Monday, January 25, 2016

Student Work from last semester's Soft Sculpture class

This past semester, Professor S. Portico Bowman lead the inaugural group of her new Soft Sculpture class. The class was created as part of the new direction of the art curriculum, which is now structured around courses on special topics that allow students to explore particular media and processes in depth. 

Professor Bowman's course was divided into four parts with themes of Earth, Air, Fire and Water. With each of those categories students were taught techniques, such a earth casting, sewing, felting, knitting, and paper-making. Students created a project inspired by each element that used one of the techniques. Additionally, the class also created a community service project and visited Guest Home Estates.  

"I think this was a good class for us as a department to create," says Bowman, adding, "I think I had a great group of students that helped make it so..."

This new course is part of a new structure for the art department that includes special topics courses for upper level students. For a full list of the courses offered by the art department, check the Schedule of Classes.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Automatism In Art: a student organized and curated exhibit

Pitt State art student Robert Raio drove by an old school desk that had been discarded on a curb next to some other trash. "I saw the desk and felt I could make it into something more," he says. That desk has become the centerpiece of a new exhibition in the Art  Connectors gallery space on the second floor of Porter Hall. Automatism in Art: Shining the Light on Doodling, the exhibition organized by Raio and other student artists, features doodles created in sketchbooks by student artists paired with fully rendered pieces based on those doodles in various media. Visitors to the exhibit are invited to doodle on the desk, which sits in the center of the gallery space. 

The exhibit, which includes the work of several PSU art students and two recent alumni, features work in an array of 2D media. Frames and shadow boxes to display sketchbooks with the students' original doodles were created by PSU Wood tech students from the saw club. Along with the student work and interactive desk piece, the exhibition presents information on the history and significance of automatism in art, including this curatorial statement:

“In art, Automatism usually refers to the accessing of material from the subconscious or unconscious mind as part of a creative process- as seen in the surrealist movement.” 
– Tate, British Museum of Art.

Practicing this in art is a challenge. To constrain your mind to letting go of rationality in the moment, while mechanically letting your hands create is a subconscious and/or unconscious process. When connecting this process in art of the surrealist movement, artists by extension were standing up against the “norm”. They challenged themselves, and others to explore curiosity and creativity in a more fluid approach. Research in neuroscience, psychology, and design has recently concluded that people who “doodle” are often better at grasping new concepts, and staying focused.  Doodling engages “default” networks in the brain that would ordinarily go dormant without external stimuli. The artwork displayed in this exhibit did not start with a preconceived notion. The exhibited artists were asked to freely doodle in their sketch books, and to let go of artistic rationality in relations to automatism in art. The exhibited artists were then asked to create a final piece using their doodle or doodles as structural form within their own creative composition.

"Automatism in art is important," says Raio. "Once an individual understands automatism and how to utilize it, they don't need to find inspiration to start creating work. Doodling is doing." He adds that he looks forward to seeing what the students who participated in the show may create moving forward from this experience, now that automatism is in their "art tool box." In addition to inspiring more students to integrate automatism into their process, the success of the show has inspired others to make plans to organize and curate future student exhibitions.

Automatism in Art's opening reception was held at 4pm on Thursday, January 14th. The show will remain up and open to the public through February 5th. 

Monday, January 11, 2016

Highlights from Professor Li-Lin Tseng’s Sabbatical

In the spring of 2015, Associate Professor of Art History Li-Lin Tseng took a sabbatical leave, during which time she took a three-week research trip to Asia. There she visited major film archives and libraries in Taiwan and China, including the Chinese Taipei Film Archive, the China Film Archive, the Shanghai Municipal Archive, and the Shanghai Library. This research will contribute to her book project, titled Shanghai Crossing: Early Chinese Filmmakers, Film Stars, and Film Critics and Their Many Encounters with the West, 1896-1937, which focuses on intellectual and technical changes and exchanges among early Chinese and European and American film professionals.

As part of her trip, Professor Tseng was very fortunate to have an opportunity to speak with other scholars in her field, such as the film producer and scholar, Liao Gene-fon, from the Department of Motion Pictures at the National Taiwan University of Arts. She was also able to arrange a visit with the grandson of Zheng Zhengqiu, the father of Chinese cinema. Professor Tseng is will soon publish an article examining Zheng’s cinematic art, so this visit provided her with a unique opportunity to probe into the inside story of Zheng’s work.

In Beijing, Professor Tseng also visited a number of historical sites and art communities, including the Forbidden City, the Ming Tomb, the Great Wall, and the 798 Art Zone. She is currently in the process of developing a study abroad proposal in order to take PSU students to visit these sites as well as other art communities in the near future.

In March, Professor Tseng was invited by the Confucius Institute at Savannah State University to give a talk, titled “From Shanghai to Hollywood: The Chinese and Chinese Cinema in America, 1896-1937, and After.” There she also I screened two films, A Trip Through China (1916) and Shadow Magic (2001).  Later that month she attended the 2015 Annual Conference of the Association for Asian Studies (AAS) in Chicago, IL, where she presented a paper, “‘Arrested Civilization’: John Thomson and His Travel Photography, 1873-1874,” for the panel “Seeing Qing China Differently.”  

Also during her sabbatical leave, Professor Tseng worked on several papers and proposals for conferences, including a paper titled Electrifying Illustrated News: Zheng Zhengqiu (鄭正秋) and the Transformation of Graphic Arts into Dramatic Cinema, 1910-1935,” which will appear in the peer-reviewed international journal, Twentieth-Century China (Maney Publishing) in 2016. She also presented her a paper titled “From Shanghai to Hollywood: Chinese Cinema in Transition, 1896-1937” at both the Mid Atlantic Region Association for Asian Studies (MAR-AAS) Conference and the Midwest Conference of Asian Affairs (MCAA) this year. Professor Tseng was able to take advantage of this opportunity for sabbatical leave and produce a great deal of work. This work will both further the conversation regarding this subject matter in her field, as well as inform her teaching to students of art history.