A professor painted in words

By Alexia Davis

Jaime Treadwell works in his studio on “Erasure.” Photo courtesy of Jaime Treadwell

Jaime Treadwell, associate professor of art and design at DCCC, walks around the dimly lit classroom on Marple campus. The smell of chalk hangs in the air from the charcoals being used.

The atmosphere is calm and relaxed, and students are deep in concentration as they work to draw profiles of their peers. After five minutes, Treadwell tells the students to clear their drawing with what looks like tissue paper.

“It doesn’t matter how much you love it,” Treadwell tells his students. “Smear it away so you can do it again, and this time you’ll have four minutes.”

The students clear their work and are left with a simple black square. Under pressure, they risk making marks, and a face begins to emerge from the black space.

Jaime Treadwell works with student Tyler Reavey, a graphic design major, at DCCC. Photo by Alexia Davis

While Treadwell understands his students as a professor, he also understands them as an artist. His own collection, Shift Alt Delete, is now on exhibit at the Pentimenti Gallery in Philadelphia, and it will run through Dec. 20.

It took Treadwell a year and half to complete the exhibit.

Treadwell makes his way around the room, adjusting the lighting where necessary. He reminds students to pay attention to the shapes and shadows of their subject.

Just as Treadwell limits the time students have to complete their drawing, he also limits the tools they can use.

“You have to know your tools well,” Treadwell says as he shows his class how to cradle the eraser over their thumb.

As students work, Treadwell weaves around the easels in the room. He doesn’t stop, except to offer students advice and direction that will challenge them to look deeper into their drawing and understanding of the project.

“Erasure” by Jaime Treadwell. Photo courtesy of Jaime Treadwell

From an early age, Treadwell knew that he wanted to be an artist. Growing up in Drexel Hill, PA, Treadwell loved drawing and found that he could copy anything. While other children were busy selling lemonade in their front yard, Treadwell was busy with his art stand.

“I sold one pastel drawing for $4,” Treadwell said in an interview with Wow magazine in March 2015.

Treadwell’s passion for art continued into high school. He says he thought of creating art as a “happy place to be” and a safe place where he could excel and build confidence.

The pressure for social conformity, however, left him feeling as though he had to hide his art. He saw artists and creative types ousted from the general social circle.

Treadwell remembers going into school early to slide his portfolio under the art classroom door so no one would see him with it. While playing ice hockey as a child and in college, Treadwell again found himself hiding his love for art.

“I just didn’t want anyone knowing,” Treadwell said. “It was my own passion, but I didn’t want to be looked at different.”

Treadwell believes his need to hide certain aspects of his life when he was younger may have influenced his work.

“Maybe [my art] is a way of showing a side of me without saying it [while] quietly exposing myself,” Treadwell said.

Treadwell began his undergraduate career as a sculpting major, but decided to shift his entire focus over to painting half way through graduate school.

It was a decision that came after Treadwell took a painting class to meet a required art elective. As the class progressed, Treadwell’s professor made the decision to pull him out of Painting I and put him into Painting II.

“That move was a big confidence booster and somewhat swayed me further into painting,” Treadwell said in an interview with Young Space, a curated contemporary art platform, in March 2017.

plane shift
“Plane Shift” by Jaime Treadwell. Photo courtesy Jaime Treadwell

Treadwell completed his undergraduate degree at the State University of New York in 1999 and earned his Master of Fine Arts from the University of Pennsylvania in 2002.

After college, Treadwell took his art to the next level. Since then, his work has been exhibited across the United States and abroad.

Treadwell has been working at DCCC for more than a decade. In 2015, he was the recipient of the Gould Award for teaching excellence at the college.

Today, Treadwell manages the weight of what he describes as two full-time jobs. As a professor he aims to give his students the experience they need to be successful at the next level, and as an artist he strives to continuously push himself forward in his own work.

As Treadwell moves behind a student to view her drawing, she quickly tells him that she doesn’t like what she’s drawn.

“You’re not even at a point where you can start saying you don’t like it,” Treadwell says to her. “Keep drawing.”

That is exactly what Treadwell continues to do. While he does not currently have any new exhibits lined up, he continues to work and create in his studio.

Treadwell says his current exhibit at Pentimenti Gallery combines colors and graphics that are reminiscent of his childhood in the 1980s with new architectural and mechanical drawing methods.

“Similar to pressing the shift, alt or delete key, these paintings can quickly switch identities back and forth, as they suggest alternate realities or a fictional universe,” Treadwell said in in an interview with Juxtapose Magazine.

Treadwell says his teaching, and the research involved in teaching, has helped him to refine his own skills. If there’s one piece of advice he can give his students he says it’s to not hold back on an idea just because they think someone else has done it before.

“Don’t abort your mission; pursue it,” Treadwell said. “You might run parallel to someone else, but eventually you’re going to go your own path because you have to. You’re you.”

Contact Alexia Davis at communitarian@mail.dccc.edu

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