Our First Critique

The weather has been miserable!  It has rained almost every day, the wind has been blowing a steady 15 knots off the ocean, and the sun is a notion we vaguely remember.  I know that it’s common for this part of the world to have a higher than normal amount of rain and weather, but even for Ireland it seems excessive. That’s what is happening on the outside.

In the studio the sun is shining brightly!  Our students have been bearing up and havemade the most of a poor weather situation.  They have put in long hours developing sound concepts, and once clarified, have begun making work that is some of the best that this program has ever produced.  That’s a pretty aggressive statement considering the talent that has taken advantage of the Arts In Ireland program over the years.

We had our first critique on Friday and it was a tremendous success.  It began at 1 pm and continued well past 5.  Everyone was pretty much exhausted at the end; but the feeling was analogous to how one feels after a satisfying meal; fulfilled and content. The two small portraits are the work of Stephanie Hoomis.  The picture at left is Chris Droney, 86 year old concertina player.

Tyler Matayoshi plays one of his early compositions


As you know, this is the first year we have experimented with combining studio art and music.  Our thesis was that studio art and music have much in common.  We weren’t sure until Friday  what the outcome would be because this was unexplored territory.  After the critique we were more convinced than ever that our initial thesis was correct.  The inclusion of music to the program has added richness and texture to an already successful educational framework.

We began the critique by having each student describe their project and   show the work they have produced thus far. Classmates asked questions, made constructive suggestions about how to improve the work, and generally followed the usual path followed in our critiques at Wheaton.  Though there was nothing really different about the way the critique was conducted, all agreed that it felt special.  Maybe it was because we are here in Ireland.  Maybe it’s because the students in the program have all proven that they are capable artists and the bar is higher.  It could be that they have formed bonds that make it possible for them to feel more at ease when participating in a critique.  Whatever the reasons it was one of the best critiques I have managed in my many years at the college.   One of our talented artists, Amira Pualwan, stated that it was the best critique, by far, that she has ever experienced as a Wheaton student.

I believe that the added element of music has really enriched the substance of the total experience.  The music students each took their turn performing their compositions and subjecting themselves to the same process of criticism that the studio artists experience.

The picture at left is a portrait of Eddie Lenihan, famed Irish story teller and author.

Nate Hunt in the process of answering questions about his composition

Matthew Allen comments on the work of one of our studio artists

They played short original compositions and then asked for comments from the group.  It didn’t take long for everyone to become comfortable with the process. It became obvious that our critical method works equally well for both visual art and music.  The vocabulary used is similar and a sensitive eye can easily become a sensitive ear when the shift is necessary.

I am including photos made of our students while in the process of discussing their work or while responding to questions from their audience.  I have also included a few samples of the work in progress as a tease for what is to come.  Please know that what is happening indoors here at the Burren is nothing short of revolutionary in the way we connect the arts.  Let it rain.  A little rain can’t extinguish a fire that has been lit and is burning brightly.  Keep reading.  The best is yet to come.

Alex is listening to comments from her classmates.

Amira Pualwan explains her concept and shares her conceptual idea.

Gilda explains the basis for her work in her ink and pencil drawings.

Hilary Lahan, one of our four music students, prepares to play one of her early compositions

Lauren Andres describes her idea on which to execute her body of work

Rachel Vergara describes the source of her inspiration for her project. The Book of Kells

Stephanie Hoomis describes the technique she is using for her portraits

I promise you that everyone will be featured in this blog before we leave Ireland.  If there is anything that you would like to know about or see in the blog, please let me know.