Category Archives: Sessions

Green that Studio!

CAA Services to Artists Committee
Health and Safety in the Artist Studio
Wednesday, February 9th
Chairs: Mark Gottsegen, AMIEN and ICA Art Conservation; and Brian Bishop, Framington State University
Panelists: Jennifer Steensma Hoag, Calvin College
Brian Gillis, University of Oregon
Claudia Sbrissa, St. John’s University
David Zenk, Gund Partnership; and Monona Rossol, Arts, Crafts, and Theater Safety, Inc.
Mark Gottsegen, AMIEN, and ICA Art Conservation

At the 2008 CAA conference in Dallas, I co-chaired for the Professional Practices Committee, with Duane Slick of the Services to Artists Committee, a session entitled “The Sustainable Studio.” That session, also held in ARTspace, consisted of Duane speaking to his experience upgrading the RISD painting studios. As the art historian on the panel, I presented a paper entitled “Hazardous Traditions: A Short History of the Environmental Impact of Art Practice,” tracing the origins and historical usage of traditionally toxic materials in art practice. We also invited the artist Jae-Rhim Lee of MIT, whose studio work focused specifically on bio-remediation, to posit a potential answer to the use of toxic materials in the studio. Since then, there has been an explosion in the interest in “greening” the studio, and practice. So it was with great curiosity, and pleasure, that I attended this year’s Services to Artists Committee and ARTspace session “Health and Safety in the Artist Studio.”

This particular session, in comparison to the 2008 session, provided specifically ideas, information, and even where to start, if one has been bestowed with the arduous task by their department to create an environmentally safer, OSHA-compliant, accreditation-accommodating, and pedagogically advantageous studio. The nuts-and-bolts nature and breadth of these presentations made them easy to understand, and they covered a wide variety of disciplines.

Jennifer Steensma Hoag and Brian Gillis addressed the explicit needs of the specialized photography and ceramics studios. Jennifer went into detail about the different high tech collection systems Calvin College is utilizing to process developing chemicals. Brian provided in depth information about the leading occupational lung disease known to ceramists, Silicosis. Information regarding shop hazards, and common health and safety issues in a ceramics studio was also discussed.

David Zenk and Monona Rossol, and Mark Gottsegen addressed more general building design parameters, such as building codes, energy conservation, chemical storage and use, the storage and disposal of hazardous waste. Mark showed several examples of good and bad examples of proper ventilation and storage. The information provided was vast, and extremely illuminating. In particular, Mark Gottsegen reminded all of us that studios are also, technically, chemical labs and industrial machine shops, and should be treated accordingly. Secondly, he reminded us to “READ THE LABELS!”

Claudia Sbrissa brought a unique and equally significant point of view to the discussion. In her paper “Greening the Studio,” Claudia discussed the convergence of receiving the commission in 2003 to renovate the printmaking studio at St. John’s University in New York, a studio not modernized since the 1970s, and the necessity to make massive changes to her own artistic and personal life, to make them “greener.” During the course of the panel discussion, dialogue veered toward the attitudes, and/or willingness, of the faculty and students to maintain this “green” sensibility. Again, Claudia experience best provided for this answer. She made it very clear that, if you continually practice “green art,” your students will take note, and follow suit. She mentioned, and I agree, that most students today are very aware of, and passionate about, environmental issues, they just need to learn the detailed training in studio management, and the encouragement from faculty to integrate these practices into their professional and personal lives.

Brian Gillis offered a brief overview for putting together a proposal for studio upgrades. In other words, for asking for what you need:
• A needs assessment/report
• Proposal
• Meet with Department Head
• Meet with Safety Officer
• Meet with Dean
• Try to connect with diverse funding sources on and off campus
• Because of budget issues, try as much as possible to connect funding with best practices.

