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Student Perspective: Lorena Velez MFA 2020
September 15, 2020 · Student Perspectives
For many years, while working as a self-taught painter in Peru, I had the dream of pursuing an education in painting. Studying art at the New York Studio School has been an opportunity that I never even imagined to live. I have learned so much that it has changed me in different ways. Not only have I grown as an artist, but as a person.
I started in the Certificate Program because I wanted study at the School for three years. When I moved to New York City, I was very excited but also concerned about having to adapt to a new life, speaking a different language and becoming a student after such a long time. Even though I have lived in different countries throughout my life, this was a unique experience. Everything was new for me. However, from day one, everybody at school was kind and helpful, making me feel comfortable and welcome. I was surprised to see such a variety of ages, nationalities and backgrounds from my peers. I immediately perceived a sense of respect for student’s individuality. There was no good or wrong and differences where even encouraged. New York Studio School is a place where you can learn with others and from others but always on your own path and on your own rhythm.
When I saw the School for the first time, I was fascinated by the architecture of the building and its history. The many stairs, hallways and the character of the studios, made the school even more special. It took me various semesters at school to learn my way around the building. Even during my last week at school, I discovered a new hallway with a huge and beautiful old door that took me to an exit I have never seen before. It made me smile with nostalgia of how much I was going to miss that magical place.
Working from observation has been a big challenge for me. Before coming to the school, I used to paint from imagination and memory. I was always interested in discovering abstract shapes from nature, however I was curious to paint in a traditional atelier with models posing in a setting. I decided to join Graham Nickson’s and Elisa Jensen’s atelier. I wanted to understand the figure and include it in my work. I also wanted to understand space in a new way. New York Studio School has been the right place for me. It has given me much more than I expected.
There were so many activities, classes and opportunities to learn from. I just wanted to have them all, and spend as much time as I could in the school. That is why, for my second year, I decided to apply for the MFA Program in Painting. I really wanted to be part of the Critical Studies class with Karen Wilkin, so I could learn to read and write about art history, other artists as well as myself. I wanted to complement it with my studio practice. The School trusted my capacity and I was accepted and I will always appreciate that opportunity. Art discussions in class were so interesting and my mind opened to a new world. It made me think, analyze and dig inside myself, understanding my work as an artist.
Some of the things that impressed me the most were the enthusiasm and the dedication from the teachers as well as the commitment they expected from the students. I could feel their passion during class because beyond being teachers they are amazing artists. This is one of the most relevant characteristics of the school and one of the reasons why there is always an atmosphere of hard work. There is a spirit of true love for art. This is indeed reflected in all the classes, assignments and activities they have to offer. From the two-week Marathons at the beginning of each semester, to the many lectures offered every week; from the outdoor activities as a drawing class at Washington Square park or a drawing class at the MET to the visits to galleries, museums and artists’ studios.
The importance the School gives to drawing classes enriches the learning process. The different methodologies and approaches from teachers have been crucial to the development of my paintings. In the same way, taking a sculpture class for the first time in my life during one of the Marathons was a great opportunity to understand form and space. Also, the possibility to explore with different materials during classes, such as making paper collages or working with ink, challenged my skills and allowed me to learn every day.
One of the most unique experiences at the school has been the critique sessions. We received constant feedback from our teachers and guest artists. At the beginning I felt insecure to show my work and discuss it, but then I saw so much respect for the work of each student that I realized the importance of sharing our art and learning from each other. We learned to look but also listen to each other. We gave our time, our patience and support. It has been a beautiful exchange among students and teachers.
During my last year at school I worked in a private studio. I started painting from imagination and memory again, incorporating everything I had learned during my first two years at school. I have discovered a new language where my past and my present painting language have merged. I can now navigate between abstraction and figuration, searching for a balance that represents my own voice. Thanks to the New York Studio School I have found a new way to express my art. I will go back home feeling grateful and blessed. I remember when I decided to study in New York, looking for art schools, I found the New York Studio School website easily and I felt immediately connected. It was exactly what I was looking for. My daughter was studying in New York at that time and I asked her to go to the school and check it out for me. She sent me so many pictures of the school saying: “Mom, you are gonna love it.” She could not have been more right. New York Studio School has been my home for the past three years. I am going to miss it so much, especially my dear friends and teachers, but I know I will always be a part of this wonderful community.