Finally, Some Progress

Josh Henderson is one of two Academy students learning the ways of stone carving during a summer residency at the Studio Corsanini in Carrara, Italy.  The residency made possible by ABC Stone aims to promote the use of stone in artistic practice by pairing young artists with master sculptors for experimental learning through intensive mentoring.  As a neophyte stone carver, Josh's learning curve is as steep as the mountains that surround him. While it may seem that time no longer qualifies as a valid measurement of progress, Josh's biggest triumph has been learning the lesson of patience. 

Get a glimpse of life in Carrara as Josh takes us through one stone cold day at the studio:  

Joshua Henderson (MFA 2015) writes: 

Finally! After many days of carving stone at Studio Corsanini in Carrara, Italy,  I've made enough progress to show something. However, it's still really rough.  It's probably the equivalent ten minutes of drawing or some ridiculous thing like that.  Just imagine how much longer finishing the carving process would be.  Here's how it all begins:

Steve, Leo, and Andrea move the stone from the stone yard to the saw.

Andrea and Leo place the model on the stone in order to take more accurate measurements for cutting. This is where I think Andrea said something sassy to Leo and then Leo gave him that "I'm your boss look" I don't really know if that happened for sure because I don't speak Italian but I think I'm close.
 ...and then the first cutting happens...

 Once the stone is cut to size the carving process begins. Points (measurements) are taken from the model and marked onto the stone with what is called macchinetta di punta. This machine was perfected by the old master stone carver Antonio Canova and is still used today. It is only used when carving 1:1 This is called the indirect method to stone carving.

  This is how it looks today after just over a week of roughing out. You can see that it is far from resolved. In Bargue's drawing method I've pretty much just started. 


And then after a long day of carving go to the beach :) to rest up and do it all over again in the morning.


Throughout the summer, Josh and classmates will be sharing their experiences on the Academy's blog.  Stay tuned for more updates.

Surviving Generations and Wars: Part of Leipzig's History

By Camila Rocha MFA 2015

Dreaming big (and getting a little jealous too) in front of Olafur Eliasson huge studio in Berlin.
Four Academy classmates from the class of 2015 were chosen to attend the LIA residency in Leipzig, Germany. After many months of working hard, we knew how much effort everyone put into their work and we felt very honored for this opportunity.  Although we will miss everyone, we're happy to share some moments from Europe.  Arriving in Germany for the first time can be quite a surprise. Everything is written in German and very well organized.  Few people speak English well and are always apologetic that they can’t speak English better.  Since the German citizens are extremely kind and polite, at one point we asked "Who are these people?" we are the outsiders and we should be learning their language.             
We were greeted at Spinnerei by Kristina Seminova  (LIA program coordinator, an amazing and intelligent Russian woman, who knows all).  In the few first days, she explained the history of where we were staying. The old cotton mill factory had survived generations and wars to become one of the most important centers of art, artists residencies, studios and galleries in Germany. Today big names like Neo Rauch, Oliver Kossack, Rosa Loy and many others are residents of this factory complex.

This facilities smell like art, from the inside out!!!  Leipzig feels like a small town but its energy is like a busy metropolis with art fairs, openings within the buildings all over the city. There are so many openings to go that we had to get organized, the list of museums and place to visit are endless leaving no time to spear.  Many of city's apartments seem empty, but a growing number of artists of a younger generation have been taking over.  One of the reasons for this is because of Leipzig Visual arts and fine arts. 

We have two independent artists in the residency with us, Piper Mavis a visual artist form Los Angeles/CA and Francis Morgan, a Berlin based painter from Australia. I have to confess that part of the success of this trip is because of them. They happily motivate us with the energy that they emanate. Their critiques and feedback on art outside of the school have been very helpful in making us think more maturely about our studio practices. I feel that I've learned so much from them.  Their confidence is very inspiring. Frankie has the most marvelous sayings: “One of my goals is channeling my emotions into paint instead of fucking up someone's day".  And whatever impression that gives you, it's yours to take.  How honest is that?

