Tag: studio

UO Department of Art Collaborates with PSU Art Department | MFA Students Experience a ‘Best of Both Worlds’ Partnership

UO MFA Students and UO Art Department faculty member, Anya Kivarkis, visit with PSU MFA student, Will Bryant (talking in middle) in his studio at PSU's Art Department.

… [Through] this exchange. . . . we get to deliberately recognize the shared connections, conceptually and regionally -as well as the differences between the departments.  I think the various Graduate Schools in the region have been having a real impact on the nature of the regional art scene – alumni have been actively exhibiting and teaching, and all the departments have been sponsoring exciting events and bringing in interesting guest lecturers  -I think this energy has been helping shape the current state of the environment; something that seems to me to be getting more engaging daily.  By bringing these departments together for dialogue we’re both highlighting the energy that is already there, but also helping foster the future art environment that many of the participants will be a part of.

–PSU Department of Art faculty instructor, Sean Regan on the 2013 PSU UO MFA exchange


“Escape the Mundane….Find the sublime in the mundane,” delivered with a calm, matter-of-fact tone, thus began Portland State University MFA candidate, Steve Brown.  He spoke facing his projector with a group of people clustered and sitting on the floor in front of him filling the small space of the studio.  As he gestured and talked, clicking through projected images of anonymous human forms draped in medievalesque-hooded capes, tights and pointy slippers who cavorted on surfaces such as moss and Asian grass jello, he informed us of his use of color, interest in Queen Anne style architecture and materials such as the grass jello (“It’s firm, holds its shape, and plays beautifully with light,” Brown assured us—he even carves it with a sculpting knife.).  Addressing his self-professed identity and muse as a “white man record collector,” Brown advised his congregation to carefully consider the “fine line between proselytizing and being more into aesthetics.”

Will and I were up first for visits, at 9:00 and 9:30am.  I met him on the way to the closet where our dying projectors live.  “I think there are only about 5 of them (students and professors)” he said. It turned out there were a whole lot more than five people packed into my studio an hour later.  What I thought was going to be meeting to organize the Ditch show turned out to be a full-on studio visit-slash-crique[sic].  I really appreciated all the thoughtful feedback.  It’s what I came to grad school for.  I’m looking forward to seeing what my new-found peers are up to in Eugene.

–Portland State University MFA student, Steve Brown later describes the morning of February 22, when he and his PSU MFA cohort, Will Bryant would be the first PSU students to be involved in the exchange.

On this day, February 22, Brown’s audience consisted of, as he depicts “a whole lot more…than five” MFA graduate students from UO Department of Art, on-site here in his PSU art studio to engage in a critique-exchange between a core group of students enrolled in the two universities’ MFA programs. There were, in fact, 12 MFA UO students participating.  As Brown continued, his admittedly magenta-obsessed canvases hanging from white, sheet-rocked walls of his cozy studio space, students experienced a ‘best of both worlds’ collaboration.  It was a chance to learn of each other’s method and progression, to offer suggestions, thoughts and reactions, and to, potentially, forge partnerships between the students and future work.

At first, the stationary audience remained relatively quiet, politely tentative, the soothing warm hum of the projector’s fan the loudest sound in the room.  They were, after all, in someone else’s sacred and personal space–the studio of an artist where process and practice, experimentation and the personal determination to create, respond and react flows and weaves in a confluence of the unpredictable, exploratory and innovative mind of the emerging artist. Revealing work not yet completed can be a daunting task possibly leaving one open to on-the-spot criticism, questioning and explanation.  Talking about that work with an unfamiliar audience requires a certain learned boldness, and a willingness to be receptive to query and suggestion.  One might say, this is the role of the student-artist—remaining open and hospitable to comment and receptive to recommendation while retaining a willingness to adopt and adapt.  The critique process is still just that—a critique and anything to make the procedure more friendly, more helpful and more constructive eases the tension and smooths the experience towards a fully-realized, finished work.

PSU MFA Student Steve Brown talks to UO MFA students about his work during the winter 2013 MFA studio visit exchange.

