October 7, 2009 at 8:07 pm (art, teaching)



“Outpost is a group exhibition sponsored by the Visual and Critical Studies Department. It is an inquiry into the value we place on artworks and on the spaces that house them by encouraging the public to trade works of art for goods and services. Organized by faculty member Amy Wilson.”

I’m not entirely sure that descriptive sentence (which I wrote) is actually grammatically correct but here’s the deal: A bunch of students in the VCS department have taken over an unused studio on the 6th floor and turned it into a crazy, alternative exhibition space. Not a white cube at all… it’s bright and colorful with mismatched wallpaper patterns bumping up against bright blue shelves. In it, the students will have their artwork and next to each piece a “mailbox” of sorts – a place where you can leave notes for them, in particular an offer of something you might want to trade for their work. Instead of having a set price list, Outpost is asking the public to speculate on the value of the artwork, but to do so in a way that doesn’t involve money. Maybe you want to offer to clean the apartment of the person who made that awesome painting painting you want, or maybe you want to bake them a cake. Or maybe they want to hold out to trade to someone who offers them a really amazing TV set. Whatever – it’s about the communication, the exchange, and the discussion of what the value is that’s important.

It runs from Oct 15 – Nov 9th and there is an opening (which I hope you will come to!!) on October 15th from 5-7pm. It’s in the 133/141 W21st Street building in the 6th floor studios. Cupcakes will be served!


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Visual and Critical Studies

May 30, 2009 at 9:33 am (interesting, life, teaching)

I talk a lot about teaching at SVA, but one thing I don’t mention as much is what department I’m in. I’m actually in a few, but nearest to my heart is the brand new Visual and Critical Studies department. So far, it’s tiny – only a little more than 30 kids in the whole program – but it’s off to a really great start. We’ve had to grapple with our identity a little bit (the question “So what is Visual and Critical Studies?” is a valid one no matter where you are, but it probably seems even more pressing in a school where most majors are named straightforward nouns like “Photography” or “Film”). In brief: In VCS, you take the same amount of studio classes as you would in any other department, but you take a wider variety of classes. Instead of only studying photography for four years, you take a mix of drawing, photo, printmaking, sculpture, and so on. On top of that, the major also promotes a series of really demanding art history and philosophy courses, which help create a context for the studio classes you’re taking.

Anyway, enough of my sales pitch. Below is a video our department chair Tom Huhn commissioned last year, and I love it. If you look quickly, you can see me lurking in the back (!).

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Warhol vs. Smith (for 15 Artists/15 Weeks class)

December 20, 2008 at 3:32 pm (art, culture, teaching)

Ahhh… grades are in, the paperwork is done, I’ve just written my last letter of recommendation for the year… and so winter break is about to officially begin for me. Of course, winter break = lots of work, primarily finishing up stuff for the January show and (hopefully, finally) doing a stop-motion animation (this time I have it all scripted out!!) but I’m psyched for it – it’s my work which I’ve been neglecting to really do for the last few weeks.

But one last little school tidbit before I embark on all that. I won’t be doing any course planning for next semester til January, but a question that has been nagging at me is this: For my “15 Artists/15 Weeks” class, should one of the weeks be spent talking about Andy Warhol or Jack Smith? (I can’t discuss both in depth; there just isn’t time.)

Here are the various pros and cons…

Andy Warhol’s influence on contemporary art is without question. Students at SVA are likely to be familiar with his work to a point (the soup cans and Marilyn pieces are ubiquitous, but I doubt many of them have seen any of his films or really have an understanding of what he was up to in his work). What’s more, I’ve noticed a distinct re-examination of his work by the students I encounter; whereas when I was a student, Warhol’s genius was unquestioned, this generation doesn’t really seem to buy it.
(Not that “likeability” should have that much to do with whether or not I should include him in this course, but this is an interesting trend that I don’t think I can really ignore.)

