I’ve always felt that art school works best for those who enroll already knowing what kind of artist they want to be. School then becomes an opportunity to incubate ideas and forms that are already on the cusp of resolution—it affords the right artist just the right amount of time to focus, achieve clarity, push, and give birth to a serious, professional art practice. The alternative—going to school prematurely—can be problematic. All too often, unsure of oneself, seeking the approval of a favorite professor or influential visiting artist, and/or succumbing to the brand of insecurity that only art schools can breed, an art student will sacrifice what was once the original vision for what he or she thinks the critique—faculty and peers—would prefer the work to be. As a result, every year, art schools graduate small armies of academic artists—look for signs of sameness. When ready to stick to a vision no matter what, to turn on the blinders as needed in order to take things all the way, that’s when it’s time to go for the MFA. Students should use the critique not as a compass or a roadmap, but more as a kind of final focus group.
ALEX ISRAEL is an artist who lives and works in Los Angeles.