Visual and Studio Arts

Students enrolled in a visual and studio arts course at Sarah Lawrence College work in a new environment created to support the College’s unique arts pedagogy: a philosophy of teaching that not only encourages individual investigation into the nature of the creative process but also provides a setting to foster the exchange of ideas across artistic disciplines.

While courses are taught in the traditional seminar/conference format, the Monika A. and Charles A. Heimbold, Jr. Visual Arts Center is specifically designed to break down barriers among visual-arts media. The Center features ateliers that give each student an individual work area for the year, while its open classrooms and movable walls encourage students to see and experience the work of their peers in painting, sculpture, photography, filmmaking, printmaking, drawing, visual fundamentals, and digital imagery. Students may enhance their work in a chosen discipline by enrolling in a workshop—a minicourse—selected from 10 offerings annually. In some visual-arts courses, a particular workshop will be required. This recently developed program expands students’ technical skills and enables them to utilize different media in the development of their work. Workshops are open to students of any visual-arts medium, promoting even more interaction and understanding across disciplinary boundaries and furthering the College’s overall emphasis on interdisciplinary work

The Heimbold Center, a high-performance “green” building, embodies an environmentally friendly approach that features safe alternatives to toxic materials, special venting systems, and an abundance of natural light. In addition to well-equipped, open-space studios, individual ateliers, and digital technology in every studio and classroom, the building also includes space for welding, woodworking, clay and mold making; a common darkroom, digital imaging lab, and critique rooms; and a sound studio, screening room, and large exhibition area. The Center’s doors open onto a miniquad, allowing students from throughout the College both access to and inspiration from their peers’ works-in-progress.

The visual-arts curriculum is reflected in—but not confined to—the Heimbold Center’s visual-arts facilities. The building also houses courses in visual culture, increasing the integration of the creative arts and the humanities. The College’s proximity to New York City brings recognized artists to campus to lecture and also gives the students the opportunity to visit hundreds of galleries and some of the world’s major museums.

Faculty members are working artists who believe in the intrinsic value—for all students—of creative work in the visual arts, the inseparable connection of the creative arts and the liberal arts, and the necessity of art in life. All visual-arts faculty and their students have access to technicians, based in the Heimbold Center, who can provide technical support in most areas.

In 2017-18, various workshops in the visual-arts disciplines will be offered that serve to broaden students’ vocabulary and technical skills. In the past, workshops in Metalworking, Letterpress, Web Design, Drawing, Water Color, Woodworking, Artist Books, Final Cut, Sculpture Methods, and Photoshop have been offered.

2017-2018 Courses

Visual and Studio Arts

Sculpture and Play Redux

Open , Seminar—Spring

Please bring images of any relevant past work or ideas for possible future projects to the interview.

In this semester-long course, students will learn to play. This is not the innocent play of the schoolyard but one where ideas about sculpture and object-making are understood through constant physical experimentation coupled with thoughtful reflection and critical thinking. The class will use play as a principle from which to approach artmaking and will emphasize the way “playing” can inform creative activity through artistic, material investigations. This class will introduce students to various fundamental techniques and principles related to sculpture and to contemporary art in general. The course will consist of in-class demonstrations and presentations, assigned projects, readings, and field trips to galleries and museums. Assignments will culminate in a group critique, which will give students the opportunity both to engage with each other directly about their work and learn from one another and to value divergent opinions from the class as a whole through critical dialogues. This class will look at a wide range of artists that work within and at the edges of the contemporary sculptural field and will give students a basic familiarity with contemporary sculptural practice in its many forms. Students will learn to work with standard sculptural materials, as well as those of a less conventional nature. Throughout the semester, students will be encouraged to consider how sculpture can act as a mode of physical and even conceptual play and how this sustained play can become a way of thinking creatively. They will not only learn how things are made but, more importantly, how they can come apart and be expressed differently. Students are not expected to have prior knowledge about contemporary art or sculpture. Rather, they are asked to bring a fearless and adventurous attitude to both the classroom and their projects. The goal of this class is to further one’s appreciation of sculpture as related to contemporary art and to give students the opportunity to re-imagine the physical world by way of the creative act. Students will be expected to challenge themselves through their work, enrich the in-class dynamic through their active participation, and, most importantly, play.

