A Decade of Teaching at Mizzou

_MG_3410Me, teaching in 2011. Photo by M. Kannan.

Ten years ago this month, I arrived in Columbia, Missouri to start teaching painting and drawing at the University of Missouri. I remember the experience of arriving in town well. My wife was reading to me from the new Harry Potter book (Deathly Hallows was just released the week prior) and we, being Missouri newbies, inadvertently took a scenic route from Chicagoland to MidMo. Those first months were nerve-wracking. It was a one year Visiting appointment (Eventually it was extended, then extended again). I loved the challenge and pretty soon felt at home, especially once Alison joined me. By 2010 I was able to apply to a Teaching Track position.

DSC02231Triumphant with former grad Ian, 2012.

I really am one of the lucky ones. Unless you’re living the art/teaching life, I don’t know if you can comprehend just how lucky. Yes, I’m a competent teacher. I’m a vigorous and engaged artist. But my art-making is not revolutionary, it is investigatory. I don’t believe in originality, I believe in interrogating meaning and experience by acknowledging the vast array of cross-contextual elements that surround us (histories, cultures, systems of thought, traditions of creativity, etc).

Just as nothing that I make exists on its own, so too my teaching is based on the broad constellations of influences that have coalesced into my particular perspective. My frame of reference is not only my own, it’s a kind of index of everyone and everything that has inflected my understanding.

SONY DSCPosing for one of my former grads, Jake Johnson, way back in 2009. Photo by Jake Johnson.

Ultimately I’m not a huge standout from the other (VERY small number of) MFA graduates who are able to keep up the studio work, exhibitions, and become embedded as an educator. I learned early on that teaching scratched the same itch as painting did for me. I’ve used that. I’ve lived that. If I’m down, feeling blown out and sort of worthless – put me in front of a class of 20 twenty year old undergraduates. I’ll come out supercharged. That’s the power of working with human beings who are in the midst of a transfiguration of personality and purpose. I love teaching.

sloanekinkadeIan and Sloane at the first Thomas Kinkade’s Christmas Cottage viewing party…

Consider it: I get to think about art, creativity, and even BEING itself for a job. I get to push paint around, push ideas around, and push minds around (including my own). I get to mentor and be mentored by amazing people. I get to work with creative humans of all ages, backgrounds, worldviews, and experiences. I get to read and write and speak about things that move me. I get to show my work around the country (and sometimes around the world). I get to spend time exploring what it means to make things in the world (and what it means for things to make us who we are, too). I get to share those realms of exploration with others.

I’ve gotten to travel around the world to adopt two of my children.  I’ve been afforded the chance to elevate my standard of living well beyond what it was while growing up. I have the privilege of good insurance and great health care – two things that have made the quality of my post-heart attack life, and the life of my daughter suffering from osteogenesis imperfecta, much better. I’ve become a home owner. A mini van owner. A back yard mower.

enchanter-whatgradclassisWith former grad Jane Jun at the old Shakespeare’s, 2012.

12832461_10106823713056199_4957316273168848908_nWith former grad student Laura at a gallery opening, 2014 or so.

All of these things have come to me through the blessing of employment at Mizzou. It is “an honor and a privilege”* to go into my classroom, greet those faces, and set off on a task of vision and awareness.

So many have challenged me and moved me forward. Bill Hawk, now retired, calling me out in my first talk at Mizzou and asking me to point out what I meant by an abstract assertion I had made. Lampo Leong, telling me to “just teach them” in that first class. Dr. Adrienne Hoard, guiding me in the subtle art of holding a grad student’s feet to the fire. Professor Chris Daniggelis, feverishly baptizing me into the art of mezzotint. Catherine Armbrust and the latex, Jane Jun and identity ghosts, Eric Sweet and the teeth, Maurice and the parking mountain, Shannon and the tree outside the art building, Tina and Midwestern dreams, Norby and graying out, Marcus and awkward dad jokes, Emily and softball excellence, Simon and Caymanian memory… so many more.

So much love, and work, and determination. So many reasons to be grateful.

chrishallapproves-03Joke meme image I created for Chris Hall.

13432296_10107258458921999_331676234204831219_nQuality time with former student Marcus Miers, 2016.

The first round of grad students I worked with still loom large in my mind. Ian, Sloane, Nancy were the first… then Natalie, and then Chris, Jane, and Norby… eventually Colleen and Nikos… Each and every one brought a unique inflection to my experience of the world. I am so much better for having spent time with them.

11960094_10106163680641449_3315752712489631165_nWith Lishan, Simon, and Sumi at an art opening a few years ago. Photo by Bobby.

