College of Architecture, Art and Construction

Lifelong Learner: MFA Alumna Fleming Markel pioneers a path toward inclusivity


After spending two decades raising her family and serving her community, Fleming Markel ’98 embarked on a new chapter by pursuing her passion for visual art. Accepted into Clemson University’s graduate visual art program, Markel defied expectations by earning her Master of Fine Arts degree just before age 50.

“At Clemson, I was presented with challenges and constructive criticism but also with encouragement,” she recalled. “Under the mentorship of an amazing faculty, I completed my MFA just before my fiftieth birthday. I was given my chance.”

Today, as the Director of Galleries at Greenville Technical College (GTC) in Greenville, S.C, Markel pays forward the support she received by guiding aspiring artists, particularly non-traditional visual art undergraduates hungry for opportunity. Even with shifts in the art faculty since her graduation 26 years ago, Markel affirms the program’s continued supportive atmosphere.

“Even though the Clemson art faculty has completely changed, the warmth and encouragement continue,” she affirmed. “I can recommend the Clemson Art Department to GTC transfer students, confident that they too will get their chance.”

Markel’s recent work includes a traveling solo exhibition, “Pent-up Pink,” which challenges entrenched notions of gender identity and cultural stereotypes. Through her art, she interrogates the pervasive influence of consumerism, language, and gender norms on our daily lives. 

Drawing inspiration from everyday life in the South, Markel explores the “defining prescriptions” ingrained in girls and women from birth. 

MFA Alumna Fleming Markel conversing with art patrons Arlene Cheatam and
MFA Alumna Fleming Markel conversing near her sculpture entitled “Tuesday Afternoon” with art patrons Harold and Arlene Cheatam at the “As Good As Gold: 50 Years of the MFA at Clemson” exhibition reception located in the Lee Gallery

“I think that many of our culture’s prescriptive myths are perpetuated by marketing, advertising and packaging,” she explained.

Fleming Markel’s thought-provoking artwork serves as a beacon for societal evolution, confronting deeply rooted norms and urging critical introspection. By recontextualizing objects traditionally associated with femininity, Markel challenges stereotypes and invites a dialogue about the narratives they perpetuate. Her impact underscores the truth that the quest for knowledge is a lifelong endeavor.

Markel’s sculpture work is part of the “As Good As Gold: 50 Years of the MFA at Clemson” Part III exhibition and can be viewed in the Lee Gallery until Mar. 8.

About the Clemson MFA Program 

Clemson University’s Master of Fine Arts program celebrates a half-century of art and learning with a three-part exhibition featuring a wide variety of art from its graduates and receptions featuring reflections from notable alumni and supporters of the MFA program. As part of this 50-year-long celebration, Clemson Visual Arts is featuring MFA Alumni this semester leading into the summer months. 

The MFA is considered the terminal degree in the visual arts. Clemson’s program offers studio concentrations in drawing, painting, printmaking, ceramics, photography and sculpture. Interdisciplinary and collaborative projects are encouraged within the department. The program’s primary goal is to provide students with opportunities to develop a high degree of professional competence in their chosen area of concentration.

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