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

 

 

When we read the words two, too, and to, the usage, meaning, and makeup of each of these words is clear.  However, without context or spelling, we are lost.  Much as we need this context to understand language, we need context to understand our students’ actions, thoughts, and writing. I aim to gain this knowledge and background of my students in order to better understand them, their comments, and their work in class. This act  better fosters communication in the classroom, and allows for easier management of classroom  dynamics. Using an individualized approach, I stress three key goals for students: develop  and articulate expression through a variety of materials and techniques; establish and exercise empathy with classmates and their artwork; practice and gain confidence in the physical manipulation of objects (tools, workspaces, the body) in space. 

 Working in the arts is unique — In most academic programs, there are right and wrong answers; in art there is opinion, perspective, and history. It is important to enter critiques knowing our students, enough of their psyche to avoid misplaced stress, and how best they learn.  I challenge students who need 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 whole. Each student brings a unique experience and viewpoint to the table, and it is that sum of our diverse perspectives that enriches a program.

I believe that teaching is about cultivating dialogue within and around students. This 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 of their own thoughts to clearly articulate themselves, and they are able to address any issues that may have been discussed during the formal critique session. This response allows those less gregarious students to get the final word, and reinforces constructive critical self-reflection. 

In my experience, teaching art is about learning how to empathize and how to create empathy; it is about connecting and building connections. Sculpture is a system of physical, emotional, and conceptual communication. Instructing studio practice is a mixture of bolstering confidence, exposing students to new materials and concepts, demonstrating and teaching technical skills, and sharing in new ideas. 

In my classroom, 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. 

In order to foster active studio practices outside and beyond the institution, we need to share real-life situations and skills. In my classroom, I strive to teach practical and conceptual skills in art making and understanding, but most importantly, in finding joy and expression within a medium.  I give assignments and show slides of work I deem relevant, but I allow students to bring their work in divergent directions, following intuition and gut-feelings rather than prescribed instructions. When we believe in a piece we are making, we invest ourselves, and with that investment comes returns.  Without investment, care, and love, our practices shrivel and die; it is our task to train these sprouts to the light. 

 © 2020 Sam Horowitz

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