Approach and Goals to Teaching
Examples of Undergraduate Student Work at OSU Mansfield
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Sarina “Charlie” Ruff
Digital Imaging is an introduction to creating, manipulating, and outputting graphic images as a means of creative expression. Students who enroll in the course have access to the art area’s digital lab, which includes an Epson large-format professional inkjet printer, high-resolution digital scanners, and iMac computers outfitted with the Adobe Master Collection. This is student Charlie Ruff’s response to a psychological self-portrait assignment in the course, in which she digitally combined scans of moths and other elements to give viewers a glimpse into her psyche. In her artist statement, she explains, “Most moths are nocturnal and seen as a disturbing nuisance, invoking fear and are oftentimes swatted away. In bringing them forth, and transforming this dull, flat pest, I expose their beauty and their potential.”
In my studio courses, I ask students to consider the Internet as a platform for collaboration and sharing. I require that my students create their own blogs where they post assignments and project statements. I also encourage them to use these sites to post work in progress, share links, and expand their audiences beyond the classroom. Through developing blogs, students gain experience preparing their work for online presentation, which will help them when they eventually establish a professional web presence related to their artistic practice.
Student Talia Abedon used her Digital Imaging weblog to share in-progress photographs as she completed her final project in the course, giving other students a chance to see her work in process. In a project statement, she writes, “As can be seen in some of the work in progress shots further down in the blog, I made a fake cross section of the ground in my back yard. It began as a rectangle of soil with grass at the top, and then I added roots, small plants, and small objects with personal meaning from my life.” She continues, “After the set was complete I took a series of pictures, and then photographed my left hand in a series of poses on the dirt to add in Photoshop.”
To view Talia’s entire class blog, you may visit sockmonkeyhat4eva.blogspot.com
Because of the ease with which digital information can be copied and transferred, digital media yields greater opportunities for appropriation and collage. To ensure that students appropriate content responsibly and intelligently in my technology-related courses, I introduce the history of appropriation in art and expose students to artists who incorporate preexisting imagery in their artwork for purposes of critique, parody, or commentary. I introduce copyright law and fair use, a doctrine that allows limited use of copyrighted materials. Students discuss and debate actual copyright law violation cases that involve artists and come away from these discussions able to make informed decisions regarding appropriation in their own art practice.
After discussing copyright and fair use, Digital Image Manipulation I students complete a social critique assignment through which they appropriate imagery to explore a social issue. Student Emily Solon created a series of images in which she digitally added tattoos to photographic portraits of public figures. In her project statement, she writes, “[Tattoos] don't change who someone is as a person, so why would we deem it unacceptable for icons in society to have them? This question led me to want to alter three major figures in our society today by tattooing their bodies.” She goes on to explain, “I believe I can use the images I've chosen under fair use because I have transformed them in meaning as well as their visual appearances.”
In Digital Imaging, students are given a technoscape assignment that asks them to address how technology influences our perception of the landscape. In a statement about her response to the assignment, Shelby Pierce writes, “This piece is trying to suggest that, although technology has a positive side, it sometimes is intrusive.” She explains that the butterfly in the piece, “has chosen to land on the television depicting flowers rather than the actual flowers themselves.”
In response to the technoscape assignment, student Ryan Montville used digital tools to create a new, complex reanimation of a 19th-century photographic sequence of a galloping horse by Eadweard Muybridge. As he explains in his project statement, “Each color is offset one frame from the color on top of it, so in each frame you see all 12 frames.”
In Digital Imaging, students are given an artistic mapping assignment, which requires them to visually map an idea, process, or space. Inspired by artist Jason Salavon, painting major Michael Miller combined images to visually map and compare religious art from the Byzantine and Renaissance eras. In his artist statement Michael writes, “There are obvious differences in color; most Byzantine art was painted in gold leaf, while the art of the Renaissance was done in richer tones and colors. The discovery I made was I noticed that the heads of all the Madonnas in one image were facing the opposite way in the other. After doing further research I learned that there was a side that they considered ‘holier’ and painted accordingly.”
