Photo by Andrew
by Scott McRae
When I started [my studies], he said, you could have
taken everything that had been published on Canadian art and you could
have put it on three shelves. Almost 20 years later, the art history
professor and associate dean works in an office with five bookcases full
of publications on Canadian art.
In the last three decades, Canadian academics and museum personnel realized
what a tremendous treasure they had been sitting on and finally began
to explore it. Foss began his own exploration while completing his masters
at Concordia in the 1980s, an exploration that has since developed into
a contagious appreciation for the depth and breadth of Canadian art. When
discussing it, his face flushes, his tone intensifies and its impossible
to ignore his zeal.
I was unbelievably pleased, he said. Of the stuff you
have to do at a university teaching, research, and administration
teaching is what I love.
This penchant for teaching surprised him. Im not an outgoing
person, he confessed. Im notorious at parties for finding
the bathroom and hiding in it. But put me in front of a group of people
and I become a totally different person. I bounce. I tell naughty stories.
I tell them what my mother thinks of the painting.
Occasionally, I find myself standing in front of a painting saying,
Isnt this beautiful? Its not terribly academic,
but its important that people not just analyze art, but admire it.
He accepted the position of associate dean in January 2002 and has since
had a crash course in the administration and inner workings of large institutions.
Concordia may be about real education for the real world,
he said, but until taking the job, I didnt know much about
the real world.
This knowledge has come at a cost (the job of associate dean is a 40-hour-a-week
job), and he has had to cut back his teaching and his research, although
he recently began work as the co-investigator in a project comparing Canadian
and American landscape painting.
Though he is enjoying his tenure as associate dean, Foss is excited about
returning to full-time teaching. The quality of my teaching justifies
my existence here, he said. People come out of my classes
excited about art.
Foss receives many letters from former students, several of these postcards from Italy, often with a simple message: I see what you mean.