We visited Stephan Guggisberg and Sebastian Burger's studio, two of Neo Rauch’s graduate students.  It was fascinating to see their process and the way they approach painting in a contemporary manner. Sebastian’s approach seems to be a tedious and unforgiving attempt to search for light and is influenced by his photography background. He literally fights with some type of dry media and paint on paper. Almost like a geographer excavating the image from the paper. It left us all in awe about the amount of work that goes each piece, a small work can take around 15 hours to be complete.

Sebatian’s studio practice is related to Cryptomnesia and reflects the idea of tapping into the unconsciousness to experience memory as inspiration.  His iconography comes from different unknown sources and often, after a piece is done, he encounters the images in history books or graphics from ancient art work. His process although a very different from “Plagiarism” generates a totally different conceptual meaning due his methodology.  

With a full calendar of events and activities, I can't wait to share more and tell you about our studio practices and excursions around Leipzig and to Berlin.  I had to visit Berlin to get my visa renewed and I found a little time to visit a museum close to the bus central station-- The Grunderzeit Museum.  This museum was created by Charlotte Von Mahlsdorf and it shows the art collection of the family. I found a very humble list of artists that I had never heard of before.  What a fascinating visit. We also went as a group to visit the Neue Galerie and David Bowie Exhibition curated by the Victoria and Albert museum in England.  In my next post, I will tell you about all this and more!


Camila Rocha is joined by Matthew Comeau, Esteban Ocampo and Hannah Stahl in Leipzig, Germany for a two-month Residency.  On the Academy's blog, the students will share their adventures abroad throughout the summer.  Return here for updates and more from Germany.  

Painting, Laughter and an Eagerness to Adapt

By Tamalin Baumgarten MFA 2015

The days have begun to meld together as we’ve settled into a routine here in Shanghai. We spend most of our time in the studio painting in preparation for our group show which opens July 1st. With four weeks to paint and a large space to fill, we are challenged to make big paintings. The studio has become our home. Our dorm is a twenty minute taxi ride to the studio, so we sleep most nights in the studio on cots we bought at Walmart, occasionally venturing back to do laundry and shower. The inconvenient distance between dorm and studio has proven to be a blessing. Dana, Ryan, Arc and I have grown close, and because of this, our paintings have benefitted. With concentrated time in the studio together, we listen to podcasts about art history, engage in conversations about artists we are drawn to, and hold late-night group critiques of our current paintings. Most importantly, we’ve had the time to digest and discuss what we learned from our first year at the Academy. We share what we’ve learned, we even argue about it—to learn even more. 

Our guide, Wang Yi, is a joy to get to know. We visited his studio last week. His paintings blew us away, reminding us of Michael Borremans and Adrian Ghenie. He took us to an art fair, the YUZ Museum, and his friend's gallery called Ming Gallery, where his work is currently showing. We've been learning about the art market in China and how the collectors only buy old art that has already proven its value. People buy contemporary art for lower prices, not as investments, but for the purpose of decorating their homes. Also, there isn't much of a market for international art yet. People here buy art that they are familiar with and are less likely to branch out into purchasing more conceptually based artwork. 

The food here is a highlight. Our routine late dinners on the street excite us most. We walk across the campus along the dimly lit, tree-lined road, past the coy pond, through the finely mowed field, over the river bridge to a bustling outdoor array of food vendors. Dozens of venders grill and serve food on sticks. We enjoy trying new things and often order more than enough. We find amusement in each other's eating habits and trying to communicate with the vendors for Arc and Dana to avoid pork, and nothing spicy for Dana, and "is there pork in the sauce?" or "what's the little speck of meat on the broccoli?" Ryan will eat anything! He enjoys spice to the point of severe pain, and if we can't finish something or don't like it, we pawn it off onto him. It's quite hysterical.

