• Personal Philosophy
  • Teaching Philosophy

I have developed a working method in which technique and material choices are driven by the desire to communicate conceptually. In my BFA degree project, I used the combined processes of computer technology and the photogram to mimic the scientific discipline of microscopy. My thoughts on the primacy of ideas refreshed and expanded my approach to the craft of printmaking. In addition to content-­‐specific techniques, employing different materials became an effective way to convey an idea. My interest in the dynamic connection between materials and concept, led me to the discipline of sculpture, and the expanded field of materials and technical processes including three-­‐ dimensional computer aided design and video.

The concept of vision extended, by microscopy and other means, remains a defining characteristic of my thinking and my work. In this contemporary time, we have an awareness that even small everyday actions made without aggression can accumulate to destroy the earth and humanity through incremental collective action. Fossil fuels, vinyl plastics are the everyday atomic bombs. Our empathy is pushed to the breaking point because of the vastness of the problem. Art can provide the images to extend our ability to see the effects of our collective action, allowing us to empathize with people or even non-­human entities of the world. With my artwork, I seek to participate in the historical, social, and intellectual concerns that shape the contemporary moment.

    Twelve years into the 21st century, students have begun to absorb the ubiquity of digital tools. New media are developing fresh tropes while continuing to be part of a historical continuum of traditional media. In my classes, I aim to provide a context for the past, present, and future of visual art as related to these new developments in art and technology. My courses examine studio pursuit by engaging digital practice in relation to analog practice. Students in my classes interrogate methods and materials to determine their significance to their artistic endeavors. I propose assignments as models with a corresponding corollary in the world at large. Even foundational activities, such as physically constructing a three-­‐dimensional form from a textile pattern, become an analog for designing architecturally scaled spaces.

    I encourage my students to linking studio practice to the larger world. This practice reflects the liberal arts context where students are make connections with several disciplines at once and gives them a chance to define their own artistic queries. My own in-­‐class presentations draw on a broad range of art literature and non-­‐art cultural phenomena. Lectures triangulate art works with the context and motivations for why works came into being. I find that introducing from artists who translate specific cultural practices or who bring feminist or ethnic perspectives to their artwork to be an effective way to get students engaged and spark class discussions. Critiques that develop over the course of the semester allow students to experience each work and, by proxy, the world more fully.

    I encourage student awareness of visual language that is dynamic and mutable by structuring projects with a variety of contrasting concepts such as representation versus non-­‐representation or illustration versus demonstration. For example, one can demonstrate balance by having an object that is likely to fall or tip, or illustrate it by making an image of a scale. My goal is for students to be familiar with the many ways visual language can carry ideas for artists and designers. In my interactions with graduate students or more advanced undergraduates, I attempt to understand what the artist is trying to convey from the work and respond to the gap between intention and the work.

    In short, I regard the responsibility of teaching as a thrilling inquiry into the complex and essential act of making art.

All images and content © Miriam Ellen Ewers 2013. All rights reserved.