The Way Back: Campus in Miniature

Each edition of UT’s Cactus yearbook has its own look and feel as the editors navigate a delicate balance: distinguishing it from its predecessors but also maintaining fresh perspective with respect for tradition. In 1934, the editors wobbled along the tightrope, using a striking Art Deco font and creating scenes using small, dramatically lit models.

Photographed at the now-defunct Paralta Studios of Texas, student artists carved miniature swimmers, painters, gamblers, actors, longhorns, tennis players, and the odd flirt out of clay and wood. In one scene, a disgruntled male student is shut out of what is presumably the women’s dormitory by an irascible matron. The vignettes are illuminated with spotlights that throw sweeping shadows for distinctive contrasts.

The editors hoped to portray “the campus scene without shame, without pretense, but rather realistically, objectively.” While the illustrations’ scenes certainly lack realism (though not pretense) they made for a unique Cactus—a bravely and indeed brazenly ornamented yearbook.


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