In response to the artistic mapping assignment, student Talia Abedon set up a “game camera,” which uses built-in sensors to capture movement, in her front yard. In her project statement, she writes, “I used these images to create GIF animations that map the commonplace things that happen regularly on the road. I seem to be completely unaware of these things happening despite their regular occurrence from day to day. I think that this provides a rather interesting perspective, as they illustrate how predictable and reliable the things that I take for granted can be. I set the GIFs to loop forever and I hope that this shows how repetitive many of the day-to-day functions of society can appear from the limited perspective of my driveway. After working on this assignment I wonder what else I don’t even realize I’m not noticing or acknowledging.”
For the Final Project in Digital Imaging, students are asked to choose a significant new media artist that interests them and create a piece that responds to the artist’s aesthetic or thematic concerns. Inspired by whimsical digital composites by artist Maggie Taylor, student Avery McGrail combined photographs and scans of hand-made items to construct surreal winter scenes. In her statement she explains, “I wanted to make sure that there was enough in the picture to give the viewer tools to make a narrative, but no actual imposed story from me”
Inspired by artist Jon Haddock’s Isometric Screenshots series, student Mandy Huang created this intricate videogame-style replica of the OSU Mansfield art area’s digital lab for her final project in Digital Imaging. Mandy is interested in how images can affect or alter memory. In her project statement, she writes, “If you compare this image with what the room actually looks like, you'll notice that there are quite a few things that are slightly off. By viewing new but false information, one who is familiar with it might actually forget what the room truly looks like (related to a term in psychology called retroactive interference).”
The final project in Digital Imaging requires that students use the digital lab’s Epson professional inkjet printer to prepare a piece for display outside of the computer. Emily Cockley created a digital composite self-portrait in Photoshop and then printed each layer separately on transparency paper. She then suspended the transparencies in a glass cube for display. In her artist statement, she explains, “I wanted to literally portray ‘layers’ of my personality in a box.”
Students who enroll in Digital Imaging often come from areas outside of Art and Technology. I encourage these students to consider ways to incorporate digital media into their preferred working processes and mediums. For her final project in the course, student MP Marion used Adobe Photoshop to explore painting in a new way. She created a digital composition and then, as she explains in her statement, “the Photoshop image was projected onto a custom-built canvas, outlined, and painted from the digital print as a reference.”
In Digital Imaging, students learn that vector graphics are created using mathematical equations that define shapes and points. For his final project in this course, Painting and Drawing major Gage Dowers explored the difference between the physical and digital by hanging a charcoal drawing next to a printed digital copy of the same drawing. He explains in his project statement, "I decided to create a contour line drawing of the very thing that allows me to create. A hand is outstretched vertically, empty yet not reaching for anything in particular. A single dark line is accented by vague smears of graphite indicating the depth of the actual object it represents. The other side of the wall holds an exact copy of the hand but instead vectorized and printed on photo paper. The second image is no longer my creativity but a series of shapes and equations dictated by a machine that is made to represent my image. Does one have more artistic merit over the other?"
Introduction to Photography
Introduction to Photography acquaints students with photographic techniques and with the history, theory, and contemporary practice of photography. One assignment asks students to create a series of documentary images. In response to the assignment, student Josh Tatro photographed an abandoned grocery store in his hometown. In his artist statement, Josh writes, “It’s hard to capture the evolution, or in the case of Neff’s Market, the dissolution of a place. In my mind’s eye I still see the humble neighborhood grocery as a place full of light and warmth, a product of the town that gave birth to it. Now that the market has closed, its halls stand empty and debris strewn, a silent testament to just how delicate a small town economy really is.”
Introduction to Photography
In Introduction to Photography, students examine the history of portraiture in photography and are exposed to contemporary portrait photographers such as Ryan McGinley, Tierney Gearon, and Rineke Dijkstra. Students are then given an assignment that requires them to create a series of portraits. These are images from student Halli Zickefoose’s response to the assignment, a collection of environmental portraits depicting individuals interested in hunting. “A group of complete strangers can be unified and sometimes even enter into an almost family-like relationship with others by having one characteristic in common,” she writes in her artist statement.
