Becoming The Student, #14: JJ

I’ve been teaching at The University of Missouri for seven years. In that time I’ve served on many graduate thesis committees and developed a number of great, long-lasting relationships with grads. But it wasn’t until Jane Jun arrived three years ago that I was a “Main Advisor” or “Head of Committee”. The opportunity to work closely with Jane for those years was a huge benefit to me. As Jane progressed through the program she made huge changes in her work and found ways to grow that were both necessary and surprising. She rose to meet difficult challenges when she really needed to. Her thesis work – which dealt with female Asian identity, diaspora/immigration, stereotypes, societal (and personal) expectations, as well as the ways portraiture and self-portraiture have been transformed in recent years – was illuminating and meaningful. Her thesis writing was excellent and was important for me, as the father of an adopted daughter from China, to spend time thinking and dialoguing about on so many levels. It was a privilege to be up close and see all of her work come together.

enchanter-whatgradclassisJJ and me at Shakespeare’s way back in her first year of grad school.

Now JJ is heading back to South Korea to begin her post-grad school life. I have to admit that the annual exodus of grads is hard for me. So much mental and emotional energy goes into working with my students, so much hope and desire for them to do well. Add to that my sentimental nature and you can probably imagine my mindset each May.

2014-05-18 23.02.38JJ and me at our last Shakespeare’s hangout last month. We point off into the heights of a glorious future.

In creating my Becoming the Student portrait of JJ, I wanted to maintain my method – a short session from observation, with only minor changes after the fact – while at the same time celebrating her achievement. I’m glad she agreed to pose in her cap and was willing to maintain a calm – if a tad pensive and sad – expression. If you know anything about her work (click here if not), you know that the seriousness of her pose and quietude of her face here are nothing like what you’d normally see in an image of her.

JJportraitJJ, MFA. Oil on panel, 8 inches in diameter, 2014.

I’ll sure miss her shouting “SIRRRRRR!” when she sees me.

I already do.

Inspiration – Sloane Snure Paullus

The first class I was a part of teaching at the University of Missouri included three grads – Nancy Brown, Ian Shelly, and Sloane Snure Paullus. These three – and a few others, like Catherine Armbrust, Eric Sweet, and Natalie Hellmann (among others) – have defined my experience as a teacher at MU.

Above: Sloane beading back in 2007.

Over the last year or so I’ve seen each of those first three grads finalize a body of work, refine and defend their thesis writing, organize their thesis exhibition, and move on to new things. This week saw Sloane and her husband move away from Columbia and into a new phase of their lives.

Above: Sloane and her peephole boxes, 2008.

For so long Sloane has been a cornerstone of the Art Department, bringing both intellectual excellence and paroxysms of mirth to each of us. She transformed the culture of the department, raising the bar and shaking things up. There’s really no one like her.

Above: Sloane hanging out with Ian at the Annual “Kinkade Christmas Cottage” viewing, 2009.

She was the perfect grad student; engaging as an artist, thoughtful as a friend, cosmopolitan in her views, expansive in her mentality, and distinctively creative in her sense of humor. I am thankful to have known her.

Above: Sloane Loves Britney! Halloween 2009.

Keep us all updated, Sloane! We love you!

Note: No lens flares were harmed in the making of this blog post.