AAM: What appealed to you about teaching at Millikin?
JP: Millikin was the size of school I was looking and hoping for. Also, it was local, which allowed me to finish my Master of Fine Arts while getting real teaching experience. I liked the hands-on approach that the art department professors had with the students and the intimacy of smaller class sizes.
AAM: What do you enjoy most about teaching in general? And teaching art specifically?
JP: I enjoy watching each student grow, not only in their ability as artists, but also in their appreciation and dedication to the arts. It is amazing watching a student develop from uncertainty and trepidation to becoming more confidence and self-assured.
AAM: What has been your most rewarding experience as an instructor?
JP: The most rewarding part of my job, apart from the above, is seeing a student through a tremendous body of work that they are proud of, confident in and excited to share with the world.
AAM: What is your role with Arts Technology? And why is Arts Technology important for Millikin to offer?
JP: My role lies within the visual arts emphasis. I teach all of the photography courses as well as other visual arts emphasis courses and crossover courses within the art department that count toward Arts Technology.
Arts Technology is an important and necessary growth for Millikin, in that it offers a degree for those students who fall within the range of art, but are not as interested in becoming “artists” per se. These students are offered a degree that gives them a base understanding of multiple disciplines, then allows them to choose the correct path that is right for them and their artistic and career goals. The jobs and careers that these students will be walking into after graduation will require them to wear many hats, from photography, web design and video, to creating content or designing lighting. As more companies move in this direction, it is imperative that they have a multitude of skills, and the Arts Technology degree prepares them for just that.
AAM: Tell us a little bit about your art. What are the themes or concentrations of your work?
JP: My artwork revolves around two areas, portraiture and narrative constructed works. For the portraiture work, I try to collaborate with the sitter to create a work that feels intimate and has a bit of mystery. I try to stay away from the strictly depictive and create a portrait with some ambiguity.
With the narrative works, I either work with diorama sets or within a life-size constructed set. In these works, I create a world for the narrative to exist and place everything within the set that is necessary to conveying that narrative. Both of these methods have their own pros and cons, and it really depends of the narrative and the final aesthetical value that I am seeking that determines which method I use for creating the image.
Most of my narrative work centers around a few emotions: isolation, confusion, fear. I mine these feelings either personally or more abstractly and let images emerge. My work relies heavily on symbolism and metaphor to convey these feelings, and admittedly, they are not always accessible to those who view my work, sometimes becoming too esoteric. However, I think that as we all feel these feelings from time to time, there is a universal language there that can be grasped.
AAM: Earlier this year, you traveled with Millikin students and faculty to Wyoming to experience the Great American Eclipse. Please tell us about your experience.
JP: Going to Wyoming was a wonderful experience. The fact that we able to drive there and to stay for a couple of days, allowed me to experience travel and nature as I had never before. Of course, the eclipse was awe-inspiring. It was also great to present a talk on the pinhole camera and cyanotypes. With the pinhole, or more specifically the camera obscura, early astronomers were able to view an eclipse and cyanotype using the energy from the sun to create a permanent image on paper that has been coated in light sensitive paper. It was wonderful to use these two methods that use the sun to create an image during the eclipse.
AAM: What advice would you give students who are interested in pursuing photography and/or fine arts as a career?
JP: The best advice that I can give to an aspiring artist is to work, work, work and do not isolate yourself from history, technique and other artists. Only through work and dedication are they going to improve and, most importantly, find their voice. Their work is not created in a vacuum, but adds and draws inspiration from the ever changing lexicon of art. Desire and passion are not enough; working is the only way to revelation.