Jim Osman

Too Frank - An Interview with Jim

Jim and son

In addition to teaching Space/Materiality, Jim Osman in his painting and sculptural work combines, layers, and compresses different kinds of space. The vessels that give these spaces form can be clear and tangible like architecture and furniture or symbolic like a flag or just formal – a color. Combining these forms makes for odd, unthought-of arrangements which, once started, are reconciled formally, all the while staying true to a notion of space that is convoluted, dense, and opaque, yet somehow understood.

How do you break the mold? The stagnant? The silence of a classroom? How do you work with silence rather than oppose it?

Before an open critique I tell the class that participation is a part of their grade, which can tip a grade up one step (B+ to an A- say). And the way I can tell if they participate is I COUNT every time they talk with a check mark. And I expect everyone to speak at least five times per discussion. Everyone jumps in, and it breaks the ice, and we have great talks. If a group is quiet, I just let it lie there. Eventually discussion emerges, with no anxiety.


Rules to break v. follow, both inside and outside the classroom?

Always give 100%

Don’t assume

Be positive


What is the tether in your work between painting and sculpture? How do you as the maker perform between image and object? I’m looking at your wall drawings and sculpture and dying to tour your decision-making process.

I like the look of things (painting) and the feel of things (sculpture) and don’t think I have to do one or the other so I combine them.


My wall work tries to make drawings objects by using the given architecture.

“Tick Tock”


Tell us about the show Objectify. How does this work relate to the earlier work?

I want to make drawing and painting act like sculpture, express gravity, demonstrate the physical, and cast a shadow.


Do you nurture tone in your making process? Does tone nurture your process?

Tone, that’s interesting.


What is it that makes the post-graduation world “real”? University life a bubble life rather than the real world? Brooklyn and NYC are often described as bubbles… Where do we live/thrive outside a bubble? What are the terms for popping bubbles inside the classroom?

It’s a fair analog to compare school to a bubble. While in school plenty of students work full time and have to juggle a lot, but upon graduation one may find less of the community and support that helped a lot while in school.


Compare Parsons on your first faculty day to Parsons last week.

I started in 1999. We had 250 students, and the shop was a classroom.


Most surprising lesson learned from students?

That 17 student brains in one class are smarter than mine most of the time.


Define performance as performer. As viewer.

That’s complex.

“Warren Truss”

Perceptions of you that students share with you that are correct? Surprising?

That I am fair and frank (maybe too frank at times).


Laundry tips for new New Yorkers?

Buy all the same style socks; when you inevitably lose one it finds a mate with any of the others you have. 


Spaces of respite on campus?

The two churches on 5th Avenue


How do we work withrather than againstdifferences in perception?

I don’t assume that my gut reaction is someone else’s.


Most awkward run-in with a student on or off campus?



Most inspiring TNS alum? Parsons alum?

Shaun Kasperbaur, Han Lam, Yoav Menachem


How is learning from mistakes valued in your classrooms, both for students and yourself?

Success misleads us into thinking we had it all figured out. While failures make us look hard at what we thought had turned out to be wrong.


What are the most common questions/assumptions you get when people find out you’re an artist?

When I say I’m a sculptor this is what is almost always asked: “What material do you work in? Stone?” I think Charlton Heston as Michelangelo has something to do with it.

More about Jim:  www.jimosmanstudio.com