Kendall Buster speaks at AU as part ‘Visiting Artists’ series for Studio Art program

A few times a semester, the MFA Studio Art program invites established artists to speak at American University and to work with students through the ‘Visiting Artists’ series. This program brought sculptor Kendall Buster to AU. 

On Feb. 8, Buster gave a lecture as part of the series in the Katzen Arts Center. Buster’s work is focused on “architecture biological models,” lending to her background as a microbiologist. She has artwork displayed in museums and galleries throughout the world. 

At the event, Buster emphasized how one’s lived experience impacts their work and how her background in science has influenced her art. 

“The places that you live, the issues that are important to you, the people that are important to you … That’s going to inform your work and that’s going to be the real foundation,” Buster said.

Assistant Art Professor Kyle Hackett, who helps run the Visiting Artists series, said that the faculty wants to make the art field accessible on local, regional and national levels, so they bring in artists of all backgrounds and disciplines. 

“We think about the needs of the program and the specific student’s practices,” Hackett said. “It’s kind of a whole spectrum of different parts of that journey that the program is exposed to. I think it creates a range of unique opportunities.” 

Second-year MFA student Lindsay Mueller has worked with visiting artists in the past and finds their feedback and critiques valuable. 

“Since they’re not as familiar with your work as your professors, it gives you practice having people ask questions … They can give more of their read coming into things,” Mueller said. “They’re not coming in with the assumptions of already knowing and understanding my practice and assuming what I’m doing, they kind of have to figure it out.” 

The Visiting Artists events are open to all AU community members. Professor Tim Doud, the director of the MFA Studio Art program, felt Buster’s talk inspired the students in attendance. 

“We had a lot of undergraduates in the audience. They probably never thought about this as an actual path,” Doud said. “She’s [Buster] introducing things people never thought about for themselves and it’s so aspirational…She doesn’t make it feel like it’s impossible.”

Buster spoke about the artist’s inner critic and how the person you should be aiming to please is yourself. At Virginia Commonwealth University, where she is a professor of sculpture, a lack of confidence and second guessing is what holds her students back the most. 

“I do my best but I really feel like I just don’t know a lot of times … It seems like you know when you do a lecture like this … but it’s hindsight. You do not know a lot of times when you’re in it,” Buster said, referring to the process of creating art. 

In the past, the series has brought in well-known artists such as Marina Abramović, Sanford Biggers and Abigail DeVille

Currently, Kendall Buster has exhibitions on display in D.C. at the Kreeger Museum through Feb. 24 and the Tephra Institute of Contemporary Art through Feb. 25.

This article was edited by Marina Zaczkiewicz, Sara Winick and Abigail Pritchard. Copy editing by Luna Jinks and Sydney Kornmeyer.

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