Capturing the moments in images she didn’t know were there is a large part of Kate Shannon’s artwork. It’s an approach the associate professor of art shares with her students at The Ohio State University at Mansfield.
A graduate of Ohio State where she earned a master of fine arts in studio art, Shannon has taught full time at the campus since 2009. She teaches classes in introduction to photography, digital image manipulation and expanded media, focusing on photography, her emphasis throughout her university studies.
Shannon shows her art in eight to 10 exhibitions a year in venues across the nation, the next one set for March 8-April 8 in the Chesapeake Gallery at Harford Community College in Maryland. “I was always attracted to photography growing up,” said Shannon, whose work has included artistic interpretations of damaged glass-plate negatives chronicling the Wright Brother’s early work. “I would constantly ask my mom to borrow her camera so that I could shoot a roll of film.” After starting as a music major, she redirected her academic pursuit to the visual arts. “I took a class or two in photography and was totally hooked.”
The focus of the courses Shannon teaches at Ohio State Mansfield looks beyond the technical aspects of photography.
Avery McGrail, who expects to graduate in December with a BFA in painting and drawing, said Shannon’s digital image manipulation class enlightened her. “I expected it to be like a technical kind of class,” McGrail said. “She made it clear this is about art. I will teach you (Adobe) Photoshop, but really it’s about art. It was mostly revolving around the artistic aspect of digital imaging. I didn’t realize this was a profession. She opened my mind to using digital means to make artwork. It blew my mind.”
Shannon said encouraging her students to take a deeper look at the imagery is one way to help enhance their understanding. “We think about how images affect our lives and the way we relate to one another,” she said. “I ask students to consider photography from a sociological standpoint. How can we use this medium as a means of cultural investigation?”
“I think one of the cool things about photography is that it can connect to any subject we are interested in,” she said, noting that she has some classes where only a small percentage of her students are art majors. “If your interest is mathematics, photography deals heavily with mathematical concepts, especially relating to the mechanics of the camera. If you’re interested in biology, you can use the camera to aid in your scientific research. There’s a way to connect photography to any discipline. I want students to link photography to what they’re passionate about.”
McGrail, who studied one year at Ohio State Mansfield before moving on to the Columbus campus, initially had wanted to have the “big-campus experience” as soon as she enrolled at Ohio State. Instead, she found the more intimate size of the Mansfield site offered distinct advantages.
Shannon “was always there to help,” she said. I could ask her anything in Photoshop, and she never made me feel stupid. It really felt like she was my friend that way. She was not too intimidating, but you had a lot of respect for her. She knew everything.”
While the regional campus offers a number of complete degree programs, many students benefit by taking one or two years of classes, including the general education requirements, before moving to the Columbus campus.
Jacob Devlin, who is due to receive a BFA with an emphasis in print making in December, attended classes at Ohio State Mansfield for 3 ½ years before heading to Columbus. “I cannot tell you how much Kate would do for her students,” Devlin said. “I can’t express my gratitude enough. Kate’s availability was almost whatever the student needed.”
Having instructors who have spent a significant portion of their lives making art, as well as teaching it, makes a difference, he said. “It’s really motivating,” he said. Devlin added that the Pearl Conard Art Gallery in Ovalwood Hall at Ohio State Mansfield, for which Shannon serves as curator, provides students with face-to-face interaction with professional artists “Not only do you have awesome exhibitions every three or four months, you actually get to meet the artist as a person and not just a piece of art on the wall,” he said.
And with Shannon and her extensive exhibition experience, students at Mansfield have access to an artist every moment they’re in her classroom.
“Being a real-world artist, and being able to share these experiences with my students, is really invaluable,” she said.
Source, Photo: The Ohio State University at Mansfield