Graduate Fine Arts

Graduate Seminars Course

MFA students are required two graduate seminars over the four semesters, about 2-4 Seminar classes are offered each semester. Below you will see a list of both past and present graduate seminar courses:

Being offered Fall 2022:

FNAR 2310/ FNAR 5047: Advanced Sculpture: Installation & Interventions 
Michelle Lopez, F 10:15am – 1:14pm 
In this course students will create sculptural installations and spatial interventions that explore site specificity and architectural environments. A range of traditional sculptural materials and techniques will be investigated along with more ephemeral interventions in space such as sound, light, and projection. Through lectures, readings, and critiques, students will explore the history of installation and interactive sculptural work and develop self-directed projects that interrogate historical, social, and psychological conditions of the built environment.

FNAR 3110/ FNAR 5059: Public Art and Issues of Spatial Production 
Ken Lum , T 1:45pm – 4:44pm 

The French social philosopher Michel de Certeau upset the common understanding of the relationship between space and place by elevating space as practice place. By this, he meant that place is but a set of geo-physical particularities that has no dynamic meaning unless activated through social engagement so that space is produced. Spatial practice is a key concept in the modern understanding of the city as a society of abstract space, one in which the problem of human alienation is riven with the logic of spatial spectacularization. Public Art is often employed to address or mollify such urban problems through concepts of historical reconstruction or institutional critique, including possibly testing the limits of public expression. Historical markers play a somewhat different role by calling attention to lost or negative histories, albeit most often vetted through the language of tourism factoids. This course will examine the discursive issues at play in respect to art and markers, particularly for Philadelphia. Additionally, important public art works from around the world will be examined. The course will also include the occasional visit of several key works downtown in which the question of what can and cannot said will be pondered.

FNAR 3130/ FNAR 5061: Mystics & Visionaries: Arts and Other Ways of Knowing 
Jackie Tileston , T 1:45pm – 4:44pm 

As a pioneer of abstraction in the early 1900's, Hilma Af Klint channeled a complex and highly original body of abstract symbolic work in secrecy. Using the upcoming Hilma Af Klint exhibition at the Guggenheim as a focus and departure point, this course will explore the ways in which artists have accessed alternative ways of seeing, knowing, and embodying non-visible realities as a source for their work. Accessing spiritual realms has been the subject of early European Modernisms investigations into Theosophy and Anthroposophy, as well as the primary intention of Tibetan Thangkas and Indian Tantra paintings. Postmodernism's crisis of belief and skepticism generated a cultural situation wherein the subject of spirituality was marginalized, ridiculed as anti- intellectual, and in disgrace. The Hilma Af Klint exhibition and surge of interest in her work signifies a new moment, where questions about consciousness and the nature of reality are being addressed with renewed vigor. How do we create space in a technology driven world for experiences that attempt to align the viewer/maker with the contemplative realm, heightened states of consciousness, or transcendence? We will examine a wide field of artists in an attempt to understand the possibilities of the "spiritual" in art and contemporary culture. This seminar will engage in readings, lectures, discussions, projects, and field trips. This course is appropriate for both grad and undergrad, art majors and non-majors alike.

FNAR 3160/ FNAR 5064: Is This Really Happening? Performance and Contemporary Political Horizons (SNF Paideia Program Course) 
Sharon Hayes, Brooke O’Harra W 5:15pm – 8:14pm 

This class addresses the meeting points inside of and between a range of resistant performance practices with a focus on artists using performance to address political and social encounters in the contemporary moment. Performance, a chaotic and unruly category that slides across music, dance, theater and visual art, has long been a container for resistant actions/activities that bring aesthetics and politics into dynamic dialogue. Embracing works, gestures, movements, sounds and embodiments that push against and beyond the conventions of a given genre, performance can't help but rub uncomfortably against the status quo. Scholars working across Performance Studies and Black Studies importantly expanded critical discourse around performance to address the entanglement of the medium with physical, psychic, spatial and temporal inhabitations of violence and power. Generating copious genealogies of embodied resistance, this scholarship instigates a complex, interdisciplinary and multidimensional perspective on intersections between art and life, performance and politics. The class hosts a series of public lectures, presentations and performances by visual artists, choreographers, theater artists, composers/musicians, performers, curators and activists engaged with the social and political moment. Presentations will be open to the public with students in the course developing in-depth research into the work of each visiting artist/performer/presenter to engage the larger context of each visitor's scholarship and/or practice through readings, discussion and in-class presentations. This course is open to all interested students. No prior requisites or experience with performance or the performing arts is necessary.

