In Flux

It’s 8 AM on a Thursday morning, and as the fog starts to burn off the students of the Advanced Painting class shuffle in to Jackson Hall. After hanging up their work, coffee is made and chairs are rearranged to create space for a critique. Along the walls of Jackson, each student has five to eight paintings that they have completed or are working on in class. Though some of the paintings are incomplete, they are still required to be displayed to receive constructive criticism from each other and from their professor. Throughout the critique the class moves through the groups of paintings asking questions, explaining ideas, and listening to Professor Morton’s wisdom and tangents.

So what are these paintings of? To be short and sweet: still life. Most of them include cabbages, onions, tomatoes, asparagus, and sometimes a lone rutabaga. But these paintings embody so much more than a garden harvest. The goal of this first part of the semester was to develop form and light, and to use color in an intentional way. The first painting the students completed is a painting on paper of cement bricks. In these compositions the focus is on lights and darks, how the students applied paint to paper, and on the forms they created. Along with this larger painting, they created smaller paper paintings as studies of composition, color, and light. These are displayed alongside the finished product. The second prompt deals with form, and is shown on a smaller canvas with close up views of the still life. Layers and layers of oil paint are slathered onto these canvases, building up the piece as a whole. Along with this canvas painting, a few small paper paintings of objects of the student’s choice are also displayed. These were worked on outside of class to exercise what they were learning during studio time. The objects here range from seashells to crumpled fabric to gloves and are painted with total control on the student’s part. Last but not least are the unfinished works of a vegetable-filled still life. This is where the students strive to focus on all three elements: light, form, and color.

But they aren’t finished. Why show a painting incomplete? Because it is important for artists to be in conversation with each other, and with their viewer, about their work in progress. It is important for an artist’s paintings to be influencing each other, as well as other artists’ work. And I think it’s important for a viewer to see the process of a work of art, and you have an opportunity to come see these paintings in flux for the next two weeks. Wander down to Jackson and observe where this painting class started and how they grow during this display.