Senior Seminar

Senior Seminar is the first half of a two-part capstone experience to complete a Bachelor of Fine Arts at Appalachian State University.  It is the gateway course into our Senior Studio.  What is great about the course is that the professor changes each semester, so we get to work with professors who may not be within our personal concentrations.  The class is offered every semester and is open to every Studio Art student, which is really cool because we get to work with classmates in different concentrations and see work we have not seen before.  Part of the Senior Seminar class involves a series of visual journal entries based on specific prompts.  The purpose is to get us thinking about different forms of inspiration, and to think outside of our normal boxes.  Not all involved making art - some were written exercises.  At the culmination of the course we present a proposal to a committee for approval.  This proposal is for a semester-long project we will create during Senior Studio the following semester.

Below are some of my visual journal entries, with their specific prompts.

Visual Research Journal 1 - System

"Design a visual system for creating works.  Include the description of the system, and then create one or more pieces based on the system."

Initially I wanted to dip a Slinky in paint and push it down a flight of stairs covered in paper.  Unfortunately the only Slinky I could find was not big enough to traverse the depth of the stair treads, so I ended up dunking it in paint and pushed it off the railing down onto the porch along a rolled out piece of paper.  Next, I dipped a small foam basketball in a different color of paint and rolled it down a step and ramp, seeing which way it would go and what texture, if any, it would leave behind.

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Above: Slinky off the railing

Right: Ball down the ramp

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Visual Research Journal 2 - Gravity

"Listen to The Distance of the Moon (Italo Calvino on Radio Lab).  Respond to or illustrate a part of the story.  Listen while making, as needed."

This was a really interesting story, albeit a strange one.  I cannot begin to explain it, you really need to listen to it to understand it (it is linked in the italics above).  I was inspired by the visuals described in it, and used them to create a piece made of clay that involved a hand, the moon, a boat, and buckets of moon cheese.  I told you it was strange.

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Visual Research Journal 3 - Copy Cat

"Take more than just inspiration from another artist.  There is a range of ways in which artists engage with the work and ideas of others, some ethical, some not.  For this visual journal entry, create a copy, or as close a study as possible, of a work from an artist you have never spent time deeply studying before.  Think about copying, influence, appropriation, cultural appropriation, plagiarism, reproduction, and transformation."

For this piece I looked for contemporary photographers whose work I could recreate in my own apartment.  I chose a still life by Laura Letinsky, which included objects easy enough to use and/or acquire.

Letinsky Original

Laura Letinsky original

Letinsky Reproduction

Laura Letinsky reproduction

Visual Research Journal 5 - Looping Sounds

"Listen to Behaves So Strangely (Diana Deutch on Radio Lab).  Choose a complex color chord of 5-7 colors in varying proportions.  Create a work that explores Symmetry, Asymmetry, and Rhythm."

The first thing that struck me about the sounds in this podcast were their metallic tones, which actually hurt my ears, especially ones that lasted longer than 30 seconds.  I chose to make a painting for this entry, and used various instruments to make my marks.  I started with a stucco-textured base of maroon, then added purple, gold, and cream colors to it in varying patterns and directions.  I used my fingers, Q-tips, and even a knife to apply the paint to the canvas, each mark influenced by the sounds in the podcast.

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Visual Research Journal 6 - Cut Through

"Cut through something.  Use any materials and tools you wish.  Choose a subject that resonates with your research presentation.  Consider what materials to cut, the tools, manner, and method in which you are cutting."

For a research assignment, we had to give two presentations - on a contemporary artist, and on a cultural topic.  For the cultural topic I chose the coded language of homosexuality, and how Oscar Wilde had used a green carnation to signify to other gay men that he was gay.  For this assignment, I printed several photographs of Wilde and his lover, Lord Alfred Douglas, on green paper, then cut them out into the shape of carnation petals.  I then folded and creased each one, varying their sizes, and gluing them together to form one large carnation.

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Visual Research Journal 9 - Alter Ego

"Create an alter ego!  Develop the personality, habits, biography, work or artwork, clothing, and/or other details of this person.  Put these descriptions in the text of your Instagram post.  Next, create a work of art by or about this new alter ego.  You can create a portrait of this person, or, if it is an artist, create the work of the artist.  Before beginning, please take a look at all of the artists and alter egos below.  As you research, consider the type of space, permission, or freedom the alter egos give the artists.  Theaster Gates as Shoji Yamaguchi.  David Bowie as Ziggy Stardust.  Jayson Musson as Hennessey Youngman.  Marcel Duchamp as Rrose Selavy (as photographed by Man Ray)."

At first I was intimidated by this project because I consider myself to be rather conservative in my appearance and, to a lesser degree, my mannerisms.  The more I thought about this, though, the more I saw it as an opportunity to break out of my shell without a fear of what anyone thought.  I could create a persona that explored anything.  So, I decided to become graffiti artist John St. John St. John.  St. John works in an abstract form on non-structural surfaces.  

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"Jellyfush."  Spray paint on drywall.

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"Faded."  Spray paint, turmeric, isopropyl alcohol on bristol board.

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"Paytriotism."  Spray paint on canvas.

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"Drip Drip."  Spray paint on canvas.

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"Pastures."  Turmeric, blackberry juice, isopropyl alcohol, and spray paint on foam core board.

© 2020 by Michael Gaines.
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