Foundations Professors Transform Wellesley
In March 2010, work by Foundation Studies professors Thomas Mills and Ken Horii was featured in a four-person exhibition at Wellesley’s Jewett Art Gallery. Called Transformations, the show was curated by the gallery’s director Clara Lieu ’98 IL, who also teaches in Foundation Studies. It featured artists who transition between two- and three-dimensional work and whose work highlights the correlations, relationships and contrasts that occur when moving between dimensions. The two other artists in the show were Illustration faculty member Tony Janello and artist Nathalie Miebach.
The curator invited Horii to exhibit because he deals with “the reconciliation of opposites,” as he puts it in his artist’s statement. “The objective of resolving dualities is a conceptual framework that permeates my process and all related outcomes by informing my choice of materials, techniques, forms and historical references.”
Over the course of 30 years, Horii has created series of works focused on specific themes, including his most recent 2D and 3D exploration, Of Mind and Matter. This series of drawings and sculpture looks at allusion and illusion in Eastern and Western concepts of perception, in part through references to two branches of Tantric Buddhism as well as to ink-blot tests used for psychological profiling.
Mills’ work deals with themes of memory, time and mapping, as exemplified by his catacomb paintings on view in Transformations. When he’s not challenging Foundation students to let go, explore the 2D plane and dig deep, he often ventures deep underground himself, working in ancient Roman and Neapolitan catacombs. “Where I work, it’s so quiet I can hear my heartbeat,” he says of the ancient network of underground cemeteries beneath the bustling cities. “I can hear the clicking of spiders as they’re attracted to my lamp.”
As for why he loves teaching Foundation drawing classes, Mills says: “Everything changes when we draw. Channels open up between our eyes and our breathing, heart rate and neurological paths. Borders dissolve between touch, smell and sound.” Most importantly, he points out to students, “the ideas absorbed when we draw are infinitely better than when we don’t draw. And what we draw we remember; what we don’t draw, we forget.”
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