All art is either about shitting or fucking
JENNY KUHLA teaches photography at the Savannah College of Art & Design. Prior to teaching at SCAD, Jenny Kuhla worked as an account executive for a large stock photography agency in New York. Her work has been represented by the Clifford-Smith Gallery in Boston and included in several prestigious juried exhibitions. At SCAD, she has served as a leader in program assessments, working closely with the office of institutional effectiveness and serving as chair of the academic program assessment and leadership college councils.
Having taught photography since 1998, I’d like to share some of the advice that I find myself repeating the most:
Do in order to know.
Many student artists seem to get hung up on having to have a defining concept before they even begin a project. It’s not necessarily a bad thing to have a guiding idea, but a road map can never describe the experience of travel. I’ve seen too many students think themselves into corners and give up on potentially successful projects before they’ve made a single image. Do in order to know instead of knowing in order to do.
A rising tide lifts all boats.
This aphorism is deliberately lifted from economic theory, but subverted from its original, conservative meaning. It is intended as a call to student artists to be supportive and collegial instead of competitive and self-involved. The success of one can lead to the success of many through networking, shared resources, and mutual good will and promotion.
All art is either about shitting or fucking.
Underlying the seeming bluster of this statement is a germ of truth. At the end of the day, we are all corporeal beings with needs and desires. Even the most conceptual work is a by-product of lived experience; of the eye, of the hand, and of the body.
If there is no pleasure in making your work, then don’t make it.
This is not to suggest that the creative process will always be a cakewalk. It can be maddening, frustrating, challenging, and labor intensive, but if there is no joy then don’t bother.
It’s better to rip off the ideas of others than your own.
At a certain point in the life span of a project, the possibility for forging new territory begins to shut down. Instead of banking on an established, reliable formula for making work and churning out copies, stop and try something different for a while.
Jenny Kuhla 2011.
Published: October 25th, 2011