Learning

I attended Pratt Institute from 1979 to 1983 where I studied both painting and photography. My experience there was exhilarating as college should be. I was fortunate to study in NYC where I would be faced with new insights and bombarded with infinite choices of what kind of art I wanted to see and make. The first year was a foundation of color theory ala the Hans Hoffman classic push and pull theory. We had assignments using stacks of color swatches and then making paintings demonstrating how we could show the most extreme and subtle color shifts. Drawing classes were taught in the traditional form of working direct with the female and male models using charcoal and conte crayons. We then progressed with using the figure with classical lightning techniques. Only one teacher taught this way and his name was Mr. Faust. He would be in the schools studio hours before class started setting up elaborate interior still life settings. He loved doing this. His lighting was carefully executed as if setting up a theatrical stage. He had a Zen like attitude as he encouraged us to enjoy the journey as much as becoming a master at whatever we choose to focus on. Each class he taught was a stimulating exercise with light and the human form.  While light and the colors was important to capture, I was equally attracted to shape and began exploring exaggerated line in later drawing classes, something I still do today. I posted a picture of the only painting I have left in the form of an Ektachrome slide. That was how we documented back then kids! Ecktachrome (now extinct) was good because you could get away with photographing in lower light if you didn’t have access to a properly equipped studio. I may have even developed it myself and you could compensate for low light by over developing in the darkroom.

Teachers encouraged us to push our thoughts and actions into more rigourous contemporary analysis of modernism. I was 18 and I took everything in as best I could. I didn’t always understand this type of painting but respected arts role as an entry point into widening my understanding of what it means to be human. I was often going into Manhatten to see the must see shows. Julian Schnabel was the artist no one could stop talking about. The questions about his work were endless, was it necessary to paint so large to make your statement? Is large a macho thing? Just what was he trying to say breaking all those plates? Was it about excess? His work left me feeling alienated. Other contemporary artists were doing more viscerally stimulating work like Keith Harings subway doodles of crawling babies and barking dogs. Cindy Shermans selfies (the work came before the word was invented) and Barbara Krugers large headlined captioned photos with searing messages forcing us to question advertisings use of media.  I found this work far more interesting. I feel like this era (the 80’s) was birthing the use of mixed media in more interesting ways, little did I know we were on the verge of what I call the digital revolution.

Along with school, came the need to earn money to get me on a subway to go to the museums and galleries and then dine on a slice of NY pizza. I believe I lived on about 25.00 a week which included my transportation, food, art supplies, books and occasional splurges of a night out with friends for a beer or two. I couldn’t have been happier in my life. For the first time, I truly felt a connection to my teachers and what I was learning.

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