Past Seminars:

FNAR 802/ 804 - Sachs Research w/ Visiting Professor Every Ocean Hughes *By Permission Only - Offered Spring 2022 

FNAR-585 -  Performance Studio, Sharon Hayes, Friday
This course supports the individual and collaborative production of performance works. As the medium of performance consists of diverse forms, actions, activities, practices and methodologies, the course allows for an open exploration in terms of material and form. Students are invited to utilize technologies, materials and methodologies from other mediums and/or disciplines such as video, photography, writing and sound. In addition to the production component, the course will examine multiple histories of performance through readings, screenings and directed research. 

FNAR 613 - The Chinese Body and Spatial Consumption in Chinatown, Ken Lum, Tuesday 1:45pm- 4:45pm
Course descriptionThis course looks at representations of the Chinese (and Asian body) since the Limehouse district in East London and the advent of Chinese contract laborers to the Americas in the 19th century. The localization of the Chinese throughout the Americas within Chinatown precincts were also subject to representational imaginings that were negotiated through the lens of civic planning, literature and later in cinema. Chinatowns are ultimately a product of racism. They were created as a political and social support system for newly arrived Chinese immigrants. While Chinese laborers arrived into the United States in 1840 and in significant numbers into Canada about 1860, Chinese contract workers were encouraged to immigrate to the Americas as an inexpensive source of labor, especially after the end of the American Civil War. Industrial leaders in America, Canada and elsewhere in the Americas (Mexico, Cuba, Peru, etc) saw the arrival of Chinese workers as a victory for commercial interests. However, the celebration was short-lived, as anti-Chinese sentiment quickly transformed into anti-Chinese hysteria. Rather than attacking the vested interests that exploit foreign labor as embodied by the Chinese worker, racist unions with the cooperation of civic leaders and the police deemed it safer to burn Chinatowns than capitalist property. Deeply under-studied to this day is the number of mass murders of Chinese workers in the 19th century by anti-Chinese thugs. This seminar will focus in on how the body of the Chinese (and Asian) was imagined and reimagined multiple times from the middle of the 19th century to today.

FNAR-127-201 Space/Form Michelle H Lopez, Monday/Wednesday 1:45 -4:45 PM
In this studio-based course, students are introduced to a wide range of approaches and techniques explore surface, space, and time (2D,3D,4D). Traditional sculptural materials and techniques will be investigated along with more ephemeral interventions in space such as sound, light, and projection. Through lectures, readings, and critiques, students will explore the history of installation and interactive sculptural work, discover new directions in contemporary art, and develop self-directed projects that interrogate historical, social, and psychological conditions of the built environment.

FNAR-676-401 Advanced Lens Based Projects David Hartt, Monday 10:15am-1:15pm
Advanced Lens Based Projects (ALBP) is structured to create an open environment for students to develop a series of self-determined projects using any variety of image capture technologies. Mobile devices and DSLRs have blended the function of moving and still image capture while computers have become ubiquitous as instruments of display and dissemination. This has consequently led to the increasingly collapsed boundaries of artistic mediums. ALBP is a studio class where students will explore different modes of production and address the expanding field of exhibition strategies. Additionally the class will foster a transdisciplinary approach to critiquing work and emphasize the shared context of the works reception. Readings, screenings, discussions and critiques make up the curriculum along with dedicated studio time. Each student is required to complete 3 self-determined projects using still or moving image capture technologies. Grades will be determined through participation, completion of assignments and the students' formal and critical engagement with the technology. While the focus of this course is not technical, prior knowledge of camera functions and post-production techniques is expected. Prerequisites FNAR 061 OR FNAR 150 OR FNAR 271 OR FNAR 340.

