Critical Conversations on Art Practice, Theory, and Research

ARTE 780

Public Response Art Pieces, Fall 2017

jolie Day revived her print bike event with a different twist.  Instead of working with teens during in warm weather, she braved the Capital Bike Trail in cold November weather creating monoprinted spoke cards with folks she met along the trail.  She created a detailed blog of her adventures:



Jolie Day’s Artist Manifesto as Artist Book


Frankie Mastrangelo’s Frank Words

me to me: reflections on being creative, or, a manifesto for growth within academia

1. don’t be a jerk. when you don’t belong to a particular identity group, you are not the expert on that experience, no matter how many degrees you have. pass the mic to those that are able to speak to the lived experiences that you have not had. the act of de-centering whiteness from the curriculum, from creative communities, from academic spaces, requires an appropriate level of silence on your part. so much listening. and more listening. this is a process of uplifting vulnerability as an art. when you don’t know about a set of experiences, there is a student or a colleague that does. help create and hold the space for the voices to emerge, but don’t turn a spotlight on anyone unless they choose to speak. no one is obligated to educate.

2. academic does not equal inaccessible. theories, writing, and other creations don’t need to be forced into academic boxes. the boxes are shaped in the image of those that didn’t want you, POC, PWD, (or any other person that deviates from the white cis heterosexual able-bodied male person with a tweed jacket and elbow patches norm) in academia. make space for the shapes that are not the boxes. let the shapes teach you. abandon the anxiety of boxes. be part of efforts to create institutions in the image of non-boxed shapes. the priority should be to make the theories, writing, and creations accessible to the public. if we fit everything into the boxes that were not meant for us, we’ll spend more time thinking about the dimensions of boxes than making the work that actually speaks to communities beyond academia.

3. trust your intuition. this is about trusting your work. embrace the confidence you’ve built in your ideas. this trust is not about being afraid of critique or stunted by ego. it’s the grounding you need to stand on while recognizing that the process is unstable. growth requires constant reevaluation and revision. returning to your grounding is a way of going back to the drawing board once you realize there is something else to think through or something else to consider. all of the pieces here will move, and the movement is not failure, but a series of developments. appreciating the instability, incoherence, and incompleteness of the project grounds the project. your intuition knows this but you need to remember it.

4. fuck perfectionism. it is a white supremacist capitalist patriarchal construct and it will eat you whole. it will tell you that you can’t start or continue when all you need to do is start and continue sloppily. the sloppiness makes it interesting. the sloppiness is where ideas become dissertation chapters and creative projects. perfection is a lie that makes other people money.

5. the politics of productivity are a politics of limitations. cultural standards of productivity are gatekeepers, time keepers, cops. they police the spirit and mind. they say who and what is valuable, when everyone and their work has merit and beauty. not all of the minutes in the day are for work, but academic spaces will lead you to believe this is how life should be structured. without reprieve, without breaks, without relaxation we lose clarity, perspective, and heart. stop working. schedule breaks if you need to hold yourself to it. reflect on what you created today. make a list of your strengths once a week. you are enough.


Fall 2017 Art Manifestos

Jennifer Schero
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Massa Lemu/Detournement

Social practice artist Massa Lemu visited our class on October 19, 2016 and November 8, 2017, to share his art,  driven by the post-colonial politics of his home, Malawi and South Africa. Massa’s art employs detournement, one of the many protest art theories we discussed in class. His talk was very inspiring for the class and helped them clarify  decisions for their public response art piece.

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‘Invasive’–Aaron McIntosh

On October 26, 2016 and October 25, 2017, fiber artist Aaron McIntosh visited the class to present his work and talk about his most recent project, Invasive–gathering and archiving stories of LGBTQ culture in the South. Project participants work with fabric kudzu leaf templates Aaron created to capture their stories and build an archive of queer life in the South.  For more information on the project visit:


Public Art Response Pieces Fall 2016


O.K. Keyes collaborated with a former student to create 49 Fantasmas an eloquent memorial for the “Orlando 49” killed in a senseless act of violence in an LGBTQ night club. To view and respond to this artwork visit

Andrew Bell created a detournement piece reflecting upon Altria’s rebranding; a move that distances them from their wealthy tobacco production roots as the Philip Morris Capital Corporation.  Andrew’s piece, a re-branding of the Altria logo reconnects Altria with it’s tobacco history.

Artist/Educator Manifesto


1. There is no such thing as an Artist. Making aesthetic considerations and responding to the material world around us is an innate human function. Expression exists in many forms, all humans do it to a degree whether it’s filling grout, placing books on a shelf or cutting hair. Using the term “artist” elevates the few above the many. As everyone creates and responds with expressive intent, every human is an artist. As every human is an artist, the term “artist” is redundant therefore null. There is no such thing as an artist.

