reed magazine logowinter2007

The art of teaching the teaching of art

Reed’s studio art faculty balance class time, thesis supervision, and art production in a
delicate dance; the creative sparks often emerge from teaching younger artists how it’s done.

By Claire Sykes

It was about time we all got a good look at veteran art professor Michael Knutson’s work. Though he shows every year or two at Blackfish Gallery in Portland and Greg Kucera Gallery in Seattle, and is widely respected by curators, critics, and artists, public recognition of his art has been lacking—until this year.


Michael Knutson in class


His two-part mid-career retrospective (he has been at Reed since 1982), Michael Knutson: Paintings and Drawings, 1981–2006, was held in November and December at The Art Gym at Marylhurst University, and the Ronna and Eric Hoffman Gallery of Contemporary Art at Lewis & Clark College. There, 43 mostly large paintings, ranging up to 10-by-10-feet, and 19 smaller watercolors and drawings, highlighted the transition points in Knutson’s abstract work.

Associate professor Geraldine Ondrizek has also been busy, with her installation, M168: Tracing the Y Chromosome, at the Oregon College of Art & Craft last September. Currently, it’s at Whitman College’s Sheehan Gallery in Walla Walla, Washington (February 23 through April 12, 2007). A handsome catalog of her work from 2004 to 2007, with essays by Sheehan Gallery director Ian Boyden and Portland art historian and critic Prudence Roberts, accompanies the exhibition.

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Michael Knutson in class


Then there’s assistant professor Akihiko Miyoshi. Since arriving at Reed from the Rochester Institute of Technology in September 2005, the photography-based conceptual artist and former computer engineer has been inspiring students with his digital media courses.

Look at all three professors, and their art couldn’t be more different one from the other. What they share is a willingness to artistically multitask—not just from studio to classroom to gallery, but from one art form to another and  one discipline to another.

Toying with Patterns

Michael Knutson remembers them well—the large rolls of newsprint his father brought home and the box of 64 Crayolas his mother gave him. He’d spend hours with his crayons, his Lincoln Logs, and his Tinkertoys. He’s still playing—and all those colors and interconnecting, geometric shapes have made their  way into his art.

Stand in front of a  Knutson painting and  you find yourself playing with him. You chase red, boxy forms that leap and dart, colliding and coiling with blues and blacks. Purple, blue, and green lines scribble a perpetual motion that entangles your gaze. From afar, what looks like shattered glass begins to warp and ooze as you approach it. Stare close  into the center and you’re hurled into psychedelia.

Photographs of Knutson in class by Orin Bassoff ’04