My Findings: Nicholas Papa, BFA '18
Before Nicolas Papa enrolled in the SMFA program, he wasn’t even certain that going to an art school was the right path for him. But being in what was still an exploratory stage with his art, the promise of an open curriculum and the opportunity to learn and work across mediums and subject matters were what convinced him it would be a good fit.
“I got here and was overwhelmed and terrified at first. I hadn’t really confronted any critique or lecture environment before, or learned in a museum— everything was very fresh, very new for me, which was exciting, but also a shock to the system in the best way! I took a class with Ethan Murrow who helped me think about my process, form analogies between painting and language and build a narrative with my work. He really shifted the way I was thinking about my art.
In my sophomore year, I had a studio space of my own for the first time which was really pivotal to my entire practice. I also applied for the intermediate studio seminar and got in! I was the youngest student in the class and I very much wanted to prove that I could hold my own. We pushed boundaries in there and I credit that class for teaching me to think about how my work was being seen by the viewer.
I had some really great teachers my junior year. Patte Loper, who taught my observational painting class, helped me take a step back and slowed me down in a good way. Angelina Gualdoni, my Intermediate Projects teacher, had a really great intuition that comes from years of knowing how to read paintings which I admire so much. And I took a film course with Jane Gillooly which got me thinking about time-based mediums when I’d been feeling pretty static in what my paintings were accomplishing.
It can be tricky sometimes being a student and creator at the same time but I really found a balance in my fourth year. Classes like Music and Literature and Audio Visual Imagination helped set my thesis in motion in a way that I didn’t expect. I’m doing an installation. I love this format of being able to control the whole environment and making the experience of viewing tangible and activated in different ways other than just canvasses on a wall. The installation itself has been a way for me to talk about things that conceptually matter to me but also art format-wise that I've always wanted to try. My paintings have a place in this. My music has a place in this. I've worked on music throughout my student career but haven't really made a part of a lot of my pieces. The installation has a piece in it. It's been a good kind of conduit for all those things that I'm interested in to come through and not feel like they're, one has to be compromised or sacrificed.”