Category Archives: Bloggers
Born in Rochester, New York, Sanjit Sethi has done a residency at the Banff Centre in Alberta, Canada, as well as earned a master of science in advanced visual studies from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Visual Arts Program in 2002. His work consistently deals with issues of nomadism, identity, the residue of labor, memory, and movement in the urban sphere—all of which involve various disparate social and geographic communities.
Having completed a Fulbright Fellowship in India on the Building Nomads Project, Sanjit continued his strong focus on interdisciplinary collaboration while director of the MFA Program at the Memphis College of Art. His dedication to diverse forms of artistic practice extends in his new position as California College of the Art’s chair of Community Arts Program, and Co-Director of CCA’s Center for Art and Public Life.
Sanjit’s current work includes a collaborative project titled, Urban Defibrillation, the Gypsy Bridge Project, and the Kuni Wada Bakery.
Dwayne Butcher: What brings you to CAA? Any there any particular panel or sessions you are interested in seeing?
Sanjit Sethi: I have attended several panels. There was a panel about the role of museum education; I am interested in the subject itself. There was also the African cities panel. It was about how do we view a city, in this case, from an architectural and urban development standpoint, it was really interesting. I attended a community arts project panel, tying to see different methodologies other than my own. I am really interested in questions. Any mission statement I have for the operations of my individual practice and the work I do through the college revolves around addressing a specific question. I am not here, necessarily, to somehow absorb the conference in its entirety and expect that the light will finally flicker. But rather to see what other questions that people bring up and how they are actively and dynamically working on those questions. I also use this as an opportunity to reconnect with people, which is just as important as anything, whether it is colleagues or former students, just to see what it is going on. I do have concerns whether I did a good enough job, was I good at whatever it was I was doing? So, it good to reconnect and see what the students have been up to.
DB: Can you talk about your experiences of interviewing at CAA?
SS: I did not interview at CAA for my first teaching job, it was an instance where I sent in a packet after someone had abruptly left and I got the position. But, I have interviewed in the “room.” It was probably the most unpleasant experience I have ever been through, there is the institutional lighting, you can hear the hum of the sodium lights. It is kind of like doing a prep walk as well. I am having flashbacks being with you here in this lobby.
One year while the conference was in New York, which I can chuckle about now, while still teaching at MCA, I had three interviews. Generally, you meet the person at the prescribed time in the lobby and go up to the hotel room, which is great and how it should be. For one of those interviews I remember, to my horror, that the institution wanted to meet around the corner. So I meet them around the corner. As I was walking by, my current boss at the time, was sitting there, not fifteen feet away, interviewing someone for another position. During the entire interview I was totally unnerved, I blew that interview. It was a fiasco.
DB: Can you explain your role at the California College of the Arts?
SS: I wear three hats at CCA. I am a tenure track faculty member, I teach in the in the Community Arts Program, which I chair, I am also the Director of the Center for Art and Public Life. Originally, I was just a tenure track faculty member and to chair the Community Arts Program, six months later, I was asked to be the Director of the Center for Art and Public life, which I thought would be an interesting opportunity. It has a great history of engaging the public and working on issues of social justice, racism, diversity issues and sustainability. It has been really exciting.
DB: What type of projects are you working on with the Center? And how do you come up with the projects?
SS: The role I play as Director, is certainly parallel ideologically to the work I do with my individual practice. The Center for Art and Public life evolves around the question, “How can an institution of higher education that is devoted to creativity utilize the brain trust of its students and faculty to address areas of critical, cultural, social, geographic, and economic needs we see within local, national and global communities?” What I am able to do is have a role inventing and crafting programs that try to best address this meta-question. Right now, we actually trimmed our sails to running three programs. These three programs have implications across the college, and ideally, across communities. One of the curricular projects is “Engage at CCA” which is basically how we support faculty members to adapt their own curriculum to collaborate with a community partner, to address the learning outcomes they have with that course. For example, a furniture design class builds tables for a local charter school that cannot afford tables. The Center has a great history of working with community partners that were built with the efforts of my predecessors. I am able to take advantage of these partnerships and the great reputation that the Center has in the Bay area, especially with the non-profit and education communities. It is also about forging new partnerships as well. We just launched an initiative called “The Impact Social Entrepreneurship Award.” We graciously received start-up funding to create an interdisciplinary award program where we ask students to come up with projects in collaboration with a community partner. They have to find that partner and seek a letter of support from that partner for a project, for example, the students talk with an after school program and that school really needs a collapsible performance stage. This proposal will come from students that are studying to be architects, industrial designers, and maybe an illustrator, the students have to come up with the project. The Center, through a really competitive selection process, will award three groups for each of the next three years, ten thousand dollars each to execute these projects. This is really exciting to have curricular based and project based learning combined with community engagement. Again, these students should ideally have their own studio practice. Not to say that everyone is all of sudden going to devote themselves to working in and for non-profits. The idea is for the students to get a well-rounded aspect of how they can assist in all these different communities. We like for the students to take their own initiative and this galvanizes the idea of independent student learning. The deadlines for the projects were yesterday, (February 11, 2011) so we will see.
