Art Prof Uses Imagery to Teach

Jeffrey Scudder, assistant professor of art at Southern Oregon University, creates dynamic presentations with exquisite imagery for his lectures and performances. An internationally known figure in the art world, Scudder holds a Master of Fine Arts in Sculpture from Yale University. He teaches in SOU’s Emerging Media and Digital Arts program, telling stories with pen and paper, while instantaneously capturing and creating post-expressionist images, with a host of newly developed computer software. We met at Case Coffee Roasters on Siskiyou Boulevard.

EH: Tell me about your productions.

JS: Since I come from computer art, I do a lot of performance without computers, a lot of drawing and telling stories. I transform things. I change from one image to another: A morphing image with a morphing story. Lately, I have been doing a lot of drawing with sound. Performing while drawing and talking simultaneously. These are modernist ideas of connecting drawing and sound.

Sometimes in order to understand what’s happening with computers or technology, you have to use a different medium to describe it. You want it to be in the background so that you can focus on the conversation.

People don’t usually think of computer art as something that requires a physical presence. I’m spearheading a movement to create more intimacy through computer art. I’m often drawing on paper, but I’m talking about video games. I am creating a form of intimacy by not actually playing the video game. Instead I’m talking about ideas using another medium.

When I perform, I like to create a setting, like a chamber music performance. I use a lot of candles, there’s music playing, sometimes snacks. I like the audience to feel that they are part of the action so that people feel at ease, so that they are ready to take in images and let things happen.

EH: Your digital paintings are stunning. How do you create them?

JS: A lot of those are made on my phone: zooming-in and painting. I take photos as well. A lot of these things are collage techniques. You get this nice blend of what’s in the real world, and what’s in your painting, so it creates an interesting form of collage.

I want to form visual excitement out of drawing, I enjoy the excitement of making the drawing, also the excitement that you get in the final image as well.

I like to have one hand forward, in the future, coming up with new software, new technologies. But the way that I like to approach those new things, is having one hand back in the older media, the simpler media. The more abstract our media becomes, the more virtual things get, the more important it is that we value the immediate physical things that we have. Today, writing a letter is more of an artistic thing. You don’t write a letter because you have to, you write it because there’s poetry in it.

When I teach computers, a lot of times the students want to forget about the past, but the past is what generates the things that are coming.

EH: What’s happening in the art world now?

JS: Social media created a big change in the art world. It shifted the power dynamics between artists and galleries. It changed the way images move around and the way that galleries work. Now you have DIY (do it yourself) art spaces. They operate on almost no money. Because of social media, they can have an international following. Artists seem to have more power.

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