These visits presented an opportunity:  a chance to be heard and appreciated by one’s own cohorts, by those so close to the ethic and the ethos they could respond with uniquely honest, unveiled commentary.  UO MFA student, Ben Lenoir commented that the studio exchange was “an interesting opportunity to see what another program is like and what is to be discovered in a different place.”  Lenoir explained that, for him, these “conversations with peers outside of ‘the situation’ give a confirmation from another person, and provide connections that are similar but removed.”

When Brown finished his presentation, and waited patiently for feedback, UO MFA student, Morgan Rosskopf, interrupted the projector’s pacifying whir and began the discussion asking in a delightfully unconstrained way, what we all wanted to know:  “Why are you dancing in the grass jello in tights?”  A few self-conscious giggles, from both audience and artist, ended what might have become an awkward silence. It was a simple,  practical question, intrepid in its scope but the conversation was started that Rosskopf would later define with a bluntly honest, “It was great, just great!”

In the words of Lenoir, these visits connected the students to an ability to realize they are “not doing this alone or by [themselves].”  The experience was “invigorating and gave [Lenoir] a chance to be in another place where [he] could experience the work of other students,” he elaborated.

With Rosskopf’s “why” the floodgates of enthusiastic inquiry were essentially thrown open:  the intention and possibility of the studio visit suddenly becoming apparent.  UO instructor, Jack Ryan would later describe it as having a “freshness” and as imparting an opportunity to “nurture the closeness of looking at each other’s work and a time to savor the experience.”  This was a time to ask questions, become familiar with each other’s work and philosophy; this was a chance to reach out and understand, to unleash a creative mind and deepen and enhance learning.  The comments and questions kept flowing after the initial ice was broken…so much so that after each presentation, students had to be reminded it was time to move on to the next visit.  It soon became apparent connections were being made, productive friendships based in shared artistic theory were being forged, and the engagement provided by the studio visits | student interaction could possibly translate into work being effected.

At the end of the studio visit with PSU MFA candidate Will Bryant, the enthusiasm to collaborate on a shared art project prompted Bryant to reveal, “the thought behind [these works] is more about the collaborative process.” Evidently thoroughly enjoying the experience, he continued, asking “how much fun is too much fun?” exposing the drive to frame a practice in mutually beneficial and inspiring partnerships.  By the end of his presentation, Bryant was offering to “make a small piece of someone else’s work…” as an expression both performative, and transformative, warmly blanketed in cooperation.  Several students seemed eager to explore this provocative opportunity.

As the day continued, what could have been a sort of jury-of-your-peers subjugation, was, without a doubt, a meeting of like minds, receptive communication and shared conversation:  providing the impetus of something more to come.

PSU MFA student Mami Takahashi talks to UO MFA students, see next photo below, as they watch her explain her work.
PHoto shows the view opposite Mami Takahashi (see previous photo above) as she addresses the UO MFA students during their visit to her studio.

The UO | PSU MFA student studio visits and collaboration are at the suggestion of University of Oregon School of Architecture and Allied Arts Department of Art associate professor, Jack Ryan and Portland State University College of the Arts: School of Art + Design faculty member, Sean Regan.  Over a year in the planning, the studio visit collaboration came to fruition on February 22 when Jack Ryan brought 12 UO MFA students to PSU to initiate the partnership.  Also participating is Anya Kivarkis’ UO graduate colloquium.  Ryan and Regan hope that what took place on on Friday at PSU’s Art Building will become a yearly event for the UO graduate populations.

UO MFA students listen to PSU MFA student, Isaac Weiss explain his work and process during a studio visit.

According to Ryan, “these studio visits will help inform student’s decisions on their prospective exhibitions.”  And, as a result of this collaboration UO Department of Art is “hosting PSU at Ditch Projects in [Springfield]” for a Friday, March 8th opening from 6:00p.m. to 9:00 p.m.  On Saturday, March 9th the PSU students will be visiting UO MFA candidates’ studios on the Eugene campus.  PSU will follow by curating and hosting an exhibition of UO MFA candidates’ work on Saturday, May 4th (opening 6:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.) at the White Box in the White Stag Block at the UO in Portland. The White Box exhibition will run from April 29 to May 4.

