Week 3 Critique

20 September 2009




Good day folks! It has been another enjoyable week.  My family and I are finally settled in.  Everything is out of boxes and somewhat organized.  There are a couple of missing items but at least I have two rolls of duct tape and a hammer.  Got some work moving along in my studio.  Speaking of, it was nice to have everyone on the Friday meet over to visit. The studio visits were a great idea. I have enjoyed getting out and about to learn where people are making it happen.  Patrick’s print demo was amazing. I don’t believe the texture and detail that he is getting from his processes.  Creativity soars when there is such a mastery of processes.  It allows a person to get totally into the piece as the technical skills are second nature.

            A couple of other notes before I get to the art of critique: My family and I went to the Willy Street Fair Sunday afternoon. There was such a great spirit there. We all dug it. We donated to the W-street garden and got some free bulbs so that we can have some of our own fleurs next spring.  Our two-year old, Reyah enjoyed all of the live music and later we had an early meal at the Thai place. It was delicious! If you ever go to their restaurant, I recommend the Chicken Patay. On the walk back, I realized that I missed my small group meeting. I felt bad about it. It was the first weekend that I was in town. I have now enlisted my phone alarm to send a message every Sunday at 4.


            On to Critique: As many of us have come to expect, Elkins switched back and forth several times telling us that critiques inform the student well and that critique are of little help to the student. He told us that many artists judge too quickly during a critique as well as they take too long as students nibble around the formal features.  I sometimes wonder if it would make more sense to begin at the end of an Elkins chapter and read each paragraph working my way forward. I understand his point that art is unclear to teach. I guess that I sometimes want a more confident opinion from a writer.

            Now to experiences: I have always enjoyed critiques as a way to step away from my work at get some reaction on how it reads to the audience. I will share a couple of quick critique experiences that I have had.  My “best” critique was probably in an advanced drawing (contemporary mark making) class that I had with an amazing professor, Brigham Dimick.  I did work on folded paper airplanes, which I still use in various forms in my work. We had to do a site-specific piece and I installed an eight foot long wood framed plane in the engineering building adjacent to the Art & Design building. Skinning and sealing time led to an all-nighter at the art building. As people showed up to their studios the next morning, I recruited some people to help hoist the piece up to the ceiling beams.  The hangers that I had pre-cut the night before were too short and so was my time. I burst into action “flying” to The Home Depot to get more anchor cable and crimps.  Time was up when I ran into building and dropped the supplies off with my cohorts. As I left, I was tired, sweaty and still freaking out because we had not yet located a pair of cable cutters.  I ran back into the art building searching for a decommissioned stairwell that another student had installed in. It was a horrible critique for both the class and the student as they told her it looked shoddy and like it was installed at the last minute (which it was on both accounts). As I nursed a Red Bull, the student rambled on defending her work when the instructor decided the crit was over. Hoping to see outside pieces next, we took off through the building.  At the front door we realized that it began pouring rain. The instructor decided to post-pone all outdoor crits for the day and go directly to the engineering building to see mine. Ugh! As we walked in, the piece hung proud just like the angle of my hand as I described it too my friends. As for them, they were walking out of the building with a 24 foot ladder and a bucket  of tools as the class entered. It turned out critting very well and I got great feed back and ideas for future pieces.


            My worst critique was probably my BFA review with my instructor and art director my last semester. Long story short, I had 15 pieces set up on display (another all-nighter) for my final review. The faculty enjoyed two of the pieces more than everything else and decided that I should produce another 8 pieces to go with them- one week before my show! I spent an hour after class walking through the woods trying to figure out what had just happened. I worked the following seven days sleeping only taking cat naps on the couch in the studio. It all ended up really good. I was thrilled (then celebrated at the “art” bar and slept for 15 hours).

            My wildest critique was in the advanced drawing class with Professor Dimick. I had been commenting on the violence of world religions and had two pieces that one or two classmates found offensive.  One was a wooden alter-piece displaying bible pages (real ones) that folded themselves progressively into an airplane that was flying out of the alter-piece. The other was a wall-projecting piece of two fighter jets. One was an F-16 made from bible pages and the other was a MiG-25 made from Koran pages.  The crit lasted for an hour as the class and instructor engaged me in an all encompassing debate. Some classmates debated each other, some with me. Overall it was a great crit. The entire class was highly involved and I received more feedback than ever.

      It should not take a provocative display to get feedback, I don’t think. The critique process should be used as a tool where everyone is involved and on both sides of the podium. Crits that do not go well when people wait around for someone else to begin talking. If people are willing to discuss your work then you should not hesitate to discuss theirs when they are in the hot spot. And rule #1 in critiques: do not try to over explain your work to make up for lack of effort. If the piece is not really complete, just tell us that you are still working on it. Don’t ramble about Post-Contemp crap unless it fits logically into your body of work.

     One last note:  3rd year sculptor, Joe Leroux and I are putting together a show called Curator Killas. It will be in the display case on the 7th floor by sculpture. (also known as the Madison Museum of Post-Contemporary Art, or MaMoPCA). Call ads are up at Humanities. Contact one of us for more information. 🙂



            That is all for now, Everyone take care and I’ll see you in class.



2 Responses to “Week 3 Critique”

  1. mpn3 Says:


    Sounds like you keep yourself busy! I am really impressed by the amount you have achieved in such a short time. Also, impressed by how many things you can juggle at once. You talked about helping a friend on a farm during harvest season – have you visited the farmer’s market on Saturdays yet? That is definitely one of the pluses to living in this town.

    My dad is building a plane – and it freaks me out a little because I keep hearing about 60+ year old men crashing their homemade planes. Do you think you will ever build a plane to fly in? Or, have you done this?

    I am interested to hear more about the debates that ensued in your wild critique of art with paper airplanes made from bible pages. Sounds like a really fun crit. About your worst crit – I never imagined it could end up with people telling you to create more art in such little time. Seems really hard to create something creative under so much pressure. Though, I guess that is part of what we’ll learn to do in graduate school with deadlines popping up all the time.

    Also, interested to hear more about the concepts behind your work. The topics seem really interesting and thought provoking. And from the pictures, your art seems to be meticulously carried out.

    I really liked the comments you made at the long table discussion the other day. Unfortunately – I am blanking on what they were at the moment (ugh) – but I definitely remember thinking – yes! – that is right on target.

    Thanks for writing from the heart! It is really nice to learn more about you.

  2. ajnordhagen Says:

    Hey Sandy,

    I enjoyed reading some of your critique experiences, and I’m in agreement with you on the Elkins chapter on critiques. Like you, I’ve had several all-nighters before a critique. I actually kind of like them, and it’s nice being alone by yourself in a studio and having all that space to work with. That probably helps you a lot at the scale you seem to work in.

    In regard to your feelings on critiques, I tend to agree with you on that, although I’m also a little reserved in my initial judgments unless I really like something a lot. Have you ever been stuck on having anything positive to say about someone else’s work in a crit? I also agree on your “post-contemporary ramblings” comment. But I do find them entertaining and somewhat uncomfortable at the same time.

    Your back history and various career paths are really interesting. I’m looking forward to seeing what you’re working on this year. The parallels between your aircraft and the synonymous relationships that they have with social issues is great. The child-size ejection seat… bad ass. 3D people are always really intimidating to me, because I’ve never had a ton of experience fabricating my own stuff or had much of a broad understanding of industrial materials. Did your family build a lot of things when you were a kid? Mine didn’t. I think that’s partially why I have no idea what the hell I’m doing when it comes to some of that stuff.

    Thanks for starting the MaMoPCA, I laughed when I saw the posting for it. Have fun and see ya soon –AJ

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