Photography by Ryan S. Brandenberg
Story by Maria Raha
The Department of Painting and Drawing in the Tyler School of Art has a well-earned international reputation: Two hundred museum exhibitions around the world have featured graduates since 2000, and the master’s program consistently is ranked among the top 10 in the nation by U.S.News & World Report. Last year, 225 artists vied for just seven graduate-student openings—an exclusivity that fosters an intimate environment and catalyzes successful careers.
A step inside a few alumni studios reveals the adventurous individuality of the Painting and Drawing program’s talented artists.
Freedom Through Process
Like the graffiti and mural art scenes that originally inspired Louis Cameron, TYL ’97, his current paintings use familiar images, such as logos, to examine U.S. consumption and to challenge the choices of American consumers and art collectors. In that series of paintings, Cameron used a process he discovered 10 years ago, while a student at Tyler.
“Tyler forced me to take a position on how to identify myself as a painter,” he says. “I came to art through graffiti art and mural painting, and I didn’t respond well to traditional ideas about painting. Neither did Beatrice Milhazes, a guest lecturer at Tyler. She talked about her process—painting on plastic and then transferring it to the canvas—as her way of dealing with the issues she also had with formalist painting. I realized that her process was a way for me to free myself in a similar way, and find my voice as an artist.”
Carl Fudge, TYL ’90, reinvents printmaking by reimagining and recontextualizing existing images. His latest collection of abstract, starkly contrasting works is based on early 20th-century woodcuts by English artist Edward Wadsworth. The latter’s works explored both the positive and negative effects of industrialization.
Fudge meticulously recreated and reassembled Wadsworth’s pieces to examine how we perceive technology today. Fudge—whose work is included in numerous public collections, such as the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Philadelphia Museum of Art and the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston—still has Tyler in mind when he conceptualizes his work.
“The program at Tyler stressed the importance of critical thinking,” he says. “Critiques were always thought-provoking and lively, which influenced the development of ideas that’s still central to my approach to making art.”
Rachael Gorchov, TYL ’01, has learned that the background scenes and experiences of everyday life can be creatively inspiring.
Her recent series of painted plates depicts the backdrop of many Americans’ experiences, such as highways and apartment buildings. Through those pieces, she is examining what kinds of messages typical suburban landscapes convey.
“Tyler encouraged me to appreciate that many of the [routine] things I do can be valuable to my work as an artist,” she says. “Now, as an adjunct instructor at Tyler, discussions and topics brought up in class bubble over into the artwork I make in my studio. For the past couple of years, I’ve been teaching a landscape class at Tyler. That material has made its way into this work.”
Often crafted in deceptively bright colors, the work of Liz Markus, TYL ’97, examines both her past and iconic cultural eras, with a fearless examination of their darker sides: Among other subjects, she has examined ’80s pop culture and has done a series of paintings that feature Nancy Reagan.
Markus has had three solo shows in New York City, and her work is a part of the collection of the Whitney Museum of American Art. She will curate her first exhibition this fall. Tyler inspired her to commit to becoming an artist.
“I was about to sublet Professor Dona Nelson’s studio, and I was hesitant about committing to it,” she says. “Dona sat me down and told me that I had talent, but that I had to get serious about it. She said that as a teacher, she noticed that female students had a harder time than men taking themselves seriously as artists. Dona challenged me to step up and be bold—and I did.”
Feats of Engineering
Throughout history, feats of engineering have been precluded by drawings. And since 2000, Stephen Talasnik, TYL ’79, has been creating wood sculptures—begun on paper—that are as meticulous in construction as they are fluid and expansive.
Talasnik’s recent public installations are sprawling. One such work, on exhibit during the 2011 season at the Storm King Art Center in Mountainville, N.Y., comprised 3,000 bamboo poles, and was approximately 15 feet high and 115 feet long. In addition to several upcoming drawing exhibitions in Europe, he is creating a floating public sculpture at the Denver Botanic Gardens in Colorado.
“I started doing really large drawings when I went to Temple Rome,” he says. “And through my teachers, I learned dedication. Roger Anliker would regularly spend at least two hours at a time in my studio; the record was about six hours. Another student had a critique with him that started one day and ended the next.”
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