DB: So, what are some of the projects you are working on for yourself?
SS: I have an ongoing series called, “Indians and Indians.” It is a personal practice reflection on the idea of hybrid identity and this artificial name we associate with an identity. I recently finished a series of flag projects creating a hybridized flag, an American Indian flag. I am also about to create American flags using only material from Indian flags. Which is a nightmare quilting project from hell. I have this beautiful hand-woven Indian flag that I am both excited and terrified about cutting into. I have also been doing a series of photographs, kind of a diptych called “Watching Indians.” I am looking at representations of Indians, both American Indians and India Indians by western cinematographers. So basically, I am watching these films on a large flat screen television, I am looking at the way they are depicting Indians for clues. I am also searching for aberrations or interpretations. So, there are these photographs, these diptychs of me staring and scrutinizing the screen itself.
DB: Well, I think that is about it. That wasn’t too bad, was it?
SS: It was the best interview I ever had.
I will echo the sentiments of my fellow bloggers—the Annual Conference provides innumerable ways to catch up with friends, in unlikely ways. After catching the Health and Safety in the Studio session in ARTspace, I was able to sit down very briefly with Claudia Sbrissa for a chat. I invited Claudia on a panel I chaired in 2009 in Los Angeles, entitled “Ornament Now: Reassessing its Theories and Functions,” but have not seen her since. Thank goodness for Facebook!
After getting caught up with our personal lives since 2009, we got down to professional activities! Claudia was busy recently working on a new series. She notes, “The series Satis House continues my engagement with notions of place and space. The work explores processes of transformation; the simultaneous perishing and reinventing of our narrative; our collective loss, desire and longing.”
Claudia continues, “My process involves shredding black velvet into flocking, which I use as a drawing material. The abstract forms and shapes though mysterious are rooted in the natural world, alluding to organisms and the body in flux; a world overwhelmed, dissolving, and mutating. I work back into these spaces using pen, ink and watercolor to create dense clusters and masses. These spaces move from microscopic to macroscopic, suggesting illusions of infinite depth and space. Somewhere within these fragmented worlds lies our future; the promise of renewal.”
Currently teaching at St. John’s University, New York, Claudia received a BFA from York University, Toronto, Canada, a Bachelor’s in Education from Queen’s University, Kingston, Canada, and an MFA from Cornell University, Ithaca, NY. Recent exhibitions and projects include: this place is a bunch of lines Salon, Salon Ciel, New York, NY (2010), a site specific installation & works on paper, The Muriel Guepin Gallery, NY, NY 2010, The Persistent Future, Cue Foundation, New York, NY 2010, Utopia is Hard, Courthouse Gallery, Lake George Art Project, Lake George, NY 2009, Uncommon Threads, Walsh Gallery, Seton Hall University, NJ 2009, Exquisite Corpse, curated by Anonda Bell & Caren King, Paul Robeson Galleries, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ, 2009. Awards include residencies at Woman’s Studio Workshop, Rosendale, NY, Contemporary Artist Center, North Adams, MA; I-Park in East Haddam, CT; Lower Eastside Printshop, NYC; and Skowhegan School of Painting & Sculpture, Skowhegan, ME; as well as grants from Queen’s Council on the Arts, and The Canada Council on the Arts.
This conference was an eye opening experience and one that I will continually be pondering over the next months and leading up to my decision to attend Los Angeles or not. In an earlier post I defined my mission CAA as one to determine how the conference can best serve current MFA students and recent graduates (focusing on MFA because that is my perspective). Being situated close to New York gave a great advantage of being able to glimpse the conference at a calculated distance. I was able to completely geek out and attend some really great panels but also snoop around, have casual chats with folks about what they wish to get from the conference.
