The NET-ART 2020 academic calendar is now accepting submissions on a rolling proposal basis in the following criteria:
Electronic Media / Experimental Pedagogy
VIDEO ART / Experimental Film
NET-ART (Works created in and displayed in a web browser)
Class / Course Collaboration
Digital & Analog ZINEs
Curatorial (A Curated Group Exhibition)
Related “Otherness” pitched to us
Looking for useful tools, apps & tutorials to get your submission started?CLICK HERE!
Looking for examples of “what” has been submitted previously? Explore here!
The NET-ART Submission Guidelines:
Submissions may be generated by CUNY faculty, students of all levels, alumni & community members. CUNY classes/courses may also submit collaborative proposals as a group. CUNY faculty & students may also collaborate with others from outside of CUNY as well.
All submitted works will be featured and published as individual blog posts as well as added to existing galleries on the NET-ART website.
Depending on the submission’s proposal, relevant and in context, various submissions will be published and exhibited as an individual page created specifically for the project.
All submissions should be described in written detail with a clear vision, context and meaning. Supporting images and links should be provided as well.
Authors of the submissions and their collaborators must be willing to participate, respond to comments and expand upon their projects with incoming queries via the commons, twitter and beyond.
The purpose of exhibiting submissions in various categories displays a platform for creative and experimental methods of pedagogy. Please consider how your work will contribute to a larger whole that will be archived for teaching, learning, reference and posterity.
We anticipate your submissions!
Question, Proposals & Submissions can be sent via e-mail or via Twitter to:
Here are some things that you can do to help spread Deaf Awareness at your campus, in your department, in your school, classroom, community and beyond. This post has context. Im a Deaf and Hard of Hearing college professor teaching here in CUNY. This post is about representation, advocacy and awareness.
This month you can help spread awareness about Deaf culture, what it means to be Deaf & Hard of Hearing (HofH) and experiencing the various spectrums of hearing loss. You can get involved and be proactive, here are a few ways to take-action, and by all means, SHARE THIS WIDELY!
What is it like to Deaf? Check out this video!
Understanding comes through Awareness, lets dig in: even awareness takes practice!
1. Learning, Sharing and Informing your Family, Friends, Colleagues and Students:
First, spread the word by sharing this post! Simply talking about Deaf Awareness Month is a great start. Let other people know by reaching out. This can easily take place in a department meeting, in the classroom, via a group e-mail or by creating an event or meet up to discuss. In your department, reach out to the Human Resources office and ask about the resources your campus offers. This may mean connecting to a specific person in charge or the office of accessibility / disabilities on or off the premises. If there aren’t any current resources, (and sadly, there may not be) then it is time to create them! Let this post be a guide and a starting point. Again, awareness is everything!
Obviously, the Internet is filled with tons of resources, here are a few to help get you started and inspired!:
1. Learn A Sign Language: It’s time to learn a sign language! Here in the USA we use ASL, also known as American Sign Language. ASL is beautiful! It is an official foreign language. Even learning the basics of fingerspelling and the ASL alphabet goes a very long way. I’m a big fan of smartphone applications like:The ASL App
There are a lot of options! Choose one and get started!
Above: Now you know how to finger-spell ” BROOKLYN” in the American Sign Language Alphabet 🙂
For those of you here in NYC (and beyond as remote classes are now fully in place) I highly recommend taking classes atthe Sign Language Center– they are so wonderful! I am a student there and cant say enough about how great they are!
SeveralCUNYcolleges (and private colleges) also offer ASL classes at the beginner level (did you know that?) Take a peek at your college’s course catalog or do a search for ASL / the name of your college, online.
3. Join orCreate a Sign Language Group: All colleges and university campuses have an allotted “club-hours” time each week for clubs on campus (and now remotely as many of us work, teach and attend classes from home.) Does your campus already have a Sign Language group or club? Inquire! If not, perhaps you can use the club-hours time to form an ASL club and practice learning Sign Language together. Learning with a friend or a group of people is a great way to inspire, encourage and motivate each other.
4.Support! Reach out to your local Deaf & Hard of Hearing Communities: This means, People, Businesses, Organizations and Groups! Once again, by reaching out to your campus HR dept. and or office of disabilities / accessibility and make an inquiry about how to get involved and who the contact names are for various groups, communities, events and businesses. Reach out!
5. Creativity – Go on and Create Something to Express Yourself: I made most of the animations in this post specifically for Deaf Awareness Month. You can get creative too! This can be done individually or in your classroom, it can be done with your department and fellow faculty members, administrators and staff. Collaborate! Make a sign, make a flyer, make a poster or a digital illustration. Hang them up around your department offices and in your classrooms online and offline. Get creative! Im going to be launching a multi-campus wide project soon to bring further awareness, I will be reaching out to YOU!
