B.F.A. in Art (General Studio) / Paul Matheny III
I grew up in the upstate of South Carolina, in Anderson, and attended the Fine Arts Center in Greenville my last year of high school. During this time I often heard about the strength and dedication of the instructors in the Art Department at Winthrop University. Rock Hill is also part of the upstate, and this region, the piedmont, was familiar to me. By attending Winthrop, I didn't have to leave the lush green landscape of the upstate behind. The school’s reputation, the community and the environment were all factors in my decision. More than anything else, somehow I knew it was where I was supposed to be.
The Art Department at Winthrop University has a strong aesthetic that is evident beyond the university. It has had an impact on our state's art history and continues to be an influence across the region. I began to witness that firsthand while I was there and I continue to see it today. The Art Department at Winthrop has an engaged faculty and staff as well as the ability to attract good students. This combination forms a powerful relationship that enhances the experience in the studio, classroom and the community of the campus. These professors recognize the need to work directly with the students and often go far above and beyond what they need to do for the students’ success. These classroom and studio environments provide a great opportunity for interaction and artistic evolution.
I chose General Studio as my major and focused on photography and printmaking with minor focuses in painting and drawing. Like most students, I didn’t know what I wanted to do after I graduated and I was interested in experimenting with various media and alternative processes for producing artwork. By choosing General Studio, I was able to experiment in the dark room during photography courses with Phil Moody and in the printmaking lab with Paul Martyka. This overlap allowed me the opportunity to experiment and explore ways of creating images and sometimes combine both by integrating photography and printmaking with various methods of image making. This freedom and even the expectation to take chances, while also searching for a certain level of creativity to produce the final piece, still influences me and are directly connected to what I do today.
In addition to my studio classes, another class that had a huge impact was the Museum and Gallery Practices course with Tom Stanley. Probably one of the most memorable experiences that I look back on regularly was a field trip to the SC State Museum with Tom Stanley during this course. Although I grew up in SC, I somehow managed to never visit the SC State Museum before this trip in 1994. At the time, the museum was only 6 years old, but given the level of professionalism and size of the collections, it seemed like it had been in existence for a century or more. We came in through the back door for a behind the scenes tour of the collection storage areas which included riding on a giant cargo elevator, touring storage areas, registration, the conservation lab and meeting with the staff at the museum. This back-door museum experience was totally new, appreciated and highly influential.
Little did I know, just a few years later I would be the art curator at this museum, giving the same tour and greeting students coming in the back door and riding on the giant elevator to the storage areas. This field trip led by Tom Stanley introduced me to the importance of regional museums and recognizing the contributions of artists in our own backyard. It was one of the most important lessons that shaped my career.
The organization of these classes in studio art and electives like the Museum and Gallery Practices course provided a broad look at the opportunities in the world beyond the school and helped create a foundation that I continue to use and build on today.
Paul E. Matheny, III
Class of 1996