PQ: Submit nonfiction writing sample when applying to register for the course.
This is a course for students interested in developing their ability to write about the visual arts, as critics, appreciators, theorists, or memoirists, and, practically, for work in galleries, museums, journals, and magazines. A theme of the course will be to explore ways that art and life may interact, both in the work made by a visual artist, and in the nonfiction that arises in response to a visual artist or their work. Some students may be interested to write biographically about artists and their work, and we’ll talk about how to make biography illuminating and not reductive; other students may be interested to draw on their own life experiences as they try to shed light on works of art; still others may be curious to see how certain artists themselves have viewed the questions and practices of drawing from life. We’ll use ideas about drawing, and especially drawing repeatedly, as a model and a metaphor for thinking about writing. We’ll have some occasions to look at works on paper held at the Smart Museum, and we’ll visit some exhibitions and galleries, together and independently. Readings will include works such as James Lord’s book A Giacometti Portrait, on being drawn by Giacometti, Maggie Nelson on the color blue in life and art from Bluets, John Berger on drawing, Rebecca Solnit on photographer Edweard Muybridge, Geoff Dyer on street photography from The Ongoing Moment, John Yau on Jasper Johns’s practice and on those of contemporary artists, Zbigniew Herbert on the way 17th century Dutch artists used the material of their own life, and Lori Waxman, art critic of the Chicago Tribune, on walking as a radical art form, from Keep Walking Intently. Students will write a number of exercises in different forms (wall text, lyric meditation, portrait, interview) and will also write a more extended essay to be workshopped in class.