6. Closed Captions, Accessibility & Inclusion – (THIS MEANS YOU!) – It is time to caption your videos and video meetings, yes, all of them! Its long overdue, its time to be inclusive and to provide accessibility for all. From now on, use ONLY a video conferencing application that has live and real time captions. Record your videos with captioning and make transcriptions available.There are so many platforms available today that work really well, they all provide transcripts and or the ability to record the video with captions. Zoom & REV, Google Meet, Skype, & MS Teams are just a few to name. This is the perfect month to take action and make the necessary changes, updates and adaptations so that all communication is inclusive and accessible. As a college professor teaching all of my courses remotely this semester, I have been using Zoom with the REV add-on for live and real time captions (I am 100% dependent on captions). I find that these two tools together work best for me and my disability. The captioning is fast and consistent while Zoom gives me the ability to see all of my students and select how I want to see the speaker/speakers in a full composite meeting. Yes, I lip and speech read! When I record my classes, I automatically record the captions and also produce an audio and text transcription.
Contact me! Want to learn more, chat, connect and create some kind of an awareness based creative project with your students, class or faculty members? I’m here to help! e-mail here – email@example.com
(Read the description here first as it is the assignment’s example)
The Trickery of a Memories Memory..
“The Elusive Memory of Memories from a project about how we think we process Memory” 2020, Digital Ink Jet Print.
(adhered to a brick wall with a temporary adhesive , 1/1 edition)
Context – the digital ink jet print is a photograph of a sculpture. Sculpture origins display the human need to “attempt to make things last forever”, however, this sculpture has melted. Its a reminder. As a Deaf person, I constantly think that I remember the way that certain things used to sound. There is stored memory of those memories. Its a series of fragments and what I choose to tell myself. The image was printed – which is another metaphor of a reproduction to access the past. The past was “cut to its contour” taken from its original digital photograph of the outdated hard-drive mold that was cast in red colorize water. The color red was used to imply visual heat and the passion of emotion, but the nature of temperature applies its earthly laws.. The water was frozen and a cast positive replica was released and composed onto a table. (As I “recall” the capturing process) The cast object was photographed and taken as a metaphor to preserve the ephemerality and the array of lifetime stories that we tell ourselves.
We can always rewrite the story… right?
This is the original digital photograph of the actual cast / frozen mold of the hard drive, can you tell the difference? This cast weighs 2 pounds – the digital one above is as light as a feather..
Title: The Digital Displacement of an Object displayed as a Metaphor
In this assignment you will need:
Access to a printer and the ability to print an image. An image that you would like to work with (think a digital photo that you will take with your phone) and the ability to crop, trim and manipulate the image once it has been printed. A scissor or an x-acto knife will help. Oh, and some form of temporary adhesive like tape will come in handy!
Concept: Connect an object with a metaphor and then place or displace the object “someplace” to display its context. Take a photo of the “piece” as a whole and create a blog post about it. (Yes, you can take take more than 1 image or work with video). Please take a photo of the object before and after / process of the final result. (see my example above).
Considerations: Connect to a object. Most objects and things that we use each and everyday have intentional and specific purposes. Think about recyclable containers. For example, a water bottle. We usually don’t think much about it, we drink the water and then dispose of the empty water bottle. We rarely think that the bootle has a specific form, it was designed on purpose to be held by our hands. What happens if we strip the empty bottle of its logos and labels and paint the object one solid color? The context changes, we “see” the objects for its shape and form. If we extend this to a metaphor, an object like an empty water bottle asserts itself as a vessel. A container that can hold volume and fluids. Those fluids can be effected by temperature.. get it? Have fun!
(yes, you can always complete this assignment purely digitally if you do not have access to a printer, but seek applied art & design alternatives first – think drawing or collage)
Publishing: After you have crafted your art work and photographed all of the elements, generate a compelling blog post about the process and the meaning of the art. Your approach may be in a narrative “how-to” format much like this assignment description (haha). Or, perhaps your approach is fictional in the form of a short story.
*A gallery of completed artwork will be gathered from all students and participants and later exhibited here on this website.
Reach out with questions here: firstname.lastname@example.org
The short video below is a series of snippets taken from various aspects of the project that will help you technically.
Let cut out some pieces, parts, shapes and fragments to compose with. Yes, they are “planes” again, but rather than working on the wall in a relief format, lets create a free standing composition that functions on table surface. As you can see in the video above, leave space at the base of each form so that you can bend and curl it over to create a right angle. This angle will allow for the piece(s) to free stand as you glue them down.
