Claudia Esslinger has taught at Kenyon since 1984, first as a printmaker and then transitioning into video art, digital imaging, new media and installation. Originally from Long Island, N.Y., Esslinger taught for two years at Denison University before coming to Kenyon. She holds an MFA from the University of Minnesota (1981) and BA from Bethel College, St. Paul (1976).

As a visual artist she brings to her video and installation work an interest in visceral, sculptural props and experimental forms. Interactive technologies support her focus on human and environmental relationships.  She often collaborates with dancers, musicians, writers and scientists to develop new work which has been shown in film festivals, live performance and gallery installations both nationally and internationally.

She is the recipient of seven Ohio Arts Council Individual Excellence Awards and a New Forms Regional Grant (NEA). Artist residencies include the Headlands Center for the Arts in Sausalito, CA (2007) and at the Grafikwerkstaadt in Dresden, Germany (1999).

Her enjoyment of teaching is directly related to the incredible students that come to Kenyon. Talented and dedicated, they often go beyond mere assignments to get the most out of their class experience.

Artist's Statement

"Reaching out to gather ideas from the context of our lives is especially meaningful in a liberal arts college. Putting together those fragments intuitively, kinesthetically and visually facilitates a kind of discovery that is impossible in a sequential mode of thought but flourishes in the visual arts. Ideas develop in the context of cultural history and personal experience.

"As a teacher and an artist I look for the confluence of these elements in students' work and in my own. Often materials or techniques stimulate new ideas when combined with popular culture and our lives. To use the right media for the content of the piece and to let the work have its own voice is part of a magical interchange between an artist and their artwork.

"The texture of rawhide, rust covered twigs, the electronic pulse of a moving image, the sound of machines or interviews or collaborative music all energize the spaces I find for my installations. The people who enter the galleries enhance the meaning of the work by bringing their own histories to the space and interacting with it."


1981 — Master of Fine Arts from Univ Minnesota Minneapolis*

1976 — Bachelor of Arts from Bethel College Minnesota

Courses Recently Taught

This introductory course will enable students to explore digital media while engaging in aesthetic and conceptual practices in contemporary art. They will come to understand the fundamentals of visual form and to develop technical skills with a variety of camera and computer tools, including still-image and video editing programs. Personal studio projects will cover a variety of subjects, such as the relationship between the arts, popular culture and the liberal arts, the historic role of technology in the arts, and the role of one's cultural and historical context in the creation and interpretation of artwork. Through theory and practice, students will enhance their art-criticism skills, allowing for productive group interactions and the defining of personal aesthetic vision. Presentations and demonstrations by the professor will be supplemented by student research and response to contemporary artists and issues. At least ten hours of work per week outside of class is required. This counts toward the introductory requirement for the major and minor. No prerequisite. Offered every semester.

Developing moving sequences from still images is both a historical and contemporary practice. Experimental artists and filmmakers use the process to create actions that could not be presented through real-time film. This class will emphasize manipulating materials from paper to found objects, creating innovative contexts for movement, integrating live video and sound recording and experimenting with the structure of time. The course will include both two- and three-dimensional approaches to stop-motion, with emphasis on innovation and cultural critique. Class structure will include presentations of historical and contemporary work, class demonstrations of equipment and software, studio time and critiques. This counts toward the intermediate requirement for the major and minor. Prerequisite: ARTS 101, 102, 103, 104, 106, 107, 108 or permission of instructor. Offered every other year.

This course allows students to explore art that is based on a merger of space and time and on a relationship between the artist and the visitor. Perhaps the most inclusive and pervasive art form in the last forty years, installation art has roots in cinema, performance art, set design, architecture, graphic design, land art, public art, curating, art criticism and history in addition to the more traditional visual arts. In this class, students will create immersive environments that are either site-specific or nomadic. They also will have the opportunity to integrate performance, video and audio components in their projects. Components range from everyday objects to surveillance video, from large wall drawings to interactive switches for participants to manipulate. The class will consist of demonstrations of art skills particularly useful in installation (sculptural, video, audio, graphic presentation and so on), presentations, readings, weekly critiques and cumulative projects. Previous experience with any creative media such as writing, dance, music or performance will be helpful. This counts toward the intermediate requirement for the major and minor. Prerequisite: ARTS 102, 103, 106, 107 or permission of instructor. Offered once a year.

In this course students will experiment with the creation, manipulation and exhibition of digital film and sound projects. In doing so they will continue a tradition from early filmmaking, where abstract montage, surreal fantasy and playful narratives reflected innovations in the art, science and politics of the time. Like many current artists and filmmakers, students will follow the example of these historical trajectories by using contemporary technologies and concepts for acquisition, post-production and distribution of their work. Demonstrations of a wide range of equipment and software will be provided from low-tech to high-tech. Research of historical/cultural forms, will offer a context for the assignments. Frequent critiques will offer important feedback. This counts toward the intermediate requirement for the major and minor. Prerequisite: ARTS 106, 107 or permission of instructor. Offered every other year.

Required for majors in studio arts, this first semester of a two-semester sequence of courses is designed to enable students to develop their personal artistic vision based on the foundation of introductory and intermediate studio art courses. Students will be expected to develop a self-generated body of creative work based on a concentrated investigation of materials, methods and ideas. They will develop oral and written presentation and research skills as they work toward a professional exhibition in the second semester. Critiques, discussions, presentations and readings will provide context and feedback for this process. Students will learn to develop the elements necessary for professional exhibition of a cohesive body of work, including developing ideas, writing an artist's statement and resume, and perfecting presentation skills. Studio art majors are expected to take this class and ARTS 481 with two different faculty members. Prerequisite: senior art major or permission of instructor. Offered every fall.

Required for majors in studio arts, this course is designed to enable students to further develop their personal artistic vision based on the foundation of their earlier studio courses and ARTS 480. Well into their senior projects at the start of the semester, students will continue to refine their concepts and skills into a cohesive body of work for exhibition at the end of the semester. Critiques, discussions and presentations will continue to amplify the studio experience. Professional presentation, writing artistic statements and resumes and visual documentation skills will be part of the course. The senior capstone, an exhibition required of studio art majors, will include artwork made during this course. Prerequisite: ARTS 480 and senior art major or permission of instructor. Offered every spring.

The studio art faculty does not recommend individual study because we feel it is important for students to work in the context of other student artists. We understand, however, that on rare occasions an individual study may be appropriate. Individual study must be approved by the department according to the following guidelines: Individual study should be undertaken only when a student has exhausted all the options for that medium in the regular curriculum. The subject for an individual study must be in a discipline in which the faculty member has expertise. When possible, the individual study student should participate in some aspects of a course working in a similar medium in the faculty member's field in order to gain feedback from other students. The student is responsible for writing a contract and maintaining a schedule. Because students must enroll for individual studies by the end of the seventh class day of each semester, they should begin discussion of the proposed individual study preferably the semester before, so that there is time to devise the proposal and seek departmental approval before the registrar’s deadline. An individual study does not count toward the requirements for the major; it is considered an extra course.