There are so many stories I could put down: grilling pizzas with Maurice, brewing beer with Norby, taking art trips with everyone, having wonderfully intense conversations in Graduate Theory classes, and hilariously irreverent conversations over beverages at any number of our local establishments. I’ve had many wonderful students from China, and I’ll never forget Peking Duck with Jackie or making won-tons with Tianyuan and our children in the kitchen. I’ll never forget when I got to officiate the wedding of two of my former students. I’ll never forget the response of my students and colleagues to my heart attack, and how they supported me and helped me through it.

Jake, visiting for an evening of food and drink, 2008 or so. Nancy isn’t impressed, 2010.

I know that I can’t really express what all of this has meant to me. If I had to bring it all down to the most important thing, I think I would say it’s time with the students. That’s what secure employment for teachers creates. I get the time to get better at teaching and the students get the value of an educator who is growing alongside them. Continuity – hours and days over the long haul – makes the difference. Those students see me living day to day and I see them living day to day. The ones who get it, who really believe they are real and that others are real, who believe in translating human experience into evocative forms… they are the people that get me out of bed. They’re the ones who inspire me.

20091219_WinterCommencement_0007Standing as a faculty mentor with Shannon at Honors Convocation, 2009.

14907629_10107947068902079_2162397385667730310_nWith grads Guigen, Zach, Amy, Simon, and Nikos at lunch during an art event, 2016. Photo by Waitress.

_MG_3368Working with Emily during a summer drawing session, 2011. Photo by M. Kannan.

I am incredibly thankful for the opportunities I’ve been afforded. My biggest motivation is to be effective as a person, educator, and artist. To make an impact and reveal the world to myself and others through the act of teaching and making artworks. As the years go by, it is the response of my students that gives me such deep encouragement.

The lives of my students are glorious confrontations in the best of ways. They are the world brought to my classroom. Black, white, South Korean, Chinese, Brazilian, Caymanian, Russian, Japanese, gay, straight, trans, Muslim, Christian, Wiccan, conservative, liberal, questioning, broken, certain, self-actualized, brilliant, wondrous, and strange. They come in skittish and green, and they leave full of the power they’ve always had. It’s beautiful to see their transitions, and it never gets old.

With former grad and then colleague David Spear. At Marcus Mier’s wedding.

img_6603A portrait of me with Darth Vader by Jane Jun, 2013. Acrylic on canvas, 7 by 5 inches.

img_6602Portrait of me as The Dude from The Big Lebowski by Jake Johnson, 2009. Acrylic on wood panel, 7 by 5 inches.

This post hasn’t even really scratched the surface of what that last ten years have meant to me and what I’ve experienced. I haven’t even mentioned my passion for the Cast Collection or Rocking The First Day with Deborah. I haven’t spoken about how much I love Wakonse. I haven’t talked about the strange projects we’ve had to do, the cobbling together of nominal spaces for our students. I haven’t mentioned the glory of Dr. Melvin Platt’s parliamentary prowess or Ferrie and Brenda holding down all the details like heroes. There have been dozens more faculty and students who have made these years amazing.

I’m so thankful, and every semester I try to be worthy of what I’ve received. Here’s to another decade!

11022556_10105427628949939_1438644933721545290_oA group of my Color Drawing students at work, 2015.

*I’m quoting Professor Corly Blahnik, Emeritus at ISU.
Continue reading

Advertisements

Inspiration – Jacob Maurice Crook, the Mezzotint Master

Jacob Maurice Crook is a former student and current colleague of mine at the University of Missouri. He’s amazing. After completing his MFA at Syracuse a few years ago, he took a job with Mizzou and will leave us this fall for a fresh gig. Here’s to many years creating and supporting students in his new position!

Jake has been a great friend over the years and was the first undergraduate with whom I had a strong rapport. His technical skills in drawing, painting, and printmaking are second to none, but his passion to make art and leave a mark on students is just as impressive. It has been a joy over the last couple years to walk past the printmaking room and hear the glory going on inside while he was teaching.

Nearly a decade ago Jake and I learned the mezzotint technique from Chris Daniggelis and, while I enjoy the medium and return to it often, Jake has become a master. Last night I was able to hang out with him as he listened to some sweet doom rock and pulled a fresh proof of his newest mezzotint. See the images below.

Inking and wiping down the plate…

Placing the inked plate on a great old Charles Brand press – with a flourish!

The plate ready for paper and pressure.

Applying the paper – carefully.

After the pass, assessing the situation. Jake is noting a place where the blankets slipped slightly.

