Office Hours: DeWitt Godfrey

Assistant Professor of Art and Art History DeWitt Godfrey is also a practicing artist. In his second year at Colgate, Godfrey is teaching and creating his own works. From constructing massive steel sculptures to instructing students in woodshop, welding and plaster, Godfrey is engulfed by many different aspects of art.

Godfrey believes that the practice of studio art is best taught at a university or college, where students can learn to change their minds. “Too often, students of art get caught up in the technical aspects of their work,” he said, “but at institutions like Colgate, students are taught how to be curious.”

In conjunction with the mechanical processes of art, Godfrey uses critical readings and conceptual art practices to create a well-balanced artistic experience. At Colgate, students and professors are encouraged to generate their art at the downtown Paul Schupf Studio center. Donated by Colgate alumnus and trustee emeritus Paul Schupf, the center allows Godfrey, his colleagues and senior art concentrators a space to work on projects.

Earning his Bachelor of Arts in Art from Yale University and his Master of Fine Arts in Sculpture from the Edinburgh College of Art, Godfrey has felt what it is like to learn in a university setting.

“There is a certain degree of ‘self-knowledge’ that can be gained in this sort of environment,” he said. “Before Colgate, Godfrey taught at Amherst College for four years, where he also exhibited pieces of his personal creation.

To give his students a hands-on experience and an idea of what large-scale projects require, Godfrey enlists his students’ help in his own work. This past year Alex Hallowell ’05, Dan Voce-Gardner ’06, Eli Pearlman-Storch ’04, and Spencer Crandall ’06 all assisted Godfrey in bringing “Picker Sculpture” to Colgate’s Dana Arts Center and to the Black and White Gallery in New York. The “Picker Sculpture” was on display at Colgate from April to August and is currently at the Black and White Gallery in Brooklyn through October 18th. It is an artistic formation of 21 steel tubes which vary from 2 feet by 2 feet to 9 feet by 9 feet in size. Godfrey is interested in ‘indeterminate forms’ and uses these ‘flexible steel cylinders’ to play with the ideas of natural systems.

Because the steel is supple, Godfrey cannot predict their movement when placing them on top of each other.

“The structures that I put together, or the processes set in motion, are actually and metaphorically dynamic,” he said, “[I turn] modernist concepts of form on their head by making objects that do not have the ability to declare themselves except in relation to something external outside themselves.”

The “close-packing” of the cylinders plays with geometric principles that are reflected in natural phenomenon. Godfrey compares these items to soap bubbles, stacks of firewood or sand. They begin to take form in relation to their context.

“With ‘Picker Sculpture,’ it embraces and magnifies these unstable, semi-predictable physical and social relationships,” he said, “and these are melded into Colgate’s campus.”

Godfrey is enjoying being a part of the Art Department. He praises Colgate’s vision of an expanded role for the creative arts.

“The institution is poised to go forward,” he said. “Colgate, under the leadership of President Chopp, has ambitious ideas for the future.”

These ideas include the recently – completed sculpture studio and classroom renovations in Ryan Hall. A possible public sculpture initiative on campus, is also currently under discussion.

“Art has a complex set of relationships with its surroundings, which are difficult and sometimes impossible to control,” Godfrey said.

“In his own work he embraces that uncontainable “context” and tries to instill an awareness of place, both physical and cultural, in his students.