tibbetts’ exhibit entitled “Stargazing” is held at the Kansas Union until Jan. 22 and features a collection of those signed paintings of artists, musicians, and actors in their prime. Tibbetts also has video footage of interviews he conducted where he showed his creations off to the stars.

He said that, in addition to his work as a journalist and professor, he has always been an artist. Josh Wille, a graduate student who studied under Tibbetts, said that the paintings perfectly show the professor's multi-disciplinary skill and his ability to incorporate multiple forms of media together.

“They represent his many years of work as a film critic and journalist,” Wille said.  “He’s always been an advocate for getting out into the field and opening a dialogue. They’re not just a conversation, but a creative exchange between an artist and the celebrities, who are artists themselves which elevates the whole interview.”
Tibbetts received his Ph.D in multi-disciplinary studies, to include art history, theater, photography and film from the University in 1982.

“I just have a general fascination with the human face as a landscape and ever since I was a little kid I’ve always been drawn to faces,” Tibbetts said. “It didn’t matter if they were famous or not, it was just the nature of the face that attracted me.”  Read more.

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