Acclaimed Artist Finds Inspiration in the Classroom

Written by
Lois Elfman

Oct 30, 2019

Oct 30, 2019 • by Lois Elfman

Much like scientists, artist Carol Prusa seeks new ways of explaining the world around us and beyond. She originally studied chemistry, using a laboratory method known as titration. Over time, she began using innovative techniques in the art studio to create large‐scale silverpoint drawings that incorporate sculptural forms and new technologies.

As the world marks the 50th anniversary of the first moon landing, Prusa's work celebrating that milestone of space exploration is showcased in an exhibition at the Boca Raton Museum of Art FL, Carol Prusa: Dark Light, which runs until January 2020. She describes it as probing the mysteries of the universe and honoring the women astronomers who mapped the stars.

For more than three decades, Prusa has combined her work as an artist with teaching the next generation of talent. She is a professor of art at Florida Atlantic University, where she has taught since 1999. Although at times it is challenging to combine her own creative work with teaching, she finds the academic setting exhilarating.

“I like the variety of disciplines, the intellectual activities like lectures and cultural events and the depth of discourse with colleagues across disciplines,” says Prusa. “As well as the freedom to pursue my own research focus.”

Path to Academia

Prusa earned her BS in biocommunication arts at the University of Illinois at Urbana‐Champaign and her MFA at Drake University IA. Several pivotal professors who believed in her work pushed her forward.

“My respect for their work and the gift of their teaching made me want to follow their path,” Prusa says. “I like the challenge of working at a university and being around wide‐ranging areas of expertise, creativity and thinking.”

She first taught while a graduate student. After earning her master's, she began teaching at Iowa State University, modeling her teaching on those who had taught her. From the start, she kept her teaching fresh by staying informed on current issues and concerns in the art world and attending conferences.

“Recently, I had the opportunity to collaborate with the chair of the mathematics department [at FAU] on a grant application, and it affirms why I like academia—it is a place where every day I wake up to learn something new and think in a new way,” says Prusa. “Fortunately, I am good at multitasking and have strong organization skills or the job would be overwhelming.”

Art and Creativity

In addition to the museum exhibition in Florida, this fall Prusa traveled to Taipei, Taiwan, where she had the opportunity to be part of a large installation at the Songshan Cultural and Creative Park. The project was done through the Bluerider Art Gallery. The theme was “Scaling the Wall (pushing boundaries),” and Prusa's piece is called “Folded Worlds.” It is a circular video projected seven meters in diameter onto a large screen stretched across the ceiling. People could lay down on yoga mats to view the video.

“Periodically, a yoga instructor gave yoga classes underneath the projection,” Prusa says. “The video was of digital images of the work I had made over the past decade. Each work I make I consider a world, sustained by its own logic internal to the piece. When I complete a work, I begin a new world. My multiple worlds were visually folded into each other by each image fading into the next, creating a 30‐minute video. My work is visually meditative and hopefully gives the viewer pause, shifting their breathing—potentially useful in yoga.”

The exhibition at the Boca Raton Museum of Art featured works using Prusa's signature silverpoint technique. Silverpoint is a thin silver wire that leaves a trace of metal when pulled across a prepared surface. Prusa is known for large‐scale silverpoints that are deepened with ground graphite and heightened with titanium white pigment.

In her quest to grasp the universe around her, Prusa immersed herself in the writings of physicists, astronomers and astrophysicists. She experienced 2017's total eclipse on the bank of the North Platte River in Nebraska, taking in the imagery. Over the next two years, she created the works of Dark Light. The final piece focused on the dark matter and dark energy that constitute most of our universe, which sent her on a new path of research.

“I'm always seeking new ways of making and thinking. I apply for artist residencies and grants,” says Prusa. “I utilize these opportunities to make work through ways I have not experienced before.”



Prusa is full‐time faculty and teaches all levels of undergraduate and graduate painting. Beginning courses involve foundational skills and traditional approaches while also encouraging dialogue, analysis and critique. She imparts her knowledge of historic materials and methods of painting and also engages students in theory and contemporary practices.

“As the student advances, I support their efforts to hone their own perspective, supported by research, experimentation with materials and developing technical skills necessary to manifest their vision,” says Prusa, who has lectured about her work at Carnegie Mellon University PA and the Parsons School of Art and Design NY.

For a professor of art to achieve tenure and promotions, they must engage in creative research. Grants, fellowships, artist residencies and exhibitions are evaluated. A curated exhibition, such as Dark Light, is valued more highly than a juried exhibition. Prusa achieved full professor in 2009 and has received several teaching awards.

“I love teaching, and I wouldn't advise artists to do it unless they did,” says Prusa. “You have to have a passion for being at a university, being engaged with students and working with graduate students. That has to also feed you. Otherwise, nobody wins in that equation.”

“When I give an assignment, they never fail to resolve it differently than I would, in unique and surprising ways, which keeps me alert and generative,” she adds. “To keep my courses vital, I introduce new topics and texts each term so that I remain engaged and challenged along with my students.”



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