2. Art is more than just “art.” Any object or idea created with intent to express emotion is art. A book of poetry, a cake for a loved one, a hand-made rocking chair, a vase of flowers. Many different forms of human expression exist beyond the classical canons of the art studio. The key to differentiating between art and not-art is the intent of the creator.Art exists in many forms beyond the ones found in a museum. Art is more than just the fine-art that the word normally refers to.

3. Art mediums have no boundaries. Every material or immaterial object we encounter has potential to simultaneously act as canvas, paint, brush and palette. Creative urges know no boundaries – both physical and mental. Everything may act as a conduit for human expression- albeit some behave better than others. Limiting the realm of art to the confines of an art supply store restricts expression and is a disservice to our creativity. A shoe can be the paint. A dead fish can be the pallet. A kitchen sink can be the paintbrush. Art mediums have no boundaries.

4. Museums aren’t the only place for art. Art isn’t always in a museum. The best piece of art in world might be standing in someone’s backyard. It might be hanging in a dental office. Not every museum curator can see every piece of art – the same as every artist isn’t able to hang their work in every museum. Good artwork can be found in many unexpected locations, and art should not be dismissed simply because its location doesn’t have the prestige of a being an art museum. Much of the fame ascribed to artists is a matter of being the right gender and the right race, in the right time at the right place. The location and audience of an artwork has no bearing on the quality of a work art. Museums should be seen as a mere sample of the breadth of the collective human endeavor in creativity.

5. Bad art is usually just incomplete art. Opinion is entirely subjective to the viewer. As long as the creator’s intent is honest and true, the art is good. There is no hierarchy of value in creation beside the values of the individual. When the individual deems their piece bad, the piece is therefore unfinished and a step in the process towards being good. Some pieces are never finished as many artists give up. That failure to finish is ultimately a step in the learning process that will inform later, finished work. The only exception to this rule is creating something bad with “bad” as the intent. This is perversion of the artistic process and is not an authentic form of expression.

6. Only authentic expression results in art. Gimmicks and false emotions make for inauthentic results. Artists use their mediums to express themselves. When the “self” is replaced with something else, the artist is inherently disconnected. The results of such routines create superficial attempts at expression. This is commonly seen in artwork that is disconnected from artistic meaning and value. A portrait must have feeling ingrained in its process of creation or it is simply the work of shoddy camera. Every work that wants to be taken seriously must come from something authentic and human.

7. Welcome obstructions and failures. “The Enemy of Art is the absence of limitations.” – Orson Welles Obstructions come in many forms and they should be welcomed by artists as an important part of the process. Whether it comes as a limitation of material or “writer’s block,” a size constraint or a time limitation, a budget issue or government censorship; the artist will face a litany of obstacles in the process of creation. Looking to history, one finds that artists throughout time have faced these same obstacles only to overcome them in ingenious and inventive ways. These spaces created by the limitations and obstacles facing the artist are the most important, and usually this is where the most fascinating results lie.

8. Art says what words can’t. “Talking about painting: there’s no point. By conveying a thing through the medium of language you change it. You construct qualities that can’t be said but are always the most important.” – Gerhard Richter. Talking about artwork and evaluating the piece for different characteristics has a lot of educational value. Learning to speak about work helps us grow as artists by helping us understand the potential for different mediums expressive abilities. But there are many things in art that are intangible and beyond the limits of human language. If we could say these things, why would we make art? The dynamics of creating a visual expression explores multiple planes of human communication and understanding well beyond the limits of language. Sometimes a painting says what we are unable to say with emotions we don’t have words for. Art is a form of communication that may run congruent to the written word, but can’t be replaced by it.

9. Learning about Art is never complete.Speaking of artistic mastery is a strictly a relativistic pursuit. A three year old draws more competently than a two year old. A four year old better than a three year old and so on. Beyond that, the ability to compare seemingly disparate pursuits in the arts is challenging as no one is ever finished. No-one rests in art learning because each new piece is a lesson in action built upon skills learned in the past. The BFA or MFA is not the capstone of the art world because the pursuit of artistic knowledge is never complete. Start learning early and never stop.

Altered Book Response Journals

Students were asked to keep a journal with visual reflections on the many topics covered in class.  First students completed an identity map assignment (Congdon, Stewart & White, 2002) in which they examined their identity through 12 lenses: religious, gender and sexual, geographical, family, age, economic, political, recreational, aesthetic, racial, occupational, and health and body.  This exercise provided an opportunity for reflection on what each student values, believes, and how these aspects of their identities inform and influence their teaching and interactions with others.  The first entry in their altered book journal was a visual ranking of their top 3 identities. The second entry was a visual reflection of some aspect of class discussion.  At this point students handed off their journal to another student in class to respond to. No conversation on the content of these reflections was allowed.  Once students received their journals back, they created a visual response to what their peer created and this went on until each student had visual responses from everyone in the class.  During the last class students shared their reflections and it was amazing how in tune each student was to the visual reflections of their classmates.

Ginger Brinn’s Altered Book

David Robbins’ Altered Book





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