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Department of the Visual Arts

Chair

  • Jessica Stockholder, Professor

Professors

  • Charles Cohen, Art History
  • Theaster Gates
  • Laura Letinsky, Cinema and Media Studies
  • Jessica Stockholder

Associate Professors

  • Matthew Jesse Jackson, Art History
  • William Pope.L
  • Jason Salavon, Computation Institute
  • David Schutter
  • Catherine Sullivan

Assistant Professors

  • Carol Jackson, Harper Schmidt Fellow

Professor of Practice in the Arts

  • Geof Oppenheimer

Lecturers

  • Lauren Beck
  • Katherine Desjardins
  • Amber Ginsburg
  • Nicole Mauser
  • Scott Wolniak

Affiliates

  • Dominique Bluher, Cinema and Media Studies
  • Seth Brodsky, Music
  • Bill Brown, English
  • Darby English, Art History
  • Judy Hoffman, Cinema and Media Studies
  • W. J. T. Mitchell, English, Art History
  • D.N. Rodowick, Cinema and Media Studies

Associates

  • Susanne Ghez

Emeritus Faculty

  • Herbert George
  • Elizabeth Helsinger, English, Art History
  • Vera Klement
  • Thomas Mapp
  • Robert C. Peters

The Department of Visual Arts (DoVA), a department within the Humanities Division at the University of Chicago, and situated in The Reva and David Logan Center for the Arts, is proud to offer a Masters of Fine Arts.

This MFA program is distinguished in its focused attention on understanding how the pluralism of today’s art making practices relate to one another and in creating conversations that bridge between DoVA and other areas of study at the University of Chicago. Our faculty are diverse in their interests, deeply engaged with their own work, and committed teachers who are engaged in a lively and sustained dialogue within the department.

Our students work in sculpture, photography, painting, installation, performance, video and new media. Students are admitted to the program based on the quality of the portfolio and the level of interest and capacity in engaging this interdisciplinary program within a university environment. The faculty focus on working with students to develop their own work and enabling them to leave the University with the tools to support a lifetime of art making. As part of this process, the department encourages students to explore not only the artistic issues pertinent to their work, but also the theoretical, social and historical issues that intersect and bracket it.

The MFA is a two-year program (six quarters), comprised of 18 courses. Many of these course credits are earned through the development of individual work in conversation with the faculty.

First and second year students work together to articulate their work and to sharpen their skills of critical thinking and writing. Students come to the program with diverse intellectual, cultural and artistic backgrounds and different art making practices. We all work together to articulate a common language with which to discuss and make art in this critical and supportive community.

As part of the MFA program, DoVA hosts a lively visiting artist program under the auspices of the Open Practice Committee (OPC). In addition The University of Chicago provides an enormously rich intellectual environment full of engaging lectures and workshops in all areas of study. Our students are often interested in events hosted by the Center for Gender Studies, the Center for the Study of Race, Politics, and Culture, the Mass Culture Studies Workshop, the Department of Cinema and Media Studies, and the Department of Art History. The university also offers workshops that focus on professional and pedagogical issues to assist students in preparing for a career in the arts. Please see our Resources page for more information.

Curriculum

MFA students register for 300 credits (three courses at 100 credits each) per quarter. A total of 1800 credits, or eighteen courses, is required for the degree.

The basic requirements for the MFA are listed below:

1. Graduate Studio Project (9 Courses / 900 Credit Hours)

Students receive course credit for time spent in their studio developing their work. As part of this requirement students will present work to faculty and students for critique regularly throughout the year. Students register for at least 100 credit hours of Graduate Studio Project (ARTV 40000) per quarter, and may register for up to 300 hours per quarter provided that they are on track for meeting their other course requirements (see Graduate Seminars and Electives).

2. Graduate Seminars (3 Courses / 300 Credit Hours)

In order to provide a core of common intellectual experience, all students are required to take three quarters of the Graduate Seminar in Visual Arts (ARTV 39200) during their first year. The content of these seminars varies with instructors, but may focus on many different issues in contemporary theory and criticism.

