On June 16th I attended my first MFA residency at Lesley University College of Art and Design.
It is a low-residency program that allows students to work, live, and study in their home community and environment with 10 day residencies every 6 months until graduation. This was an ideal option for me, since I have always had my own art studio and have always worked or attended school. I would have never been able to acquire my MFA without this well thought out program.
My 10 days in Cambridge were jam-packed with introductions to my new MFA class mates, other MFA students and alumni, faculty, and fellow critique space roomies. There were critiques on my art work and others art work and Critical Theory classes on Academic Art, Modernism, High Modernism and Post Modernism. I attended a 12 hr seminar called Mining the Internet, the graduating class thesis presentations, and lectures by 4 guest speakers Christopher Bedford-Commissioner and Co-Curator, 2017 U.S. Pavilion, Venice Biennale, Paul Ha_Commissioner and Co-Curator, 2015 U.S. Pavilion, Venice Biennale, Joseph Wolin_Curator, Open This End, Multiple Venues, Al Miner_ Co-Curator, Megacities Asia, MFA Boston. It was one life changing experience after another.
Upon my arrival I unloaded my art work at the Lunder Arts Center. I was checked in and given a name tag. The new students (myself included) were directed to the library where Louise Goldenberg, Administrative Director and Ben Sloat, Interim Director introduced us to each other, gave us an overview of the program philosophy, residency logistics, and answered any questions we had. Our artwork was downloaded from flash drives we brought with us onto a computer so that it would be ready for each of us to introduce ourselves and our art work the following afternoon.
Anhar Mulla spoke to us about the resources available when writing and submitting papers. It felt very reassuring to know that the staff and professors were so invested in our success.
There was a sandwich break with surprisingly healthy and delicious sandwich wraps, fruit, cookies, chips, water and juice.
Scott Bulger and Fausta Facciponte gave a lecture about Critique etiquette. This was very helpful in that they were both graduating students and probably have had and have given hundreds of critiques by then. They were informative and professional. “Don’t talk too much.” “Be sensitive as the student’s works have been 6 months in the making.” “Find out why they do their art work.” “Always show your work, even if you don’t think it’s good.” Recommended reading was “Death of an Author.”
We were introduced to faculty work at the amphitheatre at University Hall at the end of a very exciting day!
Early Morning @LUCAD by Lucy Sacco
Early morning at LUCAD was quiet and peaceful. At 8AM, though, all the students and faculty met in the breakfast area in the lower level of the new Lunder Arts Center. All levels of students ( Group 1-Group 5-graduate students) sit together. The food was always healthy and delicious, with a selection of yogurt, fruit, muffins, oatmeal, juice, tea, and coffee. On this particular day there were announcements and words of welcome. As a new student I was assigned a student “buddy,” a man named Petros Nagakos who had experience with the protocol for getting settled in. He was instrumental in getting me moved into my critique space. He found a large moving cart for me and showed me where my critique space was. When he saw my work, he asked if I’d ever heard of an artist named Alberto Burri, because he felt my work had some characteristics in common with his. He was a post war Italian artist that based his art on the use of every day items (Arte Povera) such as burlap, fabric and sewing materials. It was intriguing to know that a famous artist had created art with elements in common with mine. I hung some of my work in my critique space with my fellow roomies in the lower level at University Hall. Michael Dorn, Leigh Cortez, Danielle Klebes, and Teresa Ulm were my crit space mates. Ulm ( As she likes to be called) was next to me and was generous enough to share some of the space she wasn’t using with me.
Domenique Series/Shapes and Colors#3 by Lucy Sacco
At the library orientation in the new Lunder Arts Center, I found it to be a complete resource center!! The librarians were approachable, fun, and informative.
I completed hanging my art work and went to the welcome lunch with my group where we received a welcoming speech by Ben Sloat the Interim Program Director, Louise Goldenberg the Administrative Director, & other faculty.
In the afternoon, the students in my group (Group 1, meaning our 1st residency) introduced themselves and spoke a little about our work while displaying a slide presentation to the other students and faculty. I found that speaking about my own work was very difficult even though I had practiced for several days in order to prepare. I am hopeful that with time the words will eventually flow easily from my lips.With all the practice we have during critiques and individual faculty meetings, I’m sure that I will improve exponentially. I realize that it is important to be able to speak about my work not only for others to understand my thoughts and creative process but also so that I may understand my work more clearly myself! The work comes so automatically that I don’t even think about what I am doing anymore and I love it so much I don’t consider all the preparation, energy, and effort work at all. Work for me is listening to rejection and misunderstanding. If I understand my work better, than I may be more open to suggestions and I may be able to advocate for myself more articulately and thoroughly and in the process, open new frontiers of discussion and focus.
