Instructor draws out students’ inner artist


Pima Community College art instructor Mike Stack doesn’t help students discover art.

“It’s never a discovery,” Stack said. “I believe everyone drew when they were small. It’s like a rediscovery.”

Stack’s ideas on inspiring people to regain their connection to art will be one of two main topics in his talk titled “Closed, Open and Hyper-Open Form Seeing: An Aesthetic and Historical Perspective.”

The presentation is part of PCC’s Speakers’ Series 2012. It will take place at the District Office on Tuesday, April 3, at 6 p.m.

Stack is himself an artist whose primary mediums are painting and drawing. He said the first step for students to find their way back to art is overcoming their fears.

“I run into a new class of students every semester, and I would say many of them are terrified,” Stack said. “Somewhere along the line, making art became something that someone else did.

“I’m always trying to figure out strategies to break that barrier that prevents them from having the confidence to let it rip, draw, relax and just take in the information.”

One way he tears down walls is by helping students embrace what he calls the “open form” in creating art. He said this method stands in contrast with drawing in a contoured, linear way known as “closed form.”

“To show realism, you build on an open form, drawing with shadow and light,” Stack said, noting that harder contours should come after basic shapes are established. “You’re going to invoke a much wider world than you would with just straight lines.

“Most of my students start out drawing like they’re writing a check. When I teach them how to draw in light and shadow, all of a sudden they’re back in the game.”

Stack said his other main theme will be much more debatable.

“Maybe at the talk there will be some criticism of this,” he said, “but I plan to show that art may often convey where a society is in its relative feelings of security.

“As cultures first come on line, they tend to exhibit more closed form art. Then as they gain security and become increasingly powerful, more open values come into play and the art starts to flourish.”

Stack said civilizations even move from one phase into another and back again, depending on their changing fortunes.

He cited the ancient Egyptians, Hellenistic-era Greeks and pre-1600 Japan as societies that have exhibited these transformations in “communicating” with the world around them.

“Their art was one primary way they told their stores and represented themselves to others,” he said.

Stack recently went on sabbatical in Philadelphia, where he laid out his theories in a long paper.

“I did most of my research for it at the University of Pennsylvania library,” said Stack, a Penn grad. “It was summer and the librarians didn’t have a lot to do, so they would get me anything I needed.

“I really felt privileged,” he said with a laugh.

On April 3, the privilege of hearing Stack’s views can be had for the low, low price of free. And who knows, he may even encourage doodling during his talk.


“Closed, Open and Hyper-Open Form Seeing: An Aesthetic and Historical Perspective”

When: Tuesday, April 3, 6 p.m.

Where: PCC District Office, 4905 E. Broadway Blvd.

Admission: Free



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