Stefanie RocknakAssociate Professor of Philosophy & Professional Sculptor
What career path did you take to your position?
Before receiving my PhD in philosophy from Boston University, I traveled through South East Asia – in part by bicycle – and worked various odd jobs: on a fishing boat in Darwin, Australia, on a construction site in Cairns, Australia (as a painter), and as an Art Director in Boston. While working at these jobs, I read philosophy and developed my skills as a wood sculptor.
What brought you to Hartwick?/Why Hartwick?
I was attracted to the idea of working at a small liberal arts college. I also love the Catskills, especially during ski season.
Where are you from?/Where did you go to school?
I grew up in Jefferson, ME, a few hundred yards from the shores of Damariscotta Lake; most of my free time was spent on or near the lake. I went to a small public high school – Lincoln Academy – and graduated from Colby College. At Colby, I majored in American Studies and Art History, with a concentration in painting. I also took summer classes in painting and drawing at the Rhode Island School of Design, and spent a semester in Rome at the Tyler School of Art. Unfortunately, I never had the opportunity to take a course in philosophy or sculpture while I was an undergraduate. I did try to get into a philosophy course my senior year, but I could not; I had not taken the prerequisite class!
Why is the "Liberal Arts in Practice" method an effective way for your students to learn?
It gives students the opportunity to immerse themselves in a subject. Philosophy-in-practice consists of doing philosophy, on paper and in conversation. But to "do philosophy" one does not have to come up with his/her own theory; it can consist of listening to, and understanding another philosopher. This kind of philosophical engagement encourages careful analyses of historical texts. Students learn that there is much to be gained from a collaborative conversation with a historical figure.
What about your work energizes/excites you?
The challenge. Each new project is harder than the last; this keeps me on my toes, and keeps me interested.
Do you consider yourself a mentor to students? In what way?
Hopefully, I inspire my students to challenge themselves; to take intellectual and creative risks. Above all, I want them to be independent thinkers/creators. Although I encourage them to engage in genuine conversations, I often have to discourage them from attaching themselves too much to a particular idea or figure. Good philosophy is about dialogue, not discipleship.
What are your classes like?/What is your best place to teach?
My classes primarily consist of an intense conversation with my students. Literally. I believe in dialogue, not lecture, even when I teach logic.
How do you describe our students to colleagues, friends and family?
For the most part, I find that Hartwick's students are genuine and open-minded. Most are ready to be challenged, and some are exceptionally ambitious; anxious to realize their full potential.
Have you won any awards/special honors/recognition?
I have been fortunate enough to have received a number of awards, but most recently, I was selected to create a bronze sculpture of Edgar Allan Poe for Poe Square in Boston, MA (on the corner of Boylston and Charles, installed October 2014). In 2011, I received the $10,000 Margo Harris Hammerschlag Biennial Sculpture Award, funded by the National Association of Women Artists (NY, NY).
What research are you doing, how do you engage your students in your work?
My research on David Hume and the philosophy of art is ongoing; students provide valuable feedback in related courses. Some of my students have also developed an interest in these areas and have published and/or presented their work. As far as sculpture is concerned, my current work includes the Edgar Allan Poe Project (mentioned above), and various independent projects. At some point, I would like to involve students with my sculpture projects as well.
What are your most recent publications, scholarly works, exhibitions, performances?
My book on Hume is coming out this summer:
- Imagined Causes: Hume's Conception of Objects, Vol. 71, The New Synthese Historical Library, Dordrecht: Springer, 2012
2010-12 articles include:
- "Hume's Negative Account of Induction," Just the Arguments: 100 of the Most Important Arguments in Western Philosophy, eds. M. Bruce, S. Barbone (Wiley-Blackwell, Malden, MA., 2010, pp. 176-9)
- "Constancy and Coherence in 1.4.2 of Hume's Treatise: The Root of ‘Indirect' Causation and Hume's Position on Objects," Special Edition of the European Legacy, volume 18.3; Commemoration of the 300thAnniversary of the Birth of David Hume, ed. S. Tweyman, Routledge (forthcoming 2013)
- "The Making of a Queen," Carving Magazine (cover story), 37, Spring (2012): 14-20
- "A Penchant for Conflict, Balanced by Empathy," The Wick, Fall (2011): 15-16
I frequently give talks about my work; 2012 talks include:
- "Hume's Conception of Objects in the Treatise: An Overview," Upstate New York Early Modern Workshop, Cornell University (forthcoming, 2012)
- "Poe Sculpture-Poe Square, Boston, MA" Boston College Club, Boston, MA (forthcoming, 2012)
- "Figurative Wood Sculpture," Haystack Mountain School of Crafts, Deer Isle, ME (forthcoming, 2012)
- "Sculpture, Philosophy and Psychology: The Intersection," New York State Psychological Association, 75th Annual Convention, The Illumination of Human Experience: How Psychology and Art Help Us Understand Ourselves, Saratoga Springs, NY, 2012
- "Carving Figures in Wood: Philosophy & Techniques," Furniture Society 2012 Conference @ MECA: Design, Community and the Sublime. Maine College of Art, Portland, ME
- "Figurative Wood Sculpture," Oneonta Rotary, Oneonta, NY, 2012
- "Personal Identity in Hume's Treatise: A Hypothesis," 6th Biennial Margaret Dauler Wilson Philosophy Conference, Dartmouth College, Hanover, NH, 2012
- "Edgar Allan Poe Public Art Proposal," presented to the Poe Society and members of the Boston Art Commission, Boston, MA, 2012
My sculpture is shown in galleries and museums throughout the country; 2010-2012 shows include:
- Faculty Show, Haystack Mountain School of Crafts, Deer Isle, ME (forthcoming, August, 2012
- Sculptors Guild Group Show, Housatonic Museum of Art, Bridgeport, CT. Curated by Nicholas Cappaso, Senior Curator, DeCordova Museum. 2012
- Foothills Performing Art Center, Oneonta, NY, 2010
- Windows on 5th 2011, Saks 5th Ave. NY, NY; Sculptors Guild. Curated by Saks 5th Ave. 2011
- Atelier 4-Offerings from Hamilton College + One, Foreman Gallery, Hartwick College, Oneonta, New York. 2011
- Collaborative Piece, "P-91," in Yoav Liberman's show Interventions, Richard and Dolly Maass Gallery, School of Art + Design, Purchase College, Purchase, NY. 2011
- Commitment to Excellence in Art and Sport, National Art Museum of Sport, Indiana University-Purdue University, Indianapolis, IN. 2010.
- Contemporary Faith, Atelier Studio, Oyster Bay, NY, 2010
What is your most valued Hartwick experience?
Working closely with students, not only in the classroom, but as the advisor for the ski club. Some of our students are terrific skiers; I have to work very hard to keep up with them (and sometimes I can't)!
What do you consider your most important contribution to Hartwick?
The work that I do with students, and my scholarly/artistic work.