Art professors on their creative work and personal projects
Melissa Nunez – General Assignment Reporter
Professors in Southern’s art department cultivate and expand students’ knowledge in various subjects such as photography, sculpting, ceramics and other mediums. It is often overlooked that they are artists themselves and are professionals within their own fields, consistently engaging in creative projects outside of the classroom.
Thaun Vu, painting professor, said on his website that his paintings and drawings are a form of self-exploration in observing his experiences as a Vietnamese-American.
“My drawings and paintings document how I grew into my Vietnamese-American identity. In my work, I reflect on themes of growth, integration, and reconciliation,” said Vu. “These paintings combine Eastern and Western traditions of depicting nature to describe a space that is as much emotional as it is physical. This space, at once thunderous, mysterious, and hopeful, mirrors the refugee experience of creating a new home in a foreign land.”
Vu has consistently featured his artwork in solo-exhibitions, such as “The New World, Aegon Gallery” at Centre College in October 2015. Vu’s upcoming 2016 exhibitions include “Made Manifest, Cole Pratt Gallery” in May in New Orleans, LA and “New Paintings” in November at the New Haven Lawn Club.
Vu said as a professor, chief advising director for the art department, a participant on multiple Southern committees, such as the One Percent for the Arts, and as an active member within the art community, he strides to enrich his students lives with his professional and creative experiences.
T. Wiley Carr, painting and printmaking professor, said he often emulates works that have inspired him as a child and his current project is combination of painting, digital manipulation, as well as printmaking that is inspired by “Watson and the Shark” by John Copley.
Carr said his work exemplifies “modern prehistory,” in that it is revisiting aspects of prehistoric art and creating something that would conceptually appear to have been created in an earlier time. He said one historical aspect incorporated into this project is the making of his own paints out of natural ingredients such as rocks or insects.
“The process of making a paint is as rewarding as making a painting,” said Carr. “It makes me a little bit more of a technician as it doesn’t artist but the process of actually making the materials and really starting from scratch feels very intimate and the process is bigger than the end result will reveal. It is as much about the process for me as it is about the final image.”
Gregory Cochenet, ceramics professor, said he takes a special interest in creating cup sets based off of Japanese communal ceremonies, such as yunomi and meoto, and adapting them into his own style. He said one reason he was inspired to study ceramics was its communal roots in Japanese culture.
“Traditionally you were the glazer or you participated in the firing, you had a single job, so there were these large communities that would do all the work. So I like that they speak to this community,” said Cochenet. “That’s one of the reasons I make them in pairs, it implies that you are going to be using this with somebody, and that is one thing that typically I like, and one of the reasons why I keep making the cups.”
Cochenet said his interest in cups also stems from the intimate relationship people have with them in general, when the cup is brought up to the face, close to the lips and into their personal space.
Cochenet said he usually works on two projects at a time and has his art featured in up to ten gallery shows a year, such as the “Yunomi Invitational 2015” in the AKAR Gallery where he was featured in May 2015.
As a professor, Cochenet said he “practices what he preaches” and aims to be as open with his own journey in the arts as possible so that students may strive to excel as he did.
“[Students] see where I am now, they didn’t see me as an undergraduate student struggling to figure out how to throw on a potter’s wheel,” said Cochenet. “I try to be as transparent with them as possible. I show them some of my old work just to show them when I was at your level and share my experiences with many things and that practice makes perfect.”
Photo Credit: Melissa Nunez – General Assignment Reporter
PHOTO: T. Wiley Carr, painting and printmaking professor at SCSU.