The advantages of studying with professional artists

We have asked some students of our AIR, Nicolas Muller, what is it like studying Foundation Sculpture with him. Students are: Frankie Di Mitri, junior at Mont Clair University, Andy Wolfe, junior at Muhlenberg College, Allentown PA, USA, and Tyler Berry, sophomore at Indiana State University.

Below a concise triple interview, conducted in the first week of November 2012.

What do you think about studying under our Artist in Residence, Nicolas Muller? Frankie Di Mitri: I think it’s nice to actually be studying under a practicing artist and not just a trained teacher in art. Andy Wolfe: I think it’s great. Not that other prof’s aren’t artist, being an Artist is his first job. Also he has no formal experience in teaching so his approach allows the students more freedom to be themselves. Tyler Berry: I enjoy it. At my home university the Graduate students teach beginner classes. I was expecting it to be similar however it’s more than what I expected because he is from another part of the world. How he thinks about art and how I approach my work or problems is different whereas he is a professional artist so his views are interesting to learn from.

Is the course beyond your expectations? Why? Frankie Di Mitri: Yes, because I thought I would just be building body parts whilst in this course I’m learning how to think outside of the box and learning other elements other than carving by being involved with my piece where you place the piece not just working with the material but other elements.
For example, when I think of sculpture I think of the David by Michelangelo but I am learning how to see beyond just a form and the material it goes beyond fine art but also linked to 3 Dimensional Design. Andy Wolfe: Of course, when I took sculpture I expected to be given a block of clay and make a head or face. Whereas, the first day Nicolas showed us images, and told us to make something he explained that we can put as much research and apply ourselves as artists more than just a student following guidelines and techniques, demonstrations, etc. We were free to go down any road we wanted to. Tyler Berry: Absolutely, he’s really good at forcing us to think for ourselves versus it being more assignment driven. For example we have to think about the idea of a project versus him giving us a project to make. He is great at facilitating us to be creative and to think outside of the box.

After visiting the Francis Bacon show (Francis Bacon and the Existential Condition in Contemporary Art at the Center for Contemporary Culture Strozzina, Florence) with your professor, what is your opinion and how has this changed your perception in sculpture? Frankie Di Mitri: Nicolas provided some readings to help us interpret and understand Francis Bacon’s work. This allowed me to fully view the pieces with a full understand of the artists’ processes and this gave me the knowledge of taking different roots in creating works of art, different paths and not just the traditional path of making art. Andy Wolfe: I first visited the exhibition alone which was less informative but when we went with our professor and a guide we were able to inquire and question the works with a more in depth approach. In terms of sculpture the Bacons were the least influential but the works by other artist were more prevalent and opened my eyes as to how many different approaches there are to sculpture, such as video, installation pieces and photographs with interventions. Tyler Berry: I think the exhibition was well organized and I like how they integrated Bacon’s work throughout the entire show. Usually when I visit a show I pick out what I would like to see where as this show was more of a journey rather than a destination. In respects to sculpture it made me realize you can convey an idea in different ways of simplicity versus a classical approach of sculpting with a block of clay, wood or other heavy materials.

How is the project Me, Myself and I that you are working on with your professor developing and how has this aided in your artistic growth? Franke Di Mitri: I think that the Me, Myself, and I project is a very interesting topic.  When first starting on the project I was very stuck with coming up with a concept.  After brainstorming for a long time and throwing ideas back and forth I finally came up with my project idea.  I am currently in the process of making my piece.  With the help of my teacher I’m hoping to correctly execute my sculpture. Andy Wolfe: I love this project, the level of introspection, I feel you don’t get to do that a lot until you take higher levels. Where as in this project you explore philosophies in depth and transform this into works of art. In terms of conceptuality this is the most conceptual project where as usually I chose the materials then the concept develops. In this project it was the reverse which I think is a better approach. Tyler Berry: Well it isn’t developing as quick as I would like but I am learning to cope with unexpected issues that arise.  I’ve been focusing more on the self reflection in reference to Francis Bacon’s works. My project is based on multiple busts and trying to  portray a mental concept physically is challenging and this is definitely a growing experience for me artistically.

Would you recommend students to take this course? Frankie Di Mitri: I think this is one of the few studio class that forces you to be creative and to think outside the box. Whereas most foundation and beginning level courses you study traditional methods of form, basic technique but in this course we are given a more in depth approach of artists and conceptual points that are usually covered in upper level courses. So I would definitely recommend it! Andy Wolfe: Yes, I would definitely recommend this course for the level of exploration it allows future artist. Tyler Berry: It’s a foundation sculpture course so I think the benefits of taking a 3D course in addition to a 2D course helps you think differently which I think are important for studio art majors. This is also a great experience versus learning from a professor because you are learning how a professional artist thinks and approaches his work, and you  also feel like this is an apprenticeship which is a unique experience on all levels.

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