Introduction to Photography
I also expose my Introduction to Photography students to artists who use the camera to create self-portraits, such as John Coplans, Nikki S. Lee, and Tseng Kwong Chi. In response to a portrait assignment, student Justin Bigelow created a series of ambiguous self-portraits. In his project statement, Justin writes, “I want to communicate a sense of vagueness in my portraiture.” He further explains, “The face gives identity to the person, and also gives the viewer a sense of comfort in knowing who that person is.”
Introduction to Photography
In Introduction to Photography, I introduce students to artists who fabricate scenes or situations to be photographed, such as Jeff Wall, Gregory Crewdson, Thomas Demand, and Lori Nix. Students then complete an assignment through which they photograph their own constructed scenes. In response to the assignment, student Kent Rehbein used a deer carcass from a recent hunting trip. In his project statement he explains, “I chose to suspend the body parts to give the impression that the deer has been reincarnated and is back in the woods.”
Introduction to Photography
Introduction to Photography students are introduced to the digital lab’s Epson professional inkjet printer and are encouraged to experiment with printing on alternative surfaces. For her final project in the course, Amy Woods printed portraits on pages torn from a dictionary. “Looking up something in the dictionary always leads to the correct answer, so I wanted to take something less stable and less clear to compare to the words in the dictionary,” Amy writes in her artist statement.
Undergraduate Scholarship Research/Creative Activity
On the Mansfield Campus, Undergraduate Scholarship Research/Creative Activity has been a way for me to continue to work with students after they have exhausted our regular course offerings. These students spend the semester producing, writing about, and exhibiting a single project or body of work. In this project, student Emma Haase explored photographic degradation through a series of contact prints created in the darkroom. She displayed her images on bulletin boards. She explains in her statement, “This I how I had been looking and comparing the images when I was first printing them. I wanted the piece to look like an experiment that I was testing in the darkroom.”
Students enrolled in Expanded Media are introduced to the basic concepts of time-based artwork. As part of the course, students are exposed to artwork that uses sound as its predominant focus. Students discuss the work of notable sound artists such as John Cage as well as contemporary artists who use sound in their work such as Janet Cardiff. Students then complete an assignment that challenges them to digitally capture and combine found sounds to create a new sonic space. This is student Levi Short’s response to the assignment. Based on a childhood memory, he states that his piece is “meant to convey the intense fright caused by a ferocious dog attack.”
I introduce Expanded Media students to Adobe After Effects, a program that allows them to add effects to moving imagery, combine multiple pieces of footage onto one canvas, and animate changes throughout the duration of a video. One assignment in the course asks student to use video footage, sound recordings, and Adobe After Effects to visually abstract a place. In response to the assignment, Nick Kotowski used Adobe After Effects to add complexity to a banal family gathering at his home. Nick writes in his statement, “The clips all swirl and mix into an even more unintelligible mess and the video fades to white; all memories and time come to an end.”
In Expanded Media, students are introduced to performance art and then asked to orchestrate, perform, and document a public or private act. Shane Arnett begins this performance with foil wrapped around his head. Each time he makes a personal confession, he touches the foil. As the confessions become more personal, he begins hitting his face harder. In his artist statement Shane explains, “the blows leave scars, making the reflection fail and a more personal image come through.”
Expanded Media students are given the option to recreate a piece by a significant performance artist for their performance art assignment. Student Kassidy Katona decided to recreate a piece by artist Bruce Nauman. In her project statement, she writes, “In 'Walking in an Exaggerated Manner around the Perimeter of a Square', we basically see a compilation of all of the central themes that Bruce Nauman's work revolves around. These themes include circularity, repetition, minimalism, and body awareness."
Students are asked to choose a significant time-based artist whothat interests them and create a piece that responds to the artist’s aesthetic or thematic concerns in Expanded Media. Kate was inspired by Ann Hamilton’s Phora, which explores vocal expression. In response to Hamilton’s work, Kate created a multi-channel video and audio piece. In her artist statement, she explains that her piece, "combines clear and ambiguous methods of communication."
Annual OSU Mansfield Student Exhibition
At the conclusion of each academic year, OSU Mansfield undergraduate art students participate in a student exhibition at the Pearl Conard Art Gallery. The exhibition is an exciting opportunity for our students to prepare work for exhibition and to consider a public audience beyond the classroom. These images are from the 2013 exhibition, which featured work by my students and by students from Professor John Thrasher’s courses