If you follow my examples above and below, notice that “spacial distance” plays a role in how the pieces create entrance ways for light and shadow to play a role. Working with forms that are cut in various heights and widths will also play a role in the overall visual aesthetic.
Below, you can see an example of how you can create “an environment” for your piece to exist in. Perhaps this give a bit more context to the design itself? In this case, I have simply created a gallery simulation by adhering 2 pieces of thick paper together and placing an additional piece on the table surface.
A thicker type of paper works best for this, Im using bristol paper above (11″ x 14″ inches) The nice part about this idea is that you can now use the viewfinder of your capturing device to “crop” the forms into the “gallery” as you take photos of the piece as a whole. See below.
Here is the composition of vertical forms glued down onto the surface of the table, and placed into the gallery simulation. The image directly below is a bird’s eye perspective with the natural light in the room hitting the piece. My ambition is to share the space and spaces between each free standing form.
In this example Im using the same light sources from the previous 3 tutorials (links above). Im a big fan of using light sources to create shadows, effects, filters and moods. These flashlight light sources can also layer over each other and create secondary colors.
The next series of images below are a mixture of my light source set up, process and final outcomes. Please share your feedback and work via URL in the comments section below! Feel free to hack and remix this assignment and its guidelines.
I hope that this post will serve as both inspiration and an example to create your own variations this fall 2020.
“Passing Through Woodside” 2018 – 2020, is a series of digital art works that built a narrative from a single image. This series is a perfect example of how a moment in time can turn into a series of art works that tell a story. And I do mean a creative narrative that is full of metaphors and the opportunity to express one’s self. Im working on this blog post retroactively because it all actually happened that way. Its a good example of how my mind works and always sees the potential of a single moment. We all do this with our memories and I find it so much fun to retell the stories in a process format (which will turn into an assignment for a class for sure). Well, you will have to scroll down and follow along if you want to get to the point, and the context, and the “how-to” aspect of things. As always, Im happy and grateful to share my work and process. Blogging, AKA “digital storytelling” has been the most effective tool and road mapping exercise to show myself how I see and try to understand the world..
Above, behold, the seamless loop! I know that this animation is probably the least interesting thing in this post but its a big accomplishment for me. Its was the first time I was able to create a seamless looping animation using adobe after effects and applying a snippet of code </> into the interface’s animation timeline. The short code is – loopOut[“cycle”] – and when this snippet of code is added to the position of the keyframe of the movement of that particular image, it will seamlessly loop onward, forever… ok, there is a bit more to it that that but this is the “jist” and it has led me to push this whole story further. This animated GIF above is an abstracted version of the Woodside train station in Woodside, Queens, NYC.
The looping animation from above this one (the first GIF)… well, it became the background for this. After a while of watching it loop I saw that it was not really that compelling on it own. Am I wrong? Plus, no one would really recognize the Woodside station, would they? Do you? I placed a similar visual aesthetic and sequence of images over the background to begin to tell a deeper story. Perhaps this all looks seemingly fictional, but its not! Here, I can add some context based on real world events at the time of this images creation. I wore a mask for the 1st time on the last day that I took the train to work before the NYC lock-down. It was a weird experience for sure. The train was actually empty.. Above, we see a person wearing a mask (its me). Im all about keeping myself and others safe as this incredible Coronavirus continues to spread and baffle me. However, once the rest of the world started wearing masks, I realized quickly that I no longer had access to read lips, speech read, follow facial expressions and most other forms of visual communication.. Im deaf and hard of hearing, so do the math. This sequence above became an expression of that. “How am I going to communicate now with people talking to me through a mask?” This was not easy at first. I applied an outdated endlessly ringing phone into the sequence, its a symbol, a phone that no one will ever answer.. remember that I mentioned metaphors?
This was the initial vector portrait of myself placed against the “mirrored” version of the station image. I still like the image very much as a “picture / portrait / illustration” but I quickly got the idea to add more context and motion to help tell a story.
Is the story as interesting with out the ringing phone as we saw two images above? Notice the “glitch effect” used in that version to help the viewer see that the phone was not answered, and even if it was, all I would “hear” is a subtle yet crackling distorted garble…
More context! Here is the 1st vector image of the Woodside station that I redrew using the Assembly app for iPhone, I started working on this in 2018 at some point. I used my train time to work on it a little bit at a time every other day or so. I then later transferred the illustration to adobe illustrator to help tighten it up a bit. I made a lot of improvisations but really love how this turned out. The original image that started all of this is below..
Yes. This is where it all started. A single snap shot. It was a dark dreary day, rain was on the way as I waited for my 8:39am train to Jamaica. I live for this stuff! It was a perfect composition right in front of me. I switched the iPhone over to black and white mode and snapped a whole series of this moment in images. I love this structure and it transports me back to being a kid. The station is long over due for an overhaul and update, and Im sure it will happen soon, so having this series of images makes me happy as I hold onto old NYC!