The reveal…

Slowly seeing how well the image transferred…

After inspection, Jake zeroes in on the parts that printed best and evaluates what the next steps are to make the image better.

I can’t wait to see how the final piece turns out. It’s inspiring to see a master at work. So glad I’ve gotten to know and work with Jake over the last decade, and I’m looking forward to the next 10 years! RAWK! TOTALITY! AUTHORITY!

Museum Show!

10727750_760661254004316_310602584_n

I’ll be giving a talk today at an event for the Mizzou Interdisciplinary Center on Aging at the Museum of Art and Archeology. This talk is on the subject of mediated attention and the ways I try to teach (and learn) through the various technologies that surround us (Click HERE if you’re interested in attending the event – it’s November 4, 2014 at 4PM).

The wonderful thing about this event today is that it’s the first public viewing of an exhibition I have guest-curated at the Museum. This show, called Touching the Past: Student Drawings From the Gallery of Greek and Roman Casts, will be up throughout the month of November and into December. It features 22 artworks by my former students. Student drawings from the likes of Jacob Maurice Crook, Kate Miers, and Allison Jacqueline Reinhart feature prominently. The Museum is open 10am until 4pm Monday through Friday, so come visit the show any time!

S2012_DRW1_CastGalleryStudents working in the Cast Gallery a few semesters ago.

Working in the Gallery of Greek and Roman Casts is one of the most important experiences I can give to my students. I hope you’ll stop by and see works like the ones shown below.

drw1-2013-02Hannah Wallace, Wide Angle Study of Figures in the Cast Collection. 18 by 24 inches, graphite on paper.

DSC07052Kate Miers, Study of Artemis. 24 by 18 inches, graphite on paper.

One special guest I invited to have work in this exhibition is fellow teacher and artist Chris Fletcher. His sensitive, searching drawings from the Mizzou Casts seem deceptively simple. But having spent the last 25+ years studying drawing and painting, I can tell you that they are masterworks of human subjectivity and focused engagement. I love the little marginalia notes he leaves for himself on the edges of the works, and the inquisitive-yet-firm nature of his working. Don’t pass by this small pieces when you visit the show. Really, really great stuff.

List of artists in the Touching the Past exhibition:

Olaia Chivite Amigo

Matthew Ballou

Maggie Berg

Amanda Bradley

Jacob Maurice Crook

Chris Fletcher

Emily Gogel

Terisia Hicks

Rachael Liberty

Kate Miers

Aubrey Miller

Delia Rainey

Allison Reinhart

Tianyuan Ren

David Spear

Andi Tockstein

Duy Tran

Hannah Wallace

 ~

DSC07075Detail of Andi Tockstein’s Study of Apollo… you need to see this drawing in person!

Both Sides of the Brain

Mr. Aaron Coleman, mezzotinter extraordinaire, has been coordinating this traveling exhibition for quite some time. And now the first shows are coming soon.

Cover for the folio cases: GLORY! Photo by Aaron Coleman.

And here’s a listing of the locations for this traveling show – click the highlights for more info about the specific exhibitions:

2012

August 13 – September 18, 2012 ~ Basile Gallery, Herron School of Art. Indianapolis, Indiana

October 3 – October 28, 2012 – Washington Printmakers Gallery. Silver Spring, Maryland

TBA – Gallery 215. Northern Illinois University School of Art. Dekalb, Illinois (link when available)

2013

May 20 – August 29, 2013 – George Caleb Bingham Gallery. University of Missouri, Columbia, Missouri (link when available)

TBA – Lamar D. Fain School of Art. Midwestern State University, Wichita Falls, Texas (link when available)

The edition is in the permanent collections of Herron School of Art and Northern Illinois University School of Art. BOO-YEAH!

Looking Over the Overlooked at MACC

Jacob Maurice Crook and I have a show together at Moberly Area Community College. We installed today and the exhibition opens this coming Monday, June 6th. I hope you can get there to see the show – MACC’s gallery space is quite nice – but if you can’t make it, check below for some shots of the work installed. Click each image for enlargement.

1 ) Crook’s main wall arrangement. One larger oil painting, a small work in oil, and a mezzotint.

2 ) Crook’s inner room set – two oil paintings flank a beautiful graphite and gouache work.

3 ) Crook’s side wall, with an oil piece, two large mezzotints, and a graphite work.

4 ) Crook’s behemoth Hitt Street Garage, an 18 foot, 7 inch oil painting.

5 ) Ballou’s main wall set, with images from Chicago during 2000 and 2001.

6 ) A grouping from Ballou’s 2008 Illinois beach house series.

