Visiting Artist Brings NY Studio Experience to Classroom

Published: Apr 23, 2010
Maria Cano ’10 can’t wait for figurative artist Steven Assael to come to UT this week.

She met him while on a March UT travel course to New York where the highlight was three studio visits with working artists. The fine arts major returned to school inspired to work on the basics of drawing.

“I stink at drawing, so I used to trace. I refuse to trace anymore,” Cano said. “It made me want to work more. I want to draw.”

She was “super excited” to hear that Assael will be coming to UT April 27-29 for a painting demonstration, drawing workshop and lecture, which is open to the public and will be held Wednesday, April 28, at 11:30 a.m. in the Scarfone/Hartley Gallery.

“He’ll start and finish a painting while he’s here,” said Assistant Professor Chris Valle, who is organizing the visit and who led the travel course. “I’d like to bring a visiting artist every year. It just happens that this year it connects back to the New York trip.”

Having a celebrity in their field interacting with UT students opens the doors to a whole new way of thinking, Valle said.

“It’s something that goes beyond what the faculty here could offer,” Valle said. “It’s another perspective to see.”

Hosting a visiting artist like Assael has a similar benefit to that of the New York trip: students get a quick immersion into the field they are studying.

“You can’t get an understanding of art or the art world just studying art history out of a book,” Valle said. “When you see it in person, you get that understanding.”

As a student, Valle participated in a similar trip which opened his mind to abstract art. He said the week-long New York trip immerses the students in art from the time they arrive to the time they leave, from museums to art shows to gallery and studio visits.

“The students get a better understanding of what it means to be an artist,” Valle said. “They get an idea about what it takes to get there.”

For Jeff Gibbons ’10, the trip served a practical nature. As someone who wants to work as an artist in conceptual sculpture, he wanted to know how to make that financially possible. He connected with one of the artists who told him how to do it: grants.

“I had been to New York a lot but never with the soul intent of seeing art,” Gibbons said. “Meeting the artists and talking to them, it was about how to be an artist for me, how to get there.”

This kind of exposure to working artists has the potential to impact the students’ work, Valle said.

“They are inspired in a way such that their work grows like it would over two to three semesters,” Valle said. “They get a sense of what is possible and what it really means to make art.”

Since their New York visit, Cano has changed technique, painting more from a distance.

“I took away from the trip a lot of the way Steve (Assael) approaches his painting,” Cano said. “When I was in his studio, I got to see all the detail, the color of his work. The pictures online don’t do it justice. I was amazed.”

For Kelsey Scott ’10, who went on the travel course, having individual time with artists puts them on a more accessible level.

“It made me feel like they are just like anyone else,” Scott said, initially intimidated by the professional level of artists like Assael. “They were so nice and real. When you read about them on the Internet, you never imagine you’ll meet them in person.”

Born in 1957, Assael focuses on the human figure, and his work is in numerous public and private collections including the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and the Art Institute of Chicago.

For more information, contact Chris Valle at cvalle@ut.edu.


Jamie Pilarczyk, Web Writer
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