The Lewis Center for the Arts has tapped two internationally renowned artists to lead Princeton’s dance and visual arts programs. Susan Marshall, a leading choreographer and 2000 winner of a MacArthur “genius” fellowship, will become the first director of the dance program, which next fall will become distinct from the theater program. Joe Scanlan, a sculptor and installation artist who was an associate professor at the Yale University School of Art, is the new head of the visual arts program.
In making these appointments, the University was looking for active artists who would increase the programs’ visibility and further establish Princeton as a place to pursue dance and visual arts.
The search committee for dance, says Michael Cadden, the former director of the Program in Theater and Dance and now director of the theater program, wanted a “world-class artist” who could help Princeton become “the best undergraduate dance program in the country” for liberal arts students.
Marshall has been director of Susan Marshall & Company in New York for 23 years. Her dance company performs her choreographed work in the United States and abroad. Her signature aerial duet performed by dancers suspended in harnesses, “Kiss,” is in the current repertory of the Hubbard Street Dance Chicago and Pacific Northwest Ballet.
Marshall is a “crossover artist,” says Cadden. “She has a real interest in how to bring the liberal arts education into dialogue with the world of professional dance.” For instance, she has provided the stage direction for Book of Longing, composer Philip Glass’ work based on the poetry of Leonard Cohen.
With the retirement of sculptor James Seawright this spring and photographer Emmet Gowin next fall — two of the visual arts program’s four tenured faculty members — Scanlan will bring a new perspective and reshape the program by hiring faculty and rethinking the courses offered, says P. Adams Sitney, a film professor and the former director of the program in visual arts.
A postmodern conceptual sculptor and an art critic, Scanlan has mounted 19 solo exhibitions in the past decade in the United States and Europe. In his work, he has examined the idea of art and self-promotion — by looking at advertising and publicity materials as opportunities to make art — and the idea of art and consumption. The holder of a U.S. patent for a process of converting postconsumer waste into potting soil, Scanlan mounted an exhibition of three tons of the material with a shovel planted in the middle of it at the IKON Gallery in Birmingham, England.Among Princeton students, he hopes to expand what is thought of as visual arts — beyond conventional painting, sculpture, photography, and film. “The approach to art at Princeton is still focused on art as discrete objects made by individuals. While that is still a valid practice, I would hope to infuse it with more skepticism for that tradition and a greater awareness of contemporary alternatives,” says Scanlan.