Art History Students Close Their Books and Make Art

workshop 2An art professor and an art history professor recently collaborated to run a hands-on workshop for students in the class, From Mao to Now: Contemporary Chinese Art.

Peggy Wang, assistant professor of art history and Asian studies, worked with Jackie Brown, assistant professor of visual arts, to conduct an art-making workshop that Wang said would help students better understand the challenges and particularities of generating meaning through art. The project is part of her on-going efforts to immerse art history students in material and form.

“Through these kinds of experiences with materials and process,” Wang said, “students can bring their hands-on experiences and insights into art-making back to art historical interpretation.”

Wang and Brown assigned a project that in particular would shed light on performance and installation art in contemporary China. These art forms have been vibrant mediums in the nation since the 1980s.

The workshop, completed in one 85-minute class, consisted of two parts. For the first part, students worked in pairs to create casts of body parts using plastic wrap and packing tape. Students approached their resulting casts of hands and feet in various ways: as sculptures, symbols, vessels and fragmented body parts, explained Wang.

In the second part of the workshop, students selected spaces in the Edwards Center to install their casts using thread, tape and found objects. “As they used thread to connect, entangle, bind and suspend their casts, students engaged in tactics of mediating and manipulating space, light and material,” Wang said.

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