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Architectural Design Studio: Shaping Space, Site, and Environment

Open , Seminar—Spring

This studio course is a hands-on introduction to design at the scale of the architectural environment. Emphasis is on the tools, methods, and concepts involved in the design and representation of architectural space, the manipulation of site, and the shaping of local environmental conditions. This course asks students to consider the designer’s role in producing meaningful, healthy, and sustainable environments in light of pressing challenges like climate change, resource depletion, pollution, and habitat loss. Could buildings be conceived as productive participants in an ecosystem instead of obstacles to a healthy environment? And what might the architectural implications of such a strategy be? Readings, discussions, site visits, and case studies help us consider these as cultural questions as much as technical challenges. Alongside a series of exploratory design exercises, students are asked to examine and assess a selection of writings by architects positing nature and architecture as being either intrinsically opposed on the one hand—or in harmonious equilibrium on the other—and, through a final design project, to invent richly productive hybrid assemblages of built forms and natural processes. This is a project-based studio balancing collective and individual efforts. Experimentation with drawing, diagramming, model building, storytelling, and collage encourages students to think through making and to take creative and intellectual risks in service of invention and discovery. Experience with drawing, modeling, and other analog or digital design media is helpful but not required.

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Related Disciplines

Urban Design Studio: Ecologies of Public Space

Open , Seminar—Fall

This studio course is a hands-on introduction to urban design as a situated cultural practice. Using New York City as our living laboratory, we explore the life and design of its many public spaces. From parks, plazas, and open spaces to public institutions and infrastructural landscapes, our goal is to examine urban forms and processes in relation to wider social, political, and environmental concerns. In positing the contemporary city as a dynamic but legible formation subject to ongoing and perpetual change, this course explores the tensions between contemporary culture’s progressive dynamism—our ceaseless need to renew, refresh, and reinvent ourselves—and the material inertia of our architectural inheritance. Through a structured process of research, observation, and analysis, we uncover and interrogate New York City’s myriad social, cultural, and ecological networks; situate them in their historical and architectural contexts; and then record, reimagine, and ultimately reconfigure them using the tools of urban design. Experimentation with drawing, diagramming, mapping, model building, storytelling, and collage encourages students to think through making and to take creative and intellectual risks in service of invention and discovery. Studio work balances collective and individual efforts, while site visits, case studies, readings, and discussions provide support by raising issues of environmental sustainability, urban climate resilience, and social and economic justice in city planning and development. Experience with drawing, modeling, and other analog or digital design media is helpful but not required.

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Related Disciplines

Material and Meaning

Open , Seminar—Fall

This sculpture course addresses the fundamental relationship between physical materials and the production of meaning. Through a series of studio-based assignments, we will examine the ways in which materials can be manipulated, shaped, and arranged consistent with an underlying interest or intention of the artist. Conversely, we will examine materials as inherently meaningful themselves and develop methods of looking, investigating, and researching to reveal the ideas and possibilities contained within the seemingly inert. The course takes a broad view of the concept of “material”; studio work may encompass diverse media, including conventional sculptural practices, as well as digital and time-based media, performance, and photography. Students will be encouraged to experiment, invent, and discover.

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Intermediate Photography

Intermediate , Seminar—Fall

This class investigates techniques, methods, and strategies of black-and-white and color photography. Students will develop a body of work based on personal vision, interests, and beliefs. We will look at key moments in the history of the photography, specifically as it pertains to documentary and conceptual traditions, in order to contextualize the work that students make. Students will be introduced to ideas of installation, book layout, editing and sequencing through bibliomaniac explorations, and gallery/museum visits. Students are welcome to use either analog or digital format and will be supported with technical guidance. Experimentation with mixed media is encouraged. The development of a cohesive and original body of photographs—based on making, thinking, and remaking—will be at the core of this experience.

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Things and Beyond Representation

Open , Seminar—Spring

Permission of the instructor is required. Previous experience in studio art, which might include high school studio art, is required.

This one-semester studio course will explore the possibilities for creative production inspired by a range of inquiries that include readings, discussions, critiques, understanding the work of contemporary artists, and museum and/or gallery visits. In doing so, we will consider different ways of thinking about art, which will lead us to consider different ways of thinking about our selves, what we encounter, and what we produce as a result of an encounter. We will explore concepts as ways of discovering different subjectivities and situations in which art can become. We will take a global perspective in looking at contemporary art and consider the politics of representation in art: What does it mean to represent, and for whom can one speak? The course will experiment with how texts, images, discussions, and activity can alter one’s inner landscape, enabling different kinds of (art)work to emerge. Projects will consist of assignments and independent work generated in conference. A range of materials—such as cardboard, wood, metal, plaster, and digital media—will be available, along with technical support in the handling of these media. Experience in the visual, performative, industrial, and/or digital arts is helpful. For the interview, students are encouraged to bring images of work done in any of the previously mentioned practices or in any other practices that the student deems relevant to his/her idea of the course.

