In Conversation with New Faculty Member
Fine Arts Marketing Associate, senior Art History major, and President of Loyola Art History Club, Alexandra Senycia sat down with Lecturer Rafael E. Vera to discuss his experiences at Loyola as one of the Fine Arts Program’s newest faculty members. During this time of transition, Vera has been making an impact beyond Loyola’s visual arts community with his printmaking classes and exhibition at the Ralph Arnold Gallery, BAD EDITIONS.
AS: For just over a year now, you’ve been working at Loyola as a lecturer for both printmaking and drawing. What has that been like?
RV: When Loyola called me to offer me the job, I was really excited. One of most interesting parts of the job to me, was the fact that it was a joint painting, drawing and printmaking position. They had a space for printmaking, and they had really good presses, which is hard to find. Part of my job would be to set up the printmaking shop, which was as difficult as it was exciting.
I also liked the fact that two other faculty members, besides myself, would be joining the team. There was going to be change. There was going to be new blood; new ideas. I really like the possibility of being in a position where I could help develop not only my student’s careers, but also the department itself. I had never had that opportunity, and I’m very glad I was chosen for that position.
I also like the fact that Loyola has a small Art department. I like working for a small department because it can be like a big family where everybody knows and helps each other.
This first year has been great. I feel like we, as a department, have done so much in one year, and everyone is so receptive and helpful. The support has been wonderful. Everyone is very supportive of new initiatives, and that is rare. We have the right ingredients for a great department: hardworking, interested and qualified faculty, with a great desire to help our students learn and live the Arts, and a student population who is ready to work and make the best of it. The energy in the department is inspiring!
AS: How would you describe your relationship with your students?
RV: Great, great! They’re very respectful. The majority of them are really interested whether they’re art majors, or minors, or not. One of my very favorite things about teaching at a liberal arts school is being able to teach that one freshman or sophomore that is lost. They don’t know exactly what they want to do, though they know their parents have expectations for them to become doctors, or lawyers, or whatever. But that’s not really what they want to do. And then I see that they have great potential in the arts and I show them that. Once they see it, they know what to do. That’s one of my favorite things because I feel like I may be making a very important change in their lives.
AS: Now that printmaking is going to be offered regularly at Loyola, what are the benefits?
RV: Printmaking is a very romantic process. It’s quite demanding but very gratifying. It’s a discipline that allows you to make multiples out of one matrix—one source. But the real answer to that question is that it teaches you perseverance and patience. That is what I like the most about it.
Nowadays, there is so much information available on the Internet that you can learn pretty much any technique, anytime you want. But you might not know why you are doing it or what the purpose is. I like to think that I’m the guy that teaches you why you are making art. Not just how but why. Because the “how” you can learn so easily nowadays. When I teach printmaking, I’m teaching a technique that is very time consuming, that is very hard, and that demands a lot out of you. But you can learn that from a book. You can learn that from a YouTube video. What I want the student to get out of it is that it’s hard work that requires determination and patience, because you have to spend time with it. You have to slow down. You cannot make printmaking fast, there is no way. It doesn’t work. So you have to put your cell phone away and spend time in the studio, you and your artwork, until it’s perfect. And once you get that first perfect print, you’re hooked! You get such a rewarding feeling out of it. I truly believe it teaches you something very valuable in life. Which in some ways can be different from painting and drawing. You can make a very successful, very smart drawing in five minutes, but you cannot make anything in printmaking in a short amount of time. You have to earn it.
AS: Let’s talk about your show at the Ralph Arnold Gallery, BAD EDITIONS. How did you come to curate this show?
RV: I’m on the Gallery Committee, and I wanted the three new hires, including myself, to curate a show in each of our fields. We are developing a new mission for the gallery, one that will provide our student population, faculty, and the community at large with more access to contemporary art practices, workshops, artist talks, etc. Basically an educational programing that will allow our audience to learn about art directly from emerging and established artists. I am convinced this will be immensely valuable and will broaden our student’s understanding of what is happening in contemporary art, and how they see themselves as part of it all. This is so important!
My idea with BAD EDITIONS was to promote printmaking as a new discipline at Loyola. What is difficult about filling up the printmaking classes is that it is only a requirement for painting and drawing majors. So it is important that I showcase these classes to other students who might be interested or that don’t even know they’re being offered.
There is this misconception that the only people who would be interested in printmaking are two-dimensional artists because you print on paper. So I wanted to show that you can be a ceramicist or a sculpture minor and still be interested and use printmaking to your advantage. The exhibition presents many alternative methods to printmaking that are quite interdisciplinary, so when you go to the show you will see sculpture, bookmaking, zines, and painting. You will experience new and exciting ways of using printmaking. You also have artists who went to school for printmaking and make prints, and then you have artists who went to school for metalsmithing that are using printmaking as a foundation for a piece.
I want to inspire the students to think, “Oh, wait, I thought I needed to be a painting or drawing major to be interested in printmaking, but I don’t.”
AS: What are some of the projects you are working on now?
RV: I’m one of those artists who only produces work for a show. If you are an artist you are always making art, so sometimes cleaning my bicycle or taking my kids for a walk, that’s part of being an artist. That’s part of what’s informing the art that I’m making because the art that I’m making is informed by my life. But if I don’t have a show in mind or a goal, I don’t go to my studio.
Right now I have a solo show in Harper College Art Gallery that opens in November called Variations on a Theme. It’s a very small retrospective on the last five years.
I’m also working on a project that I’m doing with my best friend, Victor Marquez-Barrios, who is a genius composer. He composed a piece of music based on one of my sculptures, and I’m creating a sculpture in response to one of his compositions. Both pairings will be shown in the gallery for a month. Our collaboration will end with a Performance Art piece that we are producing together that will involved a marimba, two clarinets, a pallet truck and myself. The show is called Closed Eyes Gaze and will be at Truman State University in March 2017.
BAD EDITIONS is open at the Ralph Arnold Gallery through October 8th. Additionally, the Fine Arts Program’s two other new faculty members, Betsy Odom and Noritaka Miniami, are each curating shows at the Gallery this year: Near At Hand (December 1, 2017-January 21, 2017) and Continuum (February 23, 2017-April 15, 2017), respectively.