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Studio Art Comprehensive Exams

Department of Art


The purpose of the senior art project is to allow you to develop independently, under the guidance of the studio faculty, a cohesive body of work for public exhibition as well as a body of ideas that both investigates and augments the work for exhibition. Studio space for seniors and some juniors is available on campus. You will complete a paper exploring the nature and meaning of your exhibited work, give a gallery talk, and participate in an oral examination with a committee formed of the faculty of the art department. The oral will consist of a conversation related to general art historical questions pertinent to your work as well as questions that challenge the ideas developed in the images and the paper.

The purpose of these comprehensives is two-fold:

1) To help you synthesize your work in the art major over the previous few years, by asking you:

  • to bring your studio work to a higher stage of development
  • to think about the influences of other artists on your own work
  • to consider the ways in which your style and content fit into a larger art-historical framework.

2) To help prepare you for graduate school or professional advancement:

  • by giving you the experience of developing a coherent body of works
  • by preparing for a major exhibition
  • by building a portfolio
  • by articulating your thoughts about your visual work in both written and oral form.

Both art history and studio students will take the same Art Seminar (1 course credit), taught every fall. It will be required of senior majors but may also be taken by junior majors.

To clarify: A student who took the seminar in the junior year has not yet fulfilled the senior seminar requirement; it must be taken by every senior major. Since the material will change every year, it will be possible for a student to take the seminar in both the junior and senior years.

This seminar will provide important preparation for the senior project, whether in studio or art history. During the fall semester, in this seminar, studio students will develop the body of work that will be exhibited in the Lewis Art Gallery in late spring and will also write several drafts of their senior paper. Members of the class will serve as peer readers during the revision process.



The Comprehensive Examination process consists of the following components for studio students:

1) Exhibition of a body of work
During the senior year, beginning in the seminar, you will develop a cohesive, carefully considered body of images. The internal coherence of this body of work, or oeuvre, should be based either on some aspect of the medium, subject, and/or larger content that you are able to articulate clearly and succinctly, both verbally (in your orals) and in written form (in your paper).

2) Senior Paper (about 10 typed pages)
During the fall seminar you will write several drafts of your senior paper. This paper is written documentation in support of your artistic activities during the year. It should describe your thought processes, concepts, imagery, development, influences, and inspirations as a visual artist. The following general topics should be addressed:

You should describe and explain the techniques used to create the images in your senior project, and address the question of why you chose to work in a particular medium. What is it about it that attracted you? For instance, does it allow you to express yourself in ways that would not be as effective in a different medium? Is it integrally linked to the ideas that you want to express? Have you experienced any technical challenges this year? If so, how did you address them?

What, specifically, are you communicating with your work? What are you trying to say to viewers? Is there much of a possibility of misinterpretation of your work, and does that matter to you? What were your intentions at the beginning and how did these change over the course of the year? Did your artistic process play a role in the outcome or content of your work? How important was this process in the evolution of your work and ideas? What role do titles play in the communication of your content?
(Note: this aspect of your art-making may be the most difficult for you to articulate, but you won't be allowed to slide out from under the question about your artistic content and intentions. We'll constantly be pressing one another in the senior seminar to explain what we're doing and making, so you should get in the habit of making frequent notes to yourself on this issue in your sketchbook/journal. You'll find these notes very helpful when you talk about your work to others and when you begin work on your paper.)

How does the work you create fit into the history of art? We cannot create art in a vacuum, and there are many influences, both subtle and overt, that play a role in the work we make. To complete a successful senior project, you need to investigate the work and ideas of other artists and reflect on how they are relevant to your own art. Your paper should discuss these influences, whether they pertain to concept, style, and/or technique. Your discussion should be analytical rather than merely descriptive, should be detailed and specific, and should be based on significant research, reading, and looking. Be sure to include photocopies of the art you discuss in your paper and refer to them while you are discussing these influences.

Your paper should have parenthetical notes, if needed, and a bibliography in MLA style. It should also have illustrations (with figure numbers in the text and on the illustration page) of a selection of your own works and of works by other artists that you refer to in your paper.

3) Oral Examination
As you approach the opening of your senior exhibition in April, you will be asked to present your artwork to the art faculty and your peers in the form of a gallery talk. Following this talk you will meet with the art faculty and will be asked a series of questions about your work (related to the three areas listed above).


Last week of the fall semester: Mock oral with art department faculty.

February-March: Frequent discussions with art faculty about your work
1st week of March: Draft of your senior paper (turned in to each faculty member of the art department)

March: Revisions, as needed, of your senior paper decision about post-card invitations and reception for the Senior Show

April 1: Final copy of your senior paper

April 2-12: Comprehensive Examinations (your oral exam will take place during this period)

Late April-early May: Senior Show, Lewis Art Gallery