Ryan and Regan are longtime friends and colleagues who have collaborated together previously (“Jack has visited our department before and taken part in group critiques, as I have down at the University of Oregon,” says Regan).  Regan, the PSU art instructor explains, “I think in both our trips [to each other’s respective universities]….our perceptions about the level of the work coming from the graduate students in the region were pleasantly confirmed.”  Regan went on to comment, “That’s one of the best aspects of this exchange; through it we get to deliberately recognize the shared connections, conceptually and regionally—as well as the differences between the departments. “

The natural consequence of this commitment to the work and the students’ experience in the program, led to a determination to establish the studio visits on a more permanent basis.

After the Friday visits, Regan commented,

“If I was to try to put to words something about the experience I might say that it sure is great when you can have your experiences refracted through so many other perspectives; having the UofO’s students visit provided new facets for reflection.  Its always an opening experience to see through so many other eyes.  This is the intended process of visual critique environment and having the UofO students along for an intensive tour really gave us the opportunity to amplify and reach that level of critique and self-reflection. Their perspectives were insightful, clear and articulate, and, I think, will help the PSU students expand the scope of their intended audience: what more could you ask for?”


Calling the PSU | UO exchange, “a success, an enormous success,” in a recent interview Ryan spoke of the importance and the uniqueness of the graduate school experience and how opportunities such as these studio visits contribute to the sense that “graduate school is a time that will never be repeated, in the middle of this educational experience to be able to craft a special exchange like these visits is to give the MFA students a once-in-a-lifetime adventure that heightens the awareness of the MFA.”  Ryan continued, “it is a privilege of the time to help focus the MFA candidates in the present and to be able to look with care on the work of others to create a community.”

The collaboration brought about a direct dialogue between the PSU and the UO students who are getting to work together and perhaps influence and enrich each other’s work, process and practice.  Giving the MFA students opportunity to explore and question each other’s work in a productive and shared environment can contribute to a source of communication, meaning and perspective shedding new light on their practice and strengthening their educational experience.

With the cooperation of a forward-thinking and insightful administration committed to and willing to believe in its instructors and their proposals, Ryan and Regan have successfully led a collaboration that broadens their students’ educational experience and immerses them in a vibrant community of regionally-based art and creativity offering to their students the chance to dream more, learn more, do more and become more(1)….  Having the foresight and the sense of collaboration and cooperation to frame an art exhibit that contributes to the well-rounded education of an institutions’ students stands to benefit all involved….

University of Oregon MFA Students involved in this collaboration are. . .Sarah Nance, Alexander S Keyes, Benjamin A Lenoir, Farhad Bahram, John P Whitten, Katherine D Spinella, Morgan L Rosskopf, Nika Kaiser, Samantha E Cohen, Bryan M. Putnam, Emily D. Crabtree, Robert C. Beam

The Portland State University MFA students involved in this collaboration are, Mami Takahashi, Steve Brown, Will Bryant, Rene Allen, Leif Jacob Anderson, Mark Martinez, Wesley Petersen, Perry Doane, Kaila Farrell-Smith, Ernest Wedoff, Kathryn Yancey, and Isaac Weiss.

(1)If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader. —John Quincy Adams

On left, UO's Morgan Rosskopf and, on right, Nika Kaiser.

Bruce Wolf | Part II

Part II:  Bruce Wolf, Photographer

"I signed it with a Sharpie." Bruce Wolf's portfolio

[This is Part II of Sabina Samiee’s coverage on photographer Bruce Wolf, an adjunct instructor at the UO in Portland and instructor for Light and Color:  Tools of the Trade Workshop for Summer in the City 2012. You can read Part I Bruce Wolf | A Little Profile on a Big Photographer posted previously.]