FNAR 615-  Across Forms: Art and Writing,  Sharon Hayes/Rachel Zolf, Wednesday 1:45pm – 4:45pm
What if a poem spoke from inside a photograph? What if a sculpture unfurled a political manifesto? What if a story wasn't just like a dance, but was a dance-or a key component of a video, drawing, performance, or painting? In this course, artists and writers will develop new works that integrate the forms, materials, and concerns of both art and writing. Many artists employ writing in their practices, but may not look at the texts they create as writing. And many writers have practices that go beyond the page and deserve attention as art. This course will employ critique and workshop, pedagogic methodologies from art and writing respectively, to support and interrogate cross- pollination between writing and art practices. Additionally, the course will examine a field of artists and writers who are working with intersections between art and writing to create dynamic new ways of seeing, reading, and experiencing.

Offered Spring 2021 FNAR 801-405 - Sachs Research w/ Visiting Professor Ernesto Pujol *By Permission Only

FNAR 801-402 - Praxis & Poiesis: A Studio Practice Intensive, Matt Freedman 
This seminar examines the essential nature drawing has in an artist’s process. Direct visual perception, self-referential mark making, the viability of space and understanding it, and drawing from one’s own work are some of the drawing experiences encountered in the course. There are regular critiques and discussions based on the work and readings.

FNAR 801- 403 - Contemporary Human and its Critique, Orkan Telhan
This seminar surveys thought patterns, ideas, and ideologies that shape the concept of the “human” and “humanness” across Contemporary Art & Culture. We will examine a set of discursive strategies that offer a critique of the “Human” as an individual, social, and cultural agent with respect to other humans, non-humans, and concepts that anchor the critique such the Climate Change, Social Injustice, and Conflict/Crisis.
We will specifically focus on three key topics: 1) Inhabiting the human (the material, individual, and public body); 2) Governing the human (labor, debt, discipline); 2) Representing the human (imaging and imagining the body across media).
By closely studying a selection of artists, writers, and cultural theorists, we will discuss a variety of positions and their counter-positions disseminated across a multitude of form and venues, ranging from installations to artifacts, events, and publications. The course will include writing assignments and media projects where student responses can materialize in alternative formats. Meeting Pattern: Tuesday 10AM-1PM

FNAR 801-401 - Perspectives in Art: A Nomadic Approach, Jackie Tileston
This seminar will explore both historical and contemporary issues in a spirit of curiosity and critique, and investigate how these ideas can clarify and complicate our practice as artists and our understanding of contemporary art. Issues covered will range from traditional investigations of aesthetic philosophies, Modernism, Postmodernism, Apres-Post and contemporary themes. This panoply of ideas about art, culture, politics, and aesthetics swirls back and forth across time, reinvigorating and destabilizing each other. Many of the readings point to an artist’s place in a complex world of competing ideologies.  The readings and conversations will ideally call into question and fuel your own doubts and beliefs about art, while provoking an ongoing critical inquiry into your own work and the relationship of art and artists to society.

FNAR 801-402 - Defense Against the Dark Arts, David Hartt
Defense Against the Dark Arts is a graduate studio that considers the artwork as space for debate and practice as a form of contention. How do we as artists participate meaningfully in the definition of social and cultural positions? Take for example the concept of Sovereignty, what does it mean in an era of failed states, virtual networks, and environmental catastrophe?  The .yu domain name was retired 18 years after the dissolution of the Yugoslav state.  The island nation of Tuvalu will most likely cease to exist in 50 years due to rising water levels.  The 14th amendment, originally designed to grant citizenship rights to slaves was used to grant personhood to corporations.  Sovereignty is an unstable concept with real social, political and economic consequences.  We as artists have the platforms and the tools to investigate and dimensionalize how this or any other term or concept sits in the world. We’ll look at a variety of historic responses to times of crisis from manifestos to agit-propaganda, from films to a Formulary for a New Urbanism.  Readings, screenings, and discussions make up the curriculum along with written and visual responses.

