Unique techniques kick off Visiting Artist Program

Nick Hadjigeorge

Artist Steven Roden creates work out of ideas and concepts, which at first seem to lack structure and meaning. He said the aim of his work is to create art that arises from the tensions of various sources of inspiration that span from any object or idea he encounters.

Roden gave a lecture yesterday that kicked off the three-part series of events during UT’s annual Visiting Artist Program.

The program has taken place annually for more than 30 years at UT and features three internationally known artists of varying media who give a lecture, seminar and an opportunity to critique the work of fine arts graduate students, said Susan Whyne, associate professor of studio art and painting.

Roden’s lecture was a chance for him to showcase and explain to an audience the intentions of his work, which included 966 paintings, sculptures, films, sounds and writing that spanned his entire career.

Roden began the lecture by showing a watercolor painting he made in the fifth grade that he felt explained the kind of artist he was meant to be.

“My art teacher said that my watercolor technique was bad and told me that if I changed my painting he would give me an A instead of a C,” Roden said. “I took the C and that was the beginning of my defiance.”

Roden also presented his work based on translating musical compositions into paintings where each color and shape represented a different variable of the music. Roden first painted in this style using 13 variables, but keeping true to his attitude of defiance he pushed this idea to its limits.

“I upped the ante, and went from 13 variables to 40 through 80,” Roden said. “I also made 10 iterations of the original information.”

One aspect of painting this way was to create something that was completely based on another work while making it impossible to trace back to the original. In recent years, Roden’s work has consisted of using sculpted stones from his late grandmother’s art studio to create improvised paintings similar to his technique of music translation. He then used the paintings as a basis for generating new sculptures, Roden said.

“I wanted to make new work out of these stones,” Roden said. “It was the only proper way to use my grandmother’s stones.”

Roden said the goal of his art was to move along a path towards growth and knowledge. He said part of this goal that characterizes his attitude toward tension is that he is a fan of “stupid” ideas and the results they lead to.

“What will happen if you play your saxophone with the wrong hand? Where will that take the performance?” Roden asked. “These stupid ideas are super important to me.”

Bogdan Perzynski, professor of art and art history, said Roden was chosen because of his very unique cross-disciplinary work.

“There is a lot of visual cohesion [in Roden’s work] and it’s interesting how easily it shows, considering how disconnected it is from things he doesn’t create,” Perzynski said.

Printed on September 13th, 2011 as: From strange ideas come unique works at UT artists' festival