Images | Bruce Wolf

Now it is fall 2012. Wolf is firmly entrenched in the Portland scene.  He is an adjunct instructor for the Summer in the City University of Oregon Portland program.   And from the projects he has taken on, it is evident he has graciously assimilated the culture and vibe of Portland, and has never looked back.  Granted he isn’t making the prodigious dollar amounts New York had bestowed upon him, but as he comments, “that really doesn’t matter.”  Whether he is shooting Pietro Belluschi’s architectural wonders, a stunning plated concoction at Yakuza for a scrumptious-looking website, or photos for a children’s book on food, Wolf’s images are powerful, captivating, emotional, and have that je ne sais qua any photographer worth her salt dreams about.   [See Bruce Wolf:  A Little Profile on a Big Photographer]


If you are here in the city next summer, look him up:  Summer in the City 2013—with a little luck and a fair wind, Wolf’s experience and knowledge will be back here again and yours for the taking at the UO in Portland.  This is an opportunity to learn methods and process, gain knowledge and insight from one truly great photographer.  And, as Wolf, himself puts it, he “[doesn’t] just want advanced photographers in [his] class,” not at all.  In fact, he welcomes and encourages a specific kind of person,  “Photographers at any level passionate about photography. . . .That’s what I’m looking for,” he states.  It was a late afternoon, mid-summer and we were happily into our second coffee talk– “interview” – meeting at Floyd’s coffee shop in Old Town. Wolf was beginning to feel like an old friend.  “Passionate about photography” and “photographers at any level:”  this sounded mildly provocative…I was caught on the “at any level” phrase.  It sounded so refreshing and open to possibility. I asked him to tell me more about his 2012 Summer in the City Light and Color workshop, the students he worked with, his expectations for the course and the students and his future plans.

Bruce Wolf

Wolf finds that being welcoming to photographers of any level with a passion for picture-taking attracts students who are eager to learn and listen.  And, photographers at any level can take insightful, thoughtfully composed images. Photographs should “say something about the person who took the photo, not just be an image of what that photographer captured.” In Wolf’s opinion, a photographer “needs to learn how to present the image so that it tells a story, leaves personal narrative and inhibitions behind, and freely exposes the photographer.”  This ability can be learned over time with work and experimentation.  Wolf aspired “to teach [his] students to tell us who they are, to expose their self.”

Bruce Wolf and his students in the Light and Color Workshop

Wolf continued, speaking softly and thoughtfully.  The intent of a photo is to translate a story and project a personal signature.  When students presented their work to him for critique and review, Wolf found it best to refrain from criticism and rather try and find what “they thought the process was, or had been, like a personal journey” he says.  Wolf wanted his students to learn how to use their photographs to “take us someplace” and to make their image a “personal reflection of what drives them to see what they see, and why they see it that way.”  He suggested that they experiment with light, color, angle, cropping and content to express this.


Equally intriguing is Wolf’s unique pedagogical approach that assumes his students are blissfully “unaware of anything.”   He continued, “I talk to them as if they know nothing.”   Not intending to be at all demeaning or condescending, Wolf means he strives to instruct as if his students are a blank slate, ready and receptive to challenge the components of their work to access a sense of both the art and the science of photography.  He finds this approach the least intimidating and the most encouraging to his students’ sense of free experimentation in the class.

Bruce Wolf

There is one area, however, where Wolf expects his students to have a working knowledge.  His Light and Color Workshop requested that students have an existing working familiarity with Photoshop, a technology Wolf feels “is essential to contemporary photography.”  In addition, he only allowed the students to use their cameras in Manual mode—a somewhat daunting prospect for many.  If a student needed help or instruction in the mode, Wolf gladly assisted. By using only Manual mode, Wolf encouraged each student “to regain control of the camera and the image.”


I asked Wolf his opinion on camera equipment.  Would someone with a prosumer camera be as welcome as someone with a simple point-and-shoot? Wolf assured me, regarding equipment, students were not criticized for the quality or technical hierarchy of their equipment. One student was welcome to use her father’s point-and-shoot, which she did for the entire duration of the course. When asked if he felt the quality of one’s camera had a great deal to do with the quality of the image, Wolf responded that “it is not the camera that is the final instrument of the image” but how that “image is interpreted or taken forward to create an intention.”  Here is where Photoshop becomes the somewhat indispensible tool of the contemporary photographer, the sine qua non that allows the artist | interpreter of the image to “sharpen the intention, to clarify and capture” what one has merged into pixels, and digitalized into a printable reality.  Photoshop will help ease a transition from a captured moment to a fully finished image. Today’s digital photographs, says Wolf, will not be worked on in a traditional darkroom, a place where the photographer used to transition an image and produce desired effects, experimenting with light and dark, saturation and hue. Thus, says Wolf, “Today’s darkroom is Photoshop.”

