Exploring Possibility

Jill Hicks of the Columbia Daily Tribune wrote a piece titled “Exploring Possibility” that ran on Sunday, March 18, 2012. The article follows Allison Reinhart, a student who’s been a major presence in the Art Department here at Mizzou. She’s currently taking an independent study with me. We’ve worked together in the past – most notably on this film by the inimitable Keith Montgomery – and she’s one of my favorite people at MU.

Jill quoted quite a bit of my thoughts on working with Allison. It’s really nice to find that you’ve said something that really rings true and you have to work to live up to it. I feel that way about this particular passage: “…making accommodations for my students isn’t an area of ‘special’ or ‘additional’ effort — it’s the way it ought to be,” [...] “All culture-making is about access. When we — as institutions or individuals — legitimize the denial of access to those who wish to participate, we’re functioning as gatekeepers and operating in illegitimate systems of refusal. As an educator and person who deeply believes in the value of university-level teaching, I don’t want to be a part of that.”

Thanks to Jill for the great article and to Allison (and Gina, and others!) for being thoughtful, dedicated students. No, I didn’t say inspirational… Allison wouldn’t like that. :)

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.

Inspiration: Natalie Hellmann

Natalie Hellmann, a wonderful ceramist and person, is holding her MFA Thesis Exhibition this month. She has been an absolute joy to work with over the last three years, and I know I’ve learned much that I would never have known if not for our discussions.

Aarik Danielsen talks to Natalie about her trajectory as an artist in this feature in the Columbia Daily Tribune.

And here’s a link to a shorter article about her and her show.

I was asked a number of questions about Natalie and her work for that short article. Obviously space didn’t permit them to publish all of my thoughts, so I want to include them here as a way to honor Natalie.


Interview Question: “What do you enjoy most about her growth as an artist since you’ve met her? How has she grown?”

My response: “I am most impressed with how Natalie has held onto the core things she has cared about for many years while at the same time found ways to grow in her understanding of the materials and integrated relationships of form, content, and emotion with which she has worked while in grad school. Practically, this means that she has made numerous attempts to invest her project with fresh investigations, often working with different forms, structures (and orientations of these two) in order to determine what felt right. In many ways what she presents in this Thesis work seems inevitable, as if it all just had to be. But this is not the case. Natalie has studied her own work and intuitive expressions while also looking to other artists, writers, and philosophers who seek poetical understandings of human experience rather than just rational, direct, closed meanings in that experience. Natalie’s work is thus not meant to function as didactic communication first and foremost. Instead, it has grown to become a kind of emotional sounding board, wherein viewers may, if they are inclined, examine themselves via the suggestions of the forms. The work is more about awareness of being than declaring some specific message. I enjoy the fact that I got to participate in her exploration, be around her welcoming spirit, and grow in my own apprehension of what art can do through my time with her. “

Interview Question: “What do you think her viewers are going to enjoy most from her exhibition this coming week?”

My response: “I think that viewers who allow themselves to intuitively consider the objects and arrangements in Natalie’s show will find a resonance in their own past experiences of feeling, seeing and being. What I mean is that, to me, the strength of Natalie’s work has always been in its gentle invitation to participate in awareness and emotional connection to shapes, colors, and surfaces. Being with Natalie’s artworks is something akin to standing by a stream and looking at the smoothed stones beneath the undulating water – if you’re in the right frame of mind, your emotional and psychological experience can become one of calm awareness. I think that’s the “repose” that Natalie suggests in the title for her exhibition. I hope that viewers will both experience and appreciate that quietude and tenderness; it’s something not often seen in art.”

Thank you, Natalie, for your work, your spirit, and your presence.

Martha Macleish and the Shadows

I took a group of my students (from the University of Missouri at Columbia) over to Kansas City to see a bit of art this past weekend. The main attraction was the Martha Macleish show at Longview Community College. One of the things I found so interesting about her work is the fact that the shadows they cast – being illuminated by the syncopated lamps of a gallery lighting system – are at least as physically striking and necessary to the experience of the art as the objects themselves are. These shadows seem to extend each work in that they transfer the structure and form of the piece into space and onto the surrounding walls and floor. While this seems obvious – it’s what all shadows do – in this case it’s much more significant. This is because the laminated, layered construction of the work is mirrored in the stratified step gradients of the multi-vectored shadows and the negotiated, sometimes grungy, sometimes glossy finish of the materials is echoed in the distended, bending atmospherics created as light falls over their spaces and shapes. The effect is mesmerizing and stimulating, leading viewers to shift their perspective again and again, bobbing and weaving around each piece to see the secrets they hold in their multi-faceted alignments and angles. The work is very much worth seeing if you get the chance. Martha granted me permission to post some images of the shadows her work created at the Longview show. Click on each to enjoy them larger.

Color Drawing, Spring 2010

A year ago I started teaching all levels of Color Drawing (Beginning, Intermediate, and Advanced) at the University of Missouri. While I really enjoy all of my classes, the Color Drawing sections have been particularly special to me.

So here’s just a review of some of the great work from this semester…

Danielle Moser, Beginning Color Drawing: Reflection Project Drawing, Oil Pastel, 24 by 18 inches.

Jillian Blanck, Beginning Color Drawing: Master Copy Drawing (after Dali’s The Hallucinogenic Toreador), Chalk Pastel, 30 by 22 inches.

Scott Fisher, Beginning Color Drawing: Master Copy Drawing (after Michelangelo’s Libyan Sibyl from the Sistine Chapel), Chalk Pastel, 30 by 22 inches.

Holly Meador, Intermediate Color Drawing: Head Planes Model Drawing, Chalk Pastel, 44 by 30 inches.

Holly Meador, Intermediate Color Drawing: Self Portrait as Flaming June (after Lord Frederic Leighton’s Flaming June), Chalk Pastel, 30 by 36 inches. (Unfortunately, this drawing was stolen from my flat files at the University – I’m actually pretty pissed off about it. How can we expect our students to be willing to put forth their best efforts when their peers don’t respect that work? Really unbelievable.)

Roxanne Kueser, Advanced Color Drawing: Courtney, Chalk Pastel, 24  by 18 inches.

Brittany Carney, Advanced Color Drawing: Neil (The Proper Posture), Chalk Pastel, 24  by 18 inches.

Marcus Miers, Advanced Color Drawing: Untitled Composition, Chalk Pastel, 60  by 45 inches.

I want to thank all of my Color Drawing students for making the class so enjoyable. I could have easily had 100 drawings to show from the production of my 24 students; I don’t mean any disrespect to those I’ve not displayed here. These works do show the overall quality and worth ethic I’ve seen throughout all of the students this semester. I’m so glad I got to work with them. Here’s to setting the bar high for next semester!