3. Electives (6 Courses / 600 Credit Hours)

Students are required to take six graduate-level electives. At least three of the six electives must either be academic (i.e. non-studio based) or originate in departments outside of DoVA.

4. Thesis Presentation

In the fall quarter of the second year, each student will work with a committee of two faculty members who assist in the preparation of the thesis work. In the final quarter of the program each degree candidate presents studio work in an MFA exhibition. In addition to this exhibition, students will be expected to submit a short but focused written abstract of their work.

5. Standards Of Performance

Each graduate student must maintain high standards of engagement and achievement in studio and academic performance, including evidence of substantial growth in their work.

For additional information, please email dova@uchicago.edu or visit our website.

How to Apply

The application process for admission and financial aid for all graduate programs in the Humanities is administered through the divisional Office of the Dean of Students. The Application for Admission and Financial Aid, with instructions, deadlines and department specific information is available online at: http://humanities.uchicago.edu/students/admissions.html.  Additional information about financial aid and the admissions process can be found on the DoVA website.

Visual Arts Courses

ARTV 30954. The Artist as Ethnographer. 100 Units.

This interdisciplinary seminar considers the idea of the artist as ethnographer in contemporary art and curatorial practice. Through lecture, screening, and group discussions, we will trace the historical relationship between visual culture and the social sciences, uncovering how this has impacted ways of viewing objects, people, and cultures within the Western tradition. Armed with this knowledge, we will consider how the ethnographer’s commitment to the study of Others has been challenged by an increasingly globalized and post-colonial world. We will explore questions of authority and subjectivity in ethnographic fieldwork. Finally, we will look to contemporary artworks and exhibitions that have reinvested in the image and practice of the ethnographer to uncover the politics and poetics of their work. You will be introduced to the practices of Brad Butler and Karen Mirza, Paulo Nazareth, Marine Hugonnier, Camille Henrot, Kapwani Kiwanga, et al. Sessions will include close reading and discussion of texts by Hal Foster, James Clifford, Clementine Deliss, Okwui Enwezor, and Kaelen Wilson-Goldie, among others. 

Instructor(s): Y. Umolu     Terms Offered: Spring
Prerequisite(s): This course is open to advanced undergraduates and graduate students.
Equivalent Course(s): ARTH 35940,ARTV 20940,ARTH 25940

ARTV 31501. Introduction to Printmaking. 100 Units.

An introduction to basic printmaking techniques, including monoprint, intaglio (drypoint), planographic, and relief printing. Printmaking will be explored as a “bridge medium”: a conduit between drawing, painting, and sculpture. Emphasis will be placed upon investigating visual structures through “calculated spontaneity” and “controlled accidents,” as well as on the serial potential inherent in printmaking, as opposed to the strictly technical aspects of this medium.

Instructor(s): K. Desjardins     Terms Offered: Spring
Prerequisite(s): ARTV 10100, 10200, or 10300
Equivalent Course(s): ARTV 21501

ARTV 31701. Conceptual Drawing. 100 Units.

When does a drawing become an object rather than a picture? How can a line leave the page and be made as an action in the world? Can a design tell a story? These questions and many others will guide course work, addressing the history of drawing, its contemporary condition as its potential for presenting personal ideas and innovative new forms. Art historical examples and non-art formats such as maps, instructional graphics and schematics will be introduced as models for weekly assignments and longer-term projects.

Instructor(s): S. Wolniak     Terms Offered: Winter
Prerequisite(s): ARTV 10100, 10200 or 10300
Equivalent Course(s): ARTV 21701

ARTV 31902. Color: Theory and Experience. 100 Units.

This studio course proposes a hands-on investigation into the way we experience color in the world and in our own work. We will study a range of approaches to color, including: “haptic” color perception, Symbolic/Spiritual color theories, as well as more widely known theories of "optical color." In the studio, you will be introduced to a unique series of exercises that elucidate the expressive, symbolic, scientific, and cultural aspects of color perception using both acrylic pigment and light. Lectures, field trips, and guest speakers will broaden our discussion of color. A final project in a medium of your choice will serve as a culminating experience for the course.

