Richard Whiteley leading a masterclass at North Lands Creative Glass in 2004.
TEACHING ARTIST. The title has a mildly incongruous ring to it. Like Galloping Gourmet or Flying Nun.
Art-making, at least in the small amount of it that I’ve personally experienced, requires reflection, solitude, lots of quiet time for thinking stuff through and sneaking up on reality from unexpected angles.
None of that seems to go hand-in-hand with lesson plans, faculty meetings, or connecting enthusiastically with a sea of blank stares.
That’s why I’m constantly in awe of artists who teach. I know a lot of them. The majority of artists we represent at Bullseye Gallery are teachers, some in full-time academic programs, others as leaders of short-courses, many as lecturers at educational conferences like BECon.
Of the many teaching artists I know, there are few who matched Richard Whiteley’s schedule this summer: teaching and presenting at BECon, teaching at Pilchuck, demonstrating as a resident at Tacoma’s Museum of Glass. (You’ll need to click back from the current visiting artist to see Whiteley’s clip.) All of that while still heading up the glass workshop at the Canberra School of Art.
So, where in the year leading up to all this, did he find the time – and concentration – to make what is undeniably the finest work of his artistic career? If you haven’t seen the show that is up at Marx-Saunders Gallery in Chicago until the end of this month, at least check it out online. My personal favorite piece, Two Chambers, is possibly the most hauntingly anthropomorphic treatment of abstract sculptural glass I have ever experienced.
It takes a lot of coffee to do work this good. And teach at the same time.
How exactly does an artist stretch the limits of his or her personality (to say nothing of any marriages involved) in order to cover the seemingly contradictory bases of art-making and teaching at the same time? I’m pretty clueless as to the answer.
But if art is – among so many other things – about connecting the irreconcilable elements of our existence, then maybe I do get it. And a Teaching Artist isn’t quite as weird as a Flying Nun.