We then viewed some time-based (films,) work in the amphitheatre and 5 graduate students’ presentations. In Mark Teiwes presentation, there was a comparable that included a slide of work by Alberto Burri. The name of it was “Sacco.” I didn’t realize it at the time, but I had found part of my “artistic lineage.”
At dinner, all the professors, students and staff ate together. I loved how nurturing the environment was. All we talked about was art from 8AM-9 PM. It was true love for me.
The streets in Cambridge surrounding the Lesley University campus are lined with Victorian homes and heirloom perennial gardens.
Victorian/ Cambridge By Lucy Sacco
Morning was stunningly beautiful in a quiet peaceful setting.
At breakfast we all met up with one another again and chatted about our rooms, lodging and evenings.
On this morning we experienced our first critique with a faculty member and our critique space group had it with Laurel Sparks. I really enjoyed her crit’ style. She listened more than spoke, but she came with knowledge of books, artists, and styles of art to compare and offer to each of us. She was the person who mentioned arte povera which was the movement that Burris’ work was from.
It was helpful to see and hear how others spoke of their work. I started to question my own abilities as an artist or even the way I perceived mine or others art work.
Transition by Lucy Sacco
At lunch I met with my new academic advisor, Anthony Apesos. He is a painter, professor, and was very knowledgeable about the MFA low-residency program as he had designed it. We (myself and 3 others) simply sat in his office and took turns introducing ourselves and discussing each other’s art work. I liked his approach! It was disarming yet engaging.
In Critical Theory class we discussed what art is and used the readings we were assigned to reference from, Believing is Seeing Creating the Culture of Art, by Mary Anne Stanizewski, Artists, Critics, Context, by Paul F. Fabozzi, and The Anti-Aesthetic, by Hal Foster. Stuart Steck was our instructor. He was lively and clear in the definition of art and how society perceives art and artists. He spoke of how Critical Theory is the methodology of questioning the world and that it is a way to get to the nature of a social experience. “The language is difficult but the theory is simple and understandable,” he said. “The difficult language of theology slows us down so that we have to think about what we’re reading.” We discussed Marxism and capitalism in the late 19th and 20th centuries.
Stuart said everything was presented as a narrative, but nothing is universal. “There are no absolute truths.” “If there had to be universal truths they would be somewhat murky.” We had a class discussion about the truth to the statement that there are, “No universal truths.”
He continued, “We ask who are we?”
“Where are we coming from?”
“Where are we going?”
“Art is a knowledge based labor.”
“Most of the world still thinks of art in the traditional sense, when in reality it is so far removed from it.”
Duchamp began the de-killing of art by bringing attention to the way an artist performs art. Duchamp was performing the work of art.
If a work of art has no inherent meaning then the work has no meaning.
There was a circa dramatic – Cultural shift. Monet, Matisse, Duchamp, were all breaking the cycle of how the public perceived art.
Pollock as seen below, a high modernist was compared to Warhol, a post-modernist.
Mural/University of Iowa Museum of Art by Jackson Pollock
We discussed over 100 years of art in 3 hours time.
That night after dinner there were time based screenings. I recall Danielle Klebes film of abandoned items. I thought it was incredibly insightful and intriguing. She would take a time lapsed video of items left in areas that were abandoned. Very interesting and her film kept you on the edge of your seat while you waited for something to happen to the abandoned objects. It really caught my attention.
On this morning we had an early breakfast at 8AM. I attended a workshop about, “How to start a blog,” by Becky Davis and Tobe Burgos-Passiglia. We were exposed to several different venues, such as Tumblr, WordPress, and Instagram. I decided to use WordPress and began setting it up.
Later in the morning Group 1 (my group) met to discuss a name for our Facebook page.
During lunch there was a lively conversation about all the subjects and critiques going on.
That afternoon, I had a critique with Ben Sloat along with the rest of my critique space roomies. Ben was articulate and informative. He encouraged us to have open minds and to experiment. He suggested that I try a cascading or hanging piece. I moved some of my pieces off of the wall and onto a pedestal for a few days at his suggestion. It was different, but I resolved to try that specific approach again at my home studio while working on some of the suggestions I had received from my critiques.
“The Gaze Revisited,” presentation by Sunanda Sanyal and Jan Avgvikos was in depth about the concept of a subject gazing seductively into the eye’s of the viewer. Sunanda spoke of art in the Orient, Near East, Middle East, and Western Asian Orient. He referred to the artlessness or reality effect occurring in the late 1800’s. He also spoke about modernism with Gaughan and Matisse.”The Gaze,” was taught as a discipline. Sunanda showed the Hottentot Venus aka Saartjic Baartman associated with steatopyginia, or big buttocks. Many famous art works at the time were created to stimulate sexual desire.
