More than 20 students, faculty and community members gathered in the Forum Gallery of the Rachel M. Schlesinger Concert Hall and Arts Center at the Alexandria Campus on April 19 for a discussion and demonstration led by local artist John Adams.
Adams – who created and executed the Schlesinger Center’s very first wall drawing “Terminal Flux” – discussed his past art experience as well as the long and tedious process of creating a graphite wall drawing. During his discussion, Adams said he took an interest in art in high school and started drawing actual figures. However, his interests started to change.
“I started to care more about my thoughts when it came to art and the whole creative process,” Adams said. “I was thinking about how to translate that process into art. This art piece engages the viewer to interact with it and its environment. You have to move around it to experience it and even go to the second floor to see a different aspect of it, so it never allows the viewer to see all of it at once.”
Adams’ process took a lot of time, and by the time he was scheduled to begin, his two-week deadline had been curtailed to five days. He explained that he had to keep up with everything because creating such a large piece is a huge task.
During the discussion, a student mentioned artist Andy Goldsworthy, and Adams said Goldsworthy was a huge influence on some of his work. Using powdered graphite as a creative tool for his wall drawings, however, is something he had to figure out on his own.
“Repetition and rhythm are really important in my work. But using powdered graphite in this way is something that came out of experimentation with the material,” Adams explained.
“Terminal Flux” is 20 feet tall and 30 feet wide and is drawn directly on the walls of the atrium. Previously, Adams has created site-specific wall drawings for the McLean Project for the Arts and Reston Arts Center.
Art Professor Stacy Slaten (AL) was taken by Adams’ drawing and wrote the grant proposal for the event. Slaten said it was important to provide her students with an opportunity to speak with a working artist.
“I wanted students to meet and talk to a professional in the field that uses drawing in surprising and unique ways. John uses the nontraditional surface of walls for drawing on a monumental scale,” Slaten said. “I felt students needed to hear of his methods directly from the source. Through his practice, students can take heart that you can actually devote your life to art as a person and professional.”
Student Life at the Alexandria Campus sponsored the discussion and demonstration session. Slaten and Exhibition Director Mary Welch Higgins (AL) hope to continue to collaborate and bring more opportunities for students to interact with working artists throughout the academic year.