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 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.
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.
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.