Le Bonheur de Vivre by Henri Matisse
Jan spoke of how sexualized the female figure is portrayed in art and showed many examples of this throughout her presentation. She spoke of women shown isolated, amorous, or simply on display for the pleasure of man.
After, “The Gaze Revisited,” presentation there was dinner where all of us discussed the presentation with each other and relaxed. After dinner were the final 3 graduate presentations.
Half way through the 10-day residency, we had breakfast at 8AM. My group got along very well with each other and we were becoming more comfortable and acclimated to our surroundings, so we all began breaking from the group more frequently throughout the day to study or work on projects.
We all had seminars to attend. I attended “Mining the Internet” with Oliver Wasow. The first thing we did was discuss what the word curator means. It means, “to be a director or caretaker of a museum exhibit,” according to Wikipedia. Today with multi-media it has a different meaning, though. We curate ourselves and friends on Facebook or Pintrest. We write blogs and curate ourselves on WordPress and Tumblr. Digital photography has changed the word photograph from a noun to a more frequently used verb and we can find whatever kind of photograph we want by looking online or Archive.org. Photography/Digital media are re-writing the common daily occurrences. By using multi-media, performers, musicians and visual artists are able to change the context of already existing art work and make it into something of their own.
Back when printmaking first started, original creations could no longer compete with the price of copies giving rise to the patent act of 1790 nearly 250 years ago. Things have changed considerably. With Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Pintrest, a shared theme of knowledge strengthens the common good. “It is a social evolution.”__ Kirby Ferguson.
Our assignment was to find a remix on the internet and send a link to Oliver. Mine was the visual remix below included in an article in the New York Times regarding the use of already created digital images as a way of creating art.
(Penelope Umbrico’s “541,795 Suns from Sunsets from Flickr (Partial) 1/26/2006,” based on user-uploaded digital images. Credit: Photomontage by Penelope Umbrico/Mark Moore Galleryhttp://www.nytimes.com/2015/04/19/magazine/a-visual-remix.html?mwrsm=Email)
At lunch I was sort of in a daze, because of all the information to process. The chicken salad wrap, couscous, and fruit was so delicious it help me to relax a bit. I was really feeling good about my decision to come to Lesley University’s College of Art and Design, because I was learning so much in such a short period of time.
In Critical Theory Stuart spoke of the meaning embedded in a painting. The materials have meaning relative to the painting including my choice of plaster of paris and shellac. He spoke of how form has meaning, subject matter, context, and also the way the artist performs their work. For example Jackson Pollock spewing paint directly from the can in repetitive gestures had a masculine sexual connotation.
We studied the transition from academic painting and of the need for it to be legible to the point of being dishonest to the original image. It was made to make the viewer forget that it was a painting. The perfect proportions and the geocentric location of the subject within the painting were expected components of the painting in order for it to be considered a valued work of art. There was a sense of artlessness.
We covered the latter part of the 19th century and began to study in more depth the evolution of modernism and the famous painting by Picasso-Les Demoiselles d’ Avignon.
Les Demoiselles d’ Avignon by Pablo Picasso
Again we covered many years and revelations over the course of 3 hours.
That evening we were privileged to attend a presentation by Christopher Bedford, Co-Curator of The Rose Art Museum. Christopher spoke on inclusion and stated, ” you can curate something or you can curate for something.” I found that statement very important in the current world circumstances. My understanding was that this was a new sort of presentation, because in the past LUCAD had always had artists as guest speakers. This particular week we had the luxury of meeting 4 experienced curators from different museums, who were accomplished and privy to the process with which a museum operates and chooses its art. It was an exceptional series of presentations. For the next 3 nights we were saturated with the benefits and challenges of being a museum co- curator. It is a life of challenges, but rewarding in that it is the culmination of many people working together to benefit the public with fantastic art exhibitions. There were nuggets of valuable advice and information from each speaker.
It was supposed to be a late morning for me, because I didn’t have anything on my schedule until 11AM. I came in early though, to view all the other artists work and to do some reading and research.
