Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Critique #4: Vignette

“I can't criticize what I don't understand. If you want to call this art, you've got the benefit of all my doubts.” - Charles Rosin

Almost everyone was present today; I collected the three pages regardless of completion and made a master set of reductions from which double-sided sets were passed out to review. While the copier was going in the art office, made announcements about some artist presentations and openings in the department (see below), plus reminders about the upcoming classes and what materials they need to bring for the last few weeks of the course. Then I did my academic duty with the semesterly #2 pencil routine; faculty input forms, which I'll elaborate upon here in a later posting, and while the students completed the paperwork I disappeared back to the office to watch the xerox.

While I was otherwise occupied, the class was instructed to do a brief, written review of the current B.F.A. exhibition that went up in the gallery yesterday. Everyone was to describe their favorite/least favorite piece in the show, plus critique the exhibit as a whole. Not only should the whole "cohesive body of work" be evident on separate, individual pieces, taking another step back and objectively appraising the show in terms of thematic elements, layout of pieces and use of gallery space, lighting etc. is a portion of the grade. So after our vignette critique was finished I went around the room and had everyone read off their comments (which were then collected at the end of class so I could give photocopied sets to the artist). This approach piggy-backs on the previous written critique we had done, and expanded upon observation and description skills that hopefully should be pretty well honed at this point in the semester. Hopefully...

As per the usual, there were some major improvements along with the major disappointments; out of the 14 vignettes turned in, preliminary grades were roughly 5 A's, 3 B's, 2 C's and 4 Incompletes (which convert quickly into F's or D's). Amazed at how a project which was assigned several weeks ago with daily reminders and numerous checkpoints for progress could not be either done or done well. By now my personal expectations are pretty bare-bones and well-known: at the very least get it all turned in on time.So no sympathy for the slackers, and there were several examples amongst the class as to how high the bar is raised, and plus everyone was sent home with the "anthology" to study and emulate the more successful examples. Granted there's a wee bit of slack afforded as this critique was a quantum leap from the two critter spot-illustrations (x's a factor of 10). Most of the lower grades reflect a lack of invested time, and may only require "filling in the blanks" to complete. And in a few cases just finishing the inking.
Posted here are some excerpts from the pieces, a few notable panels and pages.

Also attended one of two required candidacy presentations by Da-ka-xeen Mehner: to qualify for a position as Assistant Professor in Native Art. It was a very informative and personal overview of his work, centered on his cross-cultural experiences growing up as an "urban Native" and explorations of cultural identity. Reoccurring themes of duality, and questioning the concepts of "cultural authenticity" and "constructed imagery" run strong in his works, both photographic and sculptural pieces. For instance, in one series, he takes the distinctive physical trait of his half-colored beard caused by pigmentation and uses it as a physical manifestation of Native Alaskan blood quantum as it relates to his heritage. Similarly repeating motifs of personal and cultural duality show up in his self-portraiture, along with Tlingit clan imagery, such as double-headed daggers and ceremonial garb. Another key element of his work is in the juxtaposition of contemporary and traditional techniques and materials, like in his transformative masks created with non-traditional materials such as cast concrete and shaped steel.

Lastly, since I happened to be still hanging around the department, got to hit a bonus opening (rare, as they are usually held on Mondays nights when I'm marooned at the cabin): Shayna Hawkins BFA thesis exhibit "OMG Whimsy." A solid show with drawings, prints, paintings and computer animations on display which all were consistent in style regardless of the media. There were playful parodies and colorful, energetic illustrations of iconography and references to computer/pop culture. This is one student who has really set an example for others in the degree program as to maintaining a presence in both the college and surrounding community - seems like her work was everywhere as she was constantly submitting pieces to juried exhibitions this past year. All of my students in the class thought it was fun, and liked the entire show.

"And don't criticize/What you don't understand" - Bob Dylan


  1. Thanks for the shout out Jamie!

  2. And, as an update - I caught the ads you are running on KSUA and flipped out; that's got to be the first-ever time I've EVER heard a freakin' spot on the radio for an art show. Talk about raising the bar for promotion ... way to go!