Dec 18th, 2018, 10:57 AM

AUP's New Art Teacher

By Sage Theiss Sakata
Professor Treilhou in the Amex. Image Credit: Sage Theiss Sakata
Stéphane Treilhou situates artistic creation in an American university.

In Cast, a north-western commune of France, Professor Stéphane Treilhou found himself, at age 14, going to the library to read every single book in the art department. The art section—a long double sided bookshelf extending across the hall was crammed with books. Beginning at one side of the dusty shelf at his young age, Professor Treilhou read every single book finishing on the other side at age 17, "This was my big initiation to art and defined my taste," he said. 

The young and curious Professor Treilhou did not come from a family of artists or academics but a poor family of miners from the South of France. He discovered art with his mother who was a Sunday Painter, "This was the biggest thing I had ever discovered," he said. His world opened up. There was something special about Professor Treilhou having 10 art books at home growing up. He explained that this was uncommon for a poor family living in a little town in the countryside. 

Professor Treilhou in the art room in Combes. Image Credit: Joan Jessiman

At age 40, Professor Treilhou found himself having a sort of mid-life crises. However, instead of a sudden loss of self-confidence or existential outbreak, he explains he began reflecting deeply on his last 40 years of life and realized how content he was. He had a life that was mostly spent studying without any concern about making money, "One might think it was a stupid life because I have a lot of skills and knowledge but small salary," said Professor Treilhou. What he realized is that creation gave him the most satisfaction. However, after this statement, he caught himself and laughed, "Well, first family then creation."

After years of studying, Professor Treilhou found himself teaching. "You need a job if you're not rich," he laughs. Teaching also allowed him to continue his artistic passion. Professor Treilhou found himself at AUP in spring 2018. He enjoys the small class sizes and diverse student body. He calls it a "bizarre American system." He appreciates having diversity in his classes, "I have rich students and some very poor students," said Professor Treilhou. Previously, Professor Treilhou taught at a design school called Sèvres; however, he was not able to enjoy the freedom of teaching that he does at AUP, "I teach what I want," he smiles.

Professor Treilhou explains that it doesn't matter if students are good at art, "All students are bad because they are beginners," he laughs. More importantly, he argues is the investigation of art. He thinks about learning the art as learning a methodology which anyone can apply. He believes to partake in art, is to partake in creating a better self, society, and world, "If you play the piano, you don't need any energy whereas if you're using your phone, you consume so much," he said.

Image Credit: Joan Jessiman

It isn't easy for Professor Treilhou to immerse himself in an American system. Often he finds challenges with his English, but also with the idea of tolerance. The teaching style he grew up with, which was based on mitigation and criticism, differs from the American system which he explains takes a more positive and appreciative approach. He quickly realized that he couldn't use the style of teaching enforced on him in the French art system on a student at AUP. He explains that his previous students at the Sorbonne, who are taught with more discipline, have less confidence than American students, "You can say that American students seem lazier than European students but they are more creative and the work is always done," said Professor Treilhou. He explains that this is just another process of completing art. 

Professor Treilhou passion also lies in clavichord making. In love with art, Professor Treilhou explains that he is never doing anything but art. In fact, he notes that his last hobby was to repair a record player, "I am a geek in my work," he says. The brilliant artist and warm-hearted Professor Treilhou choose to follow a passion rather than a career and it thankfully led him to the AUP campus and community.