In response to funding, here are key areas to look at:
• Training
• Policies/Protocols
• Curriculum
• Facilities
• Equipment

I remember creating in studios caked with paint, resins, and inks. Students and faculty alike repeatedly ate, drank, and even smoked inside the studios, alongside the pigments and mineral spirits. Ventilation was at a minimum. Thanks to Brian Bishop and Mark Gottsegen, and everyone on this panel, as well as previous panels, for highlighting such an important issue!

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To Doctorate or not to Doctorate?

CAA Education Committee
MFA? DFA? Ph.D? DVA? Determining the Terminal Degree in Studio Art Practice for the Twenty-First Century
Wednesday, February 9, 12:30-2:00pm
Chair: Hilary Braysmith, University of Southern Indiana
Ellen Levy, University of Plymouth
James Elkins, School of the Art Institute of Chicago
Margaret Kennedy-Dygas, University of Louisiana, Lafayette


Artmaking as New Knowledge: Research, Practice, Production
Friday, February 11, 2:30-5:00pm
Chairs: Derek Conrad Murray, University of California, Santa Cruz; Soraya Murray, University of California, Santa Cruz
Timothy Emlyn Jones, Burren College of Art
Sandra Adams, Curtin University of Technology
Ignaz Cassar, University of Leeds
Simonetta Moro, Eugene Lang College, The New School for Liberal Arts
Frances Whitehead, School of the Art Institute of Chicago

During past CAA conferences the issue of the studio practice doctorate has been treated as a curiosity, or as a specialty area. Not so this year, where I have counted no less than four sessions over the course of this year’s conference addressing either the studio practice doctorate debate directly, or exploring the emergence of research-based art practice and theory. As an art historian who has moved into the studio, and using art historian research tools to inform my process and methodologies, I am taking great interest in all these developments!

A couple of years ago, I sat down with a colleague I truly respect, to ask advice about the MFA. To my surprise, he told me to look at the MFA as a stepping-stone, and to sincerely plan on doing the studio doctorate. I was baffled by his request, but continued to research this route. This year’s conference has been extremely helpful in enumerating many sides of this debate, as well as defining and discussing the premise of “research-based” art, or “new knowledge.” In particular, both these sessions succeeded in highlighting, and summarizing, a number of major issues needed to understand the complexities implicit in this debate.

From a theoretical point of view, Timothy Emlyn Jones, from the Burren College of Art in Ireland, and Dr. James Elkins, from School of the Art Institute of Chicago, both discussed the base definition of “New Knowledge” and how this forms the foundation of the studio doctorate. Mr. Jones views New Knowledge as taking “information in through the bodily senses,” by way of experience and emotion, and encompasses “abstract thinking and embodied knowing.” Dr. Elkins regards this New Knowledge as rooted in the idea of Tacit Knowledge, or knowledge that is difficult to communicate, and to be understood by others. Visual arts, indeed, is a high form of knowledge, and when viewed through the Kantian prism of aesthetic cognitivism, as Dr. Elkins does here, should exist on the same plane as the sciences. Yet, without the shared feature of repeatable research methodologies to substantiate and communicate this knowledge, art has a built-in handicap.

In fact, Mr. Jones believes that studio doctorates should be considered as a different tradition. He asserts that while artists may employ the use of standard research practices and methodologies, such as those in the hard and social sciences and technologies, they may also adapt relational strategies and creativity theories that are equally valid and present equally valid results. Mr. Jones, in his abstract for this talk, suggests that the “creative processes of art can be understood as enquiry and thus as a distinct form of research, different from yet complimentary to science.” (CAA Abstracts 2011, 96) He further proposes, “The intelligence of fine-art practice need not be shrouded in the mystique favored by the marketplace.” (CAA Abstracts 2011, 96) Instead, “we need to look at what artists actually do rather than at what they are thought to do.” (CAA Abstracts 2011, 96) Once you sift through all the jargon, Mr. Jones and Dr. Elkins actually agree.

