But I was the type of person who needed to be left alone, not prodded. ” The video artist Tony Oursler (B. F. A. ’79), who once studied with Baldessari, said he recognized the site of the photo shoot even though it’s now outfitted as a dance atelier, complete with mirrors and barres. “I think my studio was in this room,” he offered. “And I shot some of my very first videos right outside, where I yelled at birds trying to get them to do my bidding.
Smith, the feminist artist who attended CalArts’ predecessor, Chouinard Art Institute, in the ’60s, and is known for her unusual use of food in her work, fed the penguin a tangerine. (It held the fruit in its orange beak. ) Liz Glynn (M. F. A. ’08) wondered out loud, “What is the penguin doing here? ” “It’s John,” answered Catherine Opie (M. F. A. ’88).
Wurtz; Henry Taylor; the late John Baldessari, represented by his self-portrait penguin sculpture, Quack; Naotaka Hiro; Jason Kraus; Liz Glynn; Kaari Upson (seated, from left) Tony Oursler; Andy Robert; Barbara T. Smith; and Kelly Nipper.
The pieces will be sold to raise scholarship funds for the school, in order to support a new generation of would-be artists who might not be able to afford CalArts’ tuition, currently at $50,850. “The aptitude to be a great artist comes from all over the world, from every income bracket, from every gender identity, from every racial identity, and from different countries,” said Ravi S.
Baldessari’s penguin, Quack, is going in the exhibition, as are Smith’s Invisible, a transparent assemblage made of handblown glass, air, and water, and new photographs by Anne Collier (B. F. A. ’93) and Carrie Mae Weems (B. F. A. ’81). “Tuition in my day was about $3,500 a semester,” said the painter Lari Pittman (M. F. A. ’76). “I had a great education here—just incredible.
In a huge studio at the California Institute of the Arts filled with alumni who are now accomplished artists, nobody could take their eyes off the large fiberglass penguin: With alert blue eyes and an open beak, it seemed to be talking up visitors—or fishing for compliments. Barbara T.
Rajan, the school’s president. “But I know there are students who don’t come to CalArts because they cannot afford it. ” Smith concurs. “Artists are important for an independent vision for our country,” she says. “And the likelihood that they can make enough money after graduation to pay back huge loans is small.