Louden to share importance of working in varied media

 Benjamin Hoste | Staff PhotographerSharon Louden, a visiting multimedia artist, demonstrates during a figure-drawing class on Monday at the School of Art. Louden also served as a visiting artist at the School of Art 21 years ago.

Benjamin Hoste | Staff Photographer

Sharon Louden, a visiting multimedia artist, demonstrates during a figure-drawing class on Monday at the School of Art. Louden also served as a visiting artist at the School of Art 21 years ago.

Call Sharon Louden an artist. She makes prints, large installation pieces and sculptures and has received commissions for public art. Louden also paints, draws and has organized a screening at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., featuring abstract animation and film from 1970 to today. Her latest animation — she scans her brush strokes into a computer and her colleague Brian Clyne helps fabricate the animation in programs such as After Effects or Flash — will premiere at the National Gallery in September.

“I’m 49 years old and it took me almost 30 years to get that out of my system,” Louden said, “the idea that I had to identify as a [certain] type of artist.”

Louden’s lecture at 7 p.m. tonight in the Hultquist Center, as part of the Visual Arts at Chautauqua Institution’s Visual Arts Lecture Series, will look at her work and process “from inside the studio, out.” She will show examples of her art, discussing how her work with different media has spurred her creative practice and made her especially productive.

Just before arriving at Chautauqua Institution, Louden spent two-and-a-half weeks at the Salina Art Center in Kansas, where she produced approximately 31 sculptures. After teaching the Institution’s art students — lots of collage will figure into her drawing class — she will return to Salina to sculpt some more.

Don Kimes, VACI’s artistic director, first hired Louden to teach at the School of Art in 1992, just after she earned her Master of Fine Arts at Yale University. He invited Louden back this year in part to share her open approach to art.

“She doesn’t fit into a specific boundary,” Kimes said, “and I think that’s one of the important lessons for a student to learn.”

Louden shares that educational philosophy. She described all the potential crossovers in art genres, such as a painter who adds three-dimensional elements to a canvas.

“In school, you have to be open to all possibilities,” she said before her lesson at Monday night’s drawing marathon.

Each year, the art students’ first activity is the drawing marathon, a two-day stretch during which students draw for nearly 12 hours each day. Lois Jubeck, VACI’s managing director, described the marathon as the first great bonding experience for the student artists. Regardless of their artistic emphasis, all of the roughly 30 students cram into a wooden room, angle their easels and draw for two hours at a time.

Louden’s lesson at the marathon focused on fast, aggressive figure drawing. The model held poses for only 10 seconds at a time. The goal was for students to move from figure drawing to abstraction, using the model as a base. Louden bounded through the maze of easels, gesturing madly as she demonstrated how the students should focus on translating the weight-bearing parts of the model’s body to their papers.

“She’s really excited and energetic about educating artists,” Kimes said.

At the New York Academy of Art, Louden teaches professional practice, essentially helping artists understand how to make a living from their work.

In 1991, Louden graduated from Yale with $115,000 of debt. She has since settled all her student loans by selling her artwork and has become passionate about teaching emerging professional artists how to sustain a creative life. Part of her job at the Academy includes staging discussions with working artists about how they live and work.

Louden became so interested in providing a sustainability roadmap for up-and-coming artists that she edited a book of essays to that end. Living and Sustaining a Creative Life, her first book, due out in October, features essays by 40 working artists. Louden wanted to let artists tell their own stories about making money as an artist. In addition to gallery representation, the book covers the daily grind of creating, networking and marketing your work.

After discussing her artwork, Louden will wrap up her lecture with the same subjects her book touches upon. She hopes her lecture will serve as a way for her to meet Chautauquans. Louden plans to use her time at the Institution to converse, teach, read and write. After such a concentrated period of production, like she’s just had, she counts herself exhausted. She looks forward to her time at the Institution as a way to gain some objectivity about the artistic life.

“I’d love to meet everybody who’s here who has questions and wants to engage in dialogue,” Louden said. “I’m so interested in that, not only as an artist but as an educator.”