Back to the drawing board

Joyce Chen's works are abstract depictions of the natural world: paintings that suggest the flaking of birch bark or sunlight shifting on a leafy forest floor. “I grew up in Upstate New York, and I was surrounded by trees,” she said. “The Adirondack Mountains were literally my view outside my house. I took all that scenery for granted. I didn’t realize that it was beautiful and worth appreciating  until I went to college.”

Joyce Chen’s other work happens in the classroom, where she guides Peddie students through the artistic process in Honors and AP Studio Art. 

Chen had the opportunity to revisit and reexamine both of her occupations during a two-week residency at the Vermont Studio Center (VSC) this summer. Nestled away in picturesque Johnson, Vt., VSC is the largest international artists’ and writers’ residency program in the U.S. In an isolated, natural environment, free from the distractions of everyday life, VSC provides workspace, housing and a supportive and inspiring community to artists and writers. 

Joyce Chen's piece, "E.C."

Joyce Chen's piece, "E.C." was hung in a Princeton gallery this year.

Peddie is fortunate to have the support of Barry Goldsmith ’62 P’83 GP ’12 ’15 ’18, who has been funding VSC residencies for Peddie faculty members for over two decades. Of this, Chen said, “It is such a 
a gift to have time to focus on my art.”

The program hosts artists from all over the world, from young and emerging artists to well-established artists with a broad body of work. “I’ve never been able to meet so many different artists at different stages in their careers in one place,” Chen said. 

VSC is both collaborative and constructively critical, with artists freely observing and examining each other’s work. It’s not so different from the community that the arts department tries to foster at Peddie. “It was great to get someone else to look at my work in a different way, a more trained way,” said Chen. “That’s also different for me as an art teacher because I’m usually the one providing that kind of feedback to students. It was almost like going back to the drawing board myself,” she said.