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Image/Object/Picture: Problems in Photography’s Expanded Field

Open , Seminar—Year

This class will explore questions regarding what has been called the “New Photography,” which involves a range of practices that have developed in response to the changes that have taken place in the medium since the rise of digital technologies. The class will use production (art-making), research, and discussion to come to terms with the issues that this area of the field presents. We will explore topics that include photography’s relationship to painting and sculpture, photography as an object-making practice, the camera as a drawing tool, the virtual-sculptural, screen space vs. print space, picturing the picture-making apparatus, and whether the digital can be political. We will look at a range of historical and contemporary artists, including Liz Deschenes, Walead Beshty, Elad Lassry, Michelle Abeles, Deana Lawson, Leslie Hewitt, and Christopher Williams. And we will also look for the roots of these endeavors in the history of art across mediums in order to understand these practices through narratives that are deeper than the mere response to technological change.

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Mapping Time: Moving-Image Art and Installation in Practice

Open , Seminar—Year

This production seminar investigates histories, strategies, and concepts related to the production and exhibition of moving-image installation. Over the year, students will investigate the histories of moving-image installation and create their own works of time-based art. In this course, we will look at artworks that use moving images, space, sound, loops, performance, site-specificity, chance operations, multiple channels, and video games as tools for communicating ideas. In the fall semester, students will make collaborative and individual artworks and present them for in-class critique. Our work will be inspired by close readings of specific seminal artworks in installation from the late 1960s to the present, including pieces that utilize feedback loops, multiple projections, home movies, and new technologies. Spring semester, we engage with our own concepts and ideas of how time-based installation can be activated. Students are encouraged to connect their work in this class to collaborative projects in theatre, dance, sculpture, painting, and their academic interests. A component of the class will take place outside the classroom at museums, galleries, nonprofits, and performance spaces in and around New York.

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First-Year Studies: Basic Analog Black-and-White Photography

Open , FYS—Year

This analog, film-based course introduces the fundamentals of black-and-white photography: acquisition of photographic technique, development of personal vision, and discussion of photographic history and contemporary practice. Reviews are designed to strengthen the understanding of the creative process, while assignments will stress photographic aesthetics and formal concerns. Conference work entails research into historical movements and, through slide presentations, individual artists' working methods. Throughout the year, students will be encouraged to make frequent visits to gallery and museum exhibitions and share their impressions with the class. The relationship of photography to liberal arts also will be emphasized. Students will develop and complete their own bodies of work as culmination of their study. This is not a digital photography course. Students must have a 35mm film or medium-format film camera and be able to purchase film and gelatin silver paper throughout the year.

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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.

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Art From Code

Open , Seminar—Fall

A “live coding,” practice-based introduction to visual arts programming, including color, shape, transformations, and motion, this course is designed for artists with little or no prior programming experience. We'll meet twice weekly to code together live, working on short, in-class exercises within a larger analysis of the social, cultural, and historical nature of programming cultures. All students will be required to keep a sketchbook and participate in installation. Artists include Reas, Davis, Riley, MacDonald, and others. Taught in Javascript, HTML5, and Processing.

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Related Disciplines

Game Studio: Nonlinear and Interactive Narrative

Sophomore and above , Small seminar—Fall

As more stories are delivered on interactive devices, our idea of narrative keeps changing. This course explores the strategies of nonlinear, multilinear, modular, and interactive forms of design, while analyzing several examples of the nonlinear story design found in games, electronic literature, and interactive art. Students will develop the critical tools to create and analyze interactive projects. All students will keep a sketchbook, participate in game night, develop one nonlinear or interactive narrative, and write one five-page design document. Artists include Leishman, Gysin, Eco, Calvino, Mateas, and others. Taught in Unity 2D/C#, with Pyskel, Tiled, and GarageBand.

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New Genres: Cultural HiJack

Sophomore and above , Small seminar—Fall

Is art the new politics? Cultural HiJack examines the work of artists attempting to subvert, critique, and overthrow the dominant paradigm though street art, anti-advertising, meme wars, flash mobs, instant theatre, guerilla projection, and spatial intervention. Artists surveyed include Guerrilla Girls, RTMark, Rosler, Holzer, Marchessault, Banksy, Fairey, Acconci, and Franco and Eva Mattes, along with readings from Dery, Klein, Debord, Gramsci, Lacy, and others. Working either individually or in small groups, students will collaborate on campaigns of détournement, designing and implementing inventions of their own through alternative and hybrid forms.

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Digital Tools for Artists

Open , Seminar—Spring

This course provides fundamental instruction in art installation. Students will learn the basics of digital imaging, interaction, spatial design, and video mapping while working toward proficiency with the tools of installation art. We will meet twice weekly, once for a skills workshop and again for a guided work session. Artists surveyed include Albers, Klimt, Kusama, Menard, Mock, Nakamura, Holzer, and others. Taught in Photoshop, After Effects, VPT, and Max/MSP Jitter.

