VPA Faculty Spotlight: Assistant Professor Jonathan Latiano, MFA

To kick off the 2023 school year, the Visual and Performing Arts Department begins their Faculty and Staff monthly spotlight with Associate Professor Jonathan Latiano, MFA, Director of the Art and Art History Program and Chair of the McCoy Gallery Working Group.
Jonathan Latiano
Jonathan Latiano with his installation piece The Only Thing That’s the End of the World is the End of the World (2023).

Assistant Professor Jonathan Latiano, MFA, is Director of the Art and Art History Program and Chair of the McCoy Gallery Working Group. He graduated in 2006 from Moravian College in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, with a Bachelor of Arts in Studio Arts. In 2012, he completed a Master of Arts from Maryland Institute College of Art and has presented numerous solo and group art exhibitions in various cities—including Boston and London—which garnered local, national, and international recognition in art publications. Latiano is a recipient of many accolades throughout his career, including the 2013 Mary Sawyers Baker Prize in Art, Moravian College’s 2015 Outstanding Young Alumni Award, the 2016 Bunting Teaching Fellowship in Fine Arts at the Maryland Institute College of Art, and the 2019 Provost Innovation Fund from Merrimack College. Upon arriving at Merrimack College in 2018, Professor Latiano has brought his passion for the arts and has worked tirelessly to build the College’s Studio Arts program 

With a studio based in Somerville, Massachusetts, Latiano finds himself working primarily in large, site-responsive installations. These pieces look to unpack various concepts within the subject of ‘deep time,’ a scientific term that deals with disciplines such as geology, evolution, and extinction. For example, his work A Polar Bear Drowns in Evaporated Seas (2022) reveals the “fragility of the natural world and [humanity’s] place in deep time.” The work features a crystalized polar bear skeleton, the apex predator, sitting in its own tomb. The work symbolizes how a once deadly creature is gone and a fragile shell of its former self remains. Another piece, titled Love to the Letter and the Letters Spelled Death, features a skeleton of a southern white rhinoceros on top of a mound of sound-absorbing foam. On the other side of the room is a cellist atop of their own mound of foam, playing to the creature a song “both a love song and languid memorial.” The piece looks to reveal the fragility of the natural world and the impact of humanity’s love and destruction on the environment around us. To view more of his pieces, please visit his website

Jonathan Latiano with visitors at his piece What Was Worth Saving?
Jonathan Latiano with visitors at his piece What Was Worth Saving? (2023), on display at SPACE Gallery until September 16th.

After many years in the field of fine arts, Professor Latiano is now using his experience to help students at Merrimack who are looking to work in the creative arts. When asked, he says that there are two ways he integrates students into his practice: by utilizing hvpais own professional career in the arts as a teaching resource, and by inviting students into his studio through either professional internships of research assistants. With his Somerville studio, he is able to bring students into his space to see what a working studio may look like. Last summer, he invited the Student Art Union to the Somerville Open Studios weekend, where students got the chance to explore various studios, speak with other artists, and see what it is like to run a professional studio practice. Additionally, Professor Latiano has been hiring studio and gallery help throughout his time at the College. In 2019, with the support of the Sakowich Center for Undergraduate Research College Grant, he was joined by Lauren Pardue (‘22) and Josh White (‘20) to assist with his piece The Only Thing That’s the End of the World is the End of the World. Other previous Merrimack alum who have worked with Professor Latiano include Nicole Martin (‘23), who also assisted both in Latiano’s studio and in the McCoy Gallery as Gallery Assistant. 

Along with students, Professor Latiano strives to collaborate with fellow Merrimack College colleagues and faculty in multiple fields. A current solo-exhibition on display in Portland, ME, at the SPACE Gallery, titled What Was Worth Saving?, features a soundscape created by Assistant Professor of Practice and Music Program Director Andrew Cote. This piece was created during Professor Latiano’s 2022 residency at the Rocky Neck Art Colony in Gloucester, MA, i and in collaboration with the Ocean Alliance. Displaying a Victorian cabinet of curiosities emerging from a geode, the piece features dozens of items from the offices of the Ocean Alliance that vary from a vertebrae of a North Atlantic Right Whale to a “fun little rock” found in Mexico. The soundscape Professor Cote created uses whale calls collected from the organization, with a 1980’s sci-fi spin.

Professor Latiano also works with other offices around Merrimack as well. A collaboration that he is especially proud of is Boston Sculptors at 30: Documenting Three Decades of Sculpture, a documentary in celebration of the 30-year anniversary of the Boston Sculptors Gallery, created with the help of the late Media Center Director Kevin Salemme (‘89). The two of them interviewed various artists, curators, and important figures in the Boston artworld, and then developed a film discussing the 30 year history and continued present success of the Boston Sculptures Gallery. The experience of being able to work with Kevin before his passing was one that Professor Latiano says he will forever cherish.

After a busy two years of traveling, exhibiting, and teaching, Professor Latiano says he is now looking forward to a time of reflection. With future exhibitions and projects slated for 2025, the next couple of months will be a time of workshopping past projects with other professional colleagues, planning for new ones, applying for grants and residencies, and the simple yet important act of going out and engaging the work of other artists. 

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