Liz Howe received her MFA from the School for American Crafts in 2002. Her Sculpture employs a variety of materials in combination with ceramic processes and techniques. Liz holds degrees from SUNY New Paltz, The College of St. Rose, and RIT. Her work has shown in national venues such as the National Sculpture Exhibition in Golden, Colorado and the San Angelo Ceramics Competition.
“I’m lost.” “I don’t know what I’m doing.” “My work is all over the place.” “There is no time to make work.”
It is predictable that on some level, often on many levels, a newly graduated MFA student flounders. Graduate school is an intensive time of study, experimentation and self-survey. Growth happens quickly as students immerse themselves in defining ideas, developing technique and pushing past boundaries.
The commitment to a program of study entails wholehearted dedication. Students who gain the most in Master of Fine Arts programs immerse themselves in making work, looking at work and talking about work. They embrace “Full-time Student” status, participating wholly in both the personal and communal aspects of the program. Intense bonds develop as classmates support and challenge one another to strive and succeed. Concentrated focus on personal artistic growth, and increased familiarity within the fields of craft and fine art, prepare students for professional interface as they complete the MFA degree.
Specialized degree in hand, students walk out into the world primed to carve their own niche, interact in the professional world, and earn a living. What a daunting prospect this can be! In the current of everyday life the undertow is strong. Faced with financial decisions, relationship obligations and any number of other personal priorities, the rigorous attention on creating work can, and usually does, wane. Within the first two years after school many MFA graduates find themselves working hard at new jobs, adjusting to new living situations, designing adequate studio spaces and trying to maintain regular work schedules. With countless demands looming (perhaps some set aside during graduate study) the expectation of producing quality artwork at the graduate school pace can become a frustrating enterprise.
The splintering of steady focus creates a very difficult dilemma for many new alumni anxious to embark upon their careers. And thus, in the wake of an intense MFA experience, comes uncertainty: “I’m lost.” “I don’t know what I’m doing.” “My work is all over the place.” “There is no time to make work.” How are the responsibilities of an adult life balanced with the commitment to create? How can dedicated studio time be arranged when life tugs from every direction?
As Sol LeWitt wrote to Eva Hesse in 1965:
“…Just stop thinking, worrying, looking over your shoulder, wondering, doubting, fearing, hurting, hoping for some easy way out, struggling, gasping, confusing, itching, scratching, mumbling, bumbling, grumbling, humbling, stumbling… Stop it and just DO.”
The post-MFA challenge is to find a way of accepting change and ambiguity in life and to make work; to live life with it’s various demands and to make work;
to allow for alternative avenues in our work and to make work; to use the materials at hand and make work; to make small work or big work, lots of work or a little work, fast work or slow work. The challenge is to do this, without worry, wherever we are, whomever we are with and however we are able. In time, after time, the work will be made and it will be your work, made according to the cadence of your life. And, as the Buddha states:
When you realize how perfect everything is you will tilt your head back and laugh at the sky.