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Game Studio: Radical Game Design

Sophomore and above , Small seminar—Spring

From Hopscotch to MolleIndustria, game designers have used play as a means of imprinting culture and subverting power. Games are small and viral. They emerge and disappear. They grip the online world obsessively or blend seamlessly into the underground. Above all, games are easily dismissed by authority, making them an ideal means of spreading social and political dissonance. This class surveys radical game design as practiced by artists like MoilleIndustria, Anne Marie Schleiner, Natalie Bookchin, Donna Leishman, Eddo Stern, Ian MacLarty, and others. We will also consider the historical roots of radical design, which finds its beginnings in Dada, Surrealist, Fluxus, and Situationist games, and play methods explored by artists like George Brecht, John Cage, and William Burroughs. Taught in Unity 2D/C#, with Pyskel, Tiled, and GarageBand.

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New Genres: Interactive Art

Sophomore and above , Small seminar—Spring

Prerequisite: Art from Code or Digital Tools for Artists.

This course focuses on the cutting-edge technologies behind interactive art and dynamic installation. Students will work in a programming environment called Max/MSP/Jitter to create installations that dynamically generate on-screen visuals, spectacle, and noise while combining multiple types of media to create an overall theme. Topics include an introduction to Max, basic patching, control logic, external/live video input, reactive visuals, color/object tracking, openCV in Jitter, sensors, and the glitch aesthetic. Artists surveyed are Ikeda, Rokeby, Benson, Liddell, TeamLAB, and others. Taught in MAX/MSP Jitter with LEAP, Kinect, sensors, and cameras.

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Painterly Print

Open , Seminar—Fall and Spring

This course is an opening foray into the possibilities of painterly printmaking and experimental processes that merge printmaking with painting and drawing. The course will also cover fundamentals such as basic drawing and color mixing. As means to explore their individual idea, students will investigate a wide range of possibilities offered by monoprint techniques and will experiment with inks and paints, stencils, multiple plates, and images altered in sequence. Students will begin to develop a method to investigate meaning, or content, through the techniques of painterly printmaking. There will be an examination of various strategies that fluctuate between specific in-class assignments and individual studio work. In-class assignments will be supplemented with PowerPoint presentations, reading materials, film clips and video screenings, group critiques, homework projects, and visits to artist studios.

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Beginning Painting: From Observation to Invention

Open , Seminar—Fall

This course is an introduction to the materials and techniques of oil painting. There will be an examination of various painting strategies that fluctuate between specific in-class assignments and individual conference projects. The primary focus will be an elaboration on rudimentary concepts such as color, tonal structure, spatial construction, painting surfaces, and composition. The fall semester focuses on the subjects of still life and landscape, which will be starting points for experimentation with spatial structures ranging from direct observation to composite constructions. We will also explore narrative possibilities that landscape and still-life paintings can imply; and we will examine the role of these subjects in the history of painting and other visual media. The course will culminate in an individual project that will be researched by the student and discussed during conferences and course critiques and will include a large-scale painting. In-class assignments will be supplemented with PowerPoint presentations, reading material, film clips and video screenings, group critiques, and homework projects. Students are required to work in the studio outside the class time in order to develop the work. The goal of the course is to gain confidence with technical aspects of painting and to begin to establish an individual studio practice.

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Beginning Painting: From Observation to Narrative

Open , Seminar—Spring

In this course, students will be introduced to the materials and techniques of oil painting. There will be an examination of various strategies that fluctuate between specific in-class assignments and individual studio work. Color theory and color mixing will be an integral part of the course. We will focus primarily on portraiture and figure, as well as on the historical, psychological, and narrative implications of using a human form as a subject. There will be an exploration of studio-based strategies that will include working from observation and using mediated imagery such as film stills, photography, and art history. The course will culminate in an individual project that will be researched by the student and discussed during conferences and course critiques and will include a large-scale painting. In-class assignments will be supplemented with PowerPoint presentations, reading material, film clips and video screenings, group critiques, and homework projects. Students are required to work in the studio outside the class time in order to develop the work. The goal of the course is to gain confidence with technical aspects of painting and to begin to establish an individual studio practice.

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Seeing Is Believing: How to Draw the World

Open , Small seminar—Fall

Even in the image-drenched, media-saturated, digital universe in which we live, the act of drawing remains a fundamental means by which to record, document, translate, and analyze the worlds we inhabit. Drawing communicates with an immediacy and directness that transcends language and facilitates understanding. From film to fashion, animation to game design, every aspect of visual culture depends on the primacy of drawing as a means by which to communicate our ideas and interpret our environment. Learning to draw the world can thus be said to be the process of learning to see the world. By following some basic principles of observation and expression, this is an ability available to anyone willing to allow his/her eye and mind to be receptive to patient practice. Designed for all levels of expertise, from beginner to advanced, this class will explore multiple approaches to drawing, from observation to invention, using a variety of media ranging from graphite to ink, watercolor, and alternate media.