ROOFTOP PERSPECTIVE REFLECTING (kinda yelling in caps)
About this assignment: Let’s generate a new blog post that shares a “shift in your perspective about something” and how you became aware of your process. Be sure to share compelling media to support and help “paint this picture.”
Here is my example below.
Sometimes, or maybe more than sometimes, a literal change of one’s physical perspective can help change a conceptual perspective of how we are thinking about something. I know, this is not anything new, but metaphors can play a role and always remind us.. Lets call that “something” a problem, issue or circumstance that we are trying to solve. It could simply be a design problem, or just trying to see something in another light. Perhaps the main inducer of the solution process is the “shift of action” in and of itself. Meaning, we momentarily and very consciously shift the internal self-reflecting conceptual focus to a new physical location of focus. However, the physical focus should be “different” than the one where you were conceptually pondering (over and over and over..). The new physical locational focus must be a geographical one (Im not saying you need to go miles way.. but I suppose that you could.. but lets not for this sake). Its got me thinking metaphorically. There is more context to this “not so new theory” of mine. Im working on a few new projects that started this week as well as trying to complete a few that have been ongoing for about 2 months. Some are art commercial projects / client design work projects, while others are my own personal art works, mainly new paintings. Either way, I have been over-thinking about both. The images in this post helped me find a few solutions, just by going up to the roof, just by making a shift in the moment.
When you live in NYC its only a matter of time before the rooftops begin to summon you. You must comply in some way. The sheer curiosity and knowingness that a larger panoramic view of expansiveness awaits. Of course, some rooftops are more available and accessible than others. Some are just not, on purpose and some completely lack accessibility all together.. For many years now we have all been watching the NYC skyline expand. Yes vertically but also horizontally. Of course your viewing ability depends on your geographical location but the lower Manhattan skyline has seemed to compose itself into the downtown Brooklyn skyline. That one has integrated into the Long Island City skyline. I particularIy first noticed this on the Kosciuszko Bridge (which connects Queens to Brooklyn) heading towards the Williamsburg Bridge about 10 years ago. Then again, I also remember when the Williamsburg bank was always the tallest building in Brooklyn..
Subconsciously I knew that I could take some great photos from above but it wasn’t my intention at first, and these are not great technical photos by any means (they are however good sketches for the next photoshoot with a tripod though!) When I arrived, not only did I shift my location, but I shifted out of the “stuck” over-thinking space I was in only minutes before. And then the insights flow in, nothing is ever static and nature will always remind of this, even in the concrete playground. With-in minutes the light began to change and once again I was reminded that things can always be another way.
I wanted to participate creatively, and responsive I became. I switched the filter on my phone to black and white snapped off a series of shots. There is so much power in the immediacy of creativity, we just need to show up, get out of our way and allow. By this time, I was now fully present in this great experience, it was not anything new but yet it was and it induces the gratitude and reverence for just being alive. Which we seem to forget way too often!
The moral of all this? Take breaks. When we feel over-tired and or over extended mentally, emotionally or physically, take a break. Take walk, take a drive, go up to the roof, shift.
This post is part 2 of the Paper, Light & Storytelling Project – be sure to read Part 1 first 🙂 – go HERE
Welcome to Part 2! Lets add some compelling light to our piece. After cutting and organizing your pieces onto the wall lets talk about options for how they can become radiant, dramatic and full of emotion. Color plays a role in how we connect to feelings, emotions and temperature. So, how did I capture all of these images? What kind of light source did I apply?
Scroll down below and lets see..
I found these little flashlights on amazon.com. Its a 4-pack consisting of a red, blue, green and white light set. It was $20.00 well spent. The lights are really powerful and the beauty of working with the primary colors is that you can layer them and make secondary colors. (example – layer red and blue together and you will “make” purple). Here is the link to that set.
Next, “how” did I set this all up? My next purchase was this flexible table clamp for smart phones. I’m a teacher, and lately, I have been doing a lot of remote and online teaching (as you know) so this was an essential tool to add to my arsenal of techniques. The link to the armature is here. This was $22.00, and again, it was well worth it. Im making a ton of tutorials these days so.. Please note, you do not need to purchase any of these items to capture your work or apply light sources. In fact, I encourage you to be experimental and try out variations with natural light, the filters that come with the “editing” feature on your phones, and to push the limits of the lighting that you have access to. For example, taking a lamp shade off one of your household lamps and pointing it at the sculpture.. Or using the flashlight feature on an old smart phone, or a flashlight from a friends phone. Friends and family become collaborators this way! Most smartphones also have a timer so that they can set up their shot and let the phone do the work. Tripods really can help.
