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Cornell Art Faculty 2008

If a ubiquitous but frequently unexamined tradition, the faculty art exhibition offers the pleasure and challenge of contemporary art and—additionally, if indirectly and imprecisely—prompts insights on how the conceptual preoccupations of faculty members influence pedagogical objectives. I once worked with a colleague who, with narcissistic humility, refused to show his work to students for fear that they might dwell on his practice instead of their own independent vision. Rather than defend an unyielding barrier between the practice of art and the practice of teaching, a more temperate position affirms the faculty art exhibition as an incentive for students to critically engage the work of teachers, while presenting the current work of contemporary artists to an attentive, expanded audience.

The art faculty exhibition positions contemporary art in conjunction with critical pedagogy. But an exhibition with this charge and expectation partially answers and insistently raises questions. What is the alchemy of research, practice, visuality, and pedagogy? Does an exhibition of faculty art reliably represent the range of artistic practices and critical issues that stimulate an environment of curiosity and profound freedom for students? Generally, what does it mean to engage the creative work of artists who teach? More strikingly, this exhibition seeks to capture the vivid dynamic of the independent vision of artists with a desire and capacity to share the pleasure, challenge—and possibility of failure—with searching students.

Every moment in art is a vivid encounter with prospect and risk. Faculty art represents the vigorous and fruitful concurrence of active practice, engaged research, and creative pedagogy to press and provoke independent and consequential work of students. I hope this exhibition prompts consideration of why art matters—and how artists, writers, and teachers seek, through action and example, to vigilantly prepare emerging artists for adaptive, sustainable, and critical practices.

Patricia C. Phillips
Professor and Chair, Department of Art
April 2008