Tuesday, December 9, 2014

1980, Bennington College and R.H.Ives Gammell.

33  F  wintery mix: the worst weather!

#321 Battenkill @ Pooks,  6-15-14

12 x 16

available @ McCarty's Barn

I chose this to illustrate this post because it was done in mid June and it's a picture of water going under a bridge.

Random thoughts on my art education: 1980

A lot of people talk about this large and unwieldy subject, so I thought I'd start with a post about some of my experiences. I've had a lot of education, I earned a B.A. from Bennington College (1983) in painting and sculpture, and an M.F.A, from S.U.N.Y. Albany(1988) in sculpture and drawing. and the school of hard knocks (2014)

   I started at Bennington in 1979 as a "realist" painter. I had been working on a portfolio of paintings and drawings in high school, having grown up near Boston, and being familiar with the paintings at the Museum of Fine Arts, and the Gardner.  I did figures, still life and some landscapes.  For my studio A.P. at Newton North H.S. my concentration was the self portrait, and I got a 5.  I went to Bennington College fully aware that they taught theory, and non-conformity.  I liked the intellectual rigor, the questioning and the endless experiment.

   During my freshman non-resident term, January, 1980  I introduced myself to Robert Douglas Hunter. I saw his work, (very elegant still life paintings) in Boston. I showed him my portfolio and he arranged for me to learn sight-size cast drawing.  He also leant me a copy of  "The Twilight of Painting" and introduced me to the author: R.H. Ives Gammell.  Mr Gammell, also reviewed my portfolio and saw my cast drawing. He invited me to study with him and 4 other students at his place in Williamstown, MA. that summer. This all happened during the winter, I returned to Bennington, and studied with Pat Adams, an awesome teacher, painter and person. I continued to do some landscapes (yes plein-air) but also did some "dream" paintings that were very weird.

    In Williamstown we worked on cast drawing in the mornings and landscape drawing in the afternoons, I would not use paint at all that summer.  Mr. Gammell's prime student, Bob Moore essentially taught us as Mr. Gammell's health was failing, this would be his last summer.  As an 18 year old, I soaked in so much, but was restless. I loved learning the craft of painting, but I found it hard to straddle the divide with Bennington being the opposition. The same divide exists today between the traditionalists and the modernists, but I don't prescribe to it. Great art is great art, and there are no rules.

    At Bennington my paintings started to go wild, along with the rest of my still teen-aged life. I experimented with a lot of things, substrates, paint, subject, technique. The school format was make your work and then live through the critique of it. These were long, drawn out, gloves off, question everything group sessions. To a large extent these critiques formed my world view.

    By the end of 1980 I had to tell Mr. Gammell that I wanted to stay at Bennington. It was not an easy decision.  Mr. Gammell did not charge a cent, he provided a studio for his students and gave his regular full time students jobs to earn a little money.  This "free teaching" was very old school and very much part of it. When I returned to paint landscapes, (2012) a lot of what I learned from Mr. Gammell (and many others) came back to me, so I'm recounting it in reference to my current work. No matter that 34 years have gone under that bridge.

  Here is a link to my M.F.A thesis exhibit (1988):  http://luna.albany.edu/luna/servlet/view/all/who/Chinian%2C+Matthew+P?sort=Accession_Number&pgs=250


  1. Thank you for giving some background and thoughts about your art education. I like the sculptures you made in 1988 as much as the landscapes you paint now. Although it does not seem to be the work of the same person, I do not see any contradiction in it. The most important thing is to follow your artistic voice and to do what you like the most at the moment (it can be different tomorrow, it does not matter).

    1. Thanks Chani, as always for reading and replying in such a thoughtful way, I very appreciative of your presence here on my blog. I hope that people reading this will take it for what it is, one guy's experience growing up as an artist......