John O’Connor

BA, Westfield (Mass.) State College. MFA, MS, Pratt Institute. Attended Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture. Recipient of a New York Foundation for the Arts grant in painting and the Pollock-Krasner Foundation grant. Taught at Princeton University, Pratt Institute, and New York University. Recent exhibitions at Pierogi Gallery in Brooklyn, Martin Asbaek Projects in Copenhagen, Fleisher Ollman Gallery in Philadelphia, and The Lab in Dublin (Ireland). His work is included in the collections of the Museum of Modern Art, Whitney Museum of American Art, Southern Methodist University, and New Museum of Contemporary Art. SLC 2010–

Current undergraduate courses

Definitely Not Floccinaucinihilipilification: Painting and Words

Spring

The relationship between art and language has been explored in dynamic ways throughout art history and in contemporary painting. From ancient cave paintings and Egyptian hieroglyphs to Cy Twombly’s scrawled relief paintings and Alfred Jensen’s impasto diagrams, the fusion of language into paint has long been at the core of visual expression. How does the way a word looks—its shape, color, and size—relate to what it says? How many ways can you read a work of art? In this painting course, students will probe the dynamic between the formal qualities of language and its content. Via the prism of text, we will paint color and space through diverse processes (observational, invented, historical, abstract). Primarily an oil painting class, we will also experiment with watercolor, acrylic, encaustic, and other nontraditional painting mediums. In this class, you will be asked to explore the exciting dynamics of the painted word. Studio practice will be reinforced through discussion, written work, readings, and slide lectures. Visiting artists and studio visits with artists in New York City will be scheduled.

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Drawing on Sight

Fall

Drawing is an exciting art form that encourages experimentation and embraces mistakes; it’s a record, on paper, of how we see and think. This will be a highly creative, rigorous course that will challenge you to think about the medium of drawing in new and transformative ways. In class, you will learn the fundamental techniques and materials of observational drawing and will then apply them to subjects off campus. We’ll alternate in-class drawing lessons with trips to different locations to draw “on site.” We’ll work in nature at various locations along the Hudson River and in architectural spaces such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of Natural History, the Cloisters, New York City galleries, and others. You’ll be asked to consider your point of view as something fluid, organic, and personal. Ultimately, your drawings will reflect how YOU see the world. Studio practice will be reinforced through discussion, written work, readings, and slide lectures. Visiting artists and studio visits with artists in New York City will be scheduled.

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Our Nine Senses: Advanced Interdisciplinary Studio

Year

This course is intended for experienced visual-arts students interested in more rigorously pursuing their own methods of art making. Students will maintain individual studio spaces; they will be expected to work independently and creatively and to challenge themselves and their peers to explore new ways of thinking and making. During the fall semester, students will be given open-ended prompts based on nine human senses (vision, hearing, smell, taste, touch, balance, temperature, proprioception, pain) from which they will be asked to experiment with materials and ideas. In the spring semester, students will focus exclusively on their own interests and will be expected to develop a sophisticated, cohesive body of independent work. We will have regular critiques, readings, slide discussions, professional visiting artists, and trips to artist’s studios. This will be an immersive studio course for serious, disciplined art students.

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Previous courses

Collage

Spring

The term “collage” was coined by Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque in the early 20th century. Collage is an art form comprised of preexisting images that the artist manipulates and recombines in new ways. The word derives from the French "coller," meaning, "glue.” In this studio course, students will explore the myriad processes and materials of collage today: paper, paint, 3-dimensional objects, digital, photographic, found materials, and more. We will also learn about the history of collage—through slide lectures and presentations—from its origins in Eastern art to its recent resurgence in Western contemporary art. Visits to artist studios in New York City and visiting artists in class will also provide a foundation and inspiration for our work. Pervading this exploration will be an ongoing discussion about the significance of appropriation: What do authorship and creativity mean to you? This course will allow students to express themselves through the manipulation and recombination of images in extremely personal ways. Collage: almost always obsolete, almost always new. It’s an exciting line to walk.

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Drawing: A Big Evolution

Spring

Drawings demand to be changed over time through process—they are always evolving. This evolution will serve as the foundation for this highly creative drawing course. In class, students will work on observational and idea-based drawings over extended periods of time. They will work on each project in class for approximately two weeks and bring it to a finished state outside of class. Through varied, in-depth projects, they will gain a greater understanding of the techniques of drawing and learn to combine ideas and mediums in personal, thought-provoking ways. The choice of medium will be flexible and varied and will include charcoal, graphite, ink, pastel, conte, color pencil, etc. Additionally, students will be asked to directly address the scale of their drawings—from very small, intricate works to large-scale, exuberant pieces. The subjects of the drawings will vary widely as well—from detailed drawings of the human figure to abstract, conceptual drawings in color. Some additional subjects may include space, memory, time, narrative, installation, collage, imagination, collaboration, movement and time, color, and humor. Permeating all of this will be an investigation into ways of introducing content into the work. What will your drawings be about? Independent work outside of class is required. Studio practice will be reinforced through discussion, occasional written work, readings, slides, and gallery/museum visits. A studio visit with an artist in New York City will also be scheduled.

