Three Things to Learn from Marissa Vigneault

Image Courtesy of Marissa Vigneault

On Oct. 5 at 7 p.m., Marissa Vigneault, assistant professor of art history at Utah State University, spoke at the Southern Utah Museum of Art for Art Insights. Vigneault’s presentation, entitled “Bruce Conner’s Gifts of Love,” displayed her comparative research on the postwar American artist. Vigneault said that she viewed all of Conner’s works of art as gifts of love that he gave to the world.

Vigneault’s self-proclaimed interest in psychology and sociology, as well as the years she spent learning about the discourse outside of normative art history, resulted in an engaging lecture about the different paths that people’s lives can take. Here are three things to take away from Vigneault’s work:

Life is Art

According to Vigneault, one of Bruce Conner’s most interesting art pieces was the diploma that he received from the University of Nebraska upon completing his Bachelor of Fine Arts in 1956. Conner later sent his diploma back to the university with a note designating it as a work of art “four years in the making,” Vigneault said.

By turning his own life into a work of art, Conner asked viewers to reflect on their own experiences, and to find beauty in the every day.

Think Outside the Box

Vigneault went into college knowing that she wanted to go into art history. Having grown up in New Haven, Connecticut, she spent a lot of time at the Yale University Art Museum and appreciated a variety of artwork from a young age. However, her interest in Conner is a more recent development.

“What I was reading about usually wasn’t Monet,” Vigneault said of her decision to focus on more modern work. “It was contemporary artists.” Initially, Conner had been outside her scope of interest–he was rooted in the west coast and San Francisco, while Vigneault had mostly focused on the east coast art scene. However, she took a chance and has had the opportunity to learn and grow because of it.

Make Your Own Space

Vigneault also emphasized the importance of artists finding their own place to create and exhibit their work. During Vigneault’s time spent teaching at the University of Nebraska, she also ran a project art gallery, Parallax Space, which was located only several blocks away from where Bruce Conner had once operated his own.

“You don’t have to be tied to more conservative venues,” Vigneault said. “… Unexpected art can become deeply profound.”

She encouraged artists to embrace their own experiences and to take part in art pop-ups or spontaneous expressions of their work. She used the example of one of Conner’s pieces, a photograph of the word “love” that Conner spontaneously stenciled in the middle of the street outside of his home to emphasize art as a collection of human experience.

Vigneault is currently working on a book about feminist artist Hannah Wilke’s connections to the work of Marcel Duchamp. More information about the Southern Utah Museum of Art and Art Insights can be found here.

Story by
Megan Fairbanks