Lessons From the Loft

Students in ART 370: Current Trends: The New York City Art Scene visit an artist's home studio in TriBeCa and take part in a hands-on demonstration of two techniques.

Grace McDermottPrinted on the syllabus for ART 370: Current Trends: The New York City Art Scene, is the classroom Hayden Hall 107.

But on a Friday in November, much like other weeks throughout the semester, the classroom is the city — specifically, artist Renee Magnanti’s eclectic home studio in TriBeCa; in which the podium is a kitchen table, and the lesson is hands-on.

That afternoon, the small class of four students stepped into Magnanti’s work room for a demonstration of her favorite artistic medium, encaustic painting, a technique that involves carving through layers of colorfully painted wax. On the walls around them hang dozens of her pieces — explosions of yellow, orange and turquoise paint scraped into tribal patterns and phrases — some that took years to finish.

“That’s what makes it interesting to be an artist,” she says, handing out paintbrushes to the students and encouraging them to add personal touches to her own works-in-progress. “You can keep moving ahead to the next project. You can grow with your work.”

Donning an apron, Grace McDermott ’14, an art history major and digital media minor, tries her hand at scraping, as the others take turns stirring the hot wax and painting.

“I’ve lived in New York for five years now, and this class has taken me to places I’ve never thought to go,” McDermott says. “I’ve met some really interesting artists.”

The course, taught by Marianne Eggler, visiting instructor of visual and performing arts, has taken students everywhere from the Museum of Modern Art in Manhattan, to the (since closed) 5 Pointz graffiti exhibit in Queens, to the Bronx’s Gramsci Monument, a commissioned art space created in a low-income housing development.

Gabriel Quiroz“New York’s got to be the most diverse art scene in the world,” says Eggler, an old friend of Magnanti’s. “And the scene reflects the city. Artists come from all over to study.”

Back in the workroom, Magnanti’s husband and fellow artist Bill Pangburn switches the focus to his forte, monoprinting. He invites each student to etch original designs into small metal plates and then pass them through a massive printing press in the kitchen.

Gabe Quiroz ’14, a management and global business studies major, carefully reproduces an etching of the Manhattan College logo — a souvenir to take home, along with the ink on his elbow.

Class finishes up with cannoli and coffee at the table and a conversation about the living, breathing art gallery surrounding them.

“These field trips are the best possible way to experience history while it’s still being made,” Eggler says.

Photos courtesy of Darcy Rogers

By Julie Benns