Instructor(s): K. Desjardins     Terms Offered: Winter
Prerequisite(s): ARTV 10100, 10200 or 10300
Equivalent Course(s): ARTV 21902

ARTV 32000. Introduction to Sculpture. 100 Units.

This course introduces the technical fundamentals of sculptural practice. Using basic introductions to welding, basic woodworking, and metal fabrication, students will undertake assignments designed to deploy these new skills conceptually in their projects. Lectures and reading introduce the technical focus of the course in various historical, social, and economic contexts. Discussions and gallery visits help engender an understanding of sculpture within a larger societal and historical context. 

Instructor(s): G. Oppenheimer     Terms Offered: Winter
Prerequisite(s): ARTV 10100, 10200, or 10300
Equivalent Course(s): ARTV 22200

ARTV 32200-32202. Introduction to Painting I-II.

This studio course introduces students to the fundamental elements of painting (its language and methodologies) as they learn how to initiate and develop an individualized investigation into subject matter and meaning. This course emphasizes group critiques and discussion. Courses taught concurrently.

ARTV 32200. Introduction to Painting I. 100 Units.

This studio course introduces students to the fundamental elements of painting (its language and methodologies) as they learn how to initiate and develop an individualized investigation into subject matter and meaning. This course emphasizes group critiques and discussion. 

Instructor(s): D. Schutter, K. Desjardins     Terms Offered: Autumn,Winter
Prerequisite(s): ARTV 10100, 10200, or 10300
Equivalent Course(s): ARTV 22000

ARTV 32202. Introduction to Painting II. 100 Units.

No description available.

Instructor(s): K. Desjardins     Terms Offered: Winter
Prerequisite(s): ARTV 10100, 10200, or 10300
Equivalent Course(s): ARTV 22002

ARTV 32304. Ceramics: Surface and Content. 100 Units.

Ceramics and painting have a long connected history. In Natural History (77–79 AD), Pliny the Elder attempts to trace the history of portraiture. Butades the potter, brokenhearted at the departure of his soon-to-be-married daughter, catches a glimpse of her profile on the wall from the reflection cast by a candle and traces the outline with some clay. In the retelling of this narrative, this act of doubling is attributed, variously, to the origin of portrait painting and to the origin of the portrait modeling, depending on the focus of the outline as an act done by a brush or the plastic actions of filling in the trace. While historically apocryphal, this account captures the historical dance between ceramics as a surface for painting and material to form shape. In this course, you will bring surface and form together to create a space and site of content. While using the inherently plastic nature of clay to create shape, the workshop format of this course will instrumentalize the surface to test and play with color and line. Thinking of ceramics as a flexible surface for archival paint, also known as glaze, this studio course will test glazes, oxides, decals, and multi-fired surfaces. Assignments will be geared towards experimental results that allow students to further their own interests and practices.

Instructor(s): A. Ginsburg     Terms Offered: Spring
Prerequisite(s): ARTV 10100, 10200, or 10300
Equivalent Course(s): ARTV 22304

ARTV 32313. Building a House for a Kiln II. 100 Units.

Building a House for a Kiln II, taught in collaboration with David Woodhouse and Andy Tinucci of Woodhouse Tinucci Architects, is a hands-on building laboratory in which students will construct a student-designed structure adjacent to the Logan Center for the Arts.  Students will have the opportunity to take up hammers and trowels to create a lasting sculpture that will house kilns for the University arts community. Building, the third in a design/build series, is an opportunity to work at an unusually ambitious scale and will create a work space that gives the arts community access to kilns. In this course, students will be asked to construct elements of the structure, from walls to exterior claddings and interior cabinetry. Construction and material processes and techniques will be explored and taught, and the results will be physical. No prior building experience necessary.

Instructor(s): A. Ginsburg     Terms Offered: Autumn
Prerequisite(s): ARTV 10100, 10200, or 10300
Equivalent Course(s): ARTV 22313

ARTV 32500. Computational Imaging. 100 Units.

