Sunday, July 26, 2009

Melissa Chandon
Advisor: Professor Micheal Newman

Defining Moments in My First Art Institute of Boston Residency

My residency had a definitive starting moment during my first group critique with critical theory professor Stuart Steck. His comment about my work was, “nice, but how does this relate to current cultural issues?” This is an ongoing concern and one I hope to address and resolve during my studies.

The group crits and one-on-one crits were helpful for me. The sharing of ideas with other students about their works, along with insight that came to me during the process of speaking about my work, combined with the many ideas and suggestions the faculty had was amazing. The overall consensus and recommendation was to view my current work in two separate categories studio work for my galleries and work for my research. I feel that through a series of questions, honest dialogue and experimentation, I'll be able to begin the journey of what I need to do in order to accomplish my goals during this two year program. I know the time will go quickly. Before starting the MFA program I had a lot of time to think about my work and to think through the importance of this process and my ultimate personal goal as an artist. After starting the program I feel confident that the structure will allow me the time to experiment. With the critical theory classes, research and reading lists, I'll be able to contextualize my work and hopefully communicate my concerns effectively.

During the residency my elective seminar was Public Practice with Julia Scher. Our class covered many topics, conceptual ideas, materials and site specific works. Large scale public art is really attractive to me. I have had some experience with commissions for public spaces. It is exciting and interesting to see how the works of painters can morph into a different medium to produce a piece that can work well for a public space. The criteria for art in a public space is heavily based in materiality and durability and can present challenges for a painter. Shortly before starting the program I went to see Squeak Carnwath's retrospective exhibition at the Oakland Museum and an exhibition at the Turner Carroll Gallery in Santa Fe, New Mexico. She has begun recently to experiment with tapestry as a medium for her work. The gallery in Santa Fe was exhibiting tapestry works by Squeak, Chuck Close and Hung Liu. Seeing the work answered a lot of questions that I have and it was very helpful seeing these works in person. Another artist I look to for inspiration is abstract painter Charles Arnoldi. His works are often very large, often multiple surfaces to create a single piece. He has a public art piece in the entry area of a building in San Francisco. I plan on going to see the work this semester. My all time favorite large scale commission which I was able see two years ago, shortly after the reopening of the Musée de l’Orangerie Jardin des Tuileries in Paris is Claude Monet's, Les Nymphéas.

As my first mentor I have chosen Tom Holland. He has taught at University of California, Berkeley and the San Francisco Art Institute and currently has a studio in Berkeley which is not far from where I live. His work is non representational, both two and three dimensional paintings on metal. He has a very strong sense of color and form. I consider him less a painter and more of a sculptor. I felt this was a good starting place for me because I am interested in his technique of applying paint on a metal surface. This would be a valuable skill and one I could use for public art projects.

The artist talks during the residency were fantastic. It is interesting to hear individual artists contextualize their body of work. Cory Arcangel's talk was in many ways my favorite—he was spontaneous, insightful, random, funny, and articulate at the same time. I completely identified with his story about Tiger Woods and his process of reworking his swing. New York painter Susan White had an interesting approach of showing the small rotating images of fashion, graffiti, other artists work, along with seemingly random photos during her talk. This was for me more effective in contextualizing her work than her actual talk. The detail images that Laurel Sparks used in conjunction with the large images of her paintings was very effective in showing the process and gave information to understand the sculptural elements she combines in her paintings. I have listened to many artists talks but knowing I am now preparing for my final MFA presentation, I now regard the talks in a very different way.

Stuart's Critical Theory I course was engaging and very stimulating. His enthusiastic teaching technique encouraged lots of stimulating conversation. There were times when it felt the class discussion was taking us in an opposite direction, only to have the conversation come full circle and make perfect sense. This fall I would like to take an art history class at University of Cslifornia, Davis or Sacramento State so I can continue to develop the skills needed for my final thesis.

During my first semester of studio work the overall consensus during the group and individual critiques was that I use my time in the program wisely and experiment. Some of the ideas that were suggested as areas to explore are: abstraction, surface (texture, smooth), paper, canvas, wood, metal, beauty, ugly, brushes, brush strokes, distance from the painted surface while painting, color, black & white, line as form, removal of paint, sanding, scraping, shinny, flat, edit, space, light, dark. My goal for the semester is to set myself free to explore, and be adventurous. It will be interesting to see where my work takes me when I am not dictated by gallery needs and expectations. I hope to have quite a lot to show when I return in January.

For the academic portion of my semester I would like to read many books on a wide range of artists and hopefully gain insight on their philosophical approach to their work. I am hopeful that in doing this the knowledge I gain will give me the necessary skills needed to bridge the gap that Stuart Steck so poignantly mentioned during my first group crit—that is, how my work addresses current social issues. I hope to write a comparative essay on a painting by Squeak Carnwath and a painting by Cy Twombly. I would like to also investigate a painting from Richard Diebenkorn's Ocean Park series and a painting by Henri Matisse.

The artists that were recommended for me to investigate during this semester are: Gerhard Richter, Peter Doig, Mark Rothko, David Hockney, Squeak Carnswath, Maureen Gallace, Nicola Tyson, Edward Ruscha, Henri Matisse, Charles Arnoldi, Cy Twombly.

Reading list:

Interaction of Color, Josef Albers. Yale Univsrsity Press
Richard Diebenkorn, White Chapel Art Gallery, London
Bay Area Figurative Art 1950 – 1965, Caroline A. Johns, University of California, Berekley Press
Matisse A Retrospective, edited by Jack Flam, Beauix Arts Edition
Vitamin P: New Perspectives in Painting, Barry Schwabsky
USA Today: New American Art from the Saatchi Gallery, Meghan Dailey & Norman Rosenthal
The Art of Richard Diebenkorn, Ahmanson-Murphy Fine Arts Book, Jane Livingston