Above, I not set my iPhone into the armature and set the timer for 10 seconds. Those 10 seconds give me time to play with the positioning of the flashlights as they project their light onto the wall. Above, I layered the green and blue flashlights for this capture. I held the green light in my hand and set the blue light up propped on a stack of napkins pointed from the right side of the wall. The distance of the light sources play a role, so have fun with that!
This capture displays the use of the white flashlight coming from the right hand side of the wall. I was relatively close to the wall and set the timer on my iPhone for 10 seconds held on the armature tripod. It is a little over exposed but I like how it brings the texture out of the wall and the gradient of the paper as it appears to diminish.
I removed “one paper element” from this image above, which was an intention of altering the composition subtly, can you tell?
This capture is slightly fuzzy and blurry. This is an example of me holding both the red and blue flashlight and layering the light on top of each other. If you are mixing paint, red and blue will make a value of purple. I had turned off the background lights to maximize the capture. I really like the effect, and wonder if this would “look” more 3D if I have 3D glasses.. which I think I do…somewhere, in some closet..
This image has simply been turned 180 degrees. Does it help the composition work in another way? Do you like it better this way or as you see below? The images below are also variations with over exposures and contrast tweaking using the filters on my iPhone. Have fun and share your work!
How-to make an Ephemeral Paper Sculpture.. from Home!
Here is a fun tutorial that you can follow along with (from home) through this post. This blog post is both the assignment and the example for how you may choose to create and publish your own work. This is part 1 of the process for the creation aspect of things, I will publish a “Part 2” with another tutorial for creatively pushing the documenting of the art work in a few ways. Feel free of course to improvise with any additional materials or hack the whole project to expand your own examples and storytelling. The goal is to publish your process and narrative into a compelling sequence of events!
*Please e-mail a selection of your best final images to email@example.com – a collaborative image gallery will reside on this website.
Paper, Light, Shadow & Storytelling – Lets make a Paper Sculpture.
First, the essence of the project is to create and investigate 3D form through storytelling. The form(s) that we make will serve as the content for your blog post. Lets put an emphasis on making a “subjective form”. We can get great practice in by narrating and detailing our steps. We can do this with some pretty common household materials too. Lets jump in! Grab some standard typing/printing paper, tape, a glue stick, a pair of scissors, a wall or table top surface and an external light source (flashlight). Let’s ask ourselves: “self, what are the potentials of form using paper, shadow and light by generating “a new forms” into existence through our creative immediacy? In my example below Im using a relief application by adhering my pieces to the wall, but you can also work on another flat plane if you wish. Keep the word “perspective” in mind as the documentation process plays a big role later on.
As we scroll below the images will begin to “paint a picture” of the process but we can help it along and make it more compelling by the “way” that we assert the process. Adding your personality and sense of humor is certainly one option. We can also apply accessibility and inclusion by adding text to support the images. We can do this both below the image and placed into the “alt-text” area when we “edit” the image itself.
Notice, Im using a simple shape, a circle, and Im altering its height by applying scale variations to my individual pieces. Subtle variations go a long way. So do multiple units of one single shape. Oh, and photography plays a big role in capturing your work in progress and the final outcomes as the sculpture itself is ephemeral… or is it?
Artist references – What artists work with or have worked with paper?
Li Hongbo, Felix Semper, Elsa Mora, Kara Walker (and many more, what did you discover?)
Jump in! (Im going to project some fun colorful light sources on this same piece once it gets dark tonight).
Have fun and be sure to publish your post here on the Commons – add your URL here in the comments section below!
*PS –*Please e-mail a selection of your best final images to firstname.lastname@example.org – a collaborative image gallery will reside on this website.
*Part 2 will also publish on this blog soon!
Gather your materials – a cutting mat (cardboard also works) transparent tape, a glue stick(bond version), a pair of scissors, an X-Acto knife and some regular printing paper.
2. Cut your paper into strips (as many as you would like, but think of at least 10 or more) using the X-Acto knife or the scissors, apply the glue stick to the edge of one side of the strip that you have cut.
3. Carefully fold over the paper and apply pressure to the edge as it meets the glue. Hold in place for a few seconds.
4. Cut a strip of your transparent tape and from it into a loop. (you will be repeating this process)
5. Once the circular form is ready, place the loop of transparent tape to the same side where you joined the two ends of your paper.
6. Apply the tape and repeat the process as needed to start composing your fragments.
7. This is an example of the various pieces that I cut out and glued together. Notice, they consist of various heights and diameters, this is called Scale and it creates variation.
