Solid Opinions on Soft Sculpture

Shannon Schmidt

Shannon D. Schmidt teaches several of our cutting-edge art courses, including The Found Object: An Exploration of Appropriation and Contemporary Art and Soft Sculpture. The innovative guidance she provides to all of her students stems from her own art practice, which incorporates painting and sculpture, and often video, sound and text. Schmidt earned a Dual Master of Fine Arts in Material Studies and Writing from the prestigious School of the Art Institute of Chicago and has shown her work internationally.

Given that impressive background, it's no surprise that Schmidt is fiercely intellectual, which also befits the conceptual nature of her art. Listening to her talk about her pieces and installations is an education in itself. Here, Schmidt discusses the use of crochet in her work: "There's this ability to attach. You can add this on. You can remove it. There's also just the materiality and how you can create something. Plus, I like that it can mimic paint but is not paint. And yet it still has this great color and it has some similar line qualities to it. I like that play between what something is and what something isn't."

And yet, despite the deep dives into art history and theory and her command over the still relatively arcane fields of installation and conceptual art, Schmidt keeps her instruction grounded. "Try not to find yourself too paralyzed by theory or critics," she tells her students.

Try not to find yourself too paralyzed by theory or critics.

Schmidt started student teaching in Chicago and continues to share her considerable expertise. One of her pleasures in teaching is seeing the great leaps that students make. For students in the Post-Baccalaureate Certificate in Visual Arts, Schmidt often gets to see them in successive classes and bear witness as they make huge leaps in their understanding or art practice. "One of my current students just got accepted into graduate school and she's very excited about it. I had the opportunity to see some of the work she's done and the huge leaps she's made because she's been able to focus on her portfolio as an adult."

But it's not all about the interaction between student and teacher. The bonds among the students are strong. Sometimes, Schmidt sees a bit of tentativeness as they start to critique and comment on each other’s work. But as they move through the program and share multiple classes, she sees the students building bridges of trust, appreciation and support. It's a process that Schmidt benefitted from in her own development as an artist, and now established, one that she is happy to pass along.