Along with our infrequent showers, we have become comfortable with a less sanitary lifestyle. Arc and I discovered our go-to lunch spot where we find the best kung pow chicken. Yesterday, while eating the dish, I found a little cockroach on my chopstick. Arc and I looked at each other, he wrapped the little guy up in a napkin, and we continued eating—enjoying it just the same. That evening, Ryan was sipping on his tea and reached in his mouth to remove a little long-horn beetle. We gathered around inspecting the beetle as Ryan continued enjoying his tea. None of us have gotten sick yet. We find laughter through our journey of learning a new perspective. 
Today, Mr. Xu took us out with Wang Yi and a couple other Shanghai University faculty to a fancy lunch. We ate in a room to ourselves around a lazy suzan. The waiters brought in dish after dish, and when we were certain it must be the last dish, they’d bring in five more—a couple dozen dishes in total to sample. Despite the language barrier, we all filled our bellies and laughed together—understanding enough through body language and a common delight in the abundance of food. 

So far, our experience in Shanghai has been fulfilling—full of painting and laughter and an eagerness to adapt and to learn from each other.


On May 26, four Academy students departed New York for a six-week residency in Shanghai. Tamalin Baumgarten, Dana Kotler, Arcmanoro Niles, and Ryan Schroeder (all members of the MFA class of 2015) will share their experiences here throughout the summer.


It seemed to take quite a while for us to get here. Time appeared to drag on between May 17th, the last day of school, to May 26th, our departure date. When May 26th finally arrived, I wasn't sure how to feel.  Many of my fellow travelers were also unsure.  On one hand, we were happy and excited to go to China--amazed and honored to be selected for this once in a lifetime opportunity. But for some reason, however small, however stupid, there was some doubt.  You feel you don't want to go, or maybe you shouldn't. This feeling arose in us for many reasons. Let me explain-- It could be because we were scared of change, knowing once we get back to New York there's only one year left of grad school, and realizing how quickly that too, will go. Maybe we were not willing to leave loved ones behind, or maybe it was a fear of failing or disappointing people with what we chose to paint. Somehow after achieving a residency we still felt maybe we weren't good enough. 
The plane was so quiet as we took off.  Everything fell into a silence as I looked around at my fellow classmates and new friends. I was amazed and in awe to be there, sitting with them getting ready to fly to China.  Everything was still, and I finally started to calm down after the slow weeks of build-up. The anxiety and nerves that I had from the previous week settled. I started to understand all these feelings I was having. The good  and the bad feelings all became beautiful, a feeling that meant we were alive and human, living in moment.  I was finally getting back to myself, feeling normal, relaxed, calm, and ready to begin my journey with them. 
Since we arrived in China, time has flown by. I can't believe we've already been here for a week. Since meeting Wang Yi for the first time, we're already comfortable in his studio, looking, hanging out and talking about art.  A lot of things are different here but somehow seem strangely familiar especially the part that includes Jack Daniels. 

Within a day I was going out to explore Shanghai.  Our neighborhood is very international and we've met  people from all over the world.  Since I don't eat pork or beef, Wang Yi showed me how to read and say the mandarin character for chicken and fish, so I am now able find cool places to eat without needing a translator.  For breakfast, I found a great crepe-like sandwich and eat it every day.
Having Dan Thompson here, although only for a short time, was great. He was super enthusiastic and excited to see what we were doing in the studio.  We have been in the studio day and night, sleeping for only a couple hours, working around the clock to get ready for the opening on June 28.  I decided to do two large paintings after Wang Yi showed us the space--the gallery is huge. I have no clue how we will fill it. 
We have been to some galleries and art fairs but most of all have been making lots of work.  It's been so much fun I can't wait to see what is in store for next week.


On May 26, four Academy students departed New York for a six-week residency in Shanghai. Tamalin Baumgarten, Dana Kotler, Arcmanoro Niles, and Ryan Schroeder (all members of the MFA class of 2015) will share their experiences here throughout the summer.



Naturally, our 2014 Commencement ceremony was filled with many cheers and tears.  While the Class of 2014 looked forward to ushering in new phases of their promising careers, they also couldn't help looking back, reflecting upon time spent at the Academy.  As words of praise and encouragement commemorated the festivities, perhaps, the most stirring was delivered by Honorary Doctorate recipient Walton Ford. 

