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Faculty Artists Share Their Vision

February 26, 2015

With the Shirley Fiterman Art Center established as a pulse point in the Lower Manhattan gallery scene, BMCC students have access to exhibits of cutting-edge work from around the country, including that of their own professors.

One such show, At This Moment, spotlights the recent artwork of BMCC faculty and opened February 19, 2015.

Featured in this exhibit are BMCC professors Marina Adams, Yevgeniya Baras, Aisha Tandiwe Bell, Tess Bilhartz, Robert Bunkin, Lynn Braswell, Simon Carr, Betty Copeland, Josephine Culkin, Tim D’Agostino, Elisa Decker, Donelle Estey, Eric Holzman, Ana Garces Kiley, Pat Genova, Xico Greenwald, Joseph Haske, Sarah Haviland, Ann Hjelle, Dikko Faust, Michael Leigh, Susan Leopold, Eva Machauf, Charles McGill, Crys Moore, Kazimira Rachfal, Thaddeus Radell, Jessica Ramirez, Judy Richardson, Owen Roberts, William Reed, Erik Saxon, Adele Shtern, Rachelle Street, Janet Esquirol Sylvan, A.C. Towery, Joan Thorne, Michael Volonakis, Phil Weisman, Amy Westpfahl and Nina S. Young.

Sharing first-hand experience

“As working artists the concepts we teach are all fresh and active in our own practices,” says Professor Charles McGill.

He adds that professors who are engaged in art making on an ongoing basis can answer students’ questions about marketing and other aspects of professional development “with the kind of experience gained from years of building our own careers. The benefits to the students are immeasurable.”

Professor and artist Adele Shtern says that art students benefit from professors who “share their first-hand experience, expertise and networks,” and her colleague, Professor Simon Carr feels strongly that “the only way to teach art is to have committed, career professional artists teaching it.”

Commitment to one’s own art-making career, even in the face of lack of success at galleries or sales, “spills over to everything we teach,” he adds. “It’s thrilling, being in the studio and continuing my work. That is what I bring to the classroom.”

The continuum of inspiration

Faculty artist Elisa F. Decker shares that “many things—nature, urban grit, daily observations, music, movement, rhythm, line and color, seasonal changes, other artworks that I’ve seen, literature, poetry, life and being” inspire her work.

“The last piece of art I made gets me closer to the vision I have,” says Professor McGill, “but as is the case with making art, there is always another way of conveying the mystery of perfection's elusiveness. So it’s always on to the next piece and the piece after that, inspired by the last piece and the piece before that. It is a privilege to be an artist.”

To students interested in becoming artists, themselves, he emphasizes that “Drawing, specifically, is the basis of what we all do. It is so important to learn, and the knowledge gained can sustain an artist’s problem-solving abilities for years to come.”

“We also share with students the fascination with drawing, painting and sculpture as a visceral expression, a fundamental sense of our being in the world,” says Professor Carr.

‘Keep at it.’

Professor Decker advises students, “be prepared to wear many hats,” and she sets that example by not only making art but writing about art (her articles have appeared in Art in America and other magazines), and curating exhibits; all of which “enriches my own studio practice and teaching,” she says.

For students wanting to show their work in a gallery one day, Professor McGill advises, “Make the work!”

He says it’s important to continue building one’s own body of work, despite the “ups and downs” and fleeting moments of opportunity in the art world.

Professor Carr explains that while many students of art plan to enter the commercial fields of illustration, graphic design, fashion and web-design, “the fundamental excitement remains. Painting becomes real in the present tense in the studio, working from drawings and memories of the world.”

As for the resiliency it takes to pursue a career in art, “Being an artist requires terrier-like determination," he says. "It’s a deep insistence on work that defies rational explanation.”

“Keep your vision alive," advises Professor Shtern. "Keep at it. Record your ideas as they come up. Take art classes to gain and refine your visual communication skills.”

Catch a tour of the show

A Gallery Tour of the BMCC faculty art show At This Moment will be led by Professor Elisa Decker on Wednesday, March 4, from 2:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m.

At This Moment is open through March 24. The work is available for sale, and proceeds benefit the BMCC Foundation Scholarship Fund, which enables students to stay on track and earn their associate degrees at BMCC.

The Shirley Fiterman Art Center is located at 81 Barclay Street, New York, NY 10007. Gallery hours are Tuesday through Saturday, 12:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. For more information, call 212-220-3013 or click here.

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  • Over 40 faculty artists are showcased in a new exhibit,At This Moment
  • The exhibit opened in the Shirley Fiterman Art Center
  • It runs through March 24

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