Barry Gealt’s Graduate Orientation Document, 2003

At Indiana University back in 2003, I began graduate school with an amazing cohort of artists and learners. We found a fiery mentor in Barry Gealt. The first day that we met as a group in a restaurant in downtown Bloomington, Barry gave us an orientation document full of questions and assertions. I present it below for posterity (and because Matt Choberka‘s request caused me to go dig it out of my long dormant graduate school notes).

Page 1

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Page 2

Screen Shot 2016-02-11 at 11.59.44 AMPage 3 – my first caricature of Barry…

Screen Shot 2016-02-11 at 11.59.49 AMAnd here’s a PDF of the whole thing if you’d like to save it: BarryGealt-GradOrientation2003.

Becoming The Student, #14: JJ

I’ve been teaching at The University of Missouri for seven years. In that time I’ve served on many graduate thesis committees and developed a number of great, long-lasting relationships with grads. But it wasn’t until Jane Jun arrived three years ago that I was a “Main Advisor” or “Head of Committee”. The opportunity to work closely with Jane for those years was a huge benefit to me. As Jane progressed through the program she made huge changes in her work and found ways to grow that were both necessary and surprising. She rose to meet difficult challenges when she really needed to. Her thesis work – which dealt with female Asian identity, diaspora/immigration, stereotypes, societal (and personal) expectations, as well as the ways portraiture and self-portraiture have been transformed in recent years – was illuminating and meaningful. Her thesis writing was excellent and was important for me, as the father of an adopted daughter from China, to spend time thinking and dialoguing about on so many levels. It was a privilege to be up close and see all of her work come together.

enchanter-whatgradclassisJJ and me at Shakespeare’s way back in her first year of grad school.

Now JJ is heading back to South Korea to begin her post-grad school life. I have to admit that the annual exodus of grads is hard for me. So much mental and emotional energy goes into working with my students, so much hope and desire for them to do well. Add to that my sentimental nature and you can probably imagine my mindset each May.

2014-05-18 23.02.38JJ and me at our last Shakespeare’s hangout last month. We point off into the heights of a glorious future.

In creating my Becoming the Student portrait of JJ, I wanted to maintain my method – a short session from observation, with only minor changes after the fact – while at the same time celebrating her achievement. I’m glad she agreed to pose in her cap and was willing to maintain a calm – if a tad pensive and sad – expression. If you know anything about her work (click here if not), you know that the seriousness of her pose and quietude of her face here are nothing like what you’d normally see in an image of her.

JJportraitJJ, MFA. Oil on panel, 8 inches in diameter, 2014.

I’ll sure miss her shouting “SIRRRRRR!” when she sees me.

I already do.

Inspiration: Natalie Hellmann

Natalie Hellmann, a wonderful ceramist and person, is holding her MFA Thesis Exhibition this month. She has been an absolute joy to work with over the last three years, and I know I’ve learned much that I would never have known if not for our discussions.

Aarik Danielsen talks to Natalie about her trajectory as an artist in this feature in the Columbia Daily Tribune.

And here’s a link to a shorter article about her and her show.

I was asked a number of questions about Natalie and her work for that short article. Obviously space didn’t permit them to publish all of my thoughts, so I want to include them here as a way to honor Natalie.


Interview Question: “What do you enjoy most about her growth as an artist since you’ve met her? How has she grown?”

My response: “I am most impressed with how Natalie has held onto the core things she has cared about for many years while at the same time found ways to grow in her understanding of the materials and integrated relationships of form, content, and emotion with which she has worked while in grad school. Practically, this means that she has made numerous attempts to invest her project with fresh investigations, often working with different forms, structures (and orientations of these two) in order to determine what felt right. In many ways what she presents in this Thesis work seems inevitable, as if it all just had to be. But this is not the case. Natalie has studied her own work and intuitive expressions while also looking to other artists, writers, and philosophers who seek poetical understandings of human experience rather than just rational, direct, closed meanings in that experience. Natalie’s work is thus not meant to function as didactic communication first and foremost. Instead, it has grown to become a kind of emotional sounding board, wherein viewers may, if they are inclined, examine themselves via the suggestions of the forms. The work is more about awareness of being than declaring some specific message. I enjoy the fact that I got to participate in her exploration, be around her welcoming spirit, and grow in my own apprehension of what art can do through my time with her. ”

Interview Question: “What do you think her viewers are going to enjoy most from her exhibition this coming week?”

My response: “I think that viewers who allow themselves to intuitively consider the objects and arrangements in Natalie’s show will find a resonance in their own past experiences of feeling, seeing and being. What I mean is that, to me, the strength of Natalie’s work has always been in its gentle invitation to participate in awareness and emotional connection to shapes, colors, and surfaces. Being with Natalie’s artworks is something akin to standing by a stream and looking at the smoothed stones beneath the undulating water – if you’re in the right frame of mind, your emotional and psychological experience can become one of calm awareness. I think that’s the “repose” that Natalie suggests in the title for her exhibition. I hope that viewers will both experience and appreciate that quietude and tenderness; it’s something not often seen in art.”

Thank you, Natalie, for your work, your spirit, and your presence.