Debris from artist Judy Pfaff’s garden doesn’t get thrown away or composted. It ends up in pieces of installation art — a style of work she pioneered.
Pfaff, a former Tyler School of Art professor, is the first participant in the Jack Wolgin Annual Visiting Artist Program. Jack Wolgin, a Philadelphia philanthropist and real estate developer, donated $3.7 million to Tyler in 2008. Wolgin also made contributions to Philadelphia before he passed in 2010, like the “Clothespin” statue by Claes Oldenburg on 15th and Market streets he commissioned to the city.
To commemorate Wolgin’s legacy, Tyler is holding an annual visiting arts program in his name. Renowned artists, like Pfaff, will come to Temple for a week to meet students.
Pfaff spoke at a lecture on Wednesday in the Science Education and Research Center, where she showed students and faculty members her body of work. There was a reception held afterward in Temple Contemporary.
Robert Blackson, Tyler’s director of exhibitions, and the school’s Interim Dean Hester Stinnett introduced Pfaff at the lecture.
“When we were thinking about who would be a good fit for this, Judy just naturally came to the surface because of her long history not only as an educator … but also with many other organizations around the United States,” Blackson told The Temple News. “So it made perfect sense to us that she would be our first fellow.”
Blackson told The Temple News that Pfaff visited undergraduate and graduate students specializing in mediums like glass, sculpture, printmaking and fibers on Monday and Tuesday. She also went to classes to teach students about art education and the importance of bringing artists into schools.
On Tuesday, she took undergraduate students on field trips to the Wheaton Arts and Cultural Center — a nonprofit with a glass museum that hosts exhibits in southern New Jersey — so they could see different ways to create art after graduation.
“WheatonArts is a great facility and is kind of that stepping stone, so when they get out of Tyler maybe this is the kind of place they would like to do some work,” Blackson said. “So [Pfaff’s] not only about teaching in the classroom, [she’s] also about making that bridge to what happens when you’re out of college.”
Pfaff finished her week at Temple by taking a group of students up to her studio complex in upstate New York to show them how she makes her art.
Pfaff was born in London, but went to college in the United States. She got a bachelor’s of fine arts from Washington University in St. Louis and then went to Yale University to get her master’s of fine arts.
After previously working in painting and making figures, Pfaff pioneered her style of installation art.
“Suddenly I knew what I was about because I was always complaining about how in New York everything was minimal, everything was conceptual, everything sort of had all of these ideas wrapped in it and I thought ‘my idea is just to have it seem lively and not boring and transparent,’” Pfaff said to the crowd at the lecture. “The installing part for me is making it a studio again. The decisions are on the spot and lively.”
At the end of the lecture, Pfaff answered questions from the crowd about how to have confidence in your work and how to improve as a young artist.
Emilia Onthank, a sophomore painting and sculpture major, attended the lecture on Wednesday after she heard about it from her professors.
“I love her work,” Onthank told The Temple News. “Her use of space and installation is a large part of my practice so that was really appealing to me, seeing the way she uses similar things that I use in maybe ways I haven’t used them before and also things I never do or have never done.”