Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Exhibit at Galerie Hertz

I have to admit that it was a little disheartening, maybe even a little discouraging, that Alex and Allison were my only students from Printmaking class to see my exhibit at Galerie Hetrz.  In fact, they were my only students from all of my classes.  My twenty seniors from the seminars haven't been over either, and who knows if they even will go. There was a time when students used to show en masse to their professor's exhibition openings. Either times are changing, or I'm changing, and I don't know if I know how to redesign the paradigm or if I should just accept at as is.

This year's faculty opening last month also had a low student turn-out, especially given that it was on campus and just down the hallway from the studios, and that it introduced our newest faculty member, Brian Harper, in Ceramics.  I used to go to all of my artist-professors' openings, in both undergraduate and graduate schools, sometimes out of curiosity, many times out of respect, maybe even sometimes out of the "brownie-points" awarded for such gestures. Whatever the reason, seeing a body of work created by my professors was big in understanding their aesthetics, the temperament of their criticisms, their processes, and their concepts and how they resolved them.  It used to be that when we, as students, attended exhibition openings of our professors' works, it was about that hunger or hope for refreshment, about absorbing motivation from those veteran artists who we worked so closely with; those who could lift my day by acknowledging my creative efforts with a positive comment or who could send me in a downward spiral by not recognizing my efforts or any of the successes they might have contained.  Attending their openings, or even just seeing their exhibitions after-the-fact, was ultimately because I wanted to see growth in their work as badly as they pushed for growth in mine.

Many students look at us, their professors, and sometimes forget, or are not aware, that we are practicing professional artists.  They also maybe don't realize that the miliue they have chosen to inhabit is the very one we've existed in for, in some cases, decades.  The road they're traveling is the very road we've traveled, and to be engaged in that journey is such an enriching learning experience, both personally and professionally;  to not engage fully in that journey is an underappreciation of the value of that education.

I jokingly said in class a day or so ago that I would award extra credit for those who went to see my exhibit.  My students chuckled at that suggestion.  After class I though it was a little sad that I was, although jokingly on one level and truthfully on another, trying to buy them into going to see my exhibit.  Have times changed so much? Has curiosity become so narrow that it doesn't expand outside of ourselves to include the creative efforts of our colleagues and peers? Have our worlds become too complex and unrewarding to include the celebrations of others? What is the paradigm, and how do we shift it to something that is more inclusive and encompassing?    


Brett Anthony Ernst said...

I'm not sure why students don't attend openings, but I think that there may be a bit of intimidation that prevents the students from going to a professors opening- Granted it doesn't make much sense, but it always seemed to me that very few students from IUS attended any openings at all. I had never been to an art opening until my second year at IUS and I can remember that I skipped one of Deb's over anxiety of been improperly dressed. It seems very silly now, to think that people who are there to see the work would be so interested in my appearance, but I was afraid to show up and feel out of place.
Openings can also be an extremely intimidating social experience for people who feel they are out of the "art circle"

Alex Kennedy said...

I can agree that it can be intimidating, but I dont know about every one else but making art is my life and it is my dream to be able to have a gallery of all my work showing. That is why I go to school every day, why I stay up all night long painting. I know Brian put his heart and soul into his work just like we do ours. It is very upsetting when people you care about and teach your knowledge to, dont show up for something that means to world to you. Put your self in his shoes. Art is personal. A part of every person goes into their work, the more you put into it the more you will get out and I know Brian put a lot into his. He is proud of it and wants to share a part of him with us. Just take a little time its an awesome show.

brian h. jones said...

Gosh, thanks Brett and Alex for adding your thoughts. It's good to read some honest and provocative impressions here. I think the 'intimidation' issue is a relatively new response, new being in the last five years or so. I recall there used to be a pretty healthy bunch of students who attended exhibit openings, they'd even get together and go as a group. I used to assign exhibit reports in my classes, I think most of us did, but that practice seems to have fallen by the wayside. It required students to go see exhibits, usually in Louisville, and essentially do a critique of the exhibit. Maybe reinstating that will get folks to go see not just my exhibits, but other exhibits as well. As Alex mentions, Artist's put their hearts and souls into their works, and sharing that is extremely important, but also it allows us to 'test' what we're doing, to gauge our creative efforts by putting it out into the world to see if it resonates beyond our studios.

I know that when I was a student, especially in undergraduate school, I would go to the openings of my professor's but I may not have said anything to them during the opening. That was where my intimidation reflex kicked in, I may not have been confident enough with myself to go up and say what I thought of their work. However, I made sure they saw me there, and that seemed to always be recognized and appreciated as support.

Alison said...

Yes, for me, there is a little bit of an intimidation factor too. What to wear... what to say... I worried about these things too. Especially, given that I am relatively new to the art world. Not to mention, it is somewhat difficult, at an opening, to get a really good look at the work, with all the people there. Nevertheless, I can sincerely say I am glad I stepped outside of my comfort zone to support my fellow artist and professor. And I'm sorry (and surprised) to hear that more students weren't able or willing to do the same. You all are missing out on a beautiful and moving exhibit. If my schedule allows, I'd like to go take a look when things are a little quieter over there.

Brian, is this show still going on? What about a class field trip to Galerie Hertz?

brian h. jones said...

Thanks, Allison, for the encouraging comments. I had considered a field trip to the gallery, and we could still do that and maybe hit a few other galleries while we''re out. However, my hesitation is that is would have to be during class time, and there are so many who have not been working in the shop during non-class times that to take one of the last remaining ones to go to the gallery would cut into work time. We can discuss it during Monday's group gathering.