Jack Smith, meanwhile, is largely unfamiliar to SVA students and the public at large, despite his work having a profound effect on many different artists. His films deeply influenced Warhol’s work – but, and this is where I break from the Smith Fandom – only to a point (I don’t personally buy the argument that Warhol somehow “ripped off” Smith). Still, when I show Smith’s work to students, I can’t help but notice that they adore it – they love what he was up to in the work and also the entire lifestyle he embodied, which they relate to and also romanticize. The enthusiasm with which they greet his work is profoundly different than the sort of dull response I get to teaching Warhol’s work. (I chalk a lot of this up to the excitement of learning a history that is somehow “hidden” or “mysterious” versus just learning a deeper version of a history most people are familiar with. At the same time, it is what it is – it’s excitement over boredom, which is a really big difference.)

So… which is it? Surely there will be a discussion of both of their work, but I do need to pick one to primarily focus upon. Class is only so long, and especially if I’ll be showing films I’ll have to make the distinction of privileging one over the other.

I’ve gone back and forth with this in my mind a thousand times. I really don’t know.

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Your desks are too heavy/and your walls are too white…

May 4, 2008 at 11:31 am (art, culture, personal, teaching)

Yay, the semester is done! All that’s left is a stack of grading, but I can deal with that. It was an absolutely terrific semester — I think this was the best yet. I miss my classes already.

For whatever reason, the end of the year has me thinking a lot about my own education and its relationship to my work. I have a feeling that this will take shape a little more as I start doing the research for my classes for next year, but a few random thoughts:

I went to school (speaking of college and grad school, so 1991-1997) and wound up, just because of where I was and the time it was, studying primarily with Conceptual, Minimal, and post-Minimal artists. I don’t think I was even aware of it at the time, since I – like a lot of students – just basically took the classes available to me without really asking (if the teacher teaching the class was “famous” then all the better – but I never really questioned the ideology that they embraced).

I look back on all this and think about what a strange fit it was. I was attracted to art because it gave me a forum and a place to express something that I couldn’t express anywhere else – and that something, while I still struggle to explain what it is, is related to my personal experience in the world. As I sit here, staring at the screen, all I can think to say to explain it is “the awkwardness of being alive,” but that’s not quite right. Maybe the best I can think of at this moment is “the awkwardness of me being alive right now.” Regardless of my fumbling with the best way to say it, the point is that I was always very interested in trying to capture bits of myself as an individual – my thoughts, feelings, my inhabited self (if that’s not too artsy). And in turn, I’ve always been interested in work that speaks to the same thing for other people.

All of this, of course, was the antithesis of what my instructors were interested in. They wanted to talk about theory and philosophy and to move art away from “therapy” and personal experience. i should point out that I respect the work from this period and that many of my teachers were absolutely wonderful to me, and that I am grateful for their guidance. Lord knows what would have happened had I not been forceably exposed to this other way of thinking and of making art – somehow, for me (given my personality, etc), having this to work against was a strong motivator to stick to my own path.

But the kind of work that was really encouraged when I was a student (this may be true to this day, I’m not totally sure) was work that left me numb. It seemed that the more devoid of emotion and personal experience a work would be (and the slicker it was made), the higher grade it would get and the more praise would be heaped on it. I fell under the spell of this ideology for a long time and completely embraced it (my work was never slick, but it was thickly coated in irony and, as such, ok by these standards) and breaking free from it has been a long and difficult process.

All this results in me thinking about how teaching is one of the primary joys of my life, mostly because I get to be around students who are asking many of the same questions that I did, and still do. I’m so fortunate it worked out this way – hey, it could have easily have been that I would inherit class after class of students making Donald Judd-inspired work, but it just hasn’t shaken out that way. As it winds up, my students care deeply about making their work themselves (rather than using fabricators or buying pre-made elements), about having an emotional experience with their work and telling stories about their lives; they reject irony and consumerism and the flashiness of the art world.

I recognize this as a fleeting thing. Ten years from now, it’s entirely possible that I may have class after class of students who think that personal narrative is stupid. It will be their right to decide that and my job to figure out the best way to guide them. But for right now? I’m so lucky to have this perfect match.

