Faculty Profile: A Conversation with Professor Colleen Ludwig

Faculty Profile: A Conversation with Professor Colleen Ludwig

Thu Mar 2, 2017 at 09:13 AM
Colleen Ludwig
Professor Colleen Ludwig assisting students during senior thesis critique,
February 2017.  Photo by Andrea Martucci.

Professor Colleen Ludwig has been a member of the OU Art and Art History Department since 2013; she teaches classes in Studio Art, Photo and New Media, and Video Art.

First, what exactly is New Media?
New Media is the meeting of art with technology - materials plus digital - and the manner in which those two things intersect in any way they can.  It’s a lot about experimentation: taking whatever comes next and playing with it.

What are you working on currently?
I’m returning to wearables as a theme that I want to work on. I'm interested in putting machine prosthetics on the body as long extensions, almost like mobiles or pendulums, so that the body can move and the extension moves in relation. I want to make visual and palpable the aura, or natural energy, that emanates off our bodies - the body energy field that we carry with us that influences our interactions with others.  It's sounds new agey, but I think of it more as biological and metaphysical.  I am interested in the idea of personal space, and how it is influenced by other people, the room we are in, the architecture of the space, and how our bodies connect with that space.

Where does your creativity come from? 
I’ve always had a strong connection to my imagination, and a strong observational eye.  I often add things in my imagination to a scene I am observing. To be specific, I am inspired by nature, the structures it makes, and by science, and color, and shapes.

How do you work best? 
I work best surrounded by my materials and supplies, with lots of time. I have a lot of supplies that I have collected over the years. 

What are your thoughts on being an artist today?
Being an American artist is so tough right now. We are being called upon to speak out when no one else wants to. Artists are taking on responsibility for many social projects;  I know artists who are doing heirloom seed projects, or projects to bring awareness to refugees, or working on water conservation issues. We are the ones who are allowed to step outside the system and make a strong statement. Doing something for joy and fun, or because it is physically beautiful, or for curiosity, seem to be selfish acts these days. Creating just for people to have art to look at isn’t a good enough reason either.  Everything has to be justified. Arts education in elementary and high schools is in such trouble that we don’t have a culture of art appreciation as part of life; we also don't have a leisure class where people have time to appreciate art.  So it's a challenging time, but also a rich time, because it feels like life or death.  We need to be committed and stubborn, and a little desperate, which can be good for art. 

What inspires you about teaching art students?
I get to learn along with them. I feel like the more I teach, the more I have figured out how to be in a learning state every day. It’s so fun to see them progress and grow, and take in and process and synthesize new information.  I love that this program is small enough that we get to mentor students and progress with them, so we really see and recognize that development.

What works of art are you drawn to? Artists? 
I am looking at modular art right now – it has a lot of air in it. It also has a lot of small organic detail. In fashion, I’ve been looking at a woman who designs for Björk, Maiko Takeda. In sculpture, I’ve been looking at algorithmic 3D printers, with work by a collective called Nervous System.

If you could have any magic power to help in your art making, what would it be? 
I would have a hundred arms and be able to levitate.

If money and time were no object, what is your dream project? 
I would love to do a large scale project at the Park Avenue Armory in New York, or the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art: a giant, immersive piece with theater and music and dance. Or I'd like to create a permanent land art piece on the landscape, one that would outlive me. I have no qualms about thinking monumentally.  My themes always encompass the combination of human and nature;  on that scale, my dream project would be about a vista where you can see the horizon and have a sense of your place in the universe, where you feel small and at one with everything at the same time. 

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