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Student Perspective: Alison Causer, MFA 2021
April 13, 2021 · Student Perspectives
I believe it was 2017 when NYSS Alum Case Jernigan wandered into my then studio/living room in Bushwick, Brooklyn. He was visiting his friend who happened to be subletting with us at the time. Case looked at my work and quickly suggested I check out a Marathon at the New York Studio School. I did and within a few weeks, I was enrolled in a summer Drawing Marathon with Graham Nickson & Guests.
At the time, I was painting mostly abstractly and privately, really wanting to expand into figuration. After the first day of the Marathon, my entire art-making approach was broken wide open. Graham was firm and extremely kind. The level of talent and intellect in the historic Whitney Studio, once the studio of Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney, where group crits are held, was equal parts terrifying and exhilarating.
It was a strange sensation. I felt exposed and excited at the same time. You know how you feel when you see your favorite person walk into a room, and you are the only person in the room wearing a bathing suit. All the anxiety leaves the body and is replaced with pure childlike joy because your bestie just entered the room. That was how I felt!
I was hooked.
After the emotionally and physically exhausting ten days, TA Seth Becker quietly suggested I apply to the MFA Program at the School. I felt seen and honestly shocked. A year later, I was enrolled in the MFA Program.
When I received an invitation for an in-person panel interview, I booked a U-Haul. The morning of the interview, as I was loading up the paintings. I leaned a freshly painted yellow-orange piece against the railing outside my apartment door. I was so excited about this painting. I closed my apartment door behind me and ran another smaller painting to the truck parked outside. I came back upstairs quickly and continued loading the paintings. After my last trip to the truck, I realized the yellow painting was gone! I could not believe it. I looked in my apartment and double-checked the paintings in the truck. I felt bewildered and annoyed at myself for losing a painting. How could I misplace a 60×44 inch painting? After a few minutes of perplexity, I realized someone had stolen the painting.
With a tear-stained face, I went to the interview. I ended up sharing the story of the stolen painting. I told myself I would not mention the tale of the stolen painting on the car ride downtown but felt that I had to when someone commented on all the green paintings I presented. The stolen painting was the only yellow and orange painting in the lot and it was gone. NYSS Instructor Sam Levi showed empathy about my situation by sharing an infamous story where a taxi drove off with all of Dean Graham Nickson’s artwork while he was traveling and studying on the Prix de Rome. It changed the trajectory of his work. I felt I was in the right place.
I share this story to say that the New York Studio School and the humans that make up this institution are deeply empathetic, rigorous, dedicated, and in my mind purely magical. Throughout my two years at the School, we have been through so much together – a global pandemic, civil unrest, a national economic crisis, and the tragic loss of a fellow artist. At this point, we are a family, bound by the pursuit of our artistic development and pure survival. I believe very much in the history of the school, the pedagogy, and in the institution’s ability to adapt and expand, while supporting diverse artists of the future.
During my time here, I have learned how to push myself deeper into image-making. To get really curious about my sensations while being committed to formal art-making principles. NYSS is a great place for an artist to take a deep dive into the art cannon and stay focused on making work.
I am honored and grateful for my time at NYSS.