Bruce Wolf in Google search

With all his work, his reputation and his legacy, it is no wonder Wolf is carefully watched.  Coming to Portland in 2009, a blog post by his then rep, Stockland Martel declared “BW MOVES TO PDX and POSTS photos.” [I would show you the post but Stockland Martel has since removed it.] It was a series of photos posted on Wolf’s online social media presence that precipitated a small tempest of curiosity—Wolf was doing something new, something different.  Maybe Portland enabled Wolf to branch out into a new perspective, and explore that “loneliness” he talks about.  Whatever it was, we can read about the “guerrilla photography” Wolf and his wife, Laurie launched into.  Photographing over 70 Portland restaurants for Portland restaurant scene, Wolf found his way right into the delicious underbelly of some of Stumptown’s most coveted places.

Photographing 70+ Portland Restaurants..Food! Glorious Food!

As time has passed these last few years, Wolf has eased into a singular Portland aesthetic, appreciating and valuing a sense of independence, being in a league all his own, and valuing a certain obscurity for its own sake. He seems to have found meaning, and worth, and definitely his own Portland style of cool.  He’s become one of us.  He’s settled in with a new rep, Greenhouse, and released a new book, along with collaborator and wife Laurie Wolf, Portland, Oregon Chef’s Table .

Bruce Wolf

Things are looking bright and beautiful for this New York transplant. As evidence to his understanding of things Portland, whether due to the cagey arrangements of representatives or Wolf’s own propensity to find meaningful working relationships, halibut-sized printed monthly publications have been scooping him up and sending him back out to hone his forte with a uniquely Portland grind.  And, now that we can open up some of our favorite regionally-based magazines and see architecture from our own metropolitan backyard photographed by Wolf; get google-guided to a unique Portland restaurant and stumble upon images from a few of those places we head to for something uniquely delicious, we see Wolf’s light and color in new places.  Take a trip to our favorite bookstores and see Wolf’s images in lovely volumes available to grace our coffee tables and our kitchen bookshelves.   We can access Wolf’s Portland work almost daily and we can even take a university summer course from him.  When asked what his plans for future courses at UO might be and if he’s interested in teaching again, Wolf responded, pointblank, “I’d love to.”  In fact, he is interested in teaching photography at all levels, lower and upper division, beginners to advanced.  In any case, Portland and, indeed, Oregon is certainly richer and even more beautiful when we have Wolf’s imagery of our environment surrounding us—all in gorgeous light and color…. Let’s hope it stays that way, because he sure makes things look good.

[As if it were not readily obvious, black and white photographs in this post –devoid of color and not much in the way of brilliant lighting, were taken by the author, who somewhat reluctantly posts her images in the same blog as BW images.  Images from Wolf were taken from his blog, and website, and provided to the author.]


In addition to photographer Bruce Wolf, Summer In the City has offered the teachings of  academic and creative  phenomena such as D’Wayne Edwards, James Cutler who directs the Summer Portland Architecture Program, and Bill Tripp, among others. It is an eclectic arts and architecture-based program, offering interdisciplinary courses, specialized studios, and a lower-division, requirement-satisfying class in cooperation with the new Urban Ducks program. In a come-one-come-all egalatarian manner, the UO opens its doors and lets the summer breeze in as Summer in the City welcomes both enrolled UO students, community members in the Academic Extension program and professionals seeking to enhance and expand their professional affiliation, network and expertise.  Above all, it is an opportunity to learn from experts.  Come join us next summer!



Architecture firm contributes to the future of UO students

The leaders of IDC Architects’ Portland branch were delighted to hear that their teaching was instrumental to a student’s success.  Design Principal Nathan Corser will be returning to lead an Architecture design studio in Fall 2011.  The studio will focus on on a new entrance for the Oregon College of Arts and Crafts (OCAC) .  OCAC and Oregon students will work together under the supervision of Corser and Karl Burkheimer, OCAC Wood Department Head with special workshops contributed by Mark and Peter Anderson of Anderson Anderson Architects.