Last Summer's Summer Art Intensive

POSTED ON: March 19, 2018


By Maia Ruth Lee

In Kathmandu, Nepal where I grew up there was little to no art classes. I craved to learn how to draw, how to paint and how to build. The resources I had was a plethora of Nepali culture and religious art, artifacts and artisans. I remember looking to these resources as my textbook for creativity. For example, I sought and found a Thangka painting studio near a monastery, where Buddhist monks would paint incredibly meticulous paintings depicting deities and mandalas. I enrolled and for the next months sat next to trained painters to learn how to make Thangka paintings. The fine cotton would be stretched and partly sewn onto a wooden stretcher, primed with buffalo skin glue which would then be sanded down with a large smooth round stone. The templates were carefully laid out, and the natural color pigments were applied with handmade brushes over a span of months for each work to be completed. This type of process and art-making became a blueprint for my own work as I grew up, and the formative artistic experiences molded me to a very specific language and aesthetic. Being resourceful still plays a huge part in my work, and I still like to figure out how to make things I don’t know how to. 

Teaching the 2D class last summer at Cooper Outreach I was 7 months pregnant and still somewhat mobile. I was excited to be given such a special opportunity at a very crucial time in my life to encounter a group of young minds who were also at a very crucial time in their lives. One of my favorite projects was towards the end of the program where I asked of each student to create a 2D work of art based on their current passion. I was impressed by their openness, and willingness to explore and share. The projects covered a lot of ground - from Sylvia Plath’s poetry to Dante’s inferno, Korean feminist art to Brian Eno, Gothic architecture to Nike Air Force ones, Romani poets to Rumi poems, break dancing to Marcel Duchamp’s Nude descending staircase, etc etc. I was blown away by the diversity of subjects and how effortlessly we were able to transform these ideas into a work of art. It was such a pleasure for me to spend time with each of them to work through their ideas and concepts. We did a lot of critiques and open discussions about each others works and they seemed to like that as well.

  • Founded by inventor, industrialist and philanthropist Peter Cooper in 1859, The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art offers education in art, architecture and engineering, as well as courses in the humanities and social sciences.

  • “My feelings, my desires, my hopes, embrace humanity throughout the world,” Peter Cooper proclaimed in a speech in 1853. He looked forward to a time when, “knowledge shall cover the earth as waters cover the great deep.”

  • From its beginnings, Cooper Union was a unique institution, dedicated to founder Peter Cooper's proposition that education is the key not only to personal prosperity but to civic virtue and harmony.

  • Peter Cooper wanted his graduates to acquire the technical mastery and entrepreneurial skills, enrich their intellects and spark their creativity, and develop a sense of social justice that would translate into action.