Jan Stussy, the first art faculty member to be appointed a full professor at UCLA and a prolific painter whose work in various media hangs in private collections and museums throughout the world, died Tuesday of cancer at his West Los Angeles home. He was 68.
Stussy, who taught painting and drawing at UCLA for 42 years, was a multifaceted craftsman who worked in paint, silk-screening and film.
The documentary “Gravity Is My Enemy,” co-produced with John Joseph, won a 1977 Academy Award. It was based on the life of quadriplegic artist Mark Hicks, and its production involved both the UCLA art and theater arts departments. It also earned four other national and international awards.
Stussy was an experimenter whose imagination led him into psychedelic nudes, to disfigured mannequins, to watercolors and to interchangeable mural panels that he moved about in his home for varied effects. He once mixed coffee grounds with his paints for purposes of texture and often used building materials instead of canvases.
He created more than 5,000 paintings, sculptures and prints and they hang in 130 private collections around the world and in museums ranging from the Smithsonian Institute and National Gallery of Art in Washington, to Israel, to municipal showplaces in Virginia and California.
His ingenuity sometimes brought him into conflict with art critics. The Times’ Henry Seldis, while expressing his appreciation for Stussy’s diverse talents, wrote in 1967 that he hoped the artist would not want to be remembered solely as “a clever showman.”
Stussy began teaching at UCLA in 1947 at the old Moore Hall building. He also taught extension classes from 1957 to 1980, helping to develop that program into one of mass appeal for adults. In 1979 he was voted the “Outstanding Teacher Award in the Visual Arts, UCLA Extension.”
One of his many and more recent shows was at the Wight Art Gallery in 1984-85. He retired from teaching in 1989.
Divorced from sculptor Maxine Kim Stussy, he is survived by their son, Dieter, and a brother.