Teaching Philosophy

My courses approach the visual arts as investigative activities. In much the same way that writing essays helps us learn to think, I believe that drawing and painting help us learn to see. I therefore approach art-making as a way of articulating vision; courses are designed around a set of tools that allow the students to see more deeply and to develop the complexity and integrity of their work as documents of lived experience. I encourage experimentation with materials and techniques with an eye toward letting the work lead to visual discoveries.

My strengths in teaching are my deep love for art in its human dimensions and in individual critiques and discussions with my students. Every class I teach contains a sustained project that is completed in stages, where I use workdays to meet with each student individually to discuss the development of their project. This has the twofold advantage of enforcing a slower composition process with time for revision and providing me with multiple opportunities to challenge students to find the deeper question or motivation behind their idea. I find that it is often the third or fourth time around the same subject that I finally uncover what is at stake for the student, which is the point where I am best in a position to help them move forward in their work.

I meet my students through their work, and encourage my students to meet each other in the same way. I try to cultivate a culture of long and close looking in the class, viewing critiques as moments of shared vision where we can ask the work what it is like to be the artist for a moment in time, or at least to see like them. The goal of a critique is to find what is there in the work and to articulate that to the artist. This is extraordinarily difficult. Activities and exercises in critiques are designed to help students uncover content in the work; concepts and terminology are consistently applied to that end.

In class I am as likely to refer to a mathematical theorem or a line of poetry to illustrate a concept as I am to refer to an image of a work of art because I see art as one way among many of making sense of the world, of “blazing a trail through that vast wilderness of our selves” (Baldwin). I hope to instill in my students a spirit of adventure, and a sense for the places that visual art is uniquely situated to take them.

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