Monday, November 24, 2008

Teaching Practice

I see my teaching as directly connected to my studio practice. I hope I am willing and able to do whatever I ask of my students. I teach through my motivation to understand better what I perceive as a basic human need to fulfill ones potential as a creative and ethical being who is both a whole and distinct individual and who is a thriving and contributing member in community. With students I explore ideas about art practice through researching the relationship of ethics to aesthetics. These themes inform all I do in the studio and all of my work with students. Discovering and calling attention to existing sets of relationships through one's art practice embraces a sense of connectedness and thereby increases the possibility of wholeness and health.

I began teaching at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston in 1986. As a twenty eight year old second year graduate student, I was asked to lead an evening painting class. I was not provided with instructions, guidance or any support whatsoever. I knew immediately that somehow I instinctively could to talk to my first students, some of whom were older, working professionals. I have continuously worked to develop this intuitive capacity that enables me to help students, through reading, researching and consulting with other teaching artists.

Immediately following graduate school, I was hired to teach painting and drawing at the University of Iowa, where from 1988 to 1994 I taught full time at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. In addition to my regular teaching responsibilities, I created and ran the Art Department's All Media Forum for two years, which I developed in response to a need for increased interdisciplinary discourse. I also helped develop undergraduate curriculum and began teaching an undergraduate seminar, which continues to be my passion.

In 1997, I was hired to teach a graduate interdisciplinary seminar on the Role of the Artist at the SAIC. Because of my own interdisciplinary history as a painter and time and performance artist, I especially relished the opportunity to begin my teaching experience at SAIC with this particular class of diverse and intermedia students.

Unique to my teaching approach is my emphasis on the social function of painting since Manet and the advent of modernism. I help my students to be knowledgeable about the past and well versed in current developments, to know why they choose to paint, to be discerning about their painting materials and to see their choices as part of a historical continuum. I want them to understand that the decision to practice painting has social implications, that it cannot be a neutral set of actions, and to see that their choices have impact and meaning, both on their own terms and, they intend it or not, against the backdrop of history and contemporary practice.

With my seminar students, I read and discuss perspectives that enable us to see the historical relationship of the arts to power as manifested in the realm of art practice. My goal is that each student becomes conscious of his or her attitudes and assumptions about being an artist and what art does, thus bringing them greater clarity in the studio, or however they may choose to shape their art practice. In exploring these issues with my students, I offer various artistic models to help them clarify their own process and to enable them to validate the social place of their painting.

I believe that I must continue to evolve, both as an artist and as a teacher. I embrace the traditions, techniques and disciplines of painting proper and conceptual painting approaches. In my painting and drawing classes, I emphasize the history and materiality of painting. We spend a good deal of time taking as much advantage as possible of seeing actual work in the Art Institute and other institutions and galleries in Chicago, as well as looking at painting from books and digital reproductions during class.

In studio classes, I provide structure and projects that help train students' capacities for rigor, productivity and discernment. I am an enthusiastic, demanding instructor. As much as I am able, I endeavor to see students' work from their perspective, and to help them to find the language and resources that will allow each grow through their work. I openly acknowledge that I have subjective preferences, share them, open to them to challenge, and invite differing and opposing perspectives to flourish in the classroom studio.