Monday, March 29, 2010

Work in Progress: Mentors and Students

"Art 21" is not only a series of programs produced for public TV - but it is also the site of an informative blog that has recently turned its attention to art education, sponsoring a competition for art students who want to publish their views online. Wouldn't it be good for educators to know what their students are really looking for when they sign up for art classes? Articulate student artists are going to help shape the future so we better be listening.

If you read Sarah Thornton's chatty "Seven Days in the Art World" you may have suffered through the chapter on "The Crit". An unwieldy but necessary affair, the critique can be a test of nerves for both students and their mentors.. The critique needs to be decoded for the reader, it can be a form of confession on the part of students and a way to deconstruct the process they went through to achieve what is being scrutinized. Teachers can be cheerleaders, while at other times they are the referee and the jury. At art school, perhaps
you believe as James Elkins has recently written in "Why Art Cannot be Taught" that we know very little about how art is taught, and what it is that we expect students to learn.

The art teacher still has the authority to be a role model for students. Visit The Geisel Gallery at Bausch & Lomb World Headquarters during the weekdays to see Don Arday's elegant solo show of digital art now on view through April 30th. Theme and variation is the working premise, with an influence of cubism, Leger and Picabia in kaleidoscopic compositions framed in nearly identical vertical formats. Don Arday teaches digital illustration at R.I.T. and his art has a meticulous craftsmanship and a restrained vocabulary of color and geometric shape.

Students are rarely given the opportunity to have a one person show, often because they don't have a body of cohesive artwork. That is not the case with Robyn Neill in his new exhibition at The Joy Gallery on Genesee Street. "Ascension" is the title of his series of paintings on thick wood panels which have been cut and shaped by jigsaw. These paintings have high ambitions with titles like "Confidence", "Hesitation" and "Heartache", the latter including an interior video screen featuring a palpitating heart.

Themes of contemporary faith, desire, and political instability were arrived at in contemplation which is the artist's prerogative. For some students it is the misapprehension of what their teachers teach that drives them forward, but not so for Robyn Neill. With his new installations he effectively incorporates constructive criticism to make his art more cogent. As Luvon Sheppard (the Director of The Joy Gallery and Robyn's teacher) say's, "the mission of this gallery will enable artists of ability who are relatively unknown to be featured in a professional way". The support and respect that is given at The Joy Gallery most importantly has been earned, so artists and visitors feel the benefit from a high level of commitment; part of process on a path towards achieving artistic maturity.

Image credits: 
Don Arday Chair, School of Art "Unresolved Face" digital art
Robyn Neill, paintings in progress