Artist & Educator
Photography by Danielle Pastore (@awwshuckles on instagram)
Bio & Process
Life can be a chore and somewhat boring and stressful for Austin at times. Games involving myth and environmental story telling, offer him a break from the mundane and has influenced him to translate the excitement and curiosity he feels when he plays these game, into interactive visual art installations.
Austin was born and is based in the Central NY region. From a young age, he used art as a tool for communication to those around him when struggling to find the right words; often making shoe box dioramas filled with Play-Doh. Honestly not much has changed with his process. Just an upgrade in space, environment, and material, trading Play-Doh for clay and a shoe-box for gallery space.
His most recent installation "Evocation," the audience was able to walk into the space of where a zealot lived and worked, and were allowed to investigate using the relics around them to make a hypothesis of what happened to this character. The sculptures that were displayed are a mix of ceramics, wood, canvas and charcoal that were all made under this original character he wrote. Everything Austin made was in the mindset of this zealot; what would they do, how would they act, how would they live, and what is their temperament on given days.
His Undergraduate work stemmed off of the dark and more primal characteristics of human-kind, while addressing contemporary habits; personified by grotesque (yet somewhat humorous) monstrosities. These topics, while relatable, often cause the viewer to feel awkward or uncomfortable. This experience is furthered as these works are generally rendered in a comedic way thus providing a start dichotomy. His pottery on the other hand, is quite antithetical to his sculptural work, for they are more inviting and pleasant to the viewer.
Teaching art is an art form that requires creativity, knowledge of the arts,
patience, enthusiasm, a pinch of oddity, and most importantly humanity. Humanity, in the ethical sense of course, is the number one key component to being an educator. It is important for students to see, that even though you have extensive knowledge to offer them, you are one in the same. Just like students, we are always learning, we are not perfect, and we make mistakes.
Perfection is unattainable and by pretending to be this perfect robot that never makes mistakes, we set unreasonable standards for students. These standards can easily ruin their interest in art; coming to a conclusion that they are no good, or that messing up is a bad thing. In reality, artists and teachers, make mistakes all the time. We use these mistakes as learning experiences, and Austin believes that students should have the same chance as we do. Revealing your flaws to the students and being able to admit to them when you make a mistake allows the student to connect with the teacher and encourages them to press on in their work; even if they are struggling or “making mistakes.”
Communication between educator and student is crucial when establishing a connection. Austin devotes the last five minutes of each class for a quick recap of what was done that day; not only covering learning material, but discussing the classroom environment as well. During this time he asks students how they think they did, if they got any work done, if they respected others, etc..., allowing students to openly speak and give constructive criticism to their fellow peers. He then asks students how he did as a teacher, again allowing free constructive criticism from the students to better his teaching in a way that is fair and open for everyone. If students have any questions or concerns about something that happened in class or about his teaching, they are free to see him after class and discuss it with him one-on-one.