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Art Is a Lie: Making Paintings About the World

Open , Small seminar—Spring

Using Picasso’s famous observation as a frame of reference and a prompt, this class will explore ways in which to represent our contemporary lives via the medium of painting. In an age of ubiquitous digital media, painting has proven to be a surprisingly effective and resilient means for artists to comment incisively on every aspect of our world. Contemporary painters address issues ranging from climate change to social justice, geo to gender politics, globalization to the most local and personal narratives. Through an exploration of basic techniques of oil painting, as well as by studying examples of works by today’s artists, students will embark on the process of developing their own voice and visual language by which to express their ideas and subjects. A combination of studio-based experimentation, discussions, presentations, and field trips to museums and galleries will be involved. Projects may also focus on the impact and relevance of digital technology on the form, content, and modes of production of contemporary painting. Open to all levels of expertise, from beginner to experienced, the emphasis in this class will be on learning and refining basic techniques and nurturing your ideas into fruition.

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America as Photographic Art

Open , Seminar—Fall

In this course, students will study the work of Walker Evans, Robert Frank, Stephen Shore, Alec Soth, and the many others who have made the American scene their primary subject. At the same time, using the local landscape as a surrogate for the country as a whole, students will make their own photographs and studies of the look and meaning of the American experience. America was young when photography was invented in 1839. The “old world” had been depicted in painting, but the sights and sounds of the new nation were different from anything that had come before. Photography and America grew up together—and they made good companions. Much of photography's development as a medium in the 20th century took place in America and under American terms. While this special relationship may be at a conclusion, the perpetually evolving American physical, social, and political landscape yet remains rich subject matter open to everyone with a desire to investigate and express their understanding.

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The New Narrative Photography

Open , Seminar—Fall and Spring

A photograph presented alone and without a fully descriptive caption is like a simple utterance. “Ooh,” “Aah,” and “Huh?” are its proper responses. When pictures are presented in groups with accompanying text (of any length) and perhaps in conjunction with political or poetic conceptual strategies, however, any statement becomes possible. The photographs can begin to function as a sentence, a paragraph, or an entire treatise. Whether working in fiction, in nonfiction, or in a fictive space, artists such as Alan Sekula, Robert Frank, Susan Meiselas, Taryn Simon, Jim Goldberg, Ronie Horn, and others have been in the process of transforming photography with their work for the past 30 years. Or perhaps they have created a medium: The New Narrative Photography. In this course, students will initially study the work of these narrative photographers and either write about their work or make pictures in response to it. The culmination of this experience will be the students' creation of their own bodies of work. If you have a story to tell or a statement to make or a phenomenon that you wish to study and describe, this course is open to you. No previous photographic experience is necessary nor is any special equipment. The opportunity to forge a new medium is rare. This course aims to create the forum and the conditions necessary for all to do so in a critical and supportive workshop environment.

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The Ideas of Photography: Moving Beyond Influence

Open , Seminar—Spring

This course is a hybrid. Each week of the semester, a different photographic idea or genre will be traced from its earliest iterations to its present forms through slide lectures and readings. Each week, students will respond with photographic work inspired by the visual presentations and readings. Topics include personal dress-up/narrative, composite photography/photographic collage, the directorial mode, fashion/art photography, new strategies in documentary practice, abstraction/new photography, the typology in photography, the photograph in color, and the use of words and images. In the final portion of the semester, the emphasis will shift as students choose to work on a subject and in a form that coincides with the ideas they are most compelled to express. No previous experience in photography is necessary nor is any special equipment. A desire to explore and experiment and to create a personally meaningful body of work are the only prerequisites.

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Printmaking: Silkscreen

Open , Small seminar—Fall and Spring

This course introduces the student to the basic fundamentals and concepts of silkscreen printing in an environment that practices newly-developed, nontoxic printmaking methodologies. Participants will learn how to develop an image (either hand-drawn or computer-generated), how to transfer the image to paper, and how to print an edition with primary emphasis placed on the development of each class member’s aesthetic concerns. Exercises in color and color relationships will also be included in the content of this class.

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Relief Printmaking

Open , Small seminar—Fall and Spring

In this class, students will be introduced to linocut, woodcut, and polymer plate techniques—each as an expression of what is known as relief printmaking and each practiced in a nontoxic studio environment. Experimentation in these mediums will enable students to reach beyond the production of simply a one-color print but, rather, into reductive printing, embossing, and multicolor prints. Emphasis is placed on the development of each class member's aesthetic concerns.