FNAR 801-403 - Creative Research, Orkan Telhan
This seminar explores what it means to do research in creative and critical practices. Students learn about different research methods from design, engineering, humanities and sciences; utilize them for developing and evaluating their individual creative work as cultural producers. This is an interdisciplinary course that encourages students to observe, measure, analyze, test, study, experiment, diagram, prototype, speculate, generate and criticize; apply multiple modes of inquiry; be conceptual, analytical, propositional and critical at the same time to develop their work from different perspectives.

FNAR 801-401 - Covert Structures, Michelle Lopez
What is the shape of invisibility? How do we explore materiality within industrial everyday sources to expose cultural resistance or a disappearance? These are some questions that will be asked in order to challenge modes of creativity by unweaving conventional narratives in order to build other, non-linear spaces. The seminar contends with the physicality/obstruction of “things” while simultaneously persevering through the material to piece together subversive structures in relation to your images, ideas, your secrets.

Through reading that begins with Ellison’s Invisible Man and ends with critical readings on our prevalent invisible ecosystem of social media and the resistance of hacking, we will negotiate what it means to make a gesture, that is very real and physical (possibly failing), towards an incisive silence with the potential to move beyond boundaries, including the materials and bodies that bind us. Research at the material library and material Connex (NY), along within other departments will be a part of the class, but also each person’s willingness to step out of the comfort zone of artistry that often illustrates, finger-points, or displays. At the root of this class is unearthing one’s own process of creativity, by jumping off cliff into the unknown, and honestly looking at the common forms and strategies that oblige us.

Discussion of reading and group critiques within individual graduate student practice will be a large part of the class.

FNAR-530 – Making Space and Public Art, Ken Lum
The French social philosopher Michel de Certeau upset the common understanding of the relationship between space and place by elevating space as practice place. By this, he meant that place is but a set of geo-physical particularities that has no dynamic meaning unless activated through social engagement so that space is produced. Spatial practice is a key concept in the modern understanding of the city as a society of abstract space, one in which the problem of human alienation is riven with the logic of spatial spectacularization. Public Art is often employed to address or mollify such urban problems through concepts of historical reconstruction or institutional critique, including possibly testing the limits of public expression. Historical markers play a somewhat different role by calling attention to lost or negative histories, albeit most often vetted through the language of tourism factoids. This course will examine the discursive issues at play in respect to art and markers, particularly for Philadelphia. Additionally, important public art works from around the world will be examined. The course will also include the occasional visit of several key works downtown in which the question of what can and cannot said will be pondered.

FNAR-538 – Open Book, Sharka Hyland
"Open Book" will focus on visual communication of information. It will address two methods of inquiry and the corresponding means of visual representation: the objective, well structured research of facts and images, and the creative process of their subjective evaluation and restatement. Students will propose a topic based on their area of interest and engage in a focused, semester-long exploration, which they will present in the form of a designed and printed book.

FNAR-553 – Advanced Printmaking: Silkscreening, Virgil Marti
This course will concentrate on expanding imagery in print media. A wide variety of print techniques will be covered. Techniques will be addressed as they serve the needs of ideas rather than a set technical procedure. Through individual consultation, scheduled class critiques, field trips, guest artists, and collaborative projects, attention will be given to studio work in and out of printmaking so that the technical and conceptual strengths of print media can serve as a worthwhile adjunct to an overall studio practice. The course requires the proposal of a directed project to be explored in this seminar.

FNAR-554 – Graduate Printmaking I
This course will cover the traditional print processes while offering a chance to develop visual skills. The processes covered in class will include monoprinting (one of a kind prints), relief printing and a variety of etching techniques. Demonstrations will be offered to introduce more advanced processes like lithography and silkscreening. This class is an excellent introduction to the visual arts because the through process as well as the development of the image can be recorded.

FNAR-568 – Interactive Design Studio: Cultures of Making, Orkan Telhan
This course is a research-based design studio that introduces new materials, fabrication, and prototyping techniques to develop a series of design proposals in response to the theme: Cultures of Making. This semester of the studio will focus on thinking through the language of three new technologies – digital fabrication, printed electronic, and biosynthesis – to respond creatively and critically to emerging social, cultural, and environmental issues. Through lectures and hands-on workshops, students will produce three functional design prototypes to realize their ideas in different capacities and learn how to position their work within contemporary art, media, and design.

