The Pennsylvania State University

School of Visual Arts

Penn State Laureate Comments

Chris Staley, Distinguished Professor of Art reflects on life as an artist as it relates to the Penn State Laureate position. Being selected as the Penn State Laureate is a wonderful opportunity to share some thoughts about art. As the year unfolds I hope to address how art and life are inextricably connected. This sharing will happen in videos, public talks, and classroom discussions, across Pennsylvania and the Commonwealth campuses. For instance, this summer I saw the white tiles and white tactile glazed sculpture of the German artist Rosemarie Trockel. I was blown away. I loved the piece. When I initially see a work of art I don’t want to think, I just want to intuitively respond to a work, to simply sense it. Only later do I begin to engage in the work intellectually. The Trockel sculpture reminds me of the cycles of growth and decay–such as how food goes in our mouths and after digestion leaves our bodies as excrement. The contrast of the white tiles and the squeezed clay is startling given they are made from the same material. Often great art challenges the way we see the world. It forces us to rethink our perceptions.  The notion of “what we see is what we know” is challenged by a provocative work of art.  Suddenly, or sometimes slowly we need to rethink our assumptions in order to understand what we see. I would like to thank the Penn State community and everyone for your support of the arts. Art is remarkable in its power to heal by engaging the hearts and minds of people from all walks of life. Click here for a complete list of Professor Staley's speaking engagements. Click here for the complete collection of Laureate video segments.