Fall 2019, Advanced Practice: Material As Metaphor – H. Lan Thao Lam

Material As Metaphor

PGFA 5300 (CRN: 2056)

Thursdays 9:00am – 11:40am


Image credit: Fever and Spear, 2014. Anicka Yi.

This course explores the meaning of material for the artist. Its goal is to gain a deep understanding of the language of materials, and hence how to fashion that language to function not merely literally, but also metaphorically; that is, figuratively, abstractly, symbolically, and conceptually. The course probes beyond the familiar meaning of wood, plaster, metal, and clay, and asks what such materials can do in the world and how artists can activate them. In the hands of artists, the term “material” denotes not simply inert matter, but substances that are always subject to change, whether through handling, environmental interaction, or the dynamic life of their chemical reactions. They point to processes of production and are the basis for continuous transformation. The class will introduce processes in the wood, metal, and wet shops not only as the means for fabrication, but also as opportunities for hands-on exploration and in particular how each artist can learn to cultivate a distinctive approach to materials. Students will gain an appreciation for materials in their particularity, whether organic or synthetic, and will learn how to exploit their specific charge to express ideas such as tension, memory, pain, power, connectivity, or labor.