This studio course introduces fundamental tools and concepts used in the production of computer-mediated artwork. Instruction includes a survey of standard digital imaging software and hardware (i.e., Photoshop, scanners, storage, printing, etc.), as well as exposure to more sophisticated methods. We also view and discuss the historical precedents and current practice of media art. Using input and output hardware, students complete conceptually driven projects emphasizing personal direction while gaining core digital knowledge.

Instructor(s): J. Salavon     Terms Offered: Autumn
Prerequisite(s): ARTV 10100, 10200, or 10300
Equivalent Course(s): CMST 28801,CMST 38801,ARTV 22500

ARTV 32502. Data and Algorithm in Art. 100 Units.

An introduction to the use of data sources and algorithmic methods in visual art, this course explores the aesthetic and theoretical possibilities of computational art-making. Focusing on the diverse and ever expanding global data-feed, we will craft custom software processes to create works investigating the visual transformation of information. Additionally, software programming may be deployed independently, without a connection to source material. While placing an emphasis on creating new work, we will also survey the history of this type of art practice.

Instructor(s): J. Salavon     Terms Offered: Spring
Prerequisite(s): ARTV 10100, 10200, or 10300
Note(s): No prior experience with programming is necessary.
Equivalent Course(s): ARTV 22502

ARTV 33801. Video. 100 Units.

This is a production course geared towards short experimental works and video within a studio art context.

Instructor(s): S. Wolniak     Terms Offered: Autumn
Prerequisite(s): ARTV 10100, 10200 or 10300
Equivalent Course(s): CMST 28903,CMST 38903,ARTV 23801

ARTV 33804. Experimental Animation. 100 Units.

Individually directed video shorts will be produced in this intensive studio course. Experimental and improvised approaches to stop-animation and motion picture art will combine digital production and post-production with analog and material methods of picture making. Early and experimental cinema, puppetry and contemporary low-tech animation strategies will be presented as formal and technical examples.

Instructor(s): S. Wolniak     Terms Offered: Winter
Prerequisite(s): ARTV 10100, 10200, or 10300
Equivalent Course(s): ARTV 23804

ARTV 33806. Video Workshop. 100 Units.

This production course is geared toward short video works and innovative approaches to digital moving-image art. Video Workshop will function as a continuation and expansion on the foundations of Video I, with emphasis on individually directed projects and experimentation. While some technical instruction and assistance will be offered, a basic understanding of digital cameras and editing software will be beneficial. Projects include several short video sketches and experiments, group exercises, and a larger-scale independent project. Weeks will be divided into screenings/discussion sessions and technical work periods.

Instructor(s): S. Wolniak     Terms Offered: Spring
Prerequisite(s): PQ: ARTV 10300, ARTV 23801, or consent of instructor
Equivalent Course(s): ARTV 23806

ARTV 33904. Senior Creative Thesis Workshop. 100 Units.

This seminar will focus on how to craft a creative thesis in film or video. Works-in-progress will be screened each week, and technical and structural issues relating to the work will be explored. The workshop will also develop the written portion of the creative thesis. The course is limited to seniors from CMS and DoVA, and MAPH students working on a creative thesis.

Instructor(s): J. Hoffman     Terms Offered: Winter
Prerequisite(s): CMST 23930; CMST 23931; departmental approval of senior creative thesis project.
Equivalent Course(s): ARTV 23904,CMST 23904

ARTV 33905. Creative Thesis Workshop. 100 Units.

This seminar will focus on how to craft a creative thesis in film or video. Works-in-progress will be screened each week, and technical and structural issues relating to the work will be explored. The workshop will also develop the written portion of the creative thesis. The class is limited to seniors from CMS and DOVA, and MAPH students working on a creative thesis.

Instructor(s): Judy Hoffman     Terms Offered: Autumn, Winter
Prerequisite(s): CMST 23930; CMST 23931 or 27600; departmental approval of senior creative thesis project.
Equivalent Course(s): CMST 33905,ARTV 23905

ARTV 33930. Documentary Production I. 100 Units.

