Joe Lewis, a 1974 graduate of Hamilton and the current dean of the School of Art and Design at Alfred University, presented a lecture titled "Community, Diversity and Patience: Art as a Verb," on October 19 in the Kirner-Johnson Auditorium. The lecture was the first sponsored by the newly independent art department and the Office for Multicultural Affairs.
Lewis, a self-described post-studio non-media specific artist, began his lecture by discussing some of his personal experiences as a student and an artist at Hamilton College in the early 70s. He continued by discussing his professional career as an artist and read an art show rejection letter. "This basically says thanks, but no thanks," Lewis added. He admitted to having boxes of these letters, but urged the audience as "creative people" not to let letters like these deter them from making art or creating art. "As an educator, I have no way of identifying who is going to be successful," Lewis explained. Teachers have no way of knowing who will make it as an artist and who will not, "all I can do is encourage you to push bounds." He said great art can be created from experience, and artists need to continue to break traditions and test boundaries in order to create great art.
Lewis then presented a slide show highlighting various artistic stages in his career, beginning with a high school self-portrait. The slide show featured art he created at Hamilton, after Hamilton as a graduate student, and as a professional artist. Oftentimes, Lewis's art advocated for social awareness if not social change. In recent years, he explained, he was particularly intrigued by the idea of virtual reality; however, now Lewis is finding himself to be more interested in painting and more traditional artistic mediums.
Lewis ended his slide show with a brief social commentary. "We are a country of diverse populations," he said. Although we can make broad assumptions about people, such assumptions cause problems, according to Lewis. "This is why I make art…to bring different types of people together…and to get into the community," he said. He strongly advocated the audience to do the same, to work toward creating art and bringing different people together to express themselves, which will inherently make for a stronger nation.
--by Emily Lemanczyk '05