Instructors reveal their studios secrets

Part-time professors feel the full-time attention of the Nash Gallerys newest exhibit

Katie Wilber

In a converted dance studio on the second floor of a downtown building, Jeff Millikan creates photography.

He fills his studio with an enormous camera, sizable photos of beeswax and a darkroom.

In a very different space, Millikan teaches photography.

As an adjunct faculty member of the Universityís art department Millikan splits his time between his studio and the Universityís art classrooms. His work, in and out of the University, makes his contributions to each space more meaningful.

Heíll reveal a bit of what goes on in his work space in ìDiverse Connections,” an exhibit that features almost 40 adjunct faculty members like him.

The exhibit is self-curated, so each artist decides what works he or she wants to expose. The result: an impressive hodgepodge of paintings, photography, prints, book art, ceramic works, sculptures and electronic art.

ìThis is a special exhibit,” said Nicholas Shank, director of Katherine E. Nash Gallery. ìWe had one a while back, but we thought it was time to do it again.”

Every department hires adjunct faculty members to teach courses. The partnership gives students the chance to work with community artists and provides the department of art instructors.

Millikan has taught photography as an adjunct faculty member for 25 years. Although heís a photographer, he steers away from digital cameras.

His work focuses on the relationship people have with nature and the environment. One of his projects centers on the structures bees make in honeycombs. He carves into their workmanship. The bees try to fix those carvings, and he tries to direct them.

ìItís starting to seem kind of hopeless, though,” he said.

But the works are incredibly crisp and detailed. Millikan works with a camera about the size of a dorm room. The floors and walls and desks of his studio are covered with photographs of beeswax in various stages of development. The photographs are large, some as big as 30-inches by 30-inches. The bees are just as big.

Over in a corner a series of four shadow-box style photographs have birds or butterflies perched on baseball gloves. It looks like the bird and the glove are inside the box, but a second, closer glance reveals that itís only a photograph.

James Burpee is a painter and works with oils on canvas. He is creating a series that celebrates nature. He takes photographs and uses Photoshop to crop the photos and adjust the colors.

ìI like to take the anomalies and surprises of nature and meld that with what a painting should look like,” he said.

Burpee taught at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design for almost 30 years but applied at the University after being ìdownsized.” Heís been here since 1997 and teaches one or two classes a semester.

ìI love teaching, and they just let me come in and do my job,” he said. ìI teach at all different levels, and itís great.”

Millikan and Burpee are only part of the vast array of local artists who share their talents with University students. ìDiverse Connections” gives them the opportunity to showcase their own work rather than grading othersí. Perhaps now their students will grade them.