7 ) Ballou’s 2008 Michigan light photos.

8 ) The 2004 Whitney Ceiling set, installed physically for the first time here (I presented them online during 2010 at this link.)

If you are now sufficiently inspired to see the show for real, MACC is located at 101 College Ave. Moberly, MO 65270.

And here are our statements for your perusal:

Looking Over the Overlooked Exhibition Statement

Matt Ballou and Jacob Crook present work that engages with the proliferation of commonplace, yet ignored, spaces in the urban and suburban landscape.

Using primarily photographic images, Ballou depicts an iconography of geometries and formal tensions based on his experiences with specific interior and exterior spaces over the last decade. Several bodies of work from very different locations around the United States take center stage. These include a latticework of appropriated images showing the ceiling of the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York City, a multitude of manipulated photographs of a skylight in a rural northern Michigan home, and a series of images of the degrading arcs and angles of a dilapidated municipal beach house in northern Illinois. Installing the images in broad arrays allows for a serialized, comparative reading that creates interplay between the total effect of the group and the specific characteristics of individual images. The works are not meant to be singular expressions but rather cumulative contemplations of space, place, light, and the modular effects of specific structures.

A dedicated representational painter and draftsperson, Jacob Crook’s work starts with repeated observation and detailed consideration of the overlooked arenas that quietly dominate the American landscape. Relying heavily on James Howard Kunstler’s book The Geography of Nowhere, Crook’s paintings, drawings, and prints attempt to come to terms with what Kunstler describes as the American “obsession with mobility, the urge to move on every few years” and the results of that tendency: “we choose to live in Noplace, and our dwellings show it.” Casting his eye on the margins of suburbia, Crook tries to locate the dynamic tension that exists between the land and our mundane domination of it. Crook carries on the legacy of landscape painting while rejecting its inherent valorization of the subject matter. Instead of merely creating pleasant pictures, his work uses the historical authority of both painting and the landscape to project a subversive series of questions toward viewers.

Together the work of these two artists is a vision of what American space has become. Not an entirely negative perspective, the work is meant to provoke an introspective attitude in viewers, challenging assumptions and calling questions to mind: “What spaces do I want to live in? What has dictated the sorts of spaces I live in by default? What is my responsibility for the reality of these spaces?” The artists hope that by bringing their own investigations – as humble or as banal as they might seem – to viewers, a thoughtfulness and contemplation might be stimulated.

Biographical Information

Ballou is an Assistant Teaching Professor at the University of Missouri where he has taught since 2007. In 2011 he presented a major solo show at Gordon College in Wenham, MA and will exhibit with internationally renowned artist Tim Lowly at the 930 Art Center in Louisville, KY during the summer of 2011.

Crook earned his BFA from the University of Missouri in 2009. His work was recently included in the prestigious Fort Wayne Museum’s Contemporary Realism Biennial. He has been accepted to Syracuse University’s graduate printmaking program for the fall of 2011.

Jacob Maurice Crook | Artist Statement

My work is a contemplation of how the physical design of our surroundings can influence social behavior and also offer insight to cultural practices that inform the nature of such designs. In choosing the subject matter of my imagery, I focus my sights on the fringe of suburbia, attempting to locate dynamic tensions existing between the landscape and the homogeneous developments quietly dominating its topography. I chose to reject the idealized depiction of subject matter inherent in the history of American landscape painting. Instead of merely creating pleasant pictures, I use the history of both painting and landscape to project a subversive series of questions to viewers: What spaces do I want to live in? What dictates the spaces I live in by default? What responsibility (if any) do I take for the reality of these spaces?

Matthew Glenn Ballou | Artist Statement

These photographs were never meant to be artworks per se. Over the course of many years I have used photography as a way to decipher my own eye, as a way to better understand what visual dynamics draw me to certain scenes or arrangements of form and space. So most of what you see here was entirely reactive and instinctive at the beginning. I was attempting to see something in what others might easily overlook. Ultimately it worked, and in many ways these images have become historical and canonical to me. They are also nostalgic in that they are documents of places and times that carry personal significance. In them I see my own eye remixed, my own memory re-contextualized. In them I see a field of visual forces at play, which I have taken and used, reused, and reapplied. I present them in this way at this time to heighten my experience of their formal tension and balance in contrast with my emotional feeling for the spaces and times they represent. I present them so as to experience all of this again, anew. It is the contrasts and resonances made possible by this new context that bring artfulness to the work. The images themselves remain snapshots while the relationships among these fragments become a place for art experiences to reside: between the lines, in the overlooked spaces, around corners, beyond sight.