Andrew Mount and the Art of Systems

Professor Mount with students When Assistant Professor of Art and Art History Andrew Mount moved west in 2014 from New York City, not only did he change coasts, but he was presented with a unique challenge thanks to Saint Mary’s inclusive, liberal arts educational model. “Before I came here, all of the students that I had, were all either artists or in some way involved in the arts. Here [at SMC] most of my students are not art majors, but are studying many other disciplines,” said Mount, who is originally from the United Kingdom and then received his MFA in fine art, with an emphasis on combined media at Hunter College, at the City University of New York.

Having to modify his teaching style to address a student body that is studying multiple subjects all at once has helped Mount energize his view on the potential of art. “I’ve seen students go from having absolutely no experience with art, to becoming very confident, articulate, and forthright about their status as artists and creative individuals,” said Mount, who went to earn his EdD in Interdisciplinary Studies in Art and Art Education from Teachers College, Columbia University in 2011. “That has been a very rewarding thing to witness.”

Mount also attributes his time teaching Seminar as a major influence on his art courses here on campus. “I really benefit from the fact that everyone here takes Seminar. It establishes a common denominator amongst the students—which I can use to exemplify some of the ways we examine content in art.”

In 2016, Mount was commissioned to create a piece for New York University in NYC, which he called Polling. Along with his longtime collaborator Mark Grimm (who he has worked with for about nine years), the pair created a piece that was emblematic of one of the major threads of Mount’s work; the nature and aesthetics of politics. “[Polling] was based on a piece of software that was written by my collaborator and me—in order to provide a critique of the system of polling as the foundation of our current democracy. We connected our software to a dot matrix printer (because this form of printer is exactly that used by pollsters and computer security experts) to produce a print that is 120 feet long that depicts the bias of Google’s news algorithm,” said Mount. 

Mount works with multiple media when creating art. “I try pretty hard to make sure that I don’t become too much of an expert in any particular media. I’ve been down that road, when studying painting and printing. I became very good technically, which I was happy about, but I also noticed that the ideas in my works receded below the attention paid to craft. I have found that too much attention paid to craft kills the inventiveness and the strength of the ideas,” said Mount, who said he makes art that investigates systems. “I don’t want my artwork to be reduced to craft. Usually the media itself contributes to the content of any particular project.”

At Saint Mary’s, Mount teaches courses including Studio Art, Printing for Protest (printmaking with a social justice lens), Gallery Exhibitions, Contemporary Art History, and a rotation of other classes. Recently, Mount joined forces with Integral Program Professor Felicia Martinez for a Jan Term course titled “Art & Text As Far As The Eye Can See.” Prior to joining the faculty at SMC, Mount was busy making artwork, teaching, exhibiting, and raising his family in New York City. “In New York, I taught part-time, worked in museums part-time, was a consultant (part-time) working with a range of different projects including individual artists and entire galleries,” said Mount, who will teach a printmaking class that includes screen printing and block printing this coming June Term.

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