The next, and quite volatile, issue centers on how the studio doctorate should look here in the US. Ellen Levy gave the example of her program, Z-Node Zurich, as a European model. With a science and technology focus, it features different interrelating areas, for example ecology, biology, psychology, and artificial intelligence. Z-Node’s particular characteristics as a program, including its emphasis on interdisciplinarity and collaboration, its push to redefine what research is, it rigorousness, and how it continuously repositions art practice within and outside these other disciplines, highlights the transdisciplinary issues of the state of the field, shared influences, key issues and debates, and methodologies and tools. Margaret Kennedy-Dygas provided an intriguing comparison, the Doctorate of Music. As a performing art, sharing with visual art similar concerns about research, understanding, and outcomes, I wonder why I have not heard more about this relationship.

Dr. Elkins enters the US studio doctorate debate as “The Skeptic.” He gives 3 reasons for why it might not be a good idea. Firstly, there is either the need to adjust to the U.K. definition of New Knowledge, create our own, or come to a universally agreed-upon one. Second, we need to consider who is NOT a good prospective studio doctorate student (intuitive/non-verbal, non-theory dependent practice, non-self-reflexive). Lastly, think long and hard about definitions of programs. It was this final reason that caught my attention, due to my extensive work in college administration and teaching, and by association, accreditation. Dr. Elkins commented that the definitions of many MFA programs are “less than a page long,” and speak only to producing students with “professional proficiency and the ability to make art.” He observes that actual programs rarely look anything like they do in accreditation paperwork, yet are still tied to very outcomes subscribed to within that heap of paper. Dr. Elkins ended with the observation that “no one knows what the Ph.D is because no one knows what the MFA is because no one knows what the BFA is.”

Two presentations spoke to me as examples of the potential of the studio doctorate, and how the studio doctorate does not have to be a source of fear or fury. Simonetta Moro discussed her doctorate exhibition, and how the opportunities to pursue different research methodologies and practices has continued to inform her creative process and teaching. Frances Whitehead, of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago presented The Embedded Artist Project, a collaboration between SAIC and the City of Chicago. Created as a knowledge lab, or new knowledge-producing initiative, artists are “embedded” into institutions throughout the city, and become part of a larger “cultural entrepreneurialism” creating “knowledge through transdisciplinary engagement.” Its focus was sustainability within the 4-pillar system encompassing Environment, Social, Economic, and Cultural. It is this type of art/science/community collaboration that is an ideal example of what Ms. Whitehead defined as Métis, or craftiness; knowledge emerged in practice.

After attending these sessions, and speaking with the panelists, I am no longer “baffled” by the initial request to consider the studio doctorate. My journey will play out in time. I will continue my inquiry along the lines of Timothy Emlyn Jones: “What’s the most important thing you don’t know?”

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The Bachelor Pad and Its Discontents

Having never referred to my own place as a bachelor pad, I guess I’ve never been quite sure what one might – or should – look like. Luckily, Jessica E. Sewell spelled it all out for me Friday in her talk on “Seduction Machine: The Libidinous Modernism of the Bachelor Pad.”

In analyzing the physical and ideological make-up of bachelor pads in the 1950s, Sewell was able to paint a picture of how (and why) certain angst-ridden and women-laden young men of half a century ago might have crafted such a disarmingly sexy space. Emerging really for the first time and in all its glory within the pages Playboy magazine, the bachelor pad was the quintessential modernist abode: an apartment with sleek angles, an entertainment center, overstuffed swivel chairs, and a mini-bar located off the living room. Largely fabricated on the model of an all-male sweat lodge, the ideal bachelor pad of yesteryear was bedecked in leather, dark-colored wood, glossy white bathroom tile, and the latest in electronic devices. With everything frilly or precious dutifully omitted, and all unduly comfortable or “swish”-looking pillows resolutely banished, this “man’s lair” was one geared toward the sensual pleasures and entertaining. Mood lighting and music were able to be cued and tweaked with the simple flick of a switch from a master control panel hidden in the headboard of the bed, and the miniature wet bar loomed creepily in the corner. Bathrooms were envisioned as entire apartments unto themselves: a ‘layover’ from the days when the downstairs water closet was a boy’s only respite from his mother and sisters, and a room which promised hours of uninterrupted self-exploration.

