WESTON, Conn. — Joseph Fucigna, an art professor at Norwalk Community College, encourages his students to seek out thoughtful critiques of their work and believes the feedback can wildly fuel their creative process.
“Having someone thoughtfully evaluate a piece of artwork is inspiring," said Fucigna, a Weston resident. "It's easy when people say your work is wonderful and pat you on the back and make you feel good. But at the end of the day, it's what you get out of it that's important. I tell my students, 'You need constructive criticism.'
"Saying our work stinks or is nice is a disservice," he said. "There are constructive thoughts brought up, whether of strengths or weaknesses. It's OK to like my work, but what do (they) like about it. It becomes an in-depth analysis of the work."
Fucigna, who grew up in Norwalk, is a multi-media artist, known mainly as a sculptor. He creates abstract pieces from nondescript industrial materials, such as plastic and metal fencing. His work is based on his mastery of the "strength of the materials" he transforms in into “odd, but approachable abstractions," he told Daily Voice in a phone interview.
Fucigna has been a full-time professor of art at Norwalk Community College since 1993, serving as chairman of the Humanities Department and the Studio Arts Program for over 20 years.
A good critique comes after taking the time to become familiar with an artist's work, a process he admits can be daunting, but beneficial, he said.
Fucigna admits he has sometimes regretted what he has said to a fellow artist — "Where I try to have an honest assessment and they've been offended," he said.
"When you're in an academic environment, it's very acceptable and expected to be challenged. What are you there for? If it's to do the same old thing, then why are you there?"
But when an artist has been out of school for a while, the "critic" may want to “tread more carefully, tip-toe a little,” Fucigna said.
The cliche says that "everyone's a critic," but it's difficult to find someone who can take part in a meaningful conversation about an artist's work, he said.
"People don't know how to do it or how to handle it. If you have a circle of people you know whose work you know, it's better," he said.
It can be difficult to offer a critique when unfamiliar with the work, he said. "There’s a difference between critiquing and responding," said Fucigna.
"You can get someone who is not well-versed in the visual arts. They have a wild response and you say, ‘I never thought about that.' There’s something to be said about it. A naive response can be quite wonderful, too. There are many dynamics involved in a successful critique," he said
Fucigna prepares his students to become better critics and ultimately better artists by having them evaluate their own work.
"I ask them to write an artist's statement to go with their work. Writing is very difficult,” he said.
“The exercise forces an artist to make something physical or something a little more thoughtful. You have to think about it a little bit more and take more responsibility. It forces you to think what is your work really about," Fucigna said.
"I personally enjoy the conversation about art and looking at work and analyzing it.”
Fucigna received his bachelor of fine arts degree from Alfred Alfred University School of Art and Design in New York and master's of fine arts degree from the School of Visual Arts in New York City.
He also attended the Triangle Workshop in Pine Plains, N.Y., and worked with the renowned sculptor Sir Anthony Caro and critic Clement Greenberg.