PSS Summer '12

Muck on Stuff

Jenny Wu


Hometown: Nanjing, China

Majors: Studio Art and Architectural Studies

Beyond HWS: Wu has been accepted to the Woodstock Byrdcliffe Artist-in-Residence Program and the Vermont Studio Center Artist-in-Residence Program with a full fellowship from the Pollock Krasner Foundation. She plans to apply to graduate school for an MFA.

  • Art student at Chautauqua Institute
  • Member of Relay for Life
  • HWS student photographer
  • Studied abroad in Rome
  • Graduated summa cum laude with Honors in Studio Art

“I focused on art extensively in high school, and when I came to HWS, I was just tired of it. After four years of studying art as an academic subject without much creativity and personality, I couldn’t see beyond that. I was burnt out. I was thinking about studying physics or math.

Art at HWS is so much different than I expected. There was more critical thinking involved. It completely changed my definition of what art can be. During my second semester, I signed up for Professor of Art Nick Ruth’s course called “Color and Composition.”

Nick said that painting is “muck on stuff,” which blows my mind. It is not about recording what I see, it is not about perfection. It’s a challenge to use limited materials to create infinite possibilities. That was the moment when I started to really understand what art is.

Nick has been so important to my development as an artist. He is the perfect teacher for me–he really cares about the individual development of each student, and he encouraged me to push myself harder and to experiment. He is always asking me questions, making me think harder. Why did you use red there? Why did you choose that shape? Why do you paint? Who are you in the art world? I’m still trying to figure all that out, and those questions drive me to understand my own art and make my work more mature.

I studied abroad in Rome during my junior year with Nick as the trip leader, and I can’t even tell you how amazing the experience was. I learned about the history of Western art where it actually happened. That semester completely changed my perspective. I didn’t do much painting, but I did a lot of sketching and took a lot of photos. It was like the whole city was my studio.

On campus, my studio on the second floor of the Goldstein Family Carriage House is where I do a lot of my work and thinking. I have a sleeping bag, and when I lose track of time while working on a painting, I spend the night there. During the fall 2011 semester, I hosted an informal open studio so people could see where I work. You can see an artist’s work in a gallery, but seeing where she works is so much more vivid–like seeing a chef in the kitchen.

My life couldn’t be more different than what I’d imagined when I came here four years ago. I thought I was going to study science. In a weird twist, all of my best friends are scientists. They’re always looking for the answer, but in art, there is no answer, it’s all creative. But we get along great because both science and art are searching for something meaningfully original.

After graduation, I think I am going to take a year off and just paint on my own. After years of being around teachers and fellow students, it will be quite different and probably tough, but it will help me grow as an artist. Then I’d like to get an MFA. I’m thinking about becoming a teacher and a professional artist. I’ve had so many influential art teachers in my life, and I’d really like to help other students have that experience. Being a full time painter is a marvelous dream to follow, and I will fight my way through.”


Preparing Students to Lead Lives of Consequence.