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–

Undergraduate Courses 2020-2021

Visual and Studio Arts

FYS Project

Open , FYS—Fall

This course is required for all first-year students in visual arts.

FYS Project is a weekly, small-workshop class that introduces first-years to each of the disciplines in the program. Meetings alternate between discussion and critique while offering small experimental studio projects in printmaking, painting, drawing, sculpture, photography, and new genres. FYS Project brings all first-years together from the start of their program and encourages a broad range of artmaking disciplines and ways of thinking about art. The class ends with a group exhibition intended to introduce first-year artists to the wider college community.

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Drawing Faces

Open , Seminar—Fall

Portraiture has a rich and complex history. The act of drawing a face gives artists an understanding of how to translate what they see onto paper through line, light, shadow, volume, and space. Intentionally manipulating this same graphic language can embed portraits with the complex emotional and psychological states that lie beyond mere visual representation. Politically, socially, and historically, portraits have been a means to establish class and gender, provide immortality, and document the human condition. In this course, you will learn the fundamentals of drawing through the subject of the portrait. The act of looking will be primary for us, as seeing the face accurately, as it truly exists, is a constant challenge for artists. As the semester progresses, we’ll move from observational, realistic portraits into interpreted, experimental drawings that challenge traditions and norms of portraiture. As you learn to draw what you see, you’ll simultaneously begin to reveal qualities that are not visible—those psychological, political, symbolic, and personal aspects of portraits that make them individual and unique. Students will work on daily drawing exercises both inside and outside the studio in order to build a disciplined drawing practice that allows them to work in transformative ways. For context, we will look at a range of historical and contemporary examples of portraiture and will visit New York City exhibitions to see art works in the flesh. A visiting artist working in portraiture will visit class, as well.

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1,001 Drawings

Open , Seminar—Spring

This will be a highly rigorous drawing class that pushes young artists to develop a disciplined, sustainable, and experimental drawing practice with which to explore new ways of thinking, seeing, and making art. Each week, you will make 50 to 100 small works on paper, based on varied, open-ended, unpredictable prompts. The prompts are meant to destabilize your practice and encourage you to interrogate the relationship between a work’s subject and its material process. You will learn to work quickly and flexibly, continually experimenting with mediums and processes as you probe the many possible solutions to problems posed by each prompt. As you create these daily drawings, you will simultaneously work on one large, ambitious drawing that you revisit over the entire semester. That piece will evolve slowly, change incrementally, and reflect the passage of time in vastly different ways from your daily works. This dynamic exchange will allow you to develop different rhythms in your creative practice, bridging the space between an idea’s generation and its final aesthetic on paper. The course will challenge you to ambitiously redefine drawing and, in doing so, will dramatically transform your artmaking practice.

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Advanced Interdisciplinary Studio: Our Nine Senses

Advanced , Seminar—Year

This course is intended for advanced visual-arts students interested in working across disciplines and in more deeply pursuing their own artmaking processes. Students making work in and across painting, drawing, sculpture, video, photography, sound, new genres, and performance are supported. Students will maintain their own studio spaces and 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, exploratory prompts based on nine human senses (vision, hearing, smell, taste, touch, balance, temperature, proprioception, and pain) from which they will be asked to experiment with how they make work and will be encouraged to work within new mediums. 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 accompanied by two group exhibitions. We will have regular critiques, readings, image discussions, and trips to galleries and artists’ studios and will participate integrally within the Visual Arts Lecture Series. This will be an immersive studio course for disciplined art students interested in making work in an interdisciplinary environment.

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Senior Exhibition

Advanced , Concept—Spring

Requirements: To be eligible for a senior exhibition, you must have at least 20 credits in the visual and studio arts by the end of your fall semester as a senior. Interested students are encouraged to attend an informational meeting in the fall semester of their senior year (date and time TBA).

This course is intended for those students interested in exhibiting their work in a solo senior exhibition. Through a combination of group meetings and one-on-one studio visits, we will discuss your work’s development, the general conception and installation of a solo exhibition, and the various practical considerations inherent in the process of mounting a show of your own artwork. Students will be expected to visit gallery and museum shows as research and then to create and install their own solo exhibition during the semester, accompanied by a small printed catalog documenting their show. All students must attend opening receptions (time TBD), and we will visit each exhibition as a group to give feedback and critique. Additional classes will cover writing an artist statement, documenting your work, professional practices, and more.

