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PROFESSIONAL ARTISTS BRING SKILLS TO CLASSROOM
STANFORD - When Charles Henri (Hank) Hine was a senior in the humanities honors program at Stanford in 1970-71, he worked with art Professor Nathan Oliveira on a large print project. Hine not only participated in the physical work of printing, but also observed the development of the print series that focused on Oliveira's reading of Edgar Allan Poe.
Now Hine is back at Stanford, as an instructor in the art department. He is teaching a class called "Printmaking: Artists' Books" in which students make books using traditional hand-printing techniques.
Hine is one of five professional artists serving as instructors winter quarter in Stanford's studio art program. The others are David Ireland, who offers a class in conceptual sculpture; Ruth Kedar, who teaches courses in basic design and in textiles; Katherine Porter, who teaches painting and drawing; and Mark Van Proyen, who conducts a seminar for graduate students in the master of fine arts program.
Art Professor David Hannah, who selected all the visitors except Kedar, said that, with vacancies created by recent retirements and leaves, he saw an opportunity to "infuse the program with vitality and a variety of ideas." All of the instructors, Hannah said, "are people with strong professional accomplishments who can bring their unique points of view to the classroom."
Hine is founder and director of Limestone Press/Hine Editions in San Francisco. The press produces small editions of handmade books and suites of prints, working with a range of artists.
Ireland is a sculptor who has had a number of solo and group exhibits. He currently is working on a gallery exhibit in Santa Fe, N.M., and a site installation at the Mattress Factory in Pittsburgh, Pa. In Pittsburgh, he is working with already existing cast concrete sculpture that he will arrange in a particular configuration.
Kedar, who earned her master of fine arts degree in design from Stanford in 1987, did her thesis on playing cards. She designed a deck that is now on the market, and has additional designs under consideration. She has experimented with discarding the cards' traditional numerals and substituting abstract designs, with the number of stripes, for example, the analog for the value of a card. Until this year, Kedar was art director for Adobe Systems, a computer software company. She is the founder and owner of Ecco Design, where she does a great deal of computer-based art and design work.
Porter - whose paintings are in such permanent collections as those of the Museum of Modern Art, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Guggenheim Museum and the Whitney Museum of American Art, all in New York City - is working on a series of abstract gouaches - opaque water colors - while she is at Stanford.
Van Proyen, an artist who describes his works as "allegorical paintings," has had a number of solo and group exhibits. He is also a contributing editor with Art Week magazine.
All are experienced teachers, but Hine, Ireland and Van Proyen are teaching at Stanford for the first time.
In his graduate seminar, Van Proyen presents ideas about the direction and goals of art, looks at art criticism as a discipline and examines the relationship between works of art and the context in which they are evaluated.
An awareness of art criticism, Van Proyen said, can offer several benefits to these artists-in-training, including enhancing their teaching ability and enabling them to get more out of critiques of their own work. In addition, he said, some artists also work as art critics.
Undergraduate art classes at Stanford tend to draw students from a number of departments, in addition to art majors, and that presents both opportunities and challenges, the teachers said.
Since books are so central to every discipline, bookmaker Hine said, he is pleased to have students representing a variety of majors in his class. The challenge, he said, is to be sure that the technical side of the course does not overwhelm those who have not taken many studio art classes.
In the first few weeks of the class, each student made a small book printed from a linoleum block.
"I got some astonishingly successful results," Hine said, "terse, provocative works that, in any sophisticated or pedestrian view, are books."
Ideally, Ireland said, those in his conceptual sculpture class would first have taken an art history class that deals with contemporary works. Since many do not have this background, he has to work to fill in the gaps.
Conceptual sculpture, Ireland explained, is about "having and developing an idea one wants to express sculpturally. The clarity and success of the work depends on how the artist chooses and arranges those things he feels will express the idea."
Ireland asked his students to search the campus for sites they could manipulate, perhaps by adding or subtracting something. One student, for example, placed a few cranberries on a stairway in the art building. Those using the stairs, Ireland said, had to choose whether to walk around the berries or step on them, and thus were forced to be "more involved with their passage."
Porter enjoys her beginning classes in painting and drawing, because, she said, "the students are very fresh, interesting, and curious about all sorts of things. I find their distinct personalities and interests add a lot to the quality of their work."
She works with beginning students not only on technical skills, she said, but also on "learning to see - undoing habits and blocks to seeing things clearly and freshly."
Kedar, who has taught on and off at Stanford since 1988, finds talking with students "invigorating and rejuvenating. As I answer questions, I better define to myself my own point of view. When I come out of a class, I'm always ready to work."
In exchanges with students, she said, "It always amazes me how much knowledge I have that I take for granted and, on the other hand, how much there is I can still learn."
Likewise, Hine said that teaching gives him the "opportunity to expand and refine ideas that, as a professional publisher, I'm working with all the time."
While distinguished visiting faculty open new vistas for students as well as giving the art department greater visibility, Hannah said, he continues to worry about the effects of budget cuts.
Regular faculty members who have retired or who are on leave have not been fully replaced, Hannah said, and the number of classes being offered has "gone down a lot."
Nevertheless, he said, "we try to use the funds we have to the best advantage for our program."
As director of graduate studies in studio art, Hannah said, he wants to build connections within the university, rather than having a small, isolated program.
"We want to take advantage of the fact that we're located at a great university and encourage students to get involved with other disciplines," he said.
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