The roles of artist and teacher are connected for Professor Anat Shiftan.
Shiftan, who joined the Ceramic Department in the School of Fine and Performing Arts in 2003, views the work she does in the classroom, where she shapes the minds of young artists, as a catalyst for the art she creates in the studio. The energy, excitement, invention and creativity of her students feed her need to explore new concepts in art.
“I wouldn’t be as good at one role without the other,” she said.
Whether in a studio class on hand building or glazing techniques or a theoretical course on contemporary issues in clay, Shiftan’s lessons always reflect an area she is researching or interested in learning about.
In her fall 2007 graduate seminar, Shiftan and her students ask questions about the relevance of the old-world, tactile aspect of clay and its traditional techniques and its place in the current technologically driven world. Shiftan and her colleague Mary Roehm believe that if students learn the classical tactile traditions they can then use the technical methods in a more creative way.
In her studio and research, she experiments with how the use of contemporary digital technology and traditional techniques influence the creative process. Shiftan uses the computer program Photoshop for creative image development and traditional printmaking and ceramic painting techniques. She says the digital exploration influences her understanding of color and line and allows a new visual interpretation of historical artistic renderings of nature. In addition to working on a series of still life pieces in ceramics, Shiftan also creates large-scale digital prints and a large-scale ceramic painted tile.
Shiftan’s desire to make connections in life expands to Israel, where she grew up and taught for a few years. She often brings artists from Israel to the college for seminars and discussions on topics like craftsmanship. Recently, Elina Lapidus, a student of Shiftan’s from Israel, received her Master of Fine Arts in Ceramics from New Paltz.
Seeing her students grow is magic, says Shiftan. She gets to witness the moment when her students transform from beginners experimenting with clay to professional artists and designers.
“My students show me that the world of ceramics is a vital form of human expression,” she said.