education is politically neutral...We must combine theory and affirm and
demonstrate pedagogical practices engaged in creating a new language, rupturing
disciplinary boundaries, decentering authority, and rewriting the institutional
and discursive borderlands in which politics becomes a condition for reasserting
the relationship between agency, power, and struggle...By recognizing subjectivity
and the limits of identity, we disrupt that objectification that is so necessary
in a culture of domination... We must insist that students participate in
education and not be passive consumers... I tell students not to confuse
informality with a lack of seriousness, to respect the process...In principle,
the classroom ought to be a place where things are said seriously - not
without pleasure, not without joy - but seriously, and for serious consideration..."
-bell hooks, Teaching to Transgress -Education as the Practice of Freedom
I am an artist and a teacher. I find both professions to be inherently political, inspiring, and inseparable. All artists do not teach, and not all artists think of their work as a political strategy. Most of my undergraduate students at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill are not studying art to become artists. They take drawing to fulfill requirements. They take advanced classes to explore art through process, readings, critiques, gallery visits, and technical demonstrations. However, I teach my classes as if the most important thing for these students is to find their own voice, opinion, and vision, to develop it visually, and to articulate their ideas and formal decisions.
Coming from a family of teachers - my Dad a retired American Literature Professor, my Mom a high school German and French teacher, and two older sisters painting professors - teaching strategies and pedagogical practices have been at the center of my life. As my sister Susanne says in her teaching philosophy, "I am not an evangelist for my own aesthetic preferences." Though it is sometimes painful, I strive for neutrality, granting all aesthetic sensibilities serious consideration. I encourage students to work for themselves, not me, and postpone exposure to my own work until the end of each semester as an extra measure against outside influence. I have followed her example without knowing it. Susanne continues, "I believe art is primarily about the definition of self." However, this definition is not an end in itself, but a means to understanding the world and sharing that understanding. While I praise work that is personal, I challenge students to establish or discover correspondences between their own experience and the larger world. I ask them to envelop us in their obsession, to strive for intensity. Although most of my undergraduate students are not studio art majors, I encourage them to know the history of art, to entertain conflicting paradigms, to understand the significance of the contemporary art world and their relation to it, to take a position in terms of their beliefs and practices. As an artist in 1998 it is urgent that I work to educate not only my students, but the public as well, about the importance of defending everyones right to freedom of expression, in and out of the gallery, within the classroom, and in both public and private spaces.
"Josef Albers believed that learning was facilitated when students continually compared their different solutions for identical tasks - and also when each student compared his own work from earlier and later periods (Is the latter more or less? In what way is it more? In what way is it less than my former work?) All education, Albers believed, is self-education, but self-education best proceeds through comparison. We must teach each other, he continually said - and included himself: students and I, we want to learn together...for me education is not first giving answers, but giving questions. And if a student comes to me with a question, I consider it very carefully whether I should answer him or not. When I give him the answer to an execution, then I take away from him the opportunity to invent it himself and discover it himself. I say, Boy, I know I could answer you, but I prefer for your own profit not to tell you....' Teaching is never a matter of methods, he said, its a matter of art. Though he believes in systematic treatment and systematic learning and has always been known, both in and out of class, for austerity and rigor, Albers prefers to emphasize that in the end it is the heart, the inner participation in somebody else that accounts for success or failure in the classroom."
- Martin Duberman, Black Mountain - An Exploration in Community
I am constantly challenging and redefining my position as a teacher, both through lessons learned through the process of teaching and the close (re)readings of books such as, Teaching To Transgress - Education as the Practice of Freedom by bell hooks and Black Mountain - An Exploration in Community by Martin Duberman. Both of these books confirm my already existing belief in the classroom as a collaborative space. The strength of my students energies, analyses, criticisms, and personalities is equal to the force of my own. Sharing our understanding and knowledge of art history, practices, contemporary strategies, processes, and interpretations creates enormous energy. Directing students towards the precise visual means with which to express themselves is my practice. I try to follow Cornel West's simple command and to instill a sense of the challenge to link your joy with something bigger than you. The art classroom provides one of those links. The classroom overflows itself. We process film in the dark. We weld with blinding helmets over our faces for protection. We go home alone and bang and cut, staple and sew, appropriate and create, bringing our physical manifestations of varying intensities back to the classroom. We figure and reconfigure, offering interpretations and criticisms about what has been made. We speak with respect and seriousness. We bring the classroom to galleries and site-specific installations. We hang the classroom on walls through poster projects and share our discoveries through collaborative zines and short films. We organize performance events and group shows, store-window installations, in order to involve the public, to test the larger success of our work, to realize the inseparability of theory and practice, form and function.
Having studied at Sarah Lawrence College and the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, both places where grades were not given, and critical analyses, interdisciplinary studies, and one-on-one time between teacher and student was the norm, I am committed to an intensely demanding and creative educational environment. My research has continually informed my teaching and my teaching has inspired and challenged my research. In courses such as Body Imaging and Advanced Mixed Media, I have consistently integrated theory with practice, content with form, form with function, and the personal with the political. All of my courses require the pursuit of theory and criticism (psychoanalytic, feminist, art historical, sociological) in the context of creating, analyzing and appreciating art. In Basic Drawing and Composition we read John Berger's Ways of Seeing, already questioning and analyzing the way we look at images and the meanings (political, economic, historical, formal) within an artwork. Based on what I have learned through experience, my plans for future classes include continuing emphasis on the integration of theory and practice, the exploration (or deconstruction) of the border between the private and the public, as well as between the personal and the political, and the development of collaborative, site-specific, and interdisciplinary art projects. I am committed to and challenged by the teaching of my Body Imaging class. Always focusing on the body - through welding, mold-making, and photographic demonstrations, the reading of Georges Bataille, Luce Irigaray, and Thomas Laqueur (among others), lectures on Eva Hesse, Louise Bourgeois, Felix-Gonzalez Torres (to name a few), ten critiques throughout the semester, class visits to regional galleries (Annette Lemeiux at the Duke Museum and Hannah Wilke at the Weatherspoon), and visiting artist lectures - students have not only produced and exhibited work that is finished, challenging, provoking, and beautiful, but have learned the necessary language to analyze, comprehend, and speak about art.