I had a critique with Tony Apesos. He wrote the design for the Low Residency MFA program at Lesley. He asked questions about my work, but I don’t think I answered him well. I was distracted in thought and a bit overwhelmed. He said he actually liked my work, but after hearing me speak about it, felt somewhat deflated. He gave me some authors to look into; Sally Mann , “Flesh and Spirit,” Kirk Varnedoe, “Pictures of Nothing,” and Eva Hesse as an artist. He was very frank about my inability to speak about my work. After listening to the recording of his critique with me, it was clear why he may have felt disappointed in my inability to articulate about my work. I sounded awful and I realize that I definitely need to learn to verbally defend and advocate for my art. Learning to do such will be worth the investment of my education.
After lunch we studied high modernism which represented the core essence of humanity, with Jackson Pollock, and the liberation of artists. Then there was the transition into post modernism with artists such as Andy Warhol and Jasper Johns suggesting the absence of self. Any form that the artist would try to represent or say about the culture would fail, so there was a sense of industry and commercialism.
‘Flag’ 1954 by Jasper Johns
The speaker that night was Paul Ha commissioner and Co-Curator, 2015 Pavilion, Venice Biennale. He was the director of the Contemporary Museum St. Louis for 9 years! He had a very realistic presentation regarding the possibilities of being a famous artist. There are thousands of MFA graduates each year and maybe 30-50 that get to exhibit in N.Y.C. His message was to communicate and network with other artists. His words resonated the sound of persistence and work and lots and lots of socializing with other artists. This was concerning, if you happen to be an introvert.
This day began with two critiques from graduating students (Group 5). One with Jamie Keller, who also suggested Eva Hesse as an artist to research and the other with Mary Carlisle, who spoke of glazes and different finishes I could use on my work. My group then met to discuss a creative collaboration that we could all do. We talked about sending a work around to each artist to add onto.
Mining the Internet seminar discussed the how artist remix by using the work of others to create new forms of art. This is a video from 2006 about the changing landscape of photography. Check out this link.
Joe Wolin was the speaker of the evening. He had experience with some of the most famous artists in the world and an is award-winning curator. I felt a true sense of hope for myself after his talk.
We had our elective seminar and discussed more ways that we could use the internet to create art and learned how to research art we were interested in. Our assignment was to find groups of art that had something in common. Sort of like curating our own art show via the internet. It was fun and interesting.
The Boston field trip I chose to see was with Sunanda Sanyal, “The Megacities Asia Exhibition,” at the MFA Boston. This was an exciting trip for me. I had never traveled on the T and this day I took the Red Line to the Green Line to the MFA, so now I know how to do that! The exhibition was fascinating!
The exhibiting artists, (Above-Hu Xiangcheng- Doors Aways from Home_Doors Back Home, from Shanghia, Yin Xiuzhen_Temperature, from Bejing, Aaditi Joshi _Untitled, from Mumbai,) were from some of the largest cities in the world and it is obvious the ways in which the explosion of the population in these cities affects the art. There are millions of people in the cities so even the notion of an artist being recognized is so remote. It was truly inspiring and influential in the way I perceived my own existence.
The visiting speaker was Al Miner_Co-Curator of Contemporary Art at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston and the curator of the Megacities Exhibition. I liked his sense of humor and his ability to open the view of what his life is like as a curator. I laughed when he said that being a curator is like being a couples counselor 24/7. He has a unique way of speaking. I could really visualize everything he spoke of. He also said “MOMA stands for Monet, Modern, and More.” He was a very lively and enjoyable speaker.
On this day I had 4 critiques. The 1st critique was with Scott Bulger. He was very encouraging. He asked more questions than offered advice. The bit of advice he gave, though, was to be open to experimenting as much as possible during my time here at Lesley. He really liked my work and was open to answering whatever questions I had.
Next I had Bethany Behr crit’ my work. She also asked many questions about my work. when I would answer questions each time, I became better at defining my thought process and at describing the context of my artwork. She also was encouraging and recommended I read, “Concerning the Spiritual in Art,” by Wassily Kandinsky. She also suggested that I try a symbolic portrait.
Domenique Series, Shapes and Colors#5 by Lucy Sacco
Deborah Davidson came in and was able to recommend a mentor named Sarah Sutro from North Adams. Sarah uses homemade inks and dyes for her current exhibiting works of art, has written 2 books and used to teach at Lesley University, so I was very relieved and excited to meet her. Deborah also recommended that I look into investigating different philosophies and historical websites. The artist she recommended I research was Jules Olitski.
Oliver Wasow was encouraging and asked lots of questions and was able to read my work very well. He encouraged me to research Eva Hesse and was teaching me loads of research venues at my Mining the Internet elective seminar, that he was instructing.
Mining the Internet, by Lucy Sacco
In our last Critical Theory class we learned about rethinking pictorial presentation, how Picasso used mass-produced materials such as newspaper.