Documentary Video Production focuses on the making of independent documentary video.  Examples of Direct Cinema, Cinéma Vérité, the Essay, Ethnographic film, the Diary, Historical and Biographical film, Agitprop/Activist forms, and Guerilla Television, will be screened and discussed. Issues embedded in the documentary genre, such as the ethics and politics of representation and the shifting lines between documentary fact and fiction will be explored. Pre-production strategies and production techniques will be taught, including the camera, interviews and sound recording, shooting in available light, working in crews, and post-production editing.  Students will be expected to purchase a portable firewire. A five-minute string-out/rough-cut will be screened at the end of the quarter. Students are encouraged to take Doc. Production II to complete their work.

Instructor(s): J. Hoffman     Terms Offered: Autumn
Note(s): Prior or concurrent enrollment in CMST 10100 recommended.
Equivalent Course(s): ARTV 23930,CMST 33930,HMRT 25106,HMRT 35106

ARTV 33931. Documentary Production II. 100 Units.

This course focuses on the shaping and crafting of a nonfiction video. Students are expected to write a treatment detailing their project. Production techniques focus on the handheld camera versus tripod, interviewing and microphone placement, and lighting for the interview. Postproduction covers editing techniques and distribution strategies. Students then screen final projects in a public space.

Instructor(s): J. Hoffman     Terms Offered: Winter
Prerequisite(s): CMST 23930/ARTV 23930
Equivalent Course(s): CMST 23931,CMST 33931

ARTV 34112. Advanced Problems in Sculpture. 100 Units.

This course is open to all manifestations of sculptural practice broadly defined, including performance and film/video. A particular focus of the course will be considering issues of presence/the index, material histories, economic determination, and societal legibility. Readings on sculptural history from the 19th through the 21st century will be used to illuminate contemporary concerns and issues.

Instructor(s): G. Oppenheimer     Terms Offered: Spring
Prerequisite(s): ARTV 10100, 10200 or 10300 and ARTV 22200 or consent of instructor.
Equivalent Course(s): ARTV 24112

ARTV 34201. Collage. 100 Units.

This studio course explores collage as a means for developing content and examining complex cultural and material relationships. Projects and assigned texts outline the history of collage as a dynamic art form with a strong political dimension, as well as critically addressing how it is being used today.

Instructor(s): S. Wolniak     Terms Offered: Autumn
Prerequisite(s): ARTV 10100, 10200, or 10300
Equivalent Course(s): ARTV 24201

ARTV 34301. Writing for Performance. 100 Units.

This course is an exploration of select texts for performance written by performance artists primarily but not entirely operating within the context of art. Via historical context and literary technique, students read, discuss, and analyze texts by various authors spanning the history of performance art: Hugo Ball, John Cage, Richard Foreman, Carolee Schneeman, Joseph Beuys, Karen Finley, Nature Theater of Oklahoma, John Leguizamo, and create and perform their own writing. Field trips and attendance at first class are required.

Instructor(s): W. Pope.L     Terms Offered: Autumn
Prerequisite(s): ARTV 10100, 10200, or 10300
Equivalent Course(s): ARTV 24301,TAPS 28414

ARTV 34403. Advanced Photography. 100 Units.

The goal of this course is to develop students’ investigations and explorations in photography, building on beginning level experience and basic facility with this medium. Students pursue a line of artistic inquiry by participating in a process that involves experimentation, reading, gallery visits, critiques, and discussions, but mostly by producing images. Primary emphasis is placed upon the visual articulation of the ideas of students through their work, as well as the verbal expression of their ideas in class discussions, critiques, and artist’s statements. As a vital component of articulating ideas and inquiry, students will refine their skills, e.g., black and white or color printing, medium or large format camera usage, or experimenting with light-sensitive materials.

Instructor(s): L. Letinsky     Terms Offered: Spring
Prerequisite(s): ARTV 10100, 10200, or 10300; and 24000.
Note(s): Camera and light meter required.
Equivalent Course(s): ARTV 24403

ARTV 34550. Shopcraft: Methods and Materials. 100 Units.