(sort of a postscript)
I gave this post a title that’s a line from a Sleater-Kinney song called What’s Mine is Yours. For me, it captures all the anxiety and frustrations of being young and trapped in a place (a small town, in school) you’re perpetually trying to get out of.
Did you ever get the feeling that you don’t belong?
Said the teacher in the classroom, I think there’s something wrong.
But your desks are too heavy
And your walls are too white
And your rules are all wrong
And it’s either run or fight.
Well, I’m still running…

It gets me everytime I hear it. This is why I really consider teaching to be part of my artistic practice – because I’m still running and I don’t think I’ll ever stop.

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The end is near…

April 29, 2008 at 10:07 am (art, teaching)

Semester’s almost over. Yippee! Just a few more days…

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The perils of teaching

March 29, 2008 at 12:16 pm (art, teaching)

A student recently asked me my opinion on a fellow teacher I don’t personally know anything about, so I told her that while I couldn’t really help, it might be worth her while to check out a site like ratemyprofessors.com or myspace’s similar feature. The student looked at me like she was the cat that ate the canary, like I knew about some sort of great secret feature out there that only the kids are supposed to know about.

On one hand, sites like these can be really dangerous – like student evaluations, all it takes is a couple of disgruntled students to totally screw up your average. I think the majority of teachers try really hard and are really earnest in their practice of teaching, it’s just that when you have so many people passing through your door in a given semester, it’s just bound to happen that a few people here and there won’t like you or will dislike your teaching style or maybe just hate the class you’ve been assigned to teach. On the other, I have to say that for the most part the students at SVA have been very generous and open with their assessments of their teachers.

Having said that…

I HAVEN’T RATED A SINGLE HOT PEPPER YET, FOR FUCK’S SAKE. Ok, the whole “hot pepper” section of the ratings is the only thing I really object to (since what difference does the physical attractiveness of the teacher make?) but hey – the system exists, so who am I to pretend it doesn’t? There are teachers in their 70s who are ranked as being more attractive than I am, since my rating is at a zero. How is this possible?!??! I wear makeup to class for you people!! My one consolation is that another professor who is about my age and very good-looking also rated a zero… which means what, exactly, I don’t know. Had I not noticed that, I probably would have killed myself earlier this morning.

Anyway. Yes, I am pandering shamelessly.

I think you know what you have to do.

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Registration for 08/09

March 25, 2008 at 9:49 pm (teaching)

Yikes – I have to make this quick, but:

I’ve already gotten two questions about this subject, so…
Yes, it’s true, there are two A. Wilsons teaching at SVA. That means that you can’t just look at the reg book and see which classes A. Wilson is teaching and sign up for them and get me. Although I do hear that the other A. Wilson is pretty cool too.

My classes are:
Drawing – Honors program and Visual and Critical Studies (freshmen only, fall/spring)
Under the Influence: Altered States and Art History (fall semester, open to all)
15 Artists/15 Weeks (ok, was supposed to be fall semester but somehow got run during the spring – arghhhhhh, open to all)
Understanding Kitsch (spring, open to all)
Professional Development (spring, open to Fine Arts 4th years)

That’s it – I don’t teach a class on interpersonal behavior, the anthropology of the bible, or cross cultural relationships.

More soon – I finished my new accordion-fold book!!!!!! I’m happier with it than I have been with anything in a while. Hooray!

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I loved the chaos that nature brought (new drawing, 2/4/08)

February 4, 2008 at 7:30 pm (art, drawing, interesting, painting, personal, teaching, thoughts) (, )

So, tragedy befell the Wilson-Edwards household today when my beloved mechanical pencil started showing some real signs that it’s about to leave us. The nib now wiggles too much, an obvious result of having been leaned on one too many times, and I should probably replace it tomorrow. Given that it cost (I don’t know) $2.95 at the nearby Rite Aid and I bought it about four years ago (meaning that it has served me for literally a couple hundred drawings), I shouldn’t be sad to see it go… but I am. I love that stupid mechanical pencil. As picky and anal as I am about my supplies, that’s the one thing I have absolutely not wavered on since I got it; I simply considered it superior to all other mechanical pencils in the universe. And now, it’s time for it to go… sigh.