Yet with all its sneaky buttons and ultra-modernist design and comforts, Sewell is sure to point out that the quintessential bachelor pad’s focus on entertainment was a bit misdirected at times. Actually, it’s entire design scheme called into question the host’s most prized possessions: his hyper sociability and ardent heterosexuality. Rather than participate in any hetero-normative act, such as having reproductive sex, the confirmed bachelor’s life revolves mostly around practicing tricks alone. With the constant petting of his vain narcissicism, coupled with the intense focus on areas of solitary pleasure within the “home,” the Playboy spread of photos highlights the actual playboy’s loneliness and his masturbatory reversions. Perched atop his entertainment center with his pipe in hand, the playboy of the 1950s is typically pictured alone in the apartment, fumbling with some blunt device in his hand. The pad is entirely emptied of people so as to more effectively diagram the rote movements one might rehearse when alone and then put into action when (and if) the guests ever arrive. And breakfast-in-bed? Well, it’s always for one.

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Bruce Myren

170 Market Hill Road, 2009 Courtesy of the Artist and Gallery Kayafas

Bruce Myren is a artist and photographer whose landscape-based work considers ideas of place and space. He holds a BFA in photography from Massachusetts College of Art and Design and earned his MFA in studio art from the University of Connecticut, Storrs in 2009. Shown nationally, Myren has been included in group exhibitions at the Houston Center of Photography, TX; The Gallery Project, MI; and the William Benton Museum of Art, CT, among others. His latest solo exhibitions include showings at the Workspace Gallery, NE; Danforth Museum of Art, MA; and Gallery Kayafas, MA, where he is represented. The current Northeast Regional Chair of the Society of Photographic Education, Myren has taught at the University of Connecticut, New England Institute of Art, and the Rhode Island School of Design.

Dwayne Butcher: What brings you to CAA? Any particular panels, sessions, or interviews?

Bruce Myren: As an artist, I come to CAA to hear about current thinking in art, art history, and theory. I am interested in work and ideas beyond photography and find inspiration in a broad range of topics. I am currently the Chair of the Northeast region of the affiliated Society of Photographic Education (SPE) and attending CAA helps me stay connected and allows opportunities to see and meet colleagues from across the country. In addition, this year, I am also on the job market and exploring opportunities.

DB: Are the sessions CAA has for photography adequate?

BM: In general, I do think there are enough photography-related presentations. Almost all current issues in art touch photography, thus many panels concerned with contemporary issues discuss photography or light-sensitive media in some way.

DB: Can you talk a little bit about your work? Are you currently working on a particular series?

BM: My work investigates issues of place and space and boundaries and borders through the exploration and employment of various locative systems. I am most interested in how macro systems relate to micro experiences of land and landscape.  My recent series include an investigation of the Fortieth Parallel of latitude via large format photography and GPS technology; a study of the poet Robert Francis’s one-person house in the woods of Amherst, Massachusetts; and a piece that documents the view from every place I have lived to where I live now.  Work can be seen on my website:

DB: Do you have any exhibitions, workshops or the like upcoming?

BM: I have an upcoming solo exhibition at Workspace Gallery in Lincoln, Nebraska (March 3 – April 30, 2011),  In addition, on April 12th, I will be giving a visiting artist lecture at Kansas State University.  While on both trips, I hope to photograph six new confluences for my project “The Fortieth Parallel.”

DB: What is your favorite artist? book? color? smell? food?

BM: This is hard…! Artist: Hamish Fulton; Book: Immortality by Milan Kundera; Color: almost all colors; Smell: Ocean, fresh cut grass, and pine; Food: I like all food.

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Parallel Practices II

Images as promised and a little further explanation of the “Five Rhythms” movements. Antoni explained that each of the five movements grow out of the previous. Beginning with flow, staccato, chaos, lyrical, and ending with stillness, the dancer of the “Five Rhythms” puts her body in motion in order to get a greater understanding of presentness and to ground the mind back within the body.

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