Faculty Shine in TCC Exhibition

Faculty Shine in TCC Exhibition
Tom Siegmund
From The Sterling series: Last Days of Disco
photograph on wood • 2016 • 20 x 24 in.

By Betsy DiJulio

This year, in response to the annual TCC VAC Art Faculty Exhibition, I decided that, rather than reviewing it, a fresher approach would be to solicit perspectives from a couple of longtime faculty members.  Based on their answers provided via e-interview, I feel I made the right decision and think you will agree.  Corinne Lilyard-Mitchell, Interim Director, began her tenure with the VAC as an adjunct instructor in 1990.  She teaches Painting I and II, Introduction to Portrait Painting and Fundamentals of Design I.  And her colleague, Tom Siegmund, has taught Introduction to Digital Photography, Imaging and Concepts, and Advanced Photography for 21 years.


BD:  As longtime professors at TCC, you have participated in many faculty shows.  From your perspective as practicing artists, what role do such exhibitions play in the professional lives of faculty members?  Also, how do you balance your own studio practice with art instruction?


CM:  Everyone needs deadlines and having to produce work each year for a show is a good thing. As much as I would like to exhibit more, it is not always feasible. I create work all year long but knowing I need work for a yearly show gives it focus.

As you know, teaching is an all-consuming profession. It is a continual struggle to carve out time to create my own work. I have found some of my most productive times are when I am in the classroom with my students.  In some classes I am able to work along with the students working on my projects as they work on theirs.  I have always found it easy to work when there are people around and far more difficult to work in the isolation of the studio.  This aversion to isolation is something I will need to work on as I transition away from academia. Taking workshops are another way I am able to carve out time to create.  I try to take 1-2 a year. The latest have been exploring Cold Wax. This has forced me to work in a style very different from my previous work.


TS: At the VAC there seems to be a self-imposed pressure to produce work and get it out there. Although most faculty exhibit throughout the year, this show in particular gives us an opportunity to speak directly to our students and to each other…

…I find teaching keeps me grounded in a way. Teaching allows me the opportunity to talk about ideation, the creative process and the specifics of workflow associated with everyday image making. That experience has not only helped me focus and reflect on my own work but has given me plenty of opportunities to articulate that understanding to others, namely students…

I balance my career path as an image-maker and my job as teacher in the same way most people balance their complicated lives. It’s hard to do but a lot of people do it. I try to work at a steady pace all year, keeping a few projects working at the same time allowing each one to be in different phases of the creative process at any one given time. I have periods of lull and panic followed by periods of serious output. I like the periods of serious output.



BD: From your perspective as professors, what function do faculty shows serve in terms of teaching opportunities for professors and learning opportunities for TCC students?


CM:  All shows are teaching opportunities. Even though we work very closely with our students many times they do not know what we do or what our work looks like. This gives them an opportunity to see our work first hand. Sometimes they get to see work in an exhibit that they saw being worked on in class.  It gives us some credibility.  We talk about the process of creating and exhibiting in the classroom but now they can actually see it happen.


TS:  In terms of teaching opportunities, faculty exhibitions give instructors a chance to show students what thoughtful and professionally executed work looks like. We talk about it all year, and show them many examples of professional working artists as well as other talented students. The faculty exhibition gives us a chance to speak directly about the practices and methods that guide the exploratory process.

In terms of learning opportunities for students, in most cases they get to observe a very different and personal side to their teachers as most of us are generating work that is coming from a very personal place…Students need to see this; they need to know that they also possess a wider range of interests and capabilities than they currently imagine.



BD:  What value do you feel the show holds for fellow artists and members of the public?  What are the desired “take-aways”?


CM:  All shows are teaching opportunities. Even though we work very closely with our students many times they do not know what we do or what our work looks like. This gives them an opportunity to see our work first hand. Sometimes they get to see work in an exhibit that they saw being worked on in class.  It gives us some credibility.  We talk about the process of creating and exhibiting in the classroom but now they can actually see it happen.


TS:  I think the public not only enjoys the faculty exhibitions each year but also are pleasantly surprised by the level of creativity they see. I think there are many instances where the public perception of the VAC may struggle with the stigma of community college status. Each year the public is reminded that the VAC is a unique environment with talented faculty more than capable of introducing artists of all ages to a quality art education.


