Studio Art is comprised of courses in drawing, painting, sculpture, printmaking, photography, new media, and film. All students are required to start with ARTS 162 and 163, the basic drawing courses.
Drawing provides students with a foundation of skills, judgment and observational abilities that are essential to artistic expression. ARTS 1610 and ARTS 2620, the basic drawing courses, are required for every Studio Art major. These lead to work in more advanced drawing, as well as work in other media.
Painting’s long history assures that it encompasses many different modes of expression and mediums. That is why in addition to focusing on the fundamentals of painting and use of color, students explore a wide range of mediums and artistic styles. Each painting medium; oil, acrylic, watercolor, gouache, mural paint, etc, has its own individual visual language. Through understanding the applications of these different mediums, students learn all types of aesthetic expressions from realism to abstraction and wherever the art of painting will lead them.
The Beginning Painting I (ARTS 2710) course uses water-based medium on paper; in Beginning Painting II (ARTS 2712), students are introduced to oil on canvas. A third year mural painting course is often offered. The Studio Art department provides an additional five to six semesters of increasingly complex courses in painting that are designed to give students the means to express their own voices. Students learn a vast amount of technical and theoretical material by demonstration, slide lecture, and most importantly, through dialogue between student/artist and artist/teacher in front of specific works. Says Professor Megan Marlatt , “No other way of teaching touches the creative process so directly.”
According to Professor Bill Bennett, the mission of the sculpture program is “to assist students in the realization of visual and tactile statements of truth—truths revealed by the practice of sculpture.” The 10,000-year history of sculpture making involves manipulating materials, forms, images, and symbols to stir up the truths, omens, memories, anxieties, and visions of the times. The practice of sculpture is a type of thinking with a strong emphasis on making.
In ARTS 2810 and 2812, the introductory sculpture courses, students explore traditional materials and processes including clay, plaster, wax, casting and wood construction. Contemporary expressions are also explored including installation and performance. Projects are supplemented with the study of contemporary and historical examples of sculptures and the writings of sculptors and critics. As the sculpture sequence continues at the 3000 and 4000 level, more advanced sculpture materials and methods are introduced with greater emphasis on self-directed projects. While the creation of a unique sculpture voice is encouraged, students are also required to work in collaborative teams on larger community oriented projects. In the belief that art making is public enterprise, sculpture students, at all levels, actively participate in exhibitions and festivals on grounds and in the local community.
Printmaking, the process of creating democratic multiples, includes many different artistic techniques. At UVa, over the course of a one year, eight-credit introductory course sequence (ARTS 2670 and 2672), students learn the basics of intaglio, relief, lithography, polymer photogravure, papermaking, and bookbinding. The courses meld the traditional methods and materials with digital approaches. In addition, students study the work of five centuries of masters in printmaking using the distinguished collections of the University of Virginia Art Museum and the Special Collections Library. “This intimate relationship between historic works in the field in conjunction with studio practice characterizes the breadth of the printmaking curriculum,” says Professor Dean Dass.
Advanced printmaking students study advanced techniques in all print media as they develop their thesis work. The goal of the advanced studios is to assist these students as they develop a body of work with an inner logic and consistency, heading toward their fourth-year exhibitions. In addition to regular coursework, all printmaking students are welcome at “Camp Printmaking,” a weekly theoretical seminar that includes visiting artists and lecturers.
Printmaking students have the benefit of a large and active alumni network, The Printmakers Left, a group that continues to curate exhibitions, publish books, and otherwise work collaboratively in the studios. This group of alumni, visiting artists and friends provides current students training with professionals from across the country as well as from abroad.
In the Studio Art program at UVA, students concentrate on personal applications of photography as an artistic practice. Strong technique is emphasized as a means towards an expressive end. The eight-credit introductory courses (ARTS 2110 and 2112) focus on film-based photography, with class-time divided among demonstrations, lectures on the history of photography, and critiques of student work. A variety of assignments help students develop visual thinking and darkroom skills. The upper level photography classes introduce a range of advanced processes, including digital color, alternative and non-silver printing and bookmaking. At the end of each course all photography students produce a portfolio of their best creative accomplishments. The addition of a summer session in Italy offers students the unique opportunity to study photography in a beautiful Tuscan hill town.
Throughout the year visiting artists and guest scholars contribute to the photography program through presentations and critiques. Each spring the advanced class travels to New York City to meet with artists and curators. In addition, classes take full advantage of the University’s Art Museum, which houses an extensive photography collection.
New media classes in the art department work with technology in a way that emphasizes creativity and visual skill along with technical development. The curriculum is designed to ground students in the basic tenets of contemporary art, encouraging experimentation and creative investigation using the computer along with more traditional media (such as drawing or sculpture) when appropriate. Technology is treated as a means to an end rather than an end in itself. Students need to be open to investigating possibilities that may stretch their understanding of what art can be and how it can be produced. They also need to be open to the unorthodox use of software and hardware designed for mass media.
Introductory classes establish the context of technology in the visual arts, delving into a history that spans from activism to pure aesthetics. Foundation software includes Photoshop and Final Cut Pro. Intermediate and advanced classes deepen students’ understanding of time based media including experimental video, animation and sound as well as establishing skills in interactive or web based art and imaging for print. As Frances Torres says in The Art of the Possible, “Technology-based art has a key role to play in clarifying the difference in the uses of technology that are harmful and ill-directed and those that are an expression of constructive and humanistic concerns.”
Film, Installation, and Performance Art
In the department’s filmmaking courses, students work in experimental 16 mm and digital video formats as they study the technical, historical and theoretical issues that apply to film and its relationship to the traditional visual arts. The students explore a wide range of genres that apply to filmmaking such as experimental, mondo, documentary and narrative. Also with installation and performance art, students learn how to develop sophisticated relationships with non-traditional art materials, including the use of the human body within the work of art. By engaging in these genres, UVA art students will expand their abilities to practice and interpret contemporary art.
Banner artwork by Katie Hamel, "Tree Full (2)"