Fine Arts Seminar (Houghton College)

thinking critically and building community around art and design

The MAG-Michael Jalbert

The Memorial Art Gallery is probably one of Rochester hidden gems. The MAG I found to be wonderful place were I could come see artworks spanning large genres of the art world. I loved the fact that they had one of Willie Coles work there.  During a more formal tour of the gallery, the curator when explaining a particular piece, I felt didn’t explain thoroughly enough to why the work was significant to the gallery. This could have been that she wasn’t expecting a large group. Other then that I found overall most of the work to in the MAG to be fascinating. I found it fascinating because no only did they have some more famous works by well know artists, but they also had a few local artists as well.  The Golden Books exhibit brought fourth nostalgia to me it was very personal. My grandma had almost every book mention in the exhibit. My grandma would read a book to me before going to bed when I was little. I had no idea that there were people behind those illustrations. Also it struck me as rather sad because recently she had a stroke and has a very hard time reading and those memories of hear reading those books to me hit me particularly hard because of those past memories and the things that she has and is going through with her recent stroke….. Switching gears I really enjoyed the infinity boxes. The fact that the infinity boxes were interactive made the experience more inviting for others. They allowed you to take and share photographs, which is not something normal gallery would allow you to do. The MAG did open my overall eye and mind to different artists and different works, which can hopefully inspire me for future, works. Finally, I was glad that this time we didn’t get lost like the last time and Chipotle!

~Michael Jalbert

Willie Cole

Spirituality is a major inspiration in the art world and for Willie Cole it was something that he grasped very well. I have personally always loved how Willie used irons in his work and how he was able to express those who he loved in his work as well. Like in his piece “Five Beauties Rising.” These signified the five most impactful women in his life. I believe this is what makes Willie Cole such an amazing artist. Taking the everyday object and treating it like a treasure to represent someone he loves to dearly. The texture of this piece as well also to me shows how the influences that these women left in Willie Coles life will be long lasting, I say this because of the aged look these pieces of iron has in them.

I also really enjoyed how intense Willie’s piece Stowage was. Just naming the piece “Stowage” is crazy impactful due to the fact that it refers to a human cargo ship to transport slaves. This woodcut print is one of the most well crafted I have seen. Willie had talked about how when he discovered this image in a history book (“Ebony Guide to Negro History”), it was a sketch of a chart and slave ship. “As soon as I saw that image, it looked like an ironing board to me.” So obviously Willie went to work!

Willie’s work has always been a crazy man crush favorite for Jillian and if it wasn’t for Jillian introducing me to Willies work I probably wouldn’t have been inspired to do my city semester in Buffalo working in the refugee community and allowing them in inspire my work to make a difference in the world.

Hayley Ellen Day

I Am Not Alone (and other things I unexpectedly learned)

Last class was unexpected.  I was prepared for a deep discussion that would require a lot of thought and understanding.  It was a refreshing surprise to find out that we would be playing games (and I love games since I’m the most competitive person).  It felt like a time meant to forget some of the things I was worrying about and just have a laugh (those moments seem scarce lately).

By the time there was only 20 minutes left, I realized that there hadn’t been much discussion, which frankly I was okay with.  It was in those last few minutes that Alicia just hit us with all the things that I find myself constantly thinking about.  It’s not like I hadn’t heard these things before either.  It just felt different hearing it from someone who has experienced everything we are going through and recently.  And it’s the whole phenomenon where you realize, oh, I’m not the only one who thinks about this stuff constantly.  But let me tell you what stood out to me the most.

*DON’T BE SCARED* Sounds easy right?  No.  It’s actually so hard.  My mind thinks all the time about what I am going to do once I graduate (which is looming ever closer) and how I’m going to continue my life as an artist.  Reality is, I don’t need to know right now.  I just have to take it one step at a time.  Work through what’s happening now and keep on keeping on (which leads me to my next point).

*DON’T STOP* Being a hardcore perfectionist means being extremely dissatisfied with a lot of my work.  I get to that point where I think, well since it’s not going to work out, why bother making it?  Well, let me tell you why.  In a perfect world, everything you make will be exactly how you imagined it and everyone will fall in love with your work.  Just because a piece of art doesn’t work as a whole, doesn’t mean that there aren’t going to be aspects that you will learn.  It’s all part of the process.  And this is something that I struggle with every day.  So often my ideas don’t even leave my sketchbook or even the contents of my mind.

*MENTORS* I can’t stress how important this can be throughout your life.  I can say that I have lacked mentors in the past and have watched from afar as others grew in different areas of life because of the people pouring into them.  You NEED to find those people who share your ideas or have the way of thinking you want to acquire and get everything you can from them.  But more than that, I believe that we have a duty to reach out to others and be a mentor to them.  I see people going through the same things I did when I was younger and wishing for someone to tell what on earth was going on.  I think there is always something you can teach someone else.

And so, to conclude this much longer reflection than I had anticipated (I guess that means this class impacted me), being an artist is difficult and there are a lot of obstacles that can get in the way.  But since when did anything happen just because you willed it to (never thats when)?  You just have to trust that all your hard work will pay off and never stop making work.  This is what you love and wouldn’t it be worth it to do what you love for the rest of your life?  Also, look around you!  You are probably surrounded by all these other artists who are thinking about the exact same things.  So talk to them!  They understand you like no one else can.  I know that having my friends has been one of the most important things that I obtained from my time here.  Being in an art program has so much to offer so take advantage of it (seriously)!

