SNOWMASS VILLAGE - Sanford Biggers' workshop at the Anderson Ranch Arts Center, called "Variations on a Theme," is just as abstract as it sounds. The New York-based artist said students in the class are extending what they're already working on, which varies from sculpture to photography.
"It's thinking about art," Biggers said. "I want them to come away with not just a finished work, but a way of working."
That approach to art is reflective of Biggers, who works in film, installation, sculpture, music and performance. He said it's important for artists to be flexible in what they work with, so they can choose "the material to best elucidate your ideas."
Biggers said the diverse students in the workshop, who hail from across the country, meet in the studio and participates in traditional lectures and discussions. But Biggers is also taking them outside. On June 18, they took a trip to the landfill to gather materials. Another feature of the class will be a sanpos, a Japanese term describing a walk with no specific goal. He says the conversation changes when people step outside of the classroom.
"You start to realize people's personalities, which informs their work," he said.
On June 21, Biggers will give a presentation, open to the public, of mostly work from four solo shows he did this year. He will also include a montage of found film clips that he dubbed together to create his own narrative.
"(The audience will) just leave very confused, but titillated," Biggers said of the presentation. "I work in a lot of different concepts and ideas. I think it's easier for people to find the threads, because I've been working in a lot of the same themes for the last 10 years."
Biggers has been taking art seriously a lot longer than that, starting when he was a teenager. A graduate of the Art Institute of Chicago and Morehouse College, he is now a full faculty member at Columbia University. Biggers has also been a visiting lecturer at Harvard and a faculty member at Virginia Commonwealth University, and said while teaching can sometimes seem very separate from his own projects, it also goes hand-in-hand sometimes.
"Teaching is an organic process," Biggers said. "Any good teacher is learning 50 percent of the time from their students... It really does feed your practice."
Biggers' presentation is part of the featured artist lecture series at the arts center. The next speaker will be Enrique Martinez Celaya on July 5.