Abject Art

Winter 2020
Spring 2020
Class Size: 48
Credits per quarter

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This intermediate to advanced-level visual arts program will address the ways in which horror and its relationship to the body have permeated art and media from early medieval art to modern cinema. Students will use various methods of inquiry to explore the notions of attraction, repulsion, violence and desire.

We will emphasize two and three-dimensional studio practices, art history, visual literacy, artistic research, and writing. We will delve intensively into the development of studio skills in photography, small-scale metal and mixed-media sculpture, adornment, and drawing, while exploring how these material gestures express content.

Discussions will include major themes revolving around the body, death, sickness, monsters, decay, standards of beauty and ugliness, ruins, hostile design, transgressive art, outsider art, and other-worldly horror. We will critically examine how these subjects have been addressed in the western art canon, as well as in marginalized forms of creative production including traditional craft, and feminist art practices. These areas of inquiry will focus on the ways in which the body has historically been mediated by objects and represented in art and popular images. The program will also closely examine the ways in which violence and bodily destruction are employed through images by state and non-actors in contemporary warfare and its media-messaging systems.

The program is designed to support students with a focus in the visual arts, as well as those who are curious about visual literacy and want to experience using materials as an approach to inquiry and expression. During Winter quarter we will tour several artist studios as well as the “Flesh and Blood” exhibition at the Seattle Art Museum. Students should be prepared to dedicate at least 40 hours per week to studio work and rigorous reading and writing on topics related to the concepts of 20th- and 21st-century art history and critical theory. Students will be exposed to an interdivisional approach to visual arts that includes both art and humanities work: studio work; art history; visual/cultural studies, including literature, philosophy, and history; and a significant writing component.

Winter quarter will provide students with basic studio experiences in both photography and fine metalsmithing, including working in silver. In the spring, students will emphasize photography or fine metalsmithing (casting or enameling) processes, and will have the opportunity to apply their learning to individual studio projects. By the end of this program, students will have the skills necessary to situate their own projects in terms of the world around them, learning how one engages with an art community to share support and inspiration, and how an artist’s work expands beyond that community and connects to critical issues.


Credits per quarter

Online learning:
  • Winter: Enhanced Online Learning - This offering requires access to web-based tools, but use of these tools does not displace any face-to-face instruction.
  • Spring Complete Online Learning - This offering delivers all of its instruction online.
Special expenses:

Additional materials will be available for individual purchase, and students may choose to spend from $25 to $100 to cover more extensive projects.


$180 fee in winter quarter will cover a majority of the materials needed to complete required projects throughout the quarter, and museum entrance costs.

Class Standing: Junior–Senior
Class Size: 48

Scheduled for: Day

Final schedule and room assignments:

First meeting:

Tuesday, March 31, 2020 - 9:30 am
SEM 2 E2105 - Workshop

Located in: Olympia