Tuesday, May 07, 2013

PAFA MFA 1 Finale


Last week was my final review in front of the faculty of my work for my first year in PAFA's MFA program. It was a real barn burner in some ways between teaching the After School Illustration Class, keeping up with the weekly demand of Judge Parker and trying to finish my final paintings and squeeze in my last few crits with my critics. This was probably my toughest semester mentally as a student as I often just felt a real strong sense of disagreement with certain esthetics and certain teachers. I think I grew a lot as a painter and became even stronger in my convictions as a result. Modernism and I are never going to really agree, we can have a beer and talk, but nope, we  can only agree to disagree. I was often buoyed and supported by my fellow students and that was great. I hope I did the same and think many of us found ourselves in choppy seas.

This final review was better than my first review, though I don't think anyone of my reviewers really loved my work, which is OK. They kinda' wanted to make it the male gaze, but having the male figure in it made it not just that. The fact is they want me to spell it out more, spell out the ideas, and I really don't want to nail it down. or not yet. I like letting people bring what they want to bring, for me that's much more enjoyable. I know what the ideas and influences are, I know what I'm putting in my soup. I imagine myself like a bird with that spot in your brain that says "north" is this way, so I head in that general direction but I might make detours. One of the worst things for me is to nail down what the ideas are exactly--- as then it becomes like an illustration, which is specific and has to be to be good. But i don't want my paintings to be illustrations. This is my big thing about artists statements as well. I know many artists like Dan Miller and Alex Kanevsky also feel that artist statements are kinda pointless--or certainly over done. If you can't tell what I'm doing, you don't get a real strong sense of something--react to it--well I'm not doing it very well. None of the issues the critics brought up were really ever brought up by anyone else seeing my paintings this semester. None of my female friends did and they actually were really supportive of my work including my model, which made me feel great!

I stand before the Jury....its always interesting to get feedback even if sometimes I completely disagree.

I know its the critics charge is to challenge us, but I think if you define something too much and break it down too much you remove the magic and the mystery and the open gate of an idea. I feel what's really important for me as a painter is to leave the gate open, idea, format, technique--everything--then slowly close or resolve ideas. I know the danger is for me as a painter is that other wise it can become too closed off or like what I do as an illustrator. And good god I know they loath illustration for the most part though Renee Foulks did encourgae me to use my skills as an illustrator more in cooking the ideas. Reading Andrew Wyeth's Bio this semester he says this very bluntly that he hated talking about or explaining his work and I agree.

In fact I think Scott Noel was more supportive in my private crit that in the public one, but I was surprised by Mark Blavat, who I think was the most negative in my last review, labeling my work "journalistic". Mark came up to me after my review and talked to me at length about how I could push and incorporate my figures and backgrounds more. Honestly I was surprised as I figured he simply didn't like my work, but in the end what matters is if we can take away something from these conversations to make our work better, not whether the critics will love it more or not. In the end its about us, not them, you have to be open of course, but you can only paint to please yourself in the end. You will never appease all of the critics.

 The Umbilical of Reason 30 x 40

 Dream of the Blue Dress 30 x 40 Oil

This started out as just the figure in the chair but then really ended up as sort of a self portrait as I used myself as the model for the figure in the background.

 The Conjuring 30 x 30 in Oil. This was mostly done from life and there was one more session after to basically tone down the background, finish the hand and add the orange. I got all kinds of great comments from my critics about these paintings as a group. Some like Noel wanted them to be complex, but almost every other critic said keep them simpler. Scott wanted more in the backgrounds, but almost everybody like Denise Green or Mike Gallagher said less. In the end you can end up with really good ideas that kind of cancel each other out and I have to go with my gut.

 This was the final assignment for Bruce Samuelson's class. Bruce only assigned one outside drawing which we had to bring in for our review along with a few of our better class drawings. It's a drawing of my table in my studio done during lunch time in HB pencil. For the most part I kept things pretty simple in the seminar, I either just drew in pencil or sometimes in colored pencils on a Canson pad. I just wanted to draw and keep it pretty plain, no pastels or inks etc. I think because I was under a time pressure it was so easy to just whip out the pencil and draw. Simply just draw what interested me. Since it was pretty low light, very low contrast I just kind of thought of it as a wandering landscape. Bruce sometimes regaled me with tails of the old days at PAFA when he was a student--sounds like it was a lot more fun in the old days!

This is my set of drawings I brought in for my final crit.

 Niloofar and Kathleen pin up their work and have a crit with Bruce who assigned us individual crits instead of the group critique.
Here is my final wall for my crit in Scott Noel's class. Scott didn't have much to say about the work, my fellow students did, they especially liked the one of the figure in front of the window, but he did spend time looking at them. I told him he's "the carrot and the stick", but in the end mostly the stick--and he laughed. I know we will never agree about the use of photography or many other things, but he is still the teacher I have learned the most from.

A shot of some of the work in the final review in Scott's class.
Scott's crit might have set a record for the longest crit I have ever had, it was close I think to 4 hours by the time we finished. Whew! It was good, but a bit exhausting!! That man can talk about art forever! lots of good ideas but after a time people just kinda start going blank after pushing so hard---the drive is full!

Then over the course of three days the MFA 1 class had our final reviews which most of us tried to attend to see what we have each been doing but to support each other and help out.

 Gus and his final review
 Win Xing sets her paintings up. The faculty really seemed to respond to her work well.
 One of Phong's paintings and my favorite of his.

One of Steve's paintings and a good showing of support from fellow students.

 They keep the cookies stacked and the refreshments fresh over the three days. Its tough on everyone, the students as well as the faculty, a lot of hard work has gone down and people are also kind of tired and a bit stressed but in the end we were all reviewed and rushed to the exits to begin the summer break and get ready for the ASE this Friday.  I know I can use the break and plan on painting my but off for me over the summer. Overall it was good year but I can be honest and say at times I was very unhappy with a certain class, and some aspects of the MFA program. There are too many students in the program and this stresses out the system. I wish there were more figurative painters as critics and I had a better studio. Honestly,  the school must really update things and come into the modern age, we should be able to do more things on-line, not have to stand in line. Our computer facilities need to be vastly overhauled--its a sad, sad computer lab and the internet some days is a joke. All of our teachers must be on-line and be able to deal with email, which too many can't. The incoming department head has a lot to tackle and I wish him well as he will have a big job and big shoes to fill replacing Dan Miller.

For now its time to get away from the place for a bit and recharge and get ready for the final sprint in my journey as a art school student.

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