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Drawing: Seeing in Reverse

Year

Drawing is an endlessly exciting art form that encourages experimentation and embraces mistakes. It’s a reflection of how we think visually on paper. This will be a highly creative, rigorous course that will challenge you to think about the medium of drawing in new and transformative ways. In the fall semester, you will learn about tools and techniques of observational drawing and how to translate onto paper, with accuracy, what you see of the visible world. In the spring semester, we will make more open-ended, experimental, idea-based drawings. Our subjects will include the human figure, space, memory, portraiture, time, text, installation, collage, imagination, collaboration, color, and humor. Permeating all of this will be our investigation into ways of introducing content into your work: What will your drawings be about? Through varied, in-depth projects, you will gain a greater understanding of the techniques of drawing and will learn to combine ideas and mediums in personal, thought-provoking ways. Studio practice will be reinforced through discussion, written work, readings, slides, and museum visits. Visiting artists and studio visits with artists in New York City will be scheduled.

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Drawing: Translating an Invisible World

Fall

Drawing is an endlessly exciting art form that encourages experimentation and embraces mistakes. It naturally exploits the relationship between seeing and thinking. This course will challenge what you think of as drawing. You will learn about the tools of traditional drawing (paper, graphite, ink, charcoal, conte, etc.) and how to translate what you see onto paper. Simultaneously, you will begin to learn how to express yourself individually through drawing—how your drawings will be different from everyone else’s. We will begin with the fundamentals of drawing through observation (line, value, space) and move into more complex subjects and combinations of materials, even touching on collage and abstraction, and finish with a large-scale, independent project. Each week, we will work in new ways, continuing to build on what came before and often approaching similar subject matter in different ways. We will not keep our subjects at a distance but will try to connect with them, move around and through them, deconstruct them—really understand what we are drawing. Ultimately, what can your drawings reveal beyond what we all plainly see? While we may all be looking at and drawing the same thing, you will be asked to find your own solutions to problems, take your drawings in new and unexpected directions, and extrapolate from what you know and learn. This course will ask you to look at your world with intensity and to render the invisible on paper. Independent work outside of class is required. Studio practice will be reinforced through discussion, occasional written work, readings, slides, and gallery/museum visits. A studio visit with an artist in New York City will also be scheduled.

Faculty

Drawing On Sight

Year

Drawing is an exciting art form that encourages experimentation and embraces mistakes; it’s a record, on paper, of how we see and think. This will be a highly creative, rigorous course that will challenge you to think about the medium of drawing in new and transformative ways. In the fall semester, you will learn to use the fundamental tools and techniques of observational drawing to translate onto paper what you see of the visible world through your own unique point of view. Our subjects will include the human body, still life, photographs, spaces, drawings from nature, etc. We will not keep our subjects at a distance but will try to connect with them, move around and through them, and deconstruct them to really SEE what we are drawing from diverse viewpoints. In the spring semester, you’ll apply what you’ve learned in the fall to subjects off campus. Each week, we’ll travel to a different location to draw “on site.” We’ll work in nature—on various locations along the Hudson River—and in museums such as the Metropolitan Museum and Museum of Natural History in New York City, among others. You’ll investigate a wide range of exciting subjects using the tools of drawing. Ultimately, your drawings will reflect how YOU see the world. This course is suitable for all levels. Studio practice will be reinforced through discussion, written work, readings, slides, and museum visits. Visiting artists and studio visits with artists in New York City will be scheduled.

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The Body, Inside Out: Interdisciplinary Studio

Fall

This course is suitable for advanced visual-arts students interested in working with the theme of the body in transformative ways and across mediums. This will be a studio course, with in-class work defined by specific assignments meant to provoke students to investigate the body physically, psychologically, emotionally, scientifically, and socially. The body will be our jumping-off point, and students will be asked to explore diverse styles and materials and to think creatively and ambitiously. For context, we will look at depictions of the figure from prehistory through contemporary art. Students will research various artists and styles of art making and present their work in class. Visits to artists’ studios in New York City and visiting artists in class will also provide a foundation and inspiration for our work.

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The Face: A Mixed-Media Studio

Spring

The history of portraiture is vast and rich in inventiveness, social commentary, psychology, and political power. The face, or portrait, will be our jumping-off point in this course. Students will be asked to investigate portraiture—self-portraits and otherwise—in creative and personal ways and across mediums. Students will experiment with point of view, scale, style, and various mediums. For context, we will look at the history of portraiture and how contemporary artists deal with the human face as subject matter. Students will be asked to research artists and styles of portraiture and to present their work in class. Visits to artists’ studios in New York City and visiting artists in class will also provide a foundation and inspiration for our work.

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