For most, the conference was about meeting people. Old friends, making new ones, and hopefully ones that may hire them in the near future. In these small conversations little bits of information flowed effortlessly for those who were asked, “should an MFA candidate attend the CAA conference while in her last year, months before graduation?” Yes. Do it. But these answers came with a few qualifiers. Make sure to scout the job listings early, in November, apply, and hopefully someone will bite. But most importantly, let those potential employers know that you are planning to attend CAA. Secondly, if you do attend, go to the career mentoring sessions and workshops. At these meetings you are able to bring a résumé, sample cover letter and portfolio for review from someone who has seen hundreds, maybe even thousands of them and able to give a kick in the pants to get your items in order, or reassure you that everything is looking stellar.
One kind woman give one last reminder: remember to have some fun and see what’s going on outside of the conference at museums and galleries. Take advantage of the fact you are in a great art center, whether it be this year in New York, next in Los Angeles, and after that Chicago (?).
Leslie K. Brown is an independent curator, scholar, and educator pursuing her PhD in Art History at Boston University. A former curator at the Photographic Resource Center in Boston, she holds an MA from the University of Texas at Austin and specializes in the history of photography. In addition to contributing an essay for Sandi Haber Fifield’s forthcoming book, Between Planting and Picking (Charta, March 2011), Brown’s recent curatorial projects include Traces: Daniel Ranalli, Cape Work 1987-2007 (Provincetown Art Association and Museum) and Out of the Box: Photography Portfolios from the Permanent Collection (deCordova Sculpture Park and Museum). She has taught at the Art Institute of Boston and the Rhode Island School of Design and served as an invited guest juror and reviewer for exhibitions, grants, publications, and portfolio review events. www.lesliekbrown.com
Dwayne Butcher: What brings you to CAA? Anything in particular?
Leslie K. Brown: I am a second year PhD student in art history at Boston University, specializing in the history of photography. I attend CAA to stay current in my field and be inspired by new ideas and research. As a practicing independent curator, I also enjoy attending both history-based and contemporary panels as well as artist interviews and talks.
DB: Do you think there are enough sessions in your field at CAA?
LKB: I would enjoy hearing more papers that engage the history of photography, but they would not necessarily have to be grouped into separate media-specific sessions. In addition, it would be wonderful to have panels that brought together photohistorians with working photographers.
DB: Can you talk about your current research projects? How did you get interested in the subject?
LKB: Since returning to graduate school, I have been inspired by the related fields of American studies and visual culture. For my current research, I am interested in issues of views and viewing as well as dictated viewing experiences, often in a touristic mode or mediated by some sort of device or image (real or imagined). My recent papers include a study of the Tower coin-operated binocular viewer and viewsheds associated with artists’ historic homes and studios. This semester, I hope to work on Kodak Picture Spots and artist collectives that engage the land. I have always been fascinated by landscape experiences and depictions as well as the history of tourism and vernacular imagery. Perhaps this has something to do with being the product of a Kodak family!
DB: What are your plans once you finish with the Dissertation? Are there any particular things you would like to do?
LKB: I enjoy curating as well as teaching and hope to continue to do both, before and after the dissertation. My ideal position would combine these two aspects of my background and training. In addition, I have also found that I enjoy teaching art students art history and being a part of their creative process.
DB: What is your favorite: Artist? Book? Color? Smell? And Food?
LKB: It is hard and difficult to choose! Artist: Jem Southam; Book: Ceremonial Time by John Hanson Mitchell; Color: red; Smell: the woods and rain; Food: vegetarian of all stripes.
Adrian R. Duran received his PhD from the University of Delaware in 2006, where his dissertation “Il Fronte Nuovo delle Arti: Painting and Politics in Italy at the Dawn of the Cold War, 1944-50” won the Sypherd Prize for Best Dissertation in the Humanities. He is currently Assistant Professor of Art History at the Memphis College of Art where he teaches courses in Modern and Contemporary Art, Critical Theory, and Art Criticism. He has received grants from The Gladys Krieble Delmas Foundation and the Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst (DAAD). His recent publications include exhibition criticism for Number, SECAC Review, and Nineteenth-Century Art Worldwide.