Picasso, Manet, and Duchamp were trained as academic artists, but came to resent it.
Marcel Duchamp believed that painting was insufficient as a departure from academics, because it was mimetic. He said even Picasso’s painting was artificial, so he departed from painting and created, “Bicycle Wheel.” Every Assumption about nature, Duchamp turned on its head. He would take objects that were used for a specific purpose and render them useless. With his work there was no story, compared to academic art, which had to explain the meaning or there is a hidden meaning. With Duchamp, we no longer needed to contemplate what the work means.
Duchamp said, “Art was never meant to be understood, it was meant to be appreciated.”
Bicycle Wheel by Marcel Duchamp
There was a change from contextual skills to conceptual skills. “I return art to the service of the mind.” Duchamp said.
We also discussed Mondrian, Rothko, Pollock, Rauchenberg, De Kooning, Mapplethorpe, and Segal. These Critical Theory classes opened my mind to the concepts behind my own and others artwork and I’ve decided to keep a journal of my process, and the thoughts behind my work.
That night there was an open studio at University Hall. I didn’t realize it, but some of my class mates were selected to exhibit their art work. The show was called, “Missing,” meaning there was something intentionally missing from each artists work that caused the viewer to think about and observe the work in a way that stimulated thought. My student “buddy,” Petros Nagakos, was one of the artists. Also artists that come to mind were Hilary Tate Norod, Becky Davis, Tobe Burgeous-Passiglia, Jamie Keller, and Rebekah Bonner. The public was invited to go to all the graduate student’s critique spaces and view their artwork. It was a fantastic show!!
The next morning I got to Cambridge early so I stopped at a coffee shop I really liked, called Hi Rise Bread Company. Unfortunately they have the most delicious coconut pecan cookies. This was unfortunate because I couldn’t stop going there. I found myself sort of compelled to return there at least four times during breaks at my residency.Hi Rise Bread Company by Lucy Sacco
I then walked around the neighborhood again finding many gardens and flowers. It was so peaceful too…
until I came to the Lunder Arts Center and looked directly across the street and saw…
Bagelsaurus at 8am on a Saturday morning!! I’m not a bagel person but I am tempted to check it out when I return.
I met with Tony Apesos on this day to discuss my study plans. I also had two critiques on this Saturday morning. One with Aimee Cotnoir and the other with Jesse Fleure. Both of these women are excellent graduating artists and were very insightful and frank about doing the work of being a graduate student. The underlying message from both of them was to work and try new things. Step out of the box often.
It was the last day of our elective seminars. We had to submit our group of common works. I chose modern-day frescoes and paintings by Brit Hammer.
That afternoon there was a student led workshop called, The Art of Memory. The lecture by Scott Bulger was regarding learned behavior which causes change in the DNA of an organism. It was incentive to change any negative patterns of thinking or behaving. Mice that were conditioned to be afraid, bred offspring that were automatically afraid. It was a real eye opener. It made me feel very conscious of my thoughts, behaviors, and beliefs. Excellent presentation!
(The unfinished installing of Scott Bulger’s artwork.)
That night was the Graduate Exhibition at the Lunder Arts Center. There was a graduating toast by Ben Sloat that I will always remember. He spoke of his hero, the famous photographer, Robert Frank. Apparently Robert Frank had a nickname , “black cloud,”because he was a brooding and abrasive fellow. When Ben asked for advice about the decision to move to New York to be an artist, Robert said in a comforting way, while giving him a punch in the arm, “Don’t be afraid.”
I really absorbed the words that Ben spoke. He also spoke of tolerance for all the coming changes and forms and ideas through our graduate studies and for all the years to come. That toast will forever be etched into my memory, because it was delivered in such a gentle, empathetic, and inspiring way. (Also because he sent me a copy that I requested. Ha! Ha!)
I am looking forward to 4 more residencies and am so grateful to the faculty and fellow classmates, and to all the speakers and staff that have come together to form this phenomenal program. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.
On my way to school to pick up my artwork, I listened to early Sunday morning Jazz music and watched the life flow around me. There were bicycles, and joggers, people walking to get coffee, people crossing the street. Light traffic, and an incredible blue sky that comes on a 70 degree morning in late June with no clouds. I met with my advisor Tony after loading up my artwork. He gave us (myself and his other advisees,) the protocol for while we were away from school.
I have a book for people to write in and I had as many people as possible sign it before I left. I was on my way home, but not before I stopped and picked up of a few of those amazing coconut pecan cookies at Hi Rise Bread Company. Until we meet again, Lesley University, Au revoir Cambridge!