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Previous Courses

First-Year Studies: The Way Things Go

Open , FYS—Year

The title of this course is borrowed from the 1987 art film by Peter Fichli and David Weiss, which follows a sequence of causal interactions in a Rube Goldberg-like way. Each object and action affects the next, as the piece evolves over space and time and with great sensory range. In this interdisciplinary studio FYS course, students will be asked to consider their own art-making practice as an interconnected group of acts that evolve over time. Ideas in any creative endeavor rarely arrive fully formed, but creativity, understanding, and clarity come through committed engagement with the act of making. All of our senses contribute to the way we understand the world around us and, consequently, inform how and why we make art. When we see something we’re excited by, we simultaneously hear, smell, or feel something else—which, in turn, affects our initial point of view. This sensory interconnectedness will serve as our course’s foundation, and students will delve deeply into ways of translating the raw data of experience into art. To do so, you will be asked to develop a rigorous studio practice and to work across a full range of mediums—drawing, painting, sculpture, installation, performance, video, photography, sound. Each work will inform the next as your ideas are translated across mediums. As we progress through the year, your artworks will evolve in unexpected ways, challenging you to recognize their potential to affect your subsequent actions. This class will alternate biweekly conferences with biweekly small-group activities, including project and conference work critiques, attendance at the Visual and Studio Arts Lecture Series, museum/gallery tours, and visits to artist studios in the New York City area.

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Related Disciplines

The Body, Inside Out: Drawing and Painting Studio

Intermediate , Seminar—Fall

Course preference will be given to those who have painting and/or drawing experience.

This will be a rigorous art course that explores the theme of the body in transformative ways and across the mediums of drawing and painting. The figure will be our main subject, and in-class work will be designed to provoke students to investigate the body physically, psychologically, emotionally, scientifically, and socially. We will paint and draw from live models, from ourselves, and across other diverse media sources. For context, we will look at depictions of the figure from prehistory through contemporary art, as issues of the body in space and the dynamic between the artist and model are extremely relevant in today’s art world. Through direct, immersive observation and imaginitive interpretation, the works you make will be stylistically varied, experimental, and exploratory. You’ll be asked to challenge the conventional dynamic between drawing and painting and, in doing so, push yourselves to make works that defy easy categorization and question the norms of traditional figurative art. Studio practice will be reinforced through discussion, written work, readings, and image lectures for context. Trips to see exhibitions and artist studios will be an integral component of the class, and attendance at the Visiting Artist Lecture Series is mandatory.

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Related Disciplines

Advanced Interdisciplinary Studio II

Advanced , Seminar—Spring

Open to juniors and seniors with extensive prior visual-art experience. Please bring examples of your work to the interview. Students interested in senior exhibitions are encouraged to interview.

This is a continuation of the fall-semester course and is intended for advanced visual arts students interested in pursuing their own art-making processes more fully. Students making work in painting, drawing, sculpture, video, mixed media, performance, etc. are supported. Students will maintain their own studio spaces and will be expected to work independently and creatively and to challenge themselves and their peers to explore new ways of thinking and making. During this spring semester, students will focus exclusively on their own interests and will be expected to develop a sophisticated, cohesive body of independent work accompanied by an artist’s statement and exhibition. We will have regular critiques, readings, image discussions, and trips to artist studios and will participate integrally with the Visual Arts Lecture Series. This will be an immersive studio course for disciplined art students interested in making art in an interdisciplinary environment.