Walton, a powerful painter who often "meditates on the violent and bizarre moments at the intersection of human culture and the natural world," stormed the podium much like the primal subjects of his monumental  watercolors.  Once front and center, he revealed a vulnerability that captured the audience's attention.  Throughout his speech, Walton conveyed the importance and rarity of "an education of beauty" encouraging artists to take their time and stay inspired. 

At the end of the 20 minute address, the audience erupted with applause.  The response was a meaningful sign that Walton's words of wisdom had not only resonated in that moment, but will also serve as an enduring source of inspiration over time.

Keep reading below for Walton Ford's full commencement speech. And to watch  the video, please click here:


Thank you Eileen, thanks so much. Thank you Peter, David, Wade, all the Academy students. It's such an honor to be here. It's just a great honor.  You do know me because I came to the school. So I don't have that much material.  So you're going to hear some of it again probably but some of it is maybe it's useful for you to hear it twice. I don’t know.
You're my heroes, all the graduates the Class of 2014.  You’re my heroes. It's like you're studying artists.  I have so much respect for you.  You all had to fight to be here as Eileen said.  It's heroic, it really is.  You had to convince your loved ones, you had to borrow money, you had to overcome discouraging predictions of failure, you have to cope with insane rents, all to study within a tradition that many would argue is an anachronistic, obsolete, reactionary, unnecessary.  

And once you won the battle to be here, and once you were accepted into this community, you were presented with one of the most incredibly challenging tasks, an almost impossibly difficult task.  You started to train yourself to really see.  To really see how the human body moves.  To really see the luminosity of skin over muscle and blood and bone.  To really see how warm and cold light falls on our beautiful breathing world.  But that's not all.  You were challenged to communicate what you saw to the rest of us.  To communicate with ancient, lovely, sometimes completely uncooperative stuff.  Gliding, grimy charcoal, smooth clay, creamy oil paint, the bony burning plaster.  And you tried to use these materials to speak, but the language is a hard one to learn.  So you felt clumsy, you felt awkward.  You felt like your gifts eluded you.  Everyone who tries to master these materials feels this way.  But because of this intense concentrated effort, this effort to see and then communicate, you can no longer look at the world the same way.

Because this kind of study switches something on inside of you that cannot be switched off.  You begin to rotate objects in space in your head, the most advanced kind of computer program is in there now.  You begin to see patterns of light and shade.  You begin to see structure and meaning.  And in this concentrated seeing, you join a great sisterhood and a great brotherhood of people through thousands of years of history who tried to see in this exact same way. You join the prehistoric genius drawing fluid bulls in the caves of Lascaux. You join
Dürer, training his super high-def renaissance eye on a tuft of meadow.  You join Alice Neel mixing blue and magenta and yellow tints to render the drum tight skin of a woman's late term belly. This is a really great club to get into and you're in. You know the doorman now.  

So I just talked about how hard it was to do what we do, and the struggle, and the challenge. So why do it?  Why take it on?  Well it's all too daunting unless it's play.  And this is what I mean about play.  If you watch children at the beach building sandcastles you will learn a lot about what you’ll need to do in your studio. There is no doubt these kids are playing, but watch how they play. They are serious, they are focused, they’re intensely concentrated.  They use the tools at hand. They don't complain about lack of materials.  They got cups, they got straws, they got seaweed, they got shells.  They get wet. They get gritty. If there are few of them, they argue. Somebody gets bossy.  The pale ones get burnt up in the sun.  And they keep at it until the tide comes in and it washes it all away.  It's urgent, serious, play that's not wedded to an outcome. 

It's not the same thing as fun.  People get killed playing-- skateboarders, boxers, skiers. People get killed playing, it's serious business. So it's life or death this kind of play I'm talking about.  And it can get frustrating.  And it can seem futile, effort can get washed away with the tides and yet this is the ideal place to be as an artist, in this playful space.

