On March 14, the Met's Education Department kicked off the first of several events planned collaboratively with Jeff Hesser, a visiting artist leading a suite of programs related to the current exhibition The Passions of Jean-Baptiste Carpeaux. A sculptor who works with a range of media such as clay, 3D digital software, and toy and model making, Hesser has exhibited widely across the country and taught at the Rhode Island School of Design; University at Buffalo, The State University of New York; and the New York Academy of Art.
In the Carpeaux workshop, Hesser and Met conservator Michael Morris demonstrated clay figure modeling right next to the artist's early sculptures in the exhibition galleries, shedding light on the techniques and thought processes involved in creating sculptures like Carpeaux's. The following day, a captive audience joined Hesser for an exhibition gallery talk in which he shared his own approach to looking at sculpture and led visitors in a close analysis and conversation about Carpeaux's Ugolino and His Sons. Later that day, Hesser taught a workshop for teens and discussed his work in progress at a 3D Funday Meetup hosted by the Met's Media Lab.
Hesser has had a longstanding personal relationship to the Met. As a young artist studying sculpture and anatomy in New York, he stopped by the Museum almost every Saturday night to sketch and spend time with works such as Ugolino and His Sons, which deeply affected his views on anatomy, narrative, and abstract composition. Reflecting on the sculpture's dynamic, almost pyramidal composition, Hesser recently noted: "I realized that on an abstract level I was experiencing dynamic relationships of stability and instability that were intimately connected to the feelings and thoughts evoked by the narrative. These types of discoveries were important to me as a young artist because they contributed to my growing awareness of the power to communicate through abstract relationships."
An experienced educator, Hesser has taught in numerous settings and worked with groups of all ages. He first collaborated with the Museum's Education Department in 2013, when he co-led a demonstration of digital and clay modeling with digital artist Jason Bakutis in conjunction with the exhibition Bernini: Sculpting in Clay. During the afternoon-long program, visitors of all ages dropped in, saw Hesser and Bakutis work as they described their process and creative challenges, and tried their hand at shaping forms with traditional clay.