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Q&A with William Satloff

What drew you to WashU?
I was looking for a competitive research university with a stand-alone art college. From my college search I knew that many universities locate their art programs off-site, a bus ride away from their main campuses. When I toured the Danforth Campus, I was struck by how well-integrated the Sam Fox School is with the rest of the University. Sam Fox is only a 5-minute walk from Olin Library and a 10-minute walk from the South 40.

What interests you most about your studies in art?
I am excited about learning and experimenting with ceramic chemistry—mixing clays, testing glazes, firing kilns! I am curious about the expectations and rules with which we approach art, as well as the agency of art objects. Does art require an audience? To what extent are artworks functional? How does the digital age impact our relationship with ephemerality and the physical world?

Tell us about your work—what are you making right now? What types of projects or topics most interest you?
My recent work seeks to facilitate the reciprocal altruism between a home garden and a gardener. To that end, my sculptures are all functional and created to support plant development and promote growth. I am welding a large steel figure, Fat Garden Man (2020 – ), that will be installed in a vegetable garden and function as a tomato cage. I am also throwing a series of stoneware vessels that will house herb bushes and citrus trees.

How have your studies in art history shaped your practice?
My second major in art history has given me a rolodex of visual references. In critique settings, I can draw compositional or thematic connections between students’ work and Old Masters’ paintings and sculptures. I sometimes use art historical references to inform the naming conventions of my 2D work. For instance, a solvent-transfer print I titled A Harlot’s Progress alludes to the series of 18th century paintings and engravings by that same title by English artist William Hogarth.

What’s been the most memorable course or project you’ve completed in the Sam Fox School?
Experimental Photography with Heather Bennett.

What have you learned as an art student that you’d be most lost without?
Welcome criticism—it isn’t a personal attack.

What internship experiences have you taken part in, and how have they influenced your studies?
The summer before my sophomore year I interned in the Office of the Chief Curator at the Brooklyn Museum, where I had the opportunity to work closely with the museum’s permanent collection and collaborate with conservators, registrars, and art handlers. The next summer I was a virtual curatorial intern at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of African Art (NMAfA). My role at NMAfA centered around museology research, principally the policies and practices surrounding repatriation and adult education. The fall of my junior year I interned at Selkirk Auctioneers & Appraisers, Missouri’s leading firm for fine and decorative art auctions. Across these three internship experiences I developed a nuanced understanding of the life cycles of art objects. A Ming dynasty porcelain vase could be studied, conserved, and exhibited behind museum glass—or it could sell at auction to an anonymous online buyer who will use it as an umbrella stand. It’s naïve to think my 3D work will always be regarded as art. You might see it as decorative or an accent piece. I don’t care, so long as you smile and tell me you love it.

What is your favorite thing about St. Louis?
Saturday mornings at the Tower Grove Farmers Market.

What do you like to do away from studio?
Crossword puzzles and picnics.

Tell us something we should know about you that we forgot to ask!
I make a mean gluten-free banana bread.

Four-panel artwork image, showing different scene's with the same's person's face, somewhat pixelated, on a cell phone screen.

A Harlot’s Progress (2021). Citra Solv photo transfers on rag paper, 16 ¼ x 9 in. From left to right: 1) Moll Hackabout arrives in London at the Bell Inn, Cheapside; 2) Moll is now a kept woman, the mistress of a wealthy merchant; 3) Moll beats hemp in Bridewell Prison; 4) Moll dying of syphilis.