8. Begin the composing process by organizing and adhering your pieces. (Your first idea is NOT your only idea so play around with this a bit).
9. Add more pieces.
10. Keep Going!
11. Looking good, add more!
12. Finished! I used all of my pieces and took this image with the natural light that was present at the time.
13. You can certainly see that LIGHT plays a role in the enhancement of the mood and overall aesthetic… what will you do?
*OK if you made it this far, here is a teaser from the light projection captures! Coming soon!
(please click on an image above to expand the gallery)
Absence of Presence, 8 Scenes from the Quarantine..
I write this on April 18th at 3:55 PM, Brooklyn, NYC. I would like to share this small series of images with the intention of expressing the perplexing absence of presence that has become ever so much more, well.. present. The images have a date range taken from Tuesday, March 10th through Thursday, April 16th 2020. Wednesday, March 11th was my last day of face to face teaching as CUNY did not shut down officially until Thursday March 12th. I had an evening class on Wednesday, March 11th that runs from 5:30 PM – 9:15 PM. Only 4 students out of 25 showed up that night. Upon arriving at my classroom, I realized that the chancellor had made an official shut-down announcement that went out via e-mail and text-alert at 5 PM. We all went home after a very very brief discussion and shared the same confused sentiment.
The images above are apart of my daily transportation routine. A walking routine that has been disrupted, shut-down and replaced. I say that with conviction, it is rightfully so at this time. The images above were all taken with my iPhone 8 using the Noir filter that is a part of the default camera setting. Most of the images were taken upon immediacy from an inner nudge. The images are about the metaphor of perspective and making a connection between extreme contrasts in one’s normal visual space. However, “space” itself is also an inner thing, there is just as much inner space inside of us. Are we beginning to fill it differently and look at it taking on a new awareness? I am, are you?
This experience has reminded me, as it has before, and will continue to again and again; “expect the unexpected.” The word “life” in all of its wonders and all of its cliche’s pokes at me over and over as I stay home and ride the hills and valleys of my psychology. Not all of this is bad, we must find the sliver lining both individually and collectively. We need to feel and emote and share and help, and then repeat that process as this situation will continue for a while.
Things can change so quickly, and so suddenly, the images above are a reminder.
(Be-Yond) How to Write Your MFA Thesis in Art (And Beyond)
OK, so, its time for an update, perhaps this is a little bit over due? Compassion people, compassion.
The original title of this post is: “How to Write Your MFA Thesis in Fine Art (And Beyond)”, it remains the most visited and frequented blog post that I have written… ever. I originally published this “mini-guide” to my personal website in November of 2014. It remains in the top search results on the subject however something fun happened in recent years. When I later brought the paper over to the Academic Commons it quickly bypassed my personal website and resides as the top search result on google. So, Yay!
The post was written at a time when I was teaching an MFA thesis course between the years of 2011 – 2019. I believe that it still holds a ton of useful value. I want to stretch it further as I feel that this can help anyone with their writing practice. Apply the techniques for a blog post, an essay, a thesis and even the inspiration towards a dissertation. The keyword is practice –
Here is the original post below with a few adaptations for 2020..
I enjoy writing, and I find the process to be fun. Do you? I know that writing takes regular practice and it has always been an essential part of my learning process. Writing helps me to “see” and organize my thoughts. This allows me to edit and become clear about what it is I am expressing and or trying to say. Practicing writing helps me identify mistakes as well as further emphasize what I really want to explore and write about. When a topic of interest strikes me the process is effortless. I notice how I feel about the topic and this is a key factor as to how quickly I will get working on as essay, blog post or tutorial. This is something I have identified in myself over time and through repetition, how about you? Writing induces and activates new awareness. In my experiences as a college art professor, I have taken notice of a few consistent patterns when it comes to more formal writing, especially a final thesis deadline. For some, the thought of generating a final graduate thesis can be a daunting thought in and of itself. Associated with that thought may be an outdated feeling that your body still remembers. This outdated association can be especially frustrating to the point of extreme procrastination. If you are unaware that you are the cause of this feeling then you will continue to perpetuate it. Sound familiar? If you choose to enroll into an MFA program you will be required to write a final thesis. This will be an in depth description of your concepts, process, references, discoveries, reflections and final analysis. The best part of writing a final thesis is that the writer gets to create, format, define and structure the entirety of it. Throw away any pre-conceived and or outdated perceptions of what you think you should do. You must take responsibility for your writing the same way that you discipline yourself in the creation and production of your art work.
Where do you begin?
Your final thesis is an official archival record of what you have completed, explored and accomplished during the duration of your MFA program. Not only will your thesis be written for yourself, it will prove and back up your convictions, theories, assessments and statements for other people. It should be known that the content in this tutorial could also be applied to other writing needs that may be similar to the MFA thesis structure. An MA thesis or undergraduate BFA thesis can also easily follow this format. By all means, you can share it and remix it.