Dwayne Butcher: So, should we start by addressing how I misquoted you earlier in the week by stating, “CAA may want to rethink its current format or risk losing its members and effectiveness as a conference.”
Adrian Duran: No, what happened was I just choose my words poorly. I do not think that CAA is going out of business or that it is under siege. CAA is the mountain that we all come to. CAA will never go anywhere as it does what it does extremely well. I do not think it is a failing business model, that it will lose to its competition. But what I do think is interesting is when I go to other conferences, particularly interdisciplinary conferences like the American Association for Italian Studies, the Italianist conferences are filled with literature people, theatre people, language people, history people, art historians there are the minority. I think there is an interesting dialogue that emerges when art historians are the minority. It pulls us into the interdisciplinarity that art history is supposed to manifest. If art history is good at anything it is interdisciplinarity. To have our national conference be populated by mostly art historians, it just gives me pause. It makes me wonder whether or not we are more fruitful with other disciplines rather than on our own island I suppose.
DB: Can you talk about your process of interviewing at CAA?
AD: The year I interviewed for real was in Atlanta in 2005. I was fortunate to have a number of interviews. There were some in the bullpen, I had some in the hotel rooms, and several off-site ones. It is so tense, I can not even explain it. This is before the regulators of the traffic were in place. People could go into the bullpen and just be there. I remember thinking that the whole room smelled of desperation. There were fifty tables and over five hundred people in the room. Anytime there was a single break for anyone interviewing, someone would approach the table with a packet. It made for manias and it created a degree of stress that I think was not native to me. It is good to see that CAA has cleaned that up. That being said, the job I took was at that table, so maybe it worked?
DB: So, what brings you to CAA this year? Sessions, panels, the book fair?
AD: It’s everything. The great thing about CAA is that it is academic with a family reunion. If only to be around the people I haven’t seen in many moons. It is the place to be for that. Where are you going to find this many artists and art historians in one place. This alone makes it worthwhile. It is an ideas blizzard. It is a beautiful to be around people who are thinking about what we all think about. Maybe no one will admit this, but, I think a lot of people come to CAA because if they don’t they fear they may miss something. A lot of important things happen here, like interviews with Dwayne Butcher on the CAA Blog.
DB: Of course, that is the most important part, probably. Anyways, can you talk about the book fair a little bit. Were there any new books or a particular publisher you were excited about?
AD: The book fair is great as it is where you get the lay of the land. You see all the new stuff that is out, the recent stuff that is out. There isn’t an art historian on earth who isn’t a book addict and the book fair can be like free day at the methadone clinic, at least for me. None of us want to stop, however. You get to see so many books and it is so much fun. I cannot wait to give my list to the librarian at (Memphis College of Art.) I am excited about Christine Poggi’s book about Futurism, which I should have read already. There is a book, “Rethinking the Contemporary Art School,” published by D.A.P. that looked pretty good. There is Eamonn Canniffe’s “The Politics of the Piazza,” looks really awesome, which is about urban space in Italy.
DB: Can you talk a little bit about your current research or projects?
AD: Talking about the book fair earlier, my editor at Ashgate, this is the first time I have ever met her in the flesh. I have been communicating with her via email. I did not know what she looked like and now I do. I am working on a project with Anne Massoni for Aspect: The Chronicle of New Media Art, “Hi-Tech” and got to meet one of their interns at the book fair. I am working on my manuscript, “Paintings, Politics and the New Front of Cold War Italy.” It is about Italian painting between the fall of Fascism and the first years of the 1950’s. It is a book that explores the intersection of politics and art discourse at the beginning of the Cold War. Other than that, a review of mine was recently published on CAA reviews about a really great show at The Nasher Museum of Art titled The Record – Contemporary ART and Vinyl.
DB: What is your favorite artist? Book? Color? Smell? Food?
AD: My favorite artist changes depending on what work of art I am standing in front of…I will go to my grave defending Titian. My favorite book ever? This is a great one for CAA. E.L. Konigsburg’s “From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler.” It is about two kids that runaway and move into the Met. I read this book when I was six or seven and I am convinced this is why I am an art historian. My favorite colors are blue and gold because they were the colors of my high school, college and grad school. My wife and oil paint are my favorite smells, in that order. My favorite food is pizza, real pizza, New Jersey pizza, Nino’s Pizza in North Brunswick, NJ.