I am extremely excited to be heading into Year 2 of the 3 year project, the Midwest Artist Studios™ (MAS) Project. I will be traveling from July 26 through August 1, 2015 to the following artists/cities/states – Mellissa Redman, Grand Rapids, Michigan; Kate Robertson, Ann Arbor, Michigan; Jenniffer Omaitz, Kent, Ohio; Ellie Honl, Bloomington, Indiana; Jessica Anderson, Jacksonville, Illinois; and Jason Ackman, Rushville, Illinois. In mid-August I will be visiting the John Michael Kohler Arts Center’s Arts/Industry to document Emmy Lingscheit, who is one of our featured 2015 MAS artists and a current artist in resident. In late September, I will finish our documentation/research by visiting Krista Svalbonas, Chicago, Illinois and Emmy Lingscheit, Urbana, Illinois.
The artists selected were based on their responses to an online survey focusing on Art Education, body of work, and a Skype interview.
Throughout our visits I will be introducing you to 8 amazing and talented artists from the Midwest working in printmaking to painting, sculpture to mixed media and collage to installation art.
– Frank Juarez
Here are two of the questions asked on our survey and the artist’s response.
Please share one positive Art Education experience that you had in middle school, high school or college.
While it is hard to select just one, all of my important moments came when an instructor granted me permission to follow my instincts. In college, I was pursuing a triple major in Painting, Women’s Studies, and Religious Studies. I found connections in all of these academic areas and was thriving with my personal research. But in a quick period of time, my sketchbook began to fill with ideas for sculptures and dimensional forms. I found myself unable to paint and felt this surge and urge to sculpt. This was tough on me, because I did not know anything about sculpture and held such a strong identity to painting.
After meeting with the sculpture professor at my school (now deceased, David Newton), he encouraged me to work independently with him and gave me the resources to begin sculpting. This meeting changed my life. Every professional and artistic accomplishment I have made since this meeting has roots in this initial discussion. David Newton, as an instructor, mentor, and artist, provided me with an academic framework to explore my own inner voice.
This is so important from an art educational standpoint, because the art classroom is a space for permission to thrive. It is a space to nurture empowered decision-making and self accountability. David Newton showed me that I can use the tools and theories that I had learned in all of my art classes and can apply them to the visions that are waiting within me.
Why is Art Education today?
Art education is absolutely essential. It is essential for students who are interested in a future in art and it is also essential for students who are not. While Art Education fosters art-making practices, it also provides students with tools and experiences that are applicable across academic and professional fields.
In the Art classroom, students learn to take risks. Students learn to strategize. It is a hands-on environment for materializing problem-solving practices and becoming familiar with their own relationship to success and failure. (I do not mean failure of my Class, but rather, when we try something and it does not work how we intended. “Failure” is relative and it is a moment that I celebrate with the student because it is a place of creative improvisation and discovery).
We learn to be human in an art classroom – we learn to be resilient, we learn to be self-motivated, and we learn the power of our own inner expression. I think that Art Education is THE most important class in a curriculum because it teaches students the power of their own potential, regardless of their “artistic” ability.
Part research, part design, part invention – Jessica Anderson’s work navigates the boundary between mind and body through a recontextualized lens of science, medicine, and biologic phenomena. Reminiscent of laboratory investigations, her invented scenarios answer questions with questions and provoke participatory explorations of the individual self.
Taking the position as neither a skeptic nor a promoter, her research examines the role of holistic healing practices in contemporary culture. She is interested in individual relationships within these mechanisms of health and provide viewers with opportunities to test their own boundaries of belief. Reframing practices such as a detoxifying footbath, a chi activation machine, and phenomenological exercises, her recontextualization of existing treatments heightens the tension of purpose, and provides viewers with neutral environments of investigation.
Merging factual information with reinvented application allows her to expand the dialogue of cognitive occurrences. For instance, EMDR therapy asks patients to lean their head to the left to access thoughts and to lean their head to the right to access feelings and emotions. Redirecting this information, she then asks: Is there a discernible difference between these two cerebral directions when drawing a line?
It is a question that can only be answered through experience, observation, and communally applied analytics.
In Anderson’s work, invitations for experience occur through demonstrative videos, interactive objects/devices, evocative statements of research, and performative exercises. Together, each of these installation elements create a multi-dimensional environment of investigative viewing, biologic questioning, and experiential answering. By repositioning scientifically grounded phenomena into the context of a gallery, information begins to transcend ratiocination and calls upon a physical conversation between mind, body, and personal experience.
Jessica Anderson currently serves as an Assistant Professor of Art at Illinois College in Jacksonville, IL. She received her BA in Studio Art from Guilford College in 2007 and her MFA in Sculpture from the University of Tennessee in 2013, where she served as a Graduate Teaching Associate and Director of the University exhibition space, Gallery 1010.
In her work, invitations for experience occur through demonstrative videos, interactive objects/devices, evocative statements of research, and performative exercises. Jessica has exhibited both nationally and internationally including an interactive outdoor installation on the border of Finland and Sweden in association with the Magneetti Foundation. Other exhibition sites include London, England, Toronto, Canada, and throughout the United States. Jessica has been an Artist-in-Residence at Spark Box Studio, in Ontario, Canada and a participant in the “Silence. Awareness. Existence.” residency at the Arteles Center in Haukijärvi, Finland.
All images copyright of the artist and used with their permission.