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Sculpture and Play 3D

Open , Seminar—Fall

In this class, pupils will play. This is not similar to your frivolous playing of schoolyard days past. In contrast, our group will study and absorb various critical notions of play and approach artmaking with similarly mirthful inclinations. Our class will instruct pupils in ways of artmaking that favor innovatory and idiosyncratic paths of thought. Sculptural missions will strain and push you to spin away from familiar orbits; and on many occasions, such labors will call for working conjointly in pursuit of mutual goals. I will instruct you on how to work with many forms and flavors of sculptural stuffs, in both orthodox and atypical fashions. In addition, throughout our class various writings, films and sundry productions will highlight ways in which past artists and savants brought forth artworks with a similar spirit. As class tutor, I will ask you to think on how sculptural activity can function playfully and how play can allow us to summon, in thought and in application, that which is unfamiliar, risky, and supraordinary. Lack of past qualifications will not bring a look of low opinion upon you. All I ask is for you to show up with a thoughtful, curious mind and a daring spirit to invigor our classroom and my instruction. Look into a void, and what fascinations will turn up?

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3D Modeling

Open , Seminar—Fall

This course introduces students to the process of constructing digital objects and environments in the virtual space of the computer. Emphasis will be on a strong grasp of form, space, and composition. Fundamentals of hard-edge and organic surface modeling will be thoroughly exercised, while further exploration of the digital tools will cover shading and texturing, lighting, and rendering with the virtual camera. Over the course of the semester, students will be challenged to create increasingly complex objects, environments, and imagery. Through readings and discussion, students will also be encouraged to consider the conceptual ramifications of working in computer space. Contemporary examples of computer-generated imagery in art, film, and media—juxtaposed with historical views on visual illusion from art and philosophy—will form a broader context in which to examine the medium.

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Introduction to Digital Imaging

Open , Seminar—Spring

This course covers contemporary digital practice, with an emphasis on Photoshop skills and imaging techniques from scanning to printing. Proper digital workflow is the focus, while working through the basics of image manipulation tools, color correction, and retouching. The skills covered will build a solid basis for further exploration of photography, fine-art printing, and more radical digital experiments. The broader classroom discussion emphasizes computer-generated and -manipulated imagery as a new paradigm in contemporary art, photography, and culture in general. Students are encouraged to explore the potential of digital tools in the context of their personal work—visual arts-related or otherwise—stressing open-ended visual possibilities, as well as technical and conceptual rigor.

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Color

Open , Seminar—Year

Color is primordial. It is life itself, and a world without color would appear dead and barren to us. Nothing affects our entire being more dramatically than color. The children of light, colors reveal and add meaning, giving richness and fullness to all that surrounds us. A vehicle for expressing emotions and concepts, as well as information, color soothes us and excites us. Our response to color is both biological and cultural. It changes how we live, how we dream, and what we desire. Using a variety of methods and materials, this course will focus on an exploration of color, its agents, and their effects. Not a painting course, this class will explore relationships between the theory, perception, use, and physiology of color. Clearly defined problems and exercises will concentrate on understanding and controlling the principles and strategies common to the visual vocabulary of color, (hue, value, saturation, form, context, texture, pattern, space, continuity, repetition, rhythm, gestalt, and unity), as well as the personal, psychological, symbolic, expressive, and emotional consequences of that visual vocabulary.

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Body and Soul: Drawing From Life

Open , Seminar—Year

For a visual artist, the human form provides a subject unlike no other. Descriptively, emotively, biologically, and culturally, the figure is a mirror, the representation of who we are as well as who we wish to be. For the artist, a true understanding of the human form—its unique formal, symbolic, narrative, psychological, and historical role—comes through prolonged and detailed exploration. The potential of the human form as an artistic resource will be the focus of this yearlong course. Daily exercises, both in and outside the studio, that stress the development of personal vision and disciplined work habits will be key to growing each student’s observational and technical skills. Over the course of the year—using both observation and memory, as well as a variety of materials and methods and an analysis of the relationships between gesture and form, rhythm and movement, and structure and biology—will lay the foundation necessary for individual expression.

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Images of India: Text/Photo/Film

Intermediate , Seminar—Fall

1) This seminar addresses colonial and postcolonial representations of India. For centuries, India has been imagined and imaged through encoded idioms of orientalism. In recent decades, writers and visual artists from India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh have been actively engaged in reinterpreting the British colonial impact on South Asia. Their work presents sensibilities of the colonized in counter-narration to images previously established during the Raj. Highlighting previously unexposed impressions, such works inevitably supplement, usually challenge, and frequently undermine traditional accounts underwritten by imperialist interests. 2) Colonial and orientalist discourses depicted peoples of the Indian subcontinent in terms of both degradation and a romance of empire, thereby rationalizing various economic, political, and psychological agendas. The external invention and deployment of the term “Indian” is emblematic of the epoch, with colonial designation presuming to reframe indigenous identity. 3) Postcolonial writers and artists, therefore, continue to renegotiate identities. What does it mean to be seen as an Indian? What historical claims are implicit in allegories of language, ethnicity, and nation? How do such claims inform events taking place today, given the resurgence of religious fundamentalisms? This seminar on the semiotics and politics of culture is based on works by influential South Asian writers, photographers, and filmmakers.

