Graduate Alumni > Naava Weiner (MFA 2014)

I make things that fall apart, except for the bits that refrain from falling.

Having lived at nine addresses by the age of 12, transience has always been part of the way I look at the world. I find that permanence, in art or otherwise, is largely a matter of perspective. Rather than stability I pursue decay. Permeation, rot, the long moment of collapse- I study them all and make note of my findings.

Archived documentation is as close as my work gets to permanence, as it will be what remains after the material in question has disintegrated beyond recognition. I prefer the point of view of looking back, and use the parameters by which information is collected and collated to provide inroads to the work's content. I seek out a viewer who is partly a detective: My labor creates the circumstances by which the work can come into being and the viewer's effort in their observation completes this cycle. It is often not the elements that are present that provide these clues, but rather that which is left out.

Absence informs a great deal of my work, as well as its flip side: desire. Mitigating loss is a fundamental part of this temporary existence, whether the loss is of various versions of oneself or imagined relationships with others. To this end, the objects I build are often surrogates for processing the lack of a desired other, whether in a bodily or abstract sense. This process is open-ended, as objects of desire collected or made can never relieve the original impetus: an attempt to pin down and validate the scattered, volatile self in its relation to other selves, even while knowing that the endeavor is doomed to failure. 

Teaching Philosophy

I cut my artistic teeth as an assistant to a figurative sculptor, and it was there among the buckets of wet clay and discarded half-finished figures that I learned how truly far-reaching fundamental lessons are. The group of students included those that never worked with the figure as part of their practice, but what they were there to learn was as much about how to see as it was about how to move one's hands. The world as possible artistic material, color theory, Cartesian space, the development of radiuses, the body as the greatest tool of art making and its movement in relation to space: these fundamentals formed a toolset for the students to apply across all mediums. When teaching, I emphasize the importance of going back to basics and putting in the hours needed to acquire a professional level of craftsmanship. This is long-distance running, not sprinting. I underscore the importance of process in terms of both object making and general artistic practice, which is viewed as ongoing experimentation: even when the desired result is not achieved, there is always something to be learned.

It is personally satisfying to be able to help a student acquire a skill that will open a new creative path for them. For example, while working in the Sullivan Fabrication Studio I was able to draw upon my own trials and errors in helping students grapple with their class challenges. In turn, the managers were happy to teach me during the quieter moments in the shop. It's great that students get to experience this dynamic while still in school. Coupled with group critiques, it serves as a microcosm of a robust artist's community: drawing on a great variety of skills and experiences in order to problem-solve as best as possible, to everyone's benefit. I urge students to see each other as professional colleagues, and to use the time in art school to learn how to utilize that important resource. 

Accessibility, of course, is key. My responsibilities toward my students include ensuring that they are able to utilize the resources available to the fullest. Safe spaces have facilitated my own education and it is gratifying to be able to recreate such spaces for others, as I consider cultivating a healthy, vibrant community to be one of the most important parts of an arts education.