Dr. John Phillip Abbott


Assistant Professor of Painting and Drawing



Describe your research in about 200 words.

My research is grounded in painting and drawing. I am currently making diaristic, text-based paintings. The words in the paintings come from memories and personal experiences. For example, a painting might reference my first car or a baseball player from the seventies. This currency of personal experience allows me to pull from specific blocks of time to arrive at informed formal decisions. I choose words or phrases, however, that are ambiguous enough to suggest alternate meanings and that are not bogged down, or defined, by only my experiences. My intent is to capture a visual dialogue between the disclosure and concealing of my own memory with that of the paintings, resulting in an image that allows for poetic rumination. The dialogue between the paintings history and my own history dictates the final image. Spray paint and/or airbrush provide an economic and direct application of color. This process of dispersing pigment is similar to the cave painting technique of blowing the pigment from one’s palm onto a surface. I feel there is a connection between this medium and the landscape and light of New Mexico.

What’s the most interesting thing you have learned from a student?

The most interesting or valuable thing I’ve learned from a student is that anything is possible if intrinsic desire meets hard work. Previously, I was afforded the opportunity to work with students at a rural, open-enrollment, university in southwestern New Mexico where the students came from diverse socio-economic and cultural backgrounds. One student, in particular, was discouraged by her mother from speaking English and also battled dyslexia, struggling with verbal and written communication as she grew older. Painting became her primary vehicle for communication. Her family was very poor and when this student wasn’t working in the painting studio, she worked full-time as a housekeeper at a local motel to help her family and buy paint. I mentored this talented painter, who is the first in her family to graduate college, through the graduate school application process and, finally, into a fully- funded three-year graduate program in the Midwest. She visited family in Mexico many times growing up but when she flew off to grad school it was her first time in a plane. This student is now teaching, continuing to make great work, with one more year before earning her MFA.