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Dance in Frame

Component—Spring

Dance in Frame is a course about “why and when” to convey a choreographic idea into a video. In our experience, the important questions are simple: When does one’s concept ask for the language of video making? What are the tools available in video that would not only facilitate the work but also demand that the work be made specifically for the screen? To answer these questions, one needs to understand that neither the media nor dance is subjugated to the other. The same understanding of dance must be extended to video and experimental film. During the course, we will screen and analyze works from early experimental films made in the 1920s to early video art works for the 1960s and, finally, videos and installations of our contemporaries in order to illustrate different approaches and guide the students’ own works. Throughout the semester, students will be given a series of hands-on assignments, both individually and in groups. The exercises are designed not only to develop a familiarity with the camera—exploring concepts of framing, camera move, planes, and deconstruction of space/time—but also, and more importantly, to contemplate and witness the possibilities of creating informal pieces and investigating how video can transfigure and uniquely represent what is being observed. These exercises build toward the complexion of a larger video project, incorporating approaches introduced throughout the term and including the presentation or installation of each piece. The class welcomes dancers, performers, video makers, photographers, or anyone else interested in this process.

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Landscapes in Translation: Cartographies, Visions, and Interventions

Intermediate , Seminar—Fall

Background in humanities, social sciences or arts preferred. Advanced, open to students with developed skills in critical thinking and analysis of texts.

This course investigates the multiple ways in which landscapes have been imagined, interpreted, physically shaped, and controlled in a variety of historical and contemporary sites. The first section, Cartographies, explores ideas of landscape in Euro-America, Southeast Asia, and colonial-era Africa. The literatures of critical geography and political ecology provide theory and cases illuminating connections between the position of the cartographer and presuppositions about the nature of the territory being mapped and managed. We examine how landscapes on a variety of scales, from “bioregions” to nations, are imagined, codified, and transformed through representational processes and material moves. The second section, Visions, investigates how landscapes are embodied in fine arts and literature, as well as in garden and urban design. Readings draw on examples of landscape design in colonial New England and Indonesia and on contemporary examples of landscape design in response to climate change. We also study reworkings of the urban landscape to integrate more productive, biologically diverse “fringes,” as well as rooftop farms and apiaries. The third section, Control: Emerging Security-Scapes, investigates the rise of militarized “security-scapes” or “surveillance-scapes,” dating from slavery in the United States to the Department of Homeland Security in the post-9/11 era. We analyze the visual surround and landscapes seen by remote drone “pilots” scanning Los Angeles and Somalia and surveillance of the occupied Palestinian landscapes; we draw upon websites, advertisements, and new scholarship in security studies, media studies, and social theory.

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Introduction to Film History, Part I

Open , Lecture—Fall

This course provides an introduction to the study of film from its “prehistory” in phantasmagoria, magic theatre, and chronophotography, through its technological development and institutionalization in the 19th century, to the diverse range of production modes in the mid-20th century. Lectures will explore key developments such as early cinema and the cinema of attractions, documentary and ethnographic cinema, the Hollywood studio system and genre filmmaking, the historical avant-garde such as German Expressionism, Soviet montage, Dada and Surrealism, early American avant-garde, and film noir. Students will acquire fundamental skills in film analysis and interpretation. Weekly screenings will be complemented by lectures devoted to in-depth analyses of films and their historical contexts. Assignments will emphasize close reading and sociocultural inquiry.

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Introduction to Film History, Part II

Open , Lecture—Spring

This course provides an introduction to the study of film and its history from the mid-20th century through contemporary digital technologies of production and circulation. Lectures will explore key developments such as neorealism, La Nouvelle Vague, cinéma vérité and direct cinema, Third Cinema, Yugoslav Black Wave, New German Cinema, postwar American avant-garde, New Hollywood and the blockbuster, Bollywood, video art, the essay film, and multimedia environments. Students will acquire fundamental skills in film and media analysis and interpretation. Weekly screenings will be complemented by lectures on in-depth analyses of films and their historical contexts. Assignments will emphasize close reading and sociocultural inquiry.

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First-Year Studies: Fundamentals of Nonfiction Animation

Open , FYS—Year

In this yearlong First-Year Studies beginning production course, students learn the basic principles of animation, develop an understanding of visual language, and attain skills in constructing short nonfiction narratives. Using a mixture of classical animation and 2D digital tools, students will complete practical exercises intended to familiarize themselves with basic animation skills and language. Animation will be treated as an approach that embraces documentary and other nonfiction media as an art practice. Screenings and discussions will help develop the specialized thinking needed to understand the discipline. Practice in this course is integrated with theory so that production is held within the context of critical thinking about the possibilities for nonfiction storytelling. In the first semester, we will undertake a series of short individual and group exercises in response to technical labs. Spring semester, each student will spend the majority of the term making a single nonfiction animated short on a subject of his or her choosing. With the recent explosion of interest in documentary film production, this course offers first-year students the chance to discover their own unique style for the telling of real stories with animated images. Technical instruction includes workshops in concept development, rotoscope drawing, cutout animation, miniature puppetry, lighting, cameras, and the software AfterEffects, Toon Boom Harmony, and Dragonframe. Prior drawing experience is not necessary.