SM 575 – Graduate Drawing Seminar, Matt Freedman
This seminar examines the essential nature drawing has in an artist’s process. Direct visual perception, self-referential mark making, the viability of space and understanding it, and drawing from one’s own work are some of the drawing experiences encountered in the course. There are regular critiques and discussions based on the work and readings.

FNAR-576 – Critical Issues I: A History of Ideas in Art, Jackie Tileston
This seminar will address some of the theories, critical ideas and methods that have influenced studio artists, touching on 2000 years of art and aesthetics from Plato to Dave Hickey. Issues covered will range from traditional investigations of aesthetics to Modernism, Postmodernism, Post Postmodernism and more. Connections will be made between ideas, theories, and practice as it shows up in the work of various 20th century artists. We will investigate how issues in philosophy, art history and criticism can be used by the studio artist to understand not only the contemporary climate in the art world, but his or her own work.

FNAR-576 – Critical Issues II: Contemporary Themes, Jackie Tileston
This seminar will focus on writings within the last ten years or so about the contemporary art world, the current dialogues, and issues specific to our time and place as artists. This seminar will explore contemporary issues in a spirit of curiosity and critique, and relate them to our studio practice. Many of the readings point to an artists place in a complex world of competing ideologies and address how the choices you make in the studio inherently signify a value system.FNAR-594 – Graduate Photography Seminar
This seminar will examine contemporary issues in photography from the point of view of the practicing artist. Students will meet with visiting critics during the semester, the course will also include student presentations, weekly discussions and group critiques, visits to artists' studios and gallery and museum exhibitions. Texts for the seminar will be drawn from contemporary critical theory in art, philosophy, history and popular culture. Required for all graduate photographers.

FNAR-598 - Grad Sculpture Seminar
Sculpture instructor (to be announced) will lead this studio course based on improvisational approaches to developing individually made sculptural works, as well as works that are made in collaboration with others. As in Music or Theater, these works involve the collaboration of others, yet they are equally initiated by small thoughts, and carry those thoughts into a more public and interactive format of installation. 

FNAR-647 - Expanded Documentary
The sites and situations of documentary in our culture have exploded exponentially - from standardized formulas (like reality tv), to social media and cross-platform journalism. In contemporary art, documentary practice has also significantly expanded and diversified. Since the early 2000's, with several influential exhibitions following Documenta XI, a new generation of artists have taken up the ambition of depicting our social reality, and have done so by re-engaging and re-inventing the documentary mode. This intermediate course will examine this vital contemporary field and will also offer students a comprehensive introduction to the history of documentary practice. We will investigate a series of key questions regarding the relation between politics and aesthetics, mediums and mobility, how documents function to both approximate and deny a sense of 'reality' and perhaps most importantly-what kinds of social, political or personal realities you want to propose in your artwork. The class will be driven by a series of studio assignments and practical experimentation. Although there will be an emphasis on photography and video, students will also explore a multiplicity of strategies and forms (including archival display, essayistic installation, image-text relationships, and the documentation of performance.) 

FNAR-669 – Graduate Video Studio, Joshua Mosley, David Hartt
Through a series of studio projects, this course focuses on the conceptualization and production of time-based works of art. A seminar component of the course reviews contemporary examples of media based art and film. A studio component of the course introduces production techniques including lighting, cinematography, audio, editing, mastering projects, and installing audio-visual works in site-specific locations or gallery spaces.

FNAR-712 – Visual Epistemologies, Orkan Telhan
In this joint seminar between Architecture and Fine Arts, we investigate the alternative modes of diagrammatic thinking that are influencing art and design disciplines. The course provides a historical perspective on the evolution of visual epistemologies from late 1950s and reviews its current state from the lens of contemporary representation theory, computation, fabrication and information technologies. The goal is to gain both theoretical and hands-on experience with the contemporary diagramming techniques in order to advance both designs and the thinking behind them.

Offered Spring 2020 FNAR 801-405 - Sachs Research w/ Visiting Professors Mary Reid Kelley and Patrick Kelley *By Permission Only