So this might be the last drawing I complete with it. If it’s not the last drawing, then it’s definitely the next-to-last, since working on it was much harder than usual since I had to compensate for that wiggling nib (oh, and it goes without saying that The Wiggling Nibs would be a great name for a back-up band). And of course, I was smack in the middle of a larger piece when all this happened… good lord, hadn’t realized how upset I was about this stupid pencil til I started writing this…

Anyway. Point is, this is watercolor, pencil (*sob*), and collage on paper, about 9 x 24 inches. Here’s an overall image:


The dimensions of this drawing don’t exactly make it bloggerific, so I also made a detail that’s probably a little more clear:


It contains one of my favorite stories from teaching ever, left over from this summer. I was showing a group of high school kids a video of The Way Things Go and, when the lights came up, the very first question was from probably the best student in class. She asked, in a way that was so fraught with fear and dread that there’s no way I can actually capture it here, “Who cleaned up that mess when they were done?”

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Evening courses!

January 1, 2008 at 11:49 pm (art, teaching) (, , , , , )

Oh wow. This totally sneaked up on me and I almost forgot all about it…

In addition to the three courses I teach in the undergraduate program at SVA, I’m also going to be teaching two evening classes in the Continuing Ed department if anyone signs up for them. That means I’ll be having sort of a crazy schedule for a few months, but eh. It’s ok. My classes this year have been amazing, so if anything, maybe I’ll just be doubling the amazingness coming my way. (Or that’s my theory.)

I have to say that teaching CE (aka, adult education) is totally different than teaching the undergrads. Figure: during the day, I feel I have a duty and a responsibility to teach the kids something since they’re getting a degree certifying them to be artists and I want them to be well-prepared for the world and so on and so forth. But at night? My responsibility is to see to it that everyone has fun. We’re all adults here, so bring beer to class if you like. Relax, have fun, and learn about art that I love love love.

Here are the CE classes I’m teaching. Enrollment is still very much open.

Under the Influence: Altered States of Consciousness and Art History
TH, Jan 24 – Mar 20
Hours: 06:00PM – 08:00PM
1.50 CEUs; $210.00

This is my art history class about drug/alcohol use, mental/physical illness, and religious visions and how they have all inspired incredible works of art. The structure of the course is that I talk for about an hour/hour and a half (during which time I show slides), then we watch a video relating to the subject of the week. This is a CE, evening class* and as such there are no papers, tests, etc. You show up, I show you slides, we talk for a bit, we watch a video. It was really popular last year and I think everyone had a good time.
(*note that I teach a day school version of this class that is for undergrad credit and DOES require papers, etc. But the evening class doesn’t.)

Expressive Drawing to Music
F, Jan 25 – Feb 29
Hours: 06:00PM – 09:00PM
1.50 CEUs; $210.00

How to explain? Basically, this is a studio class where you will be working from the nude model while I play various sets of specifically chosen music and cheerfully try to help you along. If all goes well and we have the same model from last year, she is an amazing dancer and does incredible interpretative poses to the music. You have the option of having me be really hands-on and help you with your drawings or I can just leave you alone and you can work independently. If you want to share your work with the class that’s great; if not, we will still love you and respect your desire to work privately. Occasionally, I will bring in a live musician and things will get extra awesome. I can’t tell you how much fun this class is… it’s pretty great.

If you are so inclined, go here to register for classes. It would be fun to have you along!

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This is DIY

November 12, 2007 at 7:16 pm (art, culture, interesting, teaching)

Come see this! It should be great.

The School of Visual Arts presents
The Honors Program Annual Lecture: This is DIY

YouTube and Flickr are just two of the latest incarnations of the Do-It-Yourself ethic, which has shaken up markets and created new communities. Arts and media leaders at the forefront offer some perspective: Vanessa Bertozzi, editor in chief and director of communications, Etsy, the online retailer of handmade goods; Steve Englander, director, ABC No Rio community-based arts center; David Reinfurt/Stuart Bailey of Dexter Sinister: A Just-in-Time Workshop & Occasional Bookstore; and John Strausbaugh, a regular contributor to The New York Times, The Washington Post and Cabinet. Moderated by SVA students Michaela Murphy and Tarah Rhoda; organized by faculty member Amy Wilson.

Thursday, November 15th at 7pm
School of Visual Arts Amphitheater

209 East 23rd Street, 3rd floor
Free and open to the public.

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