Art Beat reviews ‘Conversations Between CVPA Faculty and Students’

After visiting the current exhibition at the CVPA Campus Gallery, my thoughts drifted to the late David Loeffler Smith, who taught drawing and painting at the Swain School of Design beginning in 1962.  He continued teaching after the small private school merged with Southeastern Massachusetts University (one of the many precursory names to what is now the University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth).

Smith was admired and well-respected by generations of art students. A former student of Hans Hoffman, he’d often remove a pencil from a pupil’s hand to show how to draw an ellipse, or he’d hang some novice draftsman’s homework upside down to make a point about perspective, while talking about Ingres or Cezanne or Durer. He was a formidable taskmaster but also one of a decidedly avuncular nature.

But almost everyone who studied with him remembers his most repeated bit of advice: “Know when to shut up.”  He was referring to that absolutely imprecise and instinctive moment when  an artist has overworked a drawing or a painting and something has slipped away, and there is little hope of retrieving it.

For many, “Know when to shut up” became a mantra, even a philosophy of sorts, that one could carry forth in many situations beyond the studio, as in one’s relationships, politics, workplace, and endeavors of all kinds, great and small.

Street Conversations Animation Still By Katrina Benner

In part, he role of a studio art teacher is to offer technical advice and to provide a link to the past, while freeing the students to consider untold creative possibilities. The best of them, like Smith, were never didactic monologists. They are dynamic speakers who listen carefully, ask questions, push boundaries and start dialogues.

The faculty of the College of Visual and Performing Arts at UMD are of that breed. The exhibition “Conversations Between CVPA Faculty and Students” is an engaging look at the resulting artwork culled from the back-and-forth discussions between them.

We Are Posters By Students Of Graphic Design Professor Michelle Bowers

Professor Anthony Fisher, who has been teaching at the university since 2008, is well-versed in the process of figurative painting with all that implies: easily recognizable subject matter, straightforward composition and the sense of a visual narrative. However, his work has shifted from readily recognizable elements to the more abstract as the very act of painting is now what he refers to as “very close to a meditative act.”

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