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John Bankston: Painting as Storytelling

Stanford Department of Art & Art History presents John Bankston: Painting as Storytelling at the Coulter Art Gallery

On view September 20–December 3, 2021

This hybrid exhibition/classroom/atelier is part of a multi-year experiment with the goal of creating a more intimate, direct, and transparent teaching experience. Utilizing the Coulter Gallery simultaneously as presentation space, teaching space, and active atelier, the class is building on a long tradition of educating students within the artist’s studio. At the same time, this places the pedagogical experience squarely in public view, simultaneously bringing students into transaction with a highly creative practice and inviting the public inside to watch the process unfold over time.

Curated by Gabriel Harrison

See the exhibition listing at


Read “Meet Holt Visiting Artist John Bankston as he creates a coloring book of dreams” by Alexandra Torres Arsuaga, The Stanford Daily, November 2021.

John Bankston, the 2021-2022 Holt Visiting Artist at Stanford, has a practice that fits neatly into this experimental and physically transparent teaching space at the Coulter Gallery. He sees everyone as a storyteller, and his own work as an “ongoing visual narrative…the class to be a laboratory of image and story." To this end, he is structuring student projects to probe ideas of “memory, emotion and the self…in order to explore painting’s narrative potential."

The students in this hybrid class are surrounded by John’s work. His paintings are full of vibrant flowing colors, gently articulated figures, and highly evocative arrangements that subtly pull the viewer into the interactions that he portrays on canvas.

Over the course of the quarter, John will be creating new work in this space as his existing paintings sequentially transition into the adjacent Vitrine Gallery. This will enable the Coulter Gallery to gradually fill with student work and as he describes it, “allow the story of the class to unfold."

The first of these open studio experiments in the Coulter Gallery began with lecturer Ala Ebtekar’s 2016 course Public  Space  in  Iran:  Murals,  Graffiti,  Performance, in  which  he  invited  an  artist  to  paint  a  large  diptych  in  the  gallery and his students to co-create a large mural in the gallery over the course of the quarter, inviting the public into the space to experience the lectures and performances that took place within the gallery walls. In the spring of 2021, Professor Enrique Chagoya made the inspired choice of John Bankston as the Holt Visiting Artist, and Professor Jonathan Calm had the insight to link the Holt Visiting Artist program with a re-invigorated form of the open  studio  concept.  This  new  iteration  of  the  hybrid  exhibition/classroom/atelier  looks  to  the  future  while  embracing a venerated past tradition of teaching in the atelier.   

Photos by Gabriel Harrison.


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