Self Portrait of the Artist


I’m reflecting on transition, of the burden of remaining fluid and also grounded. I’m thinking about moments of abandon, moments of admitting weakness.



It’s a hard thing to navigate, when a community (you at least thought) you have been a valuable member of feels foreign. I don’t think it’s a mystery that we travel in and out, and between different circles and communities. Connections fade while others are made. As I grow older I find more acceptance of these facts, but every so often I’m reminded of one, or a new transitional period presents itself suddenly.

Years ago, I had a friend who I believed was my soul mate. Not in any type of romantic way, but a person that I felt a deep genuine connection with. I watched her get bored of various friends and cut them out of her life unceremoniously, but I was never one. I was convinced our friendship was lasting. I was reminded that it wasn’t when she found a romantic partner. A few years later I was invited to her wedding. She didn’t say a word to me the entire day, I left my gift on the table and left without announcing it, and that was that.

I learned from that and now have three strong intelligent beautiful women that I call friends. They nourish me both emotionally and intellectually, and I am forever grateful for them.

Okay, fine, that was a sweet little happy ending. In reality, I still feel much bitterness about it. I find difficulty in accepting that there is risk when you invest yourself in something or someone. Sure, the understanding of this risk leads you to appreciate investments that are successful.

But what happens when an invesment is successful, truely successful, and then all of the sudden it isn’t? How does one handle that shift? When someone goes from so purely rewarding, without suspicion that it could fail, to a steaming pile of bullshit?

I’m dealing with that with my low residency grad school. It was disney land at first. There’s really no other way to describe it. There are some great connections I made that I feel are gone now. Not because of distance, but of a sudden and severe disconnection. In the brief amount of time we spend at residency, I think the process of a relationship is sped up considerably. In a matter of really a month and a half (thats the cumulative time we’ve spent physically together) lives are touched, friendships flourish, and they die out. There are some connections that I’m questioning deeply, that I’m mourning, that I’m celebrating.

I’m dealing with the winterguard program I am involved with being in peril. I’m dealing with the potential to lose my place in the program, lose my connection with my students that I have come to love. All for someone’s savior complex.

I’m dealing with the love of my life being in Austin while I remain in upstate NY. I’m scared of the transformation that that relationship may take, although it has not taken it yet.

I’m dealing with two of my three friends having just moved to Los Angeles. I’m trying to navigate maintaining and growing our connection, instead of fearing what will happen to it.

I’m dealing with almost being done with my MFA, and that transition, finally, away from student-hood. I’m scared that I will have made all the wrong choices, or all the perfect ones. Then there’s the loans.

I’m dealing with my entire life changing or being challenged all at once. I know that it will get figured out and I will come out better in the end. Man, being patient is hard though.

Previous this past residency, fellow MFAIA student David Neufeld and myself have been taking steps to create a space for students to collaborate visually. During our first residency we support dancers and performers in the program carving out time and space to collaborate, move, and create, but once these things were in place we felt there was something lacking for visual artists in the program. Just like a performer or dancer is most in their element when they are able to practice their craft, visual artists are in their element when they are able to create something with their hands. Just as many dancers in our G group placed importance on connecting with each other’s art through doing, we found that lacking for those who are visually oriented. David was able to gain access into the painting building located near the Elliot D Pratt Library, and while he was there discovered two printing presses that had long been out of use. After discussion between the two of us and discussing our concerns with the college, we were granted permission to move one of the presses to the design building to use. With the generous help of a few maintenance workers on campus and a few fellow students, we were able to get the printing press from the second floor of the painting building to the ground floor of the design building. Metcalf F14 P1 6 With some printing supplies I brought from home and a little bit of creative thinking (lacking a sink to soak paper in, we used a bucket) we were able to create a drypoint and run the first print on that press in about 15 years. While we were working Joshua DeMello, another student, found us working and was able to take time to share the experience with us and create a print of his own. In the future, David and I hope to expand the design building as a working space, and are currently in discussion about ways that we will be able to to supply the building and open the space responsibly during the MFAIA residency.

Thoughts on Arts Education

When discussing art education, it is essential that the compartmentalization of it be addressed. It remains true that in most academic settings students are required to chose a medium, whether it be sculpture, painting, drawing, or otherwise. Within printmaking, there is an added danger of further compartmentalization as in an academic setting the processes of linocut, etching, monotype, and others are broken up into different units or semesters. In his book, “Relief Printing,” Michael Rothenstein states, “And this notion of a particular technical approach may take precedence over exactly what we mean to do with these media.’ (Rothenstein p.31) Rothenstein makes compelling argument against the specialization between and within mediums, suggesting that the instruction of printmaking should present the student with problems that fundamentally develop the student as a whole artist, and not just a printmaker. Unfortunately, the art world is still composed of many people who want to assign an artist to a specific medium and methods of schooling that force a young artists to pick a side, so to speak. However, it is my belief that a change is crucial and we may begin with the separation of methods within printmaking. By beginning to break the habit of separating intaglio from lithography from relief printing, a printmaking student would begin to see an immeasurable number of ways to manipulate combinations of processes to create new works. Research in other disciplines beyond printmaking is also necessary for the student’s total experience. (Rothestein p.41) There is a danger in forcing students to specify in one form of art or another, and within an art to force them to specify methods. However, there are different dangers to be had with over diversification just as there are dangers with over specification. A balance must be found in both undergraduate and graduate studies, and finding that balance will be part of my studies for myself in the next two years and also an attitude I would like to apply to all of my future students.

While an individual is still practicing in academia, in any medium, there is a wide array of expensive equipment at their disposal. Rothenstein attests, and I must agree with him, that the more money a school puts into facilities the wider the gap is between work done in academia and work done post academia. Especially in disciplines where the student must rely on equipment provided by the school, the academy is doing a severe disservice to their students; focusing strictly on processes that use this equipment can severely stifle an artist upon graduation. (Rothenstein p.38-40)There is also a severe lack of a support system post-graduation, and a young artist often feels alone and defeated. This was the situation that I found myself in for too long after graduation. I believe it is the duty of an educator to not leave a student in this position, even if it only means that they will direct the student to other resources. By not teaching the student how to practice their art in an everyday setting, a teacher can also solidify the marrying of art and academia, thereby separating art from life even more. Obviously, this is not something that all young people struggle with, but the number of young people that could benefit from a small amount of guidance and care for their after-graduation practice would prove to be well worth the efforts.