Is Teaching Art Making Art?

I am almost finished with my first semester as an Adjunct Professor of Art History, and I find myself preparing for class in ALL of my spare time, instead of finishing the drawing that’s laying on my worktable, or planning my next painting, or even organizing my studio. Yes, I am only teaching one class, but I still have a full-time job too, and not a lot of leisure time.

So I wonder: if I have effectively stopped making art in order to teach art, can I consider teaching an art form?

Harriet Powers' Story Quilts

Harriet Powers’ Story Quilts

Teaching has brought home to me how hard my own teachers were working all of those years while I took them for granted.  And it reminds me how amazing all art is, and how wonderful my dedicated students are when they bravely speak up in class to give their newly-formed opinions about the art at which we’re looking.

During this semester, while I’ve been teaching the History of Women in the Arts, I have been delighted to be able to show Jackie Winsor’s work (lovely, caring, and ground-breaking teacher of mine from SVA), and Yayoi Kusama’s installations (like the Fireflies on the Water which enthralled me at the Whitney).

Yayoi Kusama in the Fireflies

Yayoi Kusama in the Fireflies

In addition, I learned so much while teaching: about Renaissance artists Artemisia Gentileschi and Sofonisba Anguissola; about Harriet Powers, who started her life as a slave and ended as an acclaimed quilt artist, and Faith Ringgold, who continues quilt story-telling to this day.  I learned about Ana Mendieta, who made beautiful and poignant ephemeral art before her untimely death.  I learned that Louise Bourgeois is always good for a chuckle AND a serious discussion.

Sofonisba Anguissola

Sofonisba Anguissola

I learned a lot about teaching, too:  If my students miss a class, it’s not personal to me.  If they don’t laugh at my jokes, it is.  I know it is impossible to cover everything I want to talk about. It is difficult to end right on time when I am lecturing and encouraging discussion. When in doubt, ask a question.  When in personal crisis, show the PBS Art21 video about Janine Antoni, Kara Walker, or Cindy Sherman.

I am grateful to be able to say that Three Rivers Community College has offered me the same class for next spring.  I’m also hoping for a new class to teach this fall.  It’s rewarding and addicting.  I will miss my students when the term is over.

And I’m planning on making art this summer.  Really.

Another Chelsea Afternoon

Frank Owen’s Herald at Nancy Hoffman

I was in the gallery district this afternoon, trying to keep up with new shows, interesting shows, and recommended shows, and even after the sun shone brightly and then disappeared, I had a good afternoon.  I found myself liking things I didn’t expect to, and ignoring things that should have fascinated me.  I love when art is surprising, and I love especially being reminded that ANY genre, approached with wit and intelligence, can be captivating.

Asya Reznikov
My Vanity
at Nancy Hoffman

I started at Nancy Hoffman Gallery to see the show 40 Years, a retrospective and celebration of the gallery which opened in Soho in 1972 and moved to 520 W 27th in 2008.  The show is truly delightful, beginning with a very large Frank Owen painting in the front gallery and continuing with 30 more artists representing painting, sculpture, photography, and video.  I was charmed by Asya Reznikov’s video installation My Vanity (I, who think a video should have a plot and preferably star Ryan Gosling) and watched it for several minutes with a goofy smile on my face.  I could feel it.  It was embarrassing.

McDermott & McGoughJust a Memory

McDermott & McGough
Just a Memory
at Cheim & Read

At Cheim & Read (547 West 25th) I found a large installation by the collaborative pairing of David McDermott and Peter McGough, who present photo-realist paintings of movie stills as well as abstract paintings on photographs.  I shouldn’t have liked them, but I did.

McDermott & McGoughNot Prepared For Eternity

McDermott & McGough
Not Prepared For Eternity
at Cheim & Read





At Marlborough Chelsea (545 W 25th), Robert Lazzarini: (damage) was fun and disorienting in a PeeWee’s Playhouse kind of way.

Robert Lazzarini atMarlborough Chelsea

Robert Lazzarini at
Marlborough Chelsea





David LaChapelleMichael Jackson 02

David LaChapelle
Michael Jackson 02
at Paul Kasmin

At Paul Kasmin Gallery (293 Tenth Avenue and 515 W 27th) I enjoyed the super-creepy David LaChapelle photographs of disembodied wax heads and assorted body parts in various states of decay.  The two versions of Michael Jackson were especially and deliciously gruesome.

Yayoi KusamaNarcissus Garden

Yayoi Kusama
Narcissus Garden
at Robert Miller

Robert Miller Gallery (524 W 26th) is showing several works by Yayoi Kusama, my favorite of which is the 1967 video Self-Obliteration in which Kusama puts glow-in-the-dark polka-dots on her cat.  I love cats.  But it was still funny.

Wang XiedaSages' Sayings 026

Wang Xieda
Sages’ Sayings 026
at James Cohan

There are two excellent shows at James Cohan Gallery (533 W 26th).  First is Wang Xieda: Subject Verb Object in which the Shanghai-based artist makes sculpture based on ancient Chinese calligraphic forms.  These table-top sized works create complicated shadows that further the intellectual considerations of flat text versus space.  The second is works of paper by Sol LeWitt from the 60s and 70s entitled Cut Torn Folded Ripped in which he achieves a very similar dialogue between what is there and what is removed.  Simple, but extremely effective.

Sol LeWittMap of Amsterdam

Sol LeWitt
Map of Amsterdam
at James Cohan

And finally, I truly enjoyed Francis Alys’ film Reel-Unreel at David Zwirner (525 & 533 W 19th) which follows two boys through the streets of Kabul as one unwinds a film reel and the second attempts to wind it back up.  That’s it.  But tension built as the crowds grew and the traffic snarled and I wondered where the boys were heading and I hoped they would arrive safely.  It didn’t hurt that it was the last stop on my gallery tour and I lay back on a comfortable chaise for my viewing pleasure.  And by the way, accomplished and intellectual paintings by the same artist occupy an adjacent gallery.  Really?  He can paint too?  Stop showing off.

Francis AlysReel-Unreel

Francis Alys
at David Zwirner