A regular writing practice must be established. This means, you will need to create a plan for how and when practice will take place. The calendar on your mobile device or the computer that you use will work just fine to remind you of these dates and times. Thirty minutes of practice twice a week can work wonders in the installation of a new habit. Are you up for that? Perhaps there is a way to make this decision seem effortless, keep reading.
You can get started right away. Technology in this area is very accessible and helpful. With use of a blogging platform such as word press one can privately or publicly begin their writing practice and archiving process. Even setting up a basic default blog will due just fine. You can always customize and personalize it later. If a blog does not interest you (but I do hope it does) a word processing document will due just fine. Either way, choosing to wait until your final semester to get started is a really bad idea and poor planning. Are there exceptions to this statement? Of course, and perhaps you will redefine my outlook, and prove me wring, but until I experience this from someone, lets make some longer-term plans.
I taught an MFA and MA thesis course from 2011-2019 at LIU Post in NY but this format transcended into my CUNY courses as well. The course put an emphasis on content and exposure to help students generate their final thesis. The course revolves around several exercises that contribute to the process as a whole broken down into individual isolated parts. Much like your thesis itself, this process is modular, meaning many parts will come and work together to make up the whole. One of the first exercises that I do with this class is identify a thesis template format. This is the basic structure that I have students brainstorm via a series of questions that I ask them. Keep in mind; you most likely already have a default version of this template. This could be the writing format that you learned in high school and had redefined by a professor in college. You may have been forced to use it or suffer the consequences of a poor grade solely on that formatting restriction. This feeling and program may still be running inside of you. So how do we deal with this? Together as a class we discuss and record the answers directly onto a chalkboard (a dry erase board or word document will also due just fine) I ask one of the students to act as the scribe to record the list manually while notes are individually taken also. I later put the information into a re-capped blog post on our class blog. Are you surprised that I use a blog for my class?
The format for an MFA thesis in Fine Art (applied arts & digital) will in almost all cases coincide with a final thesis exhibition of completed works.This formats fits accordingly with the thesis exhibition in mind.This is a criteria break down of the structure of the paper. It is a simplified guide. Add or remove what you may for your personal needs.
Description/Abstract: Introduction. A detailed description of the concept and body of work that you will be discussing. Be clear and objective, you need not tell your whole life story here. Fragments of your current artist statement may fit in nicely.
Process, Materials and Methods: Here you will discuss the descriptions of your working processes, techniques learned and applied, and the materials used to generate the art that you create. Why have you selected these specific materials and techniques to communicate your ideas? How do these choices effect how the viewer will receive your work? Have you personalized a technique in a new way? How so? Were their limitations and new discoveries?
Resources and References: Historical and cultural referencing, artists, art movements, databases, and any other form of related influence. How has your research influenced your work, ideas, and decision-making process? What contrasts and contradictions have you discovered about your work and ideas? How has regular research and exposure during your program inspired you? Have you made direct and specific connections to an art movement or a series of artists? Explain your discoveries and how you came to those conclusions.
Exhibition Simulation: You will be mounting a final thesis exhibition of your work. How will you be mounting your exhibition? Why have you selected this particular composition? How did the space itself dictate your choices for installation? How will your installation effect or alter the physical space itself? Will you generate a floor plan sketch to accompany the proposed composition? If so, please explain, if not, also explain why? What kind of help will you need to realize the installation? What materials will you be using to install? Do you have special requirements for ladders, technologies and additional help? Explain in detail.
Reflection: What have you learned over the course of your graduate program? How has the program influenced your work and how you communicate as an artist? What were your greatest successes? What areas do you need to work on? What skills will you apply directly into your continued professional practice? Do you plan to teach after you graduate? If so, what philosophies and theories will you apply into your teaching practice? Where do you see your self professionally as an artist in 3-5 years?
Individual Exercises to Practice-
The following exercises below were created to help practice and expand thinking about the thesis format criteria above. It is my intention to help my students actively contribute to their thesis over the course of the semester. The exercises can be personalized and expanded upon for your individual needs. I feel that weekly exercises performed with a class or one on one with a partner will work well. The weekly meetings in person are effective. Why? Having a classroom or person-to-person(s) platform for discussion allows for the energy of the body to expose itself. You (and most likely your audience) will take notice as to how you feel when you are discussing the ideas, feelings and concepts that you have written. Are you upbeat and positively charged? Or are you just “matter of fact” and lifeless in your verbal assertions? Writing and speaking should be engaging. Especially if it is about your work! The goal is to entice your reader and audience to feel your convictions and transcend those feelings directly. Awareness of this is huge. It will help you make not only edits in your writing but also make changes in your speaking and how you feel about what you have written.
