Art Senior Seminar Students Gain Professional Insights from Visiting Artists and Faculty Critiques

In a process unique to art majors and minors, Senior Seminar students recently had the first of two formal, and very public, critiques of their work at the Evergreen Art Studios. Visiting critics included Memphis artist Terry Lynn and Patricia Lee Daigle, assistant professor of art history at the University of Memphis and director of the Martha and Robert Fogelman Galleries of Contemporary Art. Rhodes art and art history faculty also joined the students for the critique.

Senior Seminar (fall) and Thesis (spring) is a year-long capstone experience for art majors in which students produce individual creative projects undertaken with guidance from the art faculty. Additionally, students research, generate digital portfolios, and personal artist statements.

“Since Senior Seminar and Senior Thesis is often the first opportunity for art majors and minors to produce critical artworks outside of assignments, such formal critiques provide an opportunity to emphasize principles of rigorous personal and external research and to create an elevated awareness about meaning and consequence in art making,” says Prof. Erin Harmon, chair of the Department of Art and Art History. “These critiques move closer to graduate level dialogue, involving many faculty and at least one invited critic to discuss the merits of each individuals’ work. They also often simultaneously expose divergent interpretations, triggering students’ sense of ownership, personal voice, and serving as a catalyst for advancement.”

The critiques are also helpful to students because they bring in opinions and advice from  outside of the Rhodes community. Malerie McDowell ’17 says, “Coming from such a small department within such a close-knit college, it can be hard to get an unbiased opinion. Your friends might not want to hurt your feelings and tell you that what you’re trying to convey isn’t coming across. The critique experience gives us a preview of whether or not the art community thinks that we’re successful in doing so.”

“Midterm critiques were gnarly, but productive,” adds Bryan Martin ’17. “It made me want to push myself. I realized that my midterm piece could have been a dead end, which was scary, but the critiques emphasized that you have to put one foot in front of the other while creating art. From that painful process, you eventually find a new creative wave, and while you are riding that, there really is no better feeling.”

By Katherine Hancock ’19

Top photo: Guest critic Prof. Patricia Lee Daigle critiques the work of Margaret Tronsor. Above: Daigle, guest artist Terry Lynn, Prof. Darren Floyd, and Prof. Miriam Clinton reviewing the work of McKenzie Drake.

Prof. Joel Parsons and Prof. Darren Floyd with the work of Mimi Shepley.

Ginger Woods reads her artist's statement during her critique.

More photos of the critique can be seen at