SoVA, So Good: Devan Shimoyama

What it lacks in big-city buzz, Penn State’s School of Visual Arts more than makes up for with engaged faculty, talented students, a supportive culture, and a track record of producing acclaimed, innovative artists—like Devan Shimoyama ’11 A&A, whose bold, colorful paintings lave landed him repeat coverage in The New York Times.

La Mort 2022 by Devan Shimoyama, courtesy

Storytelling with Broad Influences and Creative Curves

Illustration of Devon Shimoyama by Joel Kimmel

His mother studied fashion design, his grandfather played in bands, and Devan Shimoyama ’11 A&A played classical music and jazz in school orchestras and excelled at multiple instruments. Naturally, he came to Penn State to study … science. If he hadn’t, on a whim, switched his major to art halfway through his undergraduate career, he might have ended up a doctor or researcher; he considered leaving Happy Valley for art school, but he stayed because he wanted a more well-rounded education.

In a little more than a decade since, the Philadelphia- born, Pittsburgh-based artist’s bold, colorful paintings have landed him repeat coverage in the New York Times, an ongoing installation at the Smithsonian Arts + Industries Building in Washington, D.C., and a coveted solo show at the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh, where he teaches art at Carnegie Mellon. He uses paint, colored pencils, sequins, silk flowers, and glitter to create bright, arresting images that investigate themes of Black and queer identity, and are heavily informed by (among other things) his reading habits. “I think a lot about narratives,” he says, citing the fairy tales he grew up on and the sci-fantasy, fantasy, poetry, and folklore that he’s devoured since. “I’m interested in creating images that allow the viewer to create their own.”


She Bears Water 2020 by Devan Shimoyama, courtesy
She Bears Water (2020)


page of wands 2021 by Devan Shimoyama, courtesy
Page of Wands (2021)


Le Soleil 2022 by Devan Shimoyama, courtesy
Le Soleil (2022)


View the other alumni artists in this feature:

Brian Alfred, Barbara Campbell ThomasJoelle Dietrick, and Lauren Luloff