The Artist Interview– Reach out to a classmate or an artist that you admire. This could also be a professor, faculty member, or fellow classmate. It should be one that you feel also admires or has interest in your work if possible. Make appointments to visit each other in their studios or where ever you are creating current work. This can even be done via video chat on Skype, a Google hang out or face-time if an in person visits cannot be made. In advance prepare for each other a series of 15-20 questions that you would like to ask each other. Questions can be about the artist’s concepts, materials, process, resources and references about their works. Questions may be about how they choose to show or sell their work. Personal questions about the artist’s outlook on life, business, and wellbeing may come to mind and may also be considered. Record and exchange each other’s responses in a written format. You will make a copy for yourself to retain. Re-read and study your responses to the questions that the artist asked you. This will be helpful for you to read your spoken words coming from another format of communication. Do you find that you speak the same way that you write? Where do these words fit into the thesis criteria format above?
The Artist Statement & Manifesto– Of course this will change and evolve over time but it is a necessary document that you will update each year as you evolve and grow. In one single page generate your artist statement or manifesto. Who are you? What is your work about? What are you communicating with your current work, projects and why? Who is your audience? How is your work affecting your audience, community and culture? Manifestos are usually published and placed into the public so that its creator can live up to its statements. Are you living up to yours? Keeping this public is a good reminder to walk your talk. Where do these words fit into the thesis criteria format above?
Reactive Writing– Create a regular online space, document or journal to generate a chronological folio of reactive writing. Visit museums, galleries, lectures and screenings regularly. If you live outside of a city this may require a bit of research, but if you are in NYC this is all too easy. Bring a sketchbook and take notes! For each experience share your impressions, thoughts, feelings and reactions. Describe what you witness. Be objective down to the smallest details that have stayed with you. Reflect and find similarities and contrasts to what you are working on. Use this exercise as a free writing opportunity. Write with out editing or with out any formatting restrains, just express yourself in the immediacy that you feel about your experiences. At the end of each month (or designate a class for this aspect of the exercise) sit down and re-read your passages. Select the reaction(s) that you resonate with the most. Edit and format this selection into a more formal essay paying proper attention to a formatting style, grammar, punctuation and spelling. Where do these words fit into the thesis criteria format above?
Tutorials & How To Guides– Writing tutorials and how-to guides are great ways to practice getting really clear about what you are doing. It helps you cultivate your vocabulary and describe the actions that you are performing with specific detail. It puts you in a position to list your steps, process, materials, and references and explain what the contributing contextual aspects are. Try this with a specific project or with the art that you are currently creating. Are you painter? Explain how you create a painting from start to finish. This includes the very first spark that inspires the idea for the painting, as well as how it will be installed, packaged, transported and exhibited. Details matter. Are you sculptor working in woodcarving? Explain the process from start to finish. Ask a fellow artist if you can sit in on his or her process and record what you experience. This is a really fantastic and fun exercise. It also contributes greatly to creating lesson plans for teaching. (I’m actually obsessed with this exercise a little bit.) Where do these words fit into the thesis criteria format above?
Reviews & Critiques– Much like the reactive writing exercise above, generating reviews and critiques will foster great ways to find insight into your own work. With regular practice you will find common threads of thought and subject matter. You will discover similar referencing and contrasts. This can easily be done in two ways. You can visit specific museums, galleries, lectures and screenings to write about that excites you. This already puts a positive charge on the act of writing itself. I also suggest that you contrast this with subject matter and content that also does not agree with you. We want to be able to fully express what we do not like as well. Understanding why helps us become clear in our choices. Understanding this helps strengthen our position on what we do want to write about and what we want our audience to understand. It allows us to explore dichotomies. The second way to further exercises in writing reviews and critiques is to speak about them. Speaking about art in person is a great way to further the clarification of you writing. Where do these words fit into the thesis criteria format above?
The spoken word versus the act of writing? I have come across many students and colleagues who find that they write much differently than they speak. I feel that writing needs to have a consistent flow and feel fluid to keep its reader(s) engaged. Speaking well and articulating oneself clearly is also something that takes practice. I have found that sometimes recording my words and thoughts via a voice transcribing application is helpful to get ideas out and into a more accessible form. A lot of transcribing software is free for most mobile devices. Much like voice recording the powerful enhancement is to see your words take form after you have said them. You can simply copy and paste the text and edit what is valuable.
This essay is also a work in progress. It’s an ongoing draft in a published format that I will continue updating with new content and fresh ways to simplify the exercises.