Our Strategic Vision

Get to Know Your Visual Arts Faculty: Mark Buenzle

We want to introduce you to the Visual Arts Faculty. 

Enjoy this peak into who makes the great Art Department at BFS!

With BFS seniors, Ariel G. and Eve B.
1. What classes do you teach?
I teach IB Visual Arts 1 and 2 (11th and 12th grade).  I also teach two history courses – Art History (10th grade) and IB History of the Americas (11th grade), and this year, a psychology independent study with three eager seniors.
2. Where did you go to school and what did you study?

I have a BFA from Parsons School of Design with a major in painting, and an MFA from Hunter College, also in painting. Outside the art field, I have an MS in Education from Bank Street College of Education, and a New York State license and certification in psychoanalysis from the Center for Modern Psychoanalytic Studies.

3. What events led to you becoming an art teacher and/or choosing to teach art to kids? 
When I was little, I always played “school,” and I hope my teaching methods have evolved over the years.  Actually, I didn’t really know I wanted to teach until I tried it and found that I both loved it and was good at it.
I was given enormous encouragement by my high school art teachers.  They conveyed a sense of belief in my talent that gave me the idea that I might have a bright future beyond some of the adolescent angst I felt at the time, even persuading my parents to send me off to Paris to study for the summer after my junior year, an event that drastically changed both the way I saw myself and my potential as an artist.

4.  What interests you in your own artistic practice?
I haven’t worked as an artist in a while, but for many years I was an abstract painter. I have tended to work in series, using repetition, and on a fairly large scale.  The last significant body of work I made involved the theme of boundary and connection.  I worked on very large stretched paper surfaces using a splattered ink technique.

5. Who or what have been your biggest influences in life?

I am very proud of the traveling I’ve done and the variety of people I have encountered. I have been to most of the parts of the world I dreamed of visiting as a child, but time spent in India, Mali, and South Africa has changed the way I view the world and my place in it.

My engagement with psychoanalysis has been most significant. Art and psychoanalysis naturally dovetail for me, because they both insist upon meaning, that we can go beyond face value to understand the world metaphorically, that individual expression is key, that emotion and intellect are not at odds, and that connection with our authentic selves and with each other is essential.

6. Who are your favorite artists?

Well, as all of my students know, I adore Barbra Streisand!  But in terms of visual artists, I would say the Baroque is my favorite period of painting, particularly Caravaggio and Vermeer. They make me appreciate the wonder of sight like no one else.  Matisse makes me happiest, both aesthetically and emotionally, and Van Gogh makes me feel really, really alive.  Among my most intense experiences of art, (those sublime moments that can’t be verbalized), was when I first saw the pietas that Michelangelo created at the end of his life when he began to let go of his virtuosity in favor of raw expression.  India, for me, was a sensory explosion and an aesthetic wonderland, from the most incidental textile to the grandest building.  I couldn’t stop gasping. 

 7. Tell us a non-art-teacher talent that you have?

In addition to my work at BFS, I am a psychoanalyst in private practice. I also advise analysts in training at the institute where I trained.  On a lighter note, I’m a good cook (Italian upbringing), and for a time some years ago, was a pretty good swing dancer.  
8. What does a day off look like for you?

When the weather allows, I spend as much time as I can at the beach.  My family has a house on Long Beach Island in New Jersey, and I love the light, the air and the sense of space and possibility I only feel when I’m near (or in) the ocean.  I’m a bit of a homebody, but very much enjoy spending time with my friends, some of whom I’m lucky enough to see every day at BFS.
9. What is your favorite lesson/project/concept that you like to teach?

IB Visual Arts, which is the two-year course I teach in the art department, focuses on developing a serious body of work that is meaningful to the individual student.  My primary job in the studio is to get to know my students very well so I can guide them in a meaningful direction.  This is challenging, particularly at the start, but when students begin to move with purpose, when they find a voice and a method to develop as unique artists with unique points of view and modes of self-expression, it is very gratifying for everyone involved.

10. What do you love about teaching art at BFS?

My favorite thing about teaching at BFS in general is the relationships the school fosters.  I love to work with students in a way that feels authentic and intimate.  My philosophy as a teacher is that the relationship between student and teacher comes first, and the subject area content follows.  We learn out of love, and I think BFS fosters that better than any school I’ve known.

Untitled ink on paper, 8’x22′, 1994