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Related Disciplines

Drawing: Seeing in Reverse

Open , Seminar—Year

Drawing is an endlessly exciting art form that encourages experimentation and embraces mistakes. Drawing reveals the integral relationship between seeing and thinking. This course will challenge what you think of as drawing. In the fall semester, you will learn about the tools and techniques of traditional, observational drawing (line, value, space, composition/paper, graphite, ink, charcoal, conte, and others) and will learn how to accurately translate what you see onto paper. In the spring semester, you will make more open-ended, experimental, idea-based drawings within more complex subjects and combinations of materials, finishing with a large-scale, independent project. Throughout the year, you will learn how to express yourself through drawing: How will your drawings be different from everyone else’s? Our subjects will include the human figure, space, memory, portraiture, time, text, still life, installation, imagination, collaboration, color, and humor. We will not keep our subjects at a distance but, rather, will try to connect with them, move around and through them, and deconstruct them in order to truly understand what we are drawing. Ultimately, what can your drawings reveal beyond what we all plainly see? This course will ask you to look at your world with intensity and render the visible and invisible on paper. 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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Painting and Words: Definitely Not Floccinaucinihilipilification

Intermediate , Seminar—Fall

Open to students who have had painting courses in college or advanced high-school level.

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, size—relate to what it says? How many ways can you read a work of art? In this intermediate painting course, students will probe the dynamic between the formal qualities of language and its content: personal, political, social, formal. 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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Advanced Interdisciplinary Studio II

Advanced , Seminar—Spring

Open to juniors and seniors with extensive prior visual art experience. Please bring examples of your work to our interview. Students interested in senior exhibitions are encouraged to interview.

This interdisciplinary studio course is intended for advanced visual-arts students to transition their art making from an assignment-based approach to individual studio practice. The course will support students working in painting, drawing, printmaking, photography, sculpture, video, performance, and new genres. Students will maintain their own studio spaces and will be expected to work independently and creatively and to challenge themselves and their peers to explore new ways of thinking and making. In addition to weekly critiques, we will discuss how formal aspects and expressive strategies of art making in the 20th and 21st century are considered and evaluated in their social and political contexts. Relationships of past art to the development of contemporary art will be addressed. During the fall semester, students will be given open-ended prompts from which they will be asked to experiment with how they make work and will be encouraged to work across mediums. In the spring, students will focus exclusively on their own interests and will be expected to develop a sophisticated, cohesive body of independent work accompanied by an artist’s statement and exhibition. The class will feature image presentations, readings, group discussions, studio critiques, trips to artist’s studios, and participation with the Visual Arts Lecture Series. This will be an immersive studio course for disciplined art students interested in making art in an interdisciplinary environment.

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Painting on Site

Open , Seminar—Fall

This will be a rigorous art course meant for students who are serious about delving deeply into painting and drawing through the spaces around them. Each week, we’ll travel to a different location to paint “on site.” We’ll work in nature (on various locations along the Hudson River), from architecture (in New York City, Yonkers, the Cloisters), and draw in museums (Metropolitan Museum of Art and Museum of Natural History). As we travel to make art, you’ll be rendering from within: How can your paintings express the specific temperature, light, color, and the temporal conditions of changing spaces? Ultimately, your paintings will reflect how you see the world through intense observation. Course preference is given to those who have painting experience. Studio practice will be reinforced through discussion, written work, readings, and slide lectures for context. Visiting artist lectures are mandatory.

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Experimental Drawing

Open , Seminar—Spring

Drawing is a dynamic art form that encourages experimentation and embraces mistakes. It’s a reflection, on paper, of how we think. This will be a highly creative, process-based drawing course that will challenge you to think about the medium in new and transformative ways. We’ll make open-ended, experimental drawings, moving from the representational into the abstract and beyond. Our subjects will include the human figure, space, memory, portraiture, time, text, installation, collage, the imagined, collaboration, color, and humor, among others. 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, exploratory projects, you’ll gain a greater understanding of the tools and techniques of drawing and will learn to combine ideas and mediums in inventive, 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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Our Nine Senses: Advanced Studio

Advanced , Seminar—Year

Open to juniors and seniors with extensive prior visual art experience.

This course is intended for advanced visual-arts students interested in more fully pursuing their own art-making processes. Students making work in painting, drawing, sculpture, video, mixed media, performance, etc. are supported. Students will maintain their own studio spaces and 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 how they make work and will be encouraged to work across mediums. 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 accompanied by an artist’s statement and solo exhibition. We will have regular critiques, readings, image discussions, and trips to artist’s studios; and we will participate intimately with the Visual Arts Lecture Series. This will be an immersive studio course for disciplined art students interested in making art in an interdisciplinary environment.

Faculty