Fellow artists also get to see us not only as educators but professional and talented peers. There are many instances where we rely on our fellow artists in the community. They serve on our advisory boards; they review student portfolios on Portfolio Day and volunteer as guest speakers when asked. For the most part I have always thought fellow artists take us seriously and are willing to help. Each year they are reminded that we all do this because we feel a need to create. We are the same.



BD:  How would you say the nature of the show, as a whole, has changed over the years of your tenures at TCC?


CM: The work seems to have gotten smaller in scale.  Not sure if that is due to lack of space or lack of time. The quality is still there. I am always surprised at how cohesive the work appears.  This may speak more to Shelley Brookes’ curatorial skills than the work itself.  There was no memo sent out on the use of the color orange, although it repeats throughout the exhibit.  I have always felt the faculty show was tangible evidence of a very strong group of working artist and teachers in sync with each other on a deeper level.


TS:  In one respect, the nature of the show has not changed much over the years. Faculty try to present a well-articulated body of work, a sampling of work that represents their current interests. In some cases, the work shows a continuing effort; in other cases, the work shows a new area of discovery. In all cases it shows work that is thoughtful and well realized. Although we started out as a smaller group many years back, over the years we have brought on a few more full-time faculty and many talented adjunct faculty. As a result, the faculty exhibition has grown in size.



BD:  More personally, will you share some insights into how your own work has changed; where you’ve come from and what direction you are going as an artist.


CM: I think my work is continually changing. I get bored and look for new things to bring into my work. Traditional painting transitioned into mixed media, realism is sliding into abstraction.  Yet I have some signature subjects that I continually return to. I am always looking for new things to introduce to my students so they usually show up in my work in some way first.


TS:  My work – wow, that’s a question! Please see my website www.tomsiegmund.comFor the most part, I have always tried to make serious work, to say something, to use my work as a means or way to find answers to the big questions. Typical stuff really. A lot of us do that. Maybe the work has gotten less anxious which happens as we get older, maybe it has gotten more romantic. I have moved a few times over the years, and with each move I experienced a desire for more space. I now live on a small farm in Carrsville with my wife Melissa and am acutely aware that in the scheme of things this will be my last move. Whatever answers I hope to unearth will be found out here. I look to this place for clues. I have always photographed our dogs, but have never published much of that stuff; maybe I never thought it to be serious enough. The truth is I love the life we have with and because of our dogs, and am proud of that work. I have not only started showing these pieces but have started photographing our horses, which has been a steep learning curve on many levels. I have some very specific ideas but have yet to see that work realized. We will see where it takes me. I am still working in the studio shooting objects. This keeps me focused and thinking.


BD: Besides your own work, what are one or two other pieces in the exhibition that really speak to you and why?


CM: Maybe it is the teacher in me but I always appreciate technical skill. After years of teaching design, the formal elements continue to attract my eye.  Dianne Hottenstein’s pottery is masterful. Mark Miltz’s Lunar Explorer shows a beautiful handle on color, and value to create a mood. Chad Clark’s use of materials show cases various textures in the work Driven Inward Harmony.


TS:  This year I am looking at Corinne’s work along with Rob Hawkes, Rosemary Hill, Eloise Shelton-Mayo and Sonya Paclob, here’s what I thought.  Corinne Lilyard-Mitchell – I think some of the most inventive and prettiest work I have seen from her. I have seen her work loosening up and becoming more expressive year after year, not to mention more abstract. Rob Hawkes – Continues to show growth and experimentation with each passing year. I love the visible layers of energy, thinking, drawing, re-drawing, painting and re-painting. It is fun to actually see him changing his mind.  Rosemary Hill – Mixed media, so very different than her design work, wonderfully abstract, loose and dreamy. I keep saying to myself, I didn’t know she had that side to her – I am impressed. Eloise Shelton-Mayo – She is very talented. Year after year she creates original work that is thoughtful, well executed, and connected. Sonya Paclob – New to our faculty, her photography is precise, rich with color, detail and without a doubt shows a real connection to her subject. Her photography shows thinking from start to finish – her students should also be impressed.


47th Annual TCC Art Faculty Exhibition

Through January 5

Tidewater Community College Visual Arts Center (TCC VAC)

340 High Street, Portsmouth

757.822.1888, https://web.tcc.edu/students/specialized/vac/events.htm