Student work in response to "Form & Void"

Instructor of Record, Alfred University

Beginning Sculpture, Spring 2020 Semester

For this assignment, students were asked to create an object using bent and welded 1/8th inch steel pencil rod and cast abaca paper. These objects were to have no dimension greater than 18 inches, and to equally balance areas covered by paper with those left open. A number of students had wanted to paint their works, but we lost access to these sculptures due to Covid-19, and they remained unfinished.

Student work during Online Segment

Instructor of Record, Alfred University

Beginning Sculpture, Spring 2020 Semester

Once we lost access to our classroom, my syllabus pivoted dramatically, and I assigned videos of interviews and readings, and allowed students the option of fulfilling assignments with proposal sketches and writing, rather than finished work to be produced out of quarantine.  

Student work in response to "A Thing to Hold" Instructor of record, Alfred University: Beginning Sculpture, Spring 2020 Semester

This is the first assignment I give to introduction classes, and is aimed to help students begin thinking three-dimensionally and reductivaly. This assignment also helps me to assess their confidence with hand tools, and how to pace following assignments. Students learn how to mix plaster, make a simple box form-mold, and the various states of plaster as it dries.

Teaching Assistance, Alfred University

 Introduction to Sculpture, Foundations Color Theory

 

Teaching Philosophy

 

 

     Teaching is about cultivating dialogue within and around students. Instructing studio practice is a mixture of bolstering confidence, exposing students to new materials and concepts, and demonstrating technical skills. We must also teach soft skills, such as problem-solving, empathy, and communication. I believe that a combination of these skill-sets creates an active, flexible curriculum able to respond individually to each students’ needs. 

     When we read the words sent, scent, and cent the usage, meaning, and makeup of each of these words is clear.  However, spoken without context, we are lost. Much as we need this context to understand language, we need it to understand our students’ actions, thoughts, and writing. Each student brings their unique experience and viewpoint to the table. It is important to enter critiques knowing our students and how best they learn. I aim to gain this knowledge and background of my students in order to better understand them, their comments, and their work in class. I challenge students who benefit from pushing; I make time for those who need additional clarification.  Approaching students as individuals creates a fertile, safe learning environment, while drawing the class together as a confident whole. It is this sum of our diverse perspectives that enriches a program, class, and conversation.

     While each class is versatile, I employ a similar methodology that allows for a variety of forms of ‘success.’ I stress three key goals for students: 

  • To develop and articulate expressions. Sculpture is a system of physical, emotional, and conceptual communication. Our dialogue happens during critique discussion, in individual meetings, and on paper. I require students to write about their projects after critique. This moment of reflection allows them the privacy to clearly articulate themselves. It is there where they are able to readdress any issues that may have been discussed during the formal critique session. This act allows students to have a sense of closure in the process, and reinforces constructive critical self-reflection.

  • To establish and exercise empathy. I strive to teach my students how to empathize and how to create empathy; how to connect and build connections. I do this by asking my students to research artists and societal topics of their interests and present their ideas to the class. I introduce students to a mix of canon and current work. I share the work of artists from marginalized and minoritized communities that I wish I’d been exposed to in my time in school. ​

  • To practice and gain confidence in the physical manipulation of objects in space. I introduce students to a mixture of first-hand experiences and participatory demonstrations. I stress the importance of safety as feedback for technique - we shouldn’t struggle with tools or materials. Blades should be sharp, tools used ergonomically, and benches arranged cohesively. My time working in a professional kitchen taught me organization and efficiency, two practices I believe are central in the art studio. Iterative practice using the basic tools of the studio builds confidence in students; once we learn to conform our workpieces/spaces to our bodies rather than contort ourselves to our practice, this metaphor carries beyond the studio.

     In order to foster active studio practices outside and beyond the institution, students must find joy and expression within a medium. My assignments are open enough where students remain autonomous, but through individual project meetings I nudge students to try something outside of their comfort zone. I suggest students bring their work in divergent directions, following their intuition rather than any prescribed destinations. I want students to think about their points of view and explore how their ideals and beliefs can enter the work. When we believe in a piece we are making, we invest ourselves, and with that investment comes true learning.