This is the first installment in a series of interviews with Fine Art thesis students. When Cornell transitioned to virtual learning, AAP students and faculty had to adjust due to their disciplines’ dependency on facilities and physical space. Consequently, thesis year may look different than planned for many students.
Will Demaria ’20 is a senior BFA who is a constant in the printmaking studios. He is our resident tool-sharpener and is always there to answer questions or tell you that you’re wiping your plate wrong. In the print community, Demaria is a peer and mentor to many.
I had the pleasure of talking with him about thesis year, suburban landscapes and his time at Cornell.
Cecilia Lu ’22: Can you talk about what thesis year has looked like for you?
Will Demaria ’20: The fall semester I was in thesis and an advanced printmaking class so that semester was really, really crazy. I was massively overworked the entire time. But I made a lot of very good work.
It’s kind of strange being in thesis because I had this expectation of coming out with my masterpiece type works, which I think I developed when I was a freshman looking through the seniors’ thesis show and was truly amazed. And it’s weird being in that position now.
CL: Do you feel like you’ve made your “masterworks”?
WD: I have a couple of pieces that I’m very impressed with, but I wouldn’t say I’ve done anything that has knocked my socks off yet.
CL: Which works specifically?
WD: So the one that has stuck with me — it’s the one with the car — C Class Before Cottage, a second state of that one.
CL: What specifically about that piece do you feel most satisfied with?
WD: This whole If Winter Is A Color series, it’s of suburban landscapes. It’s interesting when you look at a landscape painting — there are depictions of rural and urban landscapes, but the suburbs are largely excluded from the canon of art history. Cities and pastoral scenes are idealized, whereas the suburbs are an in-between space, which people don’t really want to associate themselves with.
CL: What specifically draws you to the suburban landscape?
WD: I’m not from a rural or city landscape, so it feels strange to try to provide any meaningful commentary on this subject matter that I’m effectively ignorant on.
CL: Do you think that speaks to the limits of the type of work artists can produce?
WD: I don’t know if I could make a universal statement about the types of work artists can produce. I can specifically comment on what I’m capable of, and I really, really don’t like making work about subjects that I don’t understand well.
CL: By “understand” do you mean from a lived perspective or an intellectual understanding?
WD: For me, it needs to be from a lived perspective. I think it’s a bit dangerous to make things that you understand purely intellectually.
CL: I’m realizing a lot of your imagery is found, in the sense that it’s from what you wander into or happen upon. Do you think that’s a conscious choice?
WD: I’m the type of person to compose, but I won’t really construct something. I like to find things and have that moment of discovering instead of forming. I try to mirror that in the landscapes in that there’s some aspect of searching for these types of places, whether I’m consciously doing it or not.
CL: What other work were you planning to make for the rest of the semester?
WD: I was really, really excited to finish the piece that I was working on because I had spent basically two or three weeks planning (whereas I generally only spend a couple of days). It just hit the point where that planning started to make the piece look like something; it was just starting to pay off.
CL: Could you talk about this piece?
WD: It’s a scene from the corner that I walk by on the way to class every day. It takes place in the Cayuga Heights area, and there’s this odd road which I can’t figure out why it’s one way.
Behind this road are these gated community types of houses, that sort of thing. And then there’s a one way road, which is no entry, restricting the movement into that aspect of the landscape. So it’s about these system networks of soft barriers, which you don’t really consciously think about. But there’s a lot of class commentary in the placement of a one way street or a no entry sign.
And then it also has a juxtaposition between a kind of stereotypical — not really stereotypical but that classical idea of — American white picket fence and on the other side of the street is this rather dark black, more modern style fence.
CL: To wrap up, how has your time at Cornell shaped your artistic practice?
WD: So on the first day of classes, during orientation when they were showing us the studios, I asked the print technician, “what’s the point of print?” [laughs] And she … wasn’t really ready for that blatantly offensive of a question.
So I came in not knowing what printmaking was — and now I find myself doing a lot of print.
Cecilia Lu is a sophomore in the College of Architecture, Art and Planning. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org