The Oracle

Professionally speaking

On Mar. 8 the Studio Arts & Art History Department welcomed guest artist, Peter Kenar, to speak with student artists.

Alyxandra Sego, Reporter

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Peter Kenar is a Chicago based sculpture artist whose artwork revolves around a theme of pseudo-religious narratives and mythical aspects. His work has been exhibited nationally and internationally, and he currently works with Methods and Materials, where he installs some of the largest sculptures in the country on behalf of internationally renowned artists.

Kenar earned his MFA in sculpture from Indiana University in 2013, a BFA from Northern Illinois University in 2008 with a focus on printmaking and sculpture and studied abroad at Scuola Internazionale di Grafica Venezia (Venice, IT) in 2012 focusing on intaglio and bookmaking.    

Allison Baker, Assistant Professor of Studio Art and Art History, invited Peter Kenar to speak with students about his experience being a professional artist. She seemed genuinely surprised at how many people showed up.

“I am pleasantly surprised there are so many people here,” Baker said. “I think this is record for a visiting artist’s talk in the last three years put together.”

Kenar mentioned that he altered his prepared lecture based on the conversations with student artists he had that day. While showing slides of his own work, he talked about the artist’s life after school, his job and how he personally generates ideas and work ethic.

One thing that he pointed out that may affect an artist’s success is content creation.

“During my undergraduate, I only made artwork for assignments,” Kenar said. “When I talked to students here, I saw a lot of work that was only made for assignments, and that can potentially be concerning.”

He went on to suggest that artists should strive to create more content on their own, not just what is required of them for school.

“What you should do is work on what you want to do on your own time,” Kenar said.  “Seriously develop a work ethic.”

Another artistic barrier Kenar mentioned was finding your voice. 

“If you are struggling I encourage you to look at yourself, and I am sure you will have something to say about yourself,” Kenar said. One activity that he suggested for students to do this is to create a self portrait out of a house. The symbolism put into the house would have certain qualities that just creating your own facial features would not have.

“My first year of grad school I was 29 and I wasn’t making a consistent body of art yet,” Kenar said. “So you don’t have to feel bad if you don’t know what your voice is yet.”

He talked about a personal project that became a ritual for him to find out what he wanted to do. For three weeks with only a hunting knife he carved a hundred pound block of wood until it was only wood chips.

“It allowed to me think about what it is that I want. Through this piece I discovered my subject matter.”

When it came to building a career out of art, Kenar didn’t mince his words.

“Do you guys show your work off campus?” Kenar asked. “It’s important. You have plenty of opportunities, and exposure. I promise you that people will not come to campus to look for you.”

However, when it comes to showing artwork publicly, Kenar pointed out that artists have to be picky about what they show their audience.

“Be honest with yourselves, not everything you make is good. Don’t think that because you made it you have to show it. Just get rid of it, burn it.”

Another obstacle that he mentioned artists face is the loss of tools and materials when college is over. He noted that many of these tools are expensive.

“Ask yourselves, at school, you have a studio, but when you leave you won’t have a studio with tools. Does that mean your career is over? Start thinking about that,” Kenar said. “In graduate school I realized I needed to take out some loans and begin buying tools.”

One of Kenar’s last pieces of advice was that there are many opportunities out there. Artists don’t have to think their only options are to be an art teacher or professional artist. For him he found a job working for other artists, which is something he thoroughly enjoys. Of course he still creates his own art, but there are other options when it comes to finding a job.

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Professionally speaking