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Media Sketchbooks

Open , Seminar—Fall

This one-semester production course is for adventurers, artists, and budding filmmakers interested in exploring the media of video for artistic expression and social inquiry. The images and experiences developed through experimental film and video are as varied as the artists who make them. There is, by definition, no formula for this kind of work. Like paintings or poems, each film reflects the artist as much as the content driving the work. This course is designed to introduce the language of experimental film and strategies for the use of video/film and audio design as an expressive tool. We will investigate the idea of radical content and experimental form by establishing the normative models and procedures of cinema and video and then exploring ways to challenge these conventions. Through a series of video and animation assignments, the class will consider moving-image forms and styles that blur the boundaries between and among narrative, documentary, and abstract filmmaking. Projects will be furthered by screenings, readings, seminar discussions, and field trips. Topics will include, but not be limited to, issues of identity, the performative body, border crossings, cultural equivocation and mannerisms, blemished topographies, ritual and transformation. Labs are designed to help students develop proficiency with film equipment and editing systems, including AfterEffects.

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The New Elements: Mathematics and the Arts

Open , Lecture—Spring

This lecture will explore the bearing of modern mathematical ideas on 20th-century Western creative and performing arts. Euclid’s collection of geometric propositions and proofs, entitled The Elements, is an archetype of logical reasoning that, since antiquity, has had a broad influence beyond mathematics. The non-Euclidean revolution in the 19th century initiated a radical reconception of not only geometry but also mathematics as a whole. We will investigate, on the one hand, mathematical content as a source of new forms of expression, including non-Euclidean geometry, the fourth dimension, set theory, functions, networks, topology, and probability. On the other hand, we will study mathematical practice and the artists and writers who, intentionally or not, reflect modern mathematical attitudes in an attempt to break with the past. While this lecture does not aim for a comprehensive survey of the entire last century, we will investigate a sequence of case studies, including: Russian Suprematist art; the Bauhaus school in Western European architecture and design; Serialism in Western music; OuLiPo, “a secret laboratory of literary structures” in post-war French literature; and the origins of postmodern dance in 1960-70s North America, among others. This course assumes no particular expertise with mathematics or cultural history. Course readings and a program of art and performance viewings, both in lecture and off campus, will establish a basis for investigating the relevance of fundamental mathematical concepts to modern literature and the arts. Group conferences will provide practice for students, working with such mathematical concepts as they relate to particular artistic practices.

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Art and Visual Perception

Intermediate , Seminar—Spring

Seeing comes before words. The child looks and recognizes before it can speak. —John Berger

Psychologists and neuroscientists have long been interested in measuring and explaining the phenomena of visual perception. In this course, we will study how the visual brain encodes basic aspects of perception—such as color, form, depth, motion, shape, and space—and how they are organized into coherent percepts or gestalts. Our main goal will be to explore how visual neuroscience and art-making can inform each other. One of our guides in these explorations will be the groundbreaking gestalt psychologist Rudolf Arnheim, who was a pioneer in the psychology of art. The more recent and equally innovative text by the neuroscientist Eric Kandel, Reductionism in Art and Brain Science, will provide our entry into the subject of neuroaesthetics. Throughout our visual journey, we will seek connections between perceptual phenomena and what is known about brain processing of visual information. This is a course for people who enjoy reflecting on why we see things as we do. It should hold particular interest for students of the visual arts who are curious about scientific explanations of the phenomena that they explore in their art, as well as students of the brain who want to study an application of visual neuroscience.

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Words and Pictures

Open , Seminar—Year

This is a course with writing at its center and other arts—mainly, but not exclusively, visual—around it. We will read and look at all kinds of narratives, children’s books, folk tales, fairy tales, and graphic novels and try our hands at many of them. The reading tends to come from a wide range of times and places and includes everything from ancient Egyptian love poems to contemporary Latin American literature. For conference work, people have done graphic novels, animations, quilts, rock operas, items of clothing with text attached, nonfiction narratives that take a subject and explore it visually and in text, and distopian fictions with pictures. There will be weekly assignments that involve making something. This course is especially suited for students with an interest in some other art or body of knowledge that they would like to make accessible to nonspecialists. The spring semester will be similar in approach but with different assignments and texts. This course may be taken for one semester, either semester, or as a yearlong class.

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