Art Professor Teaches What She Practices

The dynamics of little mountains, Hokie flags, the routine of squirrels and Christmas lights. According to Katherine Shortridge, assistant professor of fine art at Roanoke College, these are a few of the things that constitute Virginia's sense of place. This is the theme for her latest artwork collection.

Shortridge works abstractly. She focuses on the skill and art of observation, which transforms landscape into something more than nature. It is conceptualized and internalized to become a place. This sense of place constitutes understanding the landscape and how it passes through us. In interpreting how the everyday world that we encounter shapes us, Shortridge discriminates between the physical and the experiential, only to blend them in a common conceptual framework on the canvas.

Shortridge became a regional painter because she moved around a lot. She does her research by traveling and noticing specific arrangements and then works from memory. She looks at mundane items and moments and the human presence behind them to create an experience of place. "I think the most successful art comes from life and becomes part of life," the professor says.

According to Shortridge, she teaches what she practices, rather than vice versa. "I was shaped by my professors and wanted the same mentorship with my students," she says.

"I call myself a gray teacher - I serve as a guide. I don't walk around saying 'no'." Shortridge says that in art you can challenge the viewer and say, "Why not?" Her challenge is to make the experience large for her students. Art majors learn how to use their eyes and communicate visually. This is a four-year goal. Shortridge wants graduates to be confident and yet flexible when addressing artistic problems.

For Shortridge, identity is an important concept. She teaches her students that it is important to have a relationship with things and look at the world around them from a stereo-visual perspective. "I like to look at things slowly. I like for things to look hand-made".

According to Shortridge, Roanoke is a great place to study art. "Students can take ideas from anywhere. They have a broad base to feed their art in a liberal arts college," she says.

Shortridge received her A.B. from Dartmouth College, where she majored in studio art. She obtained her M.F.A in painting from Indiana University.