~Alex Hood

Livelihood: A Discussion by Alicia Taylor

Livelihood- a means of securing the necessities of life

Reflecting upon the class discussion that Taylor facilitated, I continually return to her saying, “Believe in yourself and what you want to accomplish, it will propel you forward.” I think this is profound regardless of it’s simplicity.  It is up to you personally to find what makes sense to you, what moves you, challenges, and excites you.  Without this understanding, you are forced to rely upon others to put your dreams into action.  That is super immobilizing.  There is a significant importance in self-knowledge.  Especially as artists, we are designed to recognize the connections that others are blind to.

When I’ve told people that I am studying art, I am given the response, “What grade do you want to teach?”  While teaching is incredibly important, I do not plan on teaching.  There is a perception that if you want to do art, you will either be teaching and/or poor.   As a result I found the fishbowl game we played to be awesome in recognizing the wide expanse of jobs and possibilities in the field of art.

Another aspect of the discussion that I found to be valuable was realizing the importance of criticism.  While criticism can be disheartening, it also serves as an opportunity for growth. Criticism allows you to be informed about your work and process and causes you to improve.  As a result it is possible to develop a creative identity and be fulfilled through the series of actions it took to get where you are now.

-Amanda Irwin

Madison Murphy – by: Amanda Irwin

In listening to Madison Murphy speak, I was thoroughly impressed by her incredible passion towards her practice and field.  It was extremely refreshing to hear her talk about her first influences and beginning interest in the field as well as the personal realization of the importance animation has in her life.  As someone who is unfamiliar with animation and that process, I found Murphy’s talk to be interesting and engaging.  Through her explanation of the animation process I have a greater appreciation of this track within the art world.

I always find it to be helpful to hear the story of Houghton Alumni as well.  In looking toward the future, it is hard to picture myself in the “real” world, working within a line of work that interests and pushes me to learn more.  I think it is really easy to get stuck in the bubble that is Houghton and forget about the external experiences that are available.  Murphy was really helpful in showing the way in which Houghton helped her realize what she wanted, how she was able to attain it and where she stands within the world of animation.

After being able to contemplate Murphy’s talk, I want to take away the excitement she embodied.  I am not personally invested in animation, yet the way that Murphy spoke of her interests, made me interested.  I believe that quality to be very admirable.  I would like to feel the same about whatever I work in and have my enthusiasm cause others to be interested as well.

Don’t Be a Chicken…

When young children are asked what they’d like to be when they are “grown up,” they usually jump to fill in the blank with something like a baseball / softball player, teacher, builder, or artist. Every now and then, a college student will share in this enthusiastic certainty about what calling or occupation he or she wishes to purse with his or her education. But for many of us, we’re still wonder what possible direction our major and interests will take us.

In her interactive presentation last Thursday, Professor Alicia spoke directly about this issue faced by many students. Some Power Point slides, a game of charades, and fish bowl (complete with a G. B. impersonation) later, Alicia encouraged students to be bold in their efforts to search for and carve out a livelihood relating to art. She emphasized that in this undertaking, there is not necessarily a destination to be reached, but explained it instead as a process.

In the lecture, the importance of being well-rounded, personable, and able to accept constructive criticism and grow from it were insightful and practical pointers for students wondering where to begin and how to proceed after college graduation. Initially, there may have been traces of student skepticism regarding the participatory portions of the presentation, but overall, the evening’s interactive seminar was a constructive break from the norm of traditional lectures.

-Meredith Guffey

Madison Murphy

Among all of the artists invited to share about their work, Madison Murphy stands out in my mind as one of the most effective speakers. I know too little about character animation to comment on her skill level (though she does hold an MFA from SCAD), but after hearing her speak my interest in the subject was definitely piqued. There’s a lot to be said about artists who are experts in their field. However, I believe an artist who wants to leave an impression on the world around them needs more than pure skill. Human attitudes toward artwork-or most anything-is never purely subjective. Put simply, we care because other people prompt us to care. This can be done in a variety of different ways. Madison Murphy inspired me to think about the value of character animation by presenting it as an effective way of storytelling. She used a variety of examples that her audience recognized as familiar favorites, such as clips from Disney’s Tangled and The Lion King, as proof that animation is relevant. She encouraged me to consider the role of animation in shaping worldview by referencing animated films that were part of my childhood. Murphy’s tangible enthusiasm was also important to the success of her presentation. It can be hard to listen to someone who’s interest in the topic they’re speaking about is ambiguous even when the subject itself is interesting. A speaker who can show that they believe in the relevance and value of their topic will be so much more effective. Last but not least, Madison Murphy maintained a good balance of personal experience and factual information. Though I came into the class knowing next to nothing about Character Animation, I was able to leave with enough knowledge about what’s involved in the process to appreciate it as a career. I also have an idea of how I might go about pursuing a career in character animation as a result of what Murphy shared about her own experience in the field. Though she was unlike many of the speakers I remember from past classes, Madison Murphy’s talk was a valuable example of the many different vocations available to me as an artist.

Stacia Gehman


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