Designed as a complementary course to the DOVA sculpture sequence, Shopcraft explores the tools and techniques available to students in the wood shop. Topics covered include shop safety; the properties of woods; the planning and material selection process for sculpture, furniture, and other woodworking applications; the care and use of hand tools; and interpreting and creating scale drawings and conceptual plans. A series of small projects designed to challenge and expand students' design, drafting, and woodworking skills are assigned. In addition, students are invited to incorporate projects from sculpture classes or their individual studio practice into the course.

Instructor(s): D. Wolf     Terms Offered: Autumn
Prerequisite(s): ARTV 10100, 10200, or 10300
Equivalent Course(s): TAPS 27900,ARTV 24550

ARTV 34703. Mixed-Media Drawing: From Object to Concept. 100 Units.

An object of your choice will serve as a departure point for this process-oriented studio course that takes you through a sequenced exploration of a variety of mixed media drawing materials, methods, and approaches: from observation to abstraction—to the purely conceptual. Readings, critical writing, and discussion are intended to reinforce fluidity between theory, your ideas, and your art practice. This course is augmented by an image bank and gallery visits.

Instructor(s): K. Desjardins     Terms Offered: Autumn
Prerequisite(s): ARTV 10100, 10200, or 10300
Note(s): Open to all levels of experience.
Equivalent Course(s): ARTV 24703

ARTV 36203. The Informed Object: Archives + Sculpture. 100 Units.

This course will develop a canon of past artistic projects and social endeavors that have conceived of new works based, in some way, on the use of “past meanings” as the principal or tangible agent of inspiration. With this constant as our basis, we will conceive of new works of art based in the historic signature of known and under-known collections, policies, everyday news, and significant past characters.

Instructor(s): T. Gates     Terms Offered: Winter
Equivalent Course(s): ARTV 26203

ARTV 36204. Speeches and Podiums. 100 Units.

Combining observation, making, and performance, this course will explore the corollary between important moments, platforms, and what one says. Through the analysis of conventional and unconventional speeches, speech acts, lyrics, legal defense, etc., we will locate the power of language and the body to cause a shift, rift, or bridge. Speech, the intangible material, will meet the tangible world through the creation of stages, soap boxes, and temporary micro-architectural sculptures. 

Instructor(s): T. Gates     Terms Offered: Winter
Equivalent Course(s): ARTV 26204

ARTV 37210. Intermediate/Advanced Painting. 100 Units.

The goal of this course is to literally expand your painting practice and your definition of painting. Through a series of studio projects, we will consider fundamental issues surrounding 21st-century painting such as: figuration/abstraction, the body, digital/analog, painting’s expanded relationship to itself and to other media. In the studio we will frequently subject painting to juxtaposition with other 2-D. 3-D, and 4-D media as we come to terms with the actual physical properties of paint. A final project serves as a culminating experience.

Instructor(s): K. Desjardins     Terms Offered: Spring
Prerequisite(s): ARTV 10100, 10200 or 10300 and 22000 or 22002 or consent of instructor.
Equivalent Course(s): ARTV 27210

ARTV 38204. Political Documentary Film. 100 Units.

This course explores the political documentary film, its intersection with historical and cultural events, and its opposition to Hollywood and traditional media. We will examine various documentary modes of production, from films with a social message, to advocacy and activist film, to counter-media and agit-prop. We will also consider the relationship between the filmmaker, film subject and audience, and how political documentaries are disseminated and, most importantly, part of political struggle.

Instructor(s): J. Hoffman     Terms Offered: Spring
Equivalent Course(s): ARTV 28204,CMST 38201,CMST 28201

ARTV 39200. Graduate Seminar: ARTV. 100 Units.

Only MFA students in the Department of Visual Arts may register for this class.

Instructor(s): D. Schutter, G. Oppenheimer, W. Pope.L     Terms Offered: Autumn,Spring,Winter

ARTV 39700. Independent Study in Visual Arts. VAR Units.

Students in this course should have already done fundamental course work and be ready to explore a particular area of interest much more closely.

Instructor(s): Staff     Terms Offered: Autumn,Spring,Winter

ARTV 40000. Graduate Studio Project. var Units.

Only MFA students in the Department of Visual Arts may register for this class.

Terms Offered: Autumn, Winter, Spring