Painting Department Philosophy
Contemporary painting is a rich and complex activity. While existing in a continuum with centuries of painting, craft, styles, and issues, contemporary painting may encompass media that go far beyond the brush. Elements of sculpture, photography, printmaking, collage, or writing may well be part of the painter’s craft. Yet, paradoxically, some provocative current painting makes use only of traditional materials and approaches. The contemporary painter must engage in a quest to locate herself or himself in today’s multi-faceted context. The painting program at Cranbrook stresses self-exploration and independent work in an atmosphere of ongoing critical discussion involving social, political, and artistic concerns. It is grounded in the assumption that each student arrives exceptionally motivated and committed to creating art. The students themselves give form and vitality to the working environment through their energy, diversity, and interaction.
Frequent individual and group critiques allow students to engage in dialogue with peers and various members of the Academy faculty. These encounters challenge students to question their intentions, encourage students to experiment, and to press their work further. The department is devoted to individual work, and this results in a fourth semester thesis exhibition, artist’s statement, and lecture. A prominent critic is brought in to critique each student’s thesis show. Visiting artists, critics, and theorists offer lectures, critiques, and seminars that add breadth to the curriculum. In weekly gatherings, students and the Artist-in-Residence discuss issues relevant to the work produced in the department. As a group, the department selects readings that focus on art areas such as history, politics, and sociology. Every year, the department travels to New York City to visit museums, galleries, and artists’ studios, further developing the dialogue with recent visiting artists and critics.
The studio building was designed by Eliel Saarinen specifically to accommodate painters. The studios have high ceilings, solid walls, good light, and privacy. A large meeting room used for seminars, conferences, and critiques is located on the first floor. A private departmental computer lab is furnished with two Macintosh computers, current and updated software, scanner, and printer. Studios are accessible seven days a week, 24 hours a day, and are close to the library, Academy Central Media Lab, Art Museum and deSalle Auditorium. Students have quick access to these facilities to view art, conduct research, or attend events. The department maintains a wide range of basic hand tools, photo documentation equipment, and an opaque projector. The studios are near the woodshop, where students can build stretcher bars, constructions, and shaped canvases. A skilled technician supervises the woodshop, and instruction is available. The department also houses a “toxic room” with a fully operational ventilation system where airborne and liquid mediums can be employed.