Recently, we had a chance to catch up with Doreen Garner, Tyler Glass BFA 2009 and currently in her first year as an MFA candidate in Glass at RISD.
Tyler Glass: Last year, you applied to grad schools and were accepted into several programs. You chose RISD and were awarded a Presidential Scholarship. Those are very competitive. Can you tell me about the award?
Doreen: The Presidential Scholarship at RISD is awarded to exceptional artists applying to the MFA program. It is a competitive scholarship that is awarded based on excellence and merit. In addition, the scholarship is made especially available to artists that are considered culturally under-represented in art institutions.
Tyler Glass: That’s impressive. How did you feel when you found out that you had gotten the Scholarship?
Doreen: When I got the phone call that I was awarded the Presidential Scholarship I started screaming! I really wanted to be able to go to RISD for my MFA. In 2009, I had a conversation with Sharyn to discuss my proposal for the CARAS (Temple University’s Creative Arts and Research Grant) and my plans after graduating from Tyler. We talked about the possibility of grad school and how RISD had an amazing program and a very competitive scholarship that I thought at that time I would never qualify for. Three years later, she was probably the first person I called with the good news.
Tyler Glass: You got the CARAS grant, too! So, how is grad school?
Doreen: Being in grad school is unlike any other experience I’ve ever had. I’m seeking a new level of success in my career and studio practice that demands a lot of experimentation, brainstorming, and research. I’m very appreciative of being able to use this time to focus on my work and develop as an artist.
Tyler Glass: What’s your favorite thing about being at RISD?
Doreen: I think my favorite part of being at RISD is having access to the many resources that are available to students (great library, unique elective courses, RISD museum, etc.) Another great part about RISD is the faculty. Many of the faculty are extremely intelligent with diverse educational backgrounds and artistic practices. They’ve provided an abundance of feedback and advanced critiques that have been very useful in the progression of my studio practice.
Tyler Glass: We miss you! Do you miss anything about Tyler?
Doreen: I do miss a lot of things about Tyler. I think what I miss the most right now would be that glittering cold shop! There’s nothing like a clean, new, and well-lit cold shop to encourage you to take your time and finish a piece the right way. The sense of camaraderie and teamwork is a quality that I haven’t experienced truly in any other glass setting other than at Tyler. I realize now how blessed I was to have the people in my class. We were all very supportive of each other and had a special bond.
Tyler Glass: At Tyler, you made sculptures, installations, videos, and photographs that dealt with intense issues of race, gender, and culture. Afterward, your work became much more two-dimensional as you worked in stained glass and drew upon your strengths in drawing and painting to explore aspects of beauty. What are you making now?
Doreen: At Tyler I did produce a lot of sculptural work dealing with culture, gender, and perceptions of beauty. I do consider my stained glass pieces to be sculptural as well since they were used as elements in my installations. Currently, I am working with new materials and mediums. I’ve been working with video, sculpting and dissecting flesh, ceramics, collaging, and sound composition. Glass has been absent from my body of work during the fall semester but I have new ideas involving the material for the spring semester.
Tyler Glass: How do you feel that Tyler prepared you for applying to a grad school, and for the rigor of a graduate program?
Doreen: I felt very supported by the Tyler faculty to continue my career in glass. I think Jon Clark and Dan Cutrone helped me to fall in love with the material and taught me how to really use it as a tool for self expression. Also, I met Sharyn when I was a freshman, and she really helped me to develop my ideas and take them to another level. When she became the Glass Program Head, the quality of my work increased even further. She encouraged me to really take it there and experiment with glass in conjunction with video, performance etc. I feel that passion and concept are two very important and crucial elements in creating “good work”. I feel that my experience at Tyler helped prepare me for grad school in an extreme way.
Tyler Glass: When you were at Tyler, the faculty selected you for the Pilchuck half-scholarship award. Can you talk about this experience and how it changed your studio practice/work/ideas/goals?
Doreen: I was selected as the Partner Scholarship Award recipient in 2009. Getting this scholarship actually changed my life. I met lots of amazing people and learned lots of new techniques but the most important part about receiving that scholarship was knowing that the faculty at Tyler believed in me. It honestly helped me to believe in myself more. Granted, I loved art and I felt that I had something to say artistically, but it really touched my heart to know that other people wanted to help and see me make it. I can assume I wouldn’t be in the same place that I am right now without that opportunity.
Tyler Glass: You took a couple of years off between undergrad and grad school. What made the timing seem right to go back to school?
Doreen: In between undergrad and grad school, a lot of things took place in my life. When I graduated from Tyler, I was immediately offered a full time Master Painter position at Willet Hauser Architectural Glass. It is one of the oldest and most successful Stained Glass Studios in the United States. Later that year, I did a 6-week residency with the Creative Glass Center of America at Wheaton Arts and Cultural Center. In May I took a chance, quit my job, and decided that I needed to step away from the security of working full time. That summer I was a TA at Pilchuck and met Rashaad Newsome who was an Artist in Residence that session. I asked him if he needed an assistant and that summer I moved to NY and was exposed to life as an artist outside of the glass world. I worked as his administrative and production assistant for many months until I realized that I wanted to spend more of my time making my own work. At that moment I knew it was time to consider applying to grad school.
Tyler Glass: What are your plans for this summer, after your first year of grad school?
Doreen: The summer is still a mystery right now. I’m applying to some residencies and grant opportunities that would make it possible for me to travel over the summer. In addition to exhibition calls and collaborative project plans, I am also considering teaching continuing ed and summer courses at Art Institutions/Programs in Philly for some of the summer. I remember those classes playing an important role in my personal artistic development and I would like to help provide that same experience for someone else.
Tyler Glass: Thanks so much. Is there anything else that you would like to add?
Doreen: I feel that having completed my BFA at Tyler and an MFA at RISD… I HAVE THE BEST OF BOTH WORLDS! Watch out 2014!
Links to recent video works by Doreen Garner