This aspect of play in the studio is what makes great art.  Sandcastles, tree houses, homemade Halloween costumes, serious beautiful childlike play.  This is the energy you need to bring to everything you do as an artist.  So you go in the studio and you get playful.  Highs stakes, life or death, playful.  Playful like Picasso, playful like
Lina Wertmüller, playful like Andy Warhol, playful like Louise Bourgeois.

So now I named a few artists and since you're young artists you can start beating up on yourselves.  That's what you're going to do.  I just mentioned great artists and what comes to mind when I mention such artists is work of the highest master.  And when we look at such work, it is easy to beat up on ourselves. We're young artists, we're students, we're particularly good at beating up on ourselves for not creating masterpieces right away.  But that is not your job quite yet. This is a time of gathering. You're gathering ingredients. I want you to think of this time as the time at a farmers market.

You have a basket. You are looking around. What do you like to eat?  What looks fresh? What’s available? Just gather stuff. Put it in your basket. That's the first step and in many ways, the most important step in making something delicious to eat later. So don't rush it.  Enjoy this process.  Steal a grape, you know? Look carefully, squeeze, taste, smell you know? While you're at the market, does it make sense to beat yourself up for not being in the kitchen? For not plating a completed meal?  Common sense says it's not time yet.  You are gathering, pick up a nice tomato. It's not time to open a restaurant. You are gathering.  Smell that melon.  Is it ripe?  It's not time yet to write a cookbook.

Every artist has times of gathering and times of creation.  The really great and fortunate artists have several times of gathering and creating, alternating times of creating where it all comes together and you have a body of work to do.  But every single artist starts out with an extended time of concentrated gathering. So take your time at this great farmers market.  You're going to museums, galleries, book stores, searching the web, taking suggestions, watching films, hitting the streets, catching live music, theater-- you're gathering, gathering. Finding your heroes, finding your mentors, finding your nemeses.
And this is your job.  Cook it all up later and then you know.  You'll follow the recipes for a bit, but you don't need to write your own recipes for a while.  There is time for all that.  Life is long.  

But this advice to slow down and enjoy the gathering time is not to diminish the urgency of what can be done with your gifts.  The education that you have begun, this intense seeing, this mastery of these ancient mediums, this humanistic study of nature, this process of gathering, this education of beauty, what a rare thing in today's world.

And there is proof of this rarity.  Just get in the car and take a drive.  If you drive up or down the east coast on a major route and you look out the window at the banality of the giant, urban, mega, strip mall that uber city that we call Bos/Wash, Boston to Washington, look out the window it’s pretty banal. It’s a wasteland.  Beauty, craft, design, in short supply.  There is plenty of horror, ugliness, and banality out there. But here at the Academy, you have touched on the cure. You’ve touched on an education that pushes back with everything that makes humanity okay.

I remember as a student at your age standing inside of the Palazzo Pubblico in Siena.  I was surrounded by Lorenzetti murals depicting good and bad government.  All of medieval Italy is painted on those walls. Beautiful women on horseback, pigs in the street, falconers, sinners, saints and outside of  Palazzo Pubblico is the medieval city of Siena spread out on its soft Tuscan Hill edged by olive groves and vineyards.  And something in the moment of standing in that place changed inside me.  I didn't long for the primeval forest that was cleared to make way for the town and I didn't think about the corruption of the Lords that financed the building of it. I was simply overwhelmed by the beauty of it all. The murals, the building, the town. I was an American suburban kid and I needed to see a Tuscan Hill town to understand that not only nature, but also people could create beautiful ravishing things.  

And this education you have begun connects you to all that. Yours is a school that a renaissance master would recognize. He'd see the casts, the skeletons.  He'd smell the paint, he’d see the posing nudes.  We need this beauty so desperately. And we need you to make things for us.  We need more eyes that have followed the swooping curves of the human skull.  We need more hands that have pushed and pulled clay until it looks like and feels like human muscle.  We need more minds that have puzzled out the mixing of paint into the myriad tints of human skin.  Because this is an education in magnificent beauty.  This is an education in the perfection of design. This is an education in visual ravishment.  I can only hope that when you go out there some of it rubs off.