Professor of Landscape Architecture Elizabeth Dean Hermann and a team of students from RISD, Brown and Pontificia Universidad Javeriana in Bogotá, Colombia are putting the finishing touches on the DESINE-Lab’s first summer design-build project in Central Falls, RI, with an opening celebration planned for 6 pm this evening (at 741 Dexter Street).

In less than six weeks, the team has transformed an empty urban lot into a public plaza with a pavilion, built-in seating, plantings and a tiled mosaic mural. Highlights of the design include the use of 16,000 donated bricks and a one-of-a-kind bench created with found lumber and fencing.

Neighbors have rallied around the project, providing electricity, ladders, water and lunch for the crew. And before the Colombian architecture students say goodbye to their new American friends, they’ll spend time visiting Yale University and New York City.

Click on the photos above for caption information.

Inside the Bermuda Triangle

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A new installation by Bermuda-based architect and artist John Gardner BArch 81 is stealing the show – the Bermuda Biennial 2014: A View from the Edge, that is – with ripple effects felt as far away as the offices of The New York Times.

His piece Triangle – a collaboration with dancer/choreographer Anna Clifford and spoken word poet Tiffany Paynter – features projections of Clifford inside a massive water-filled triangle and celebrates the 50th anniversary of the pulp magazine story that launched the island’s best-known bit of cultural lore: the mystery of the Bermuda Triangle.

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“During the past two decades alone, this sea mystery at our back door has claimed almost 1,000 lives,” the original Argosy article proclaimed. “In this series of disasters, not one body has ever been recovered… .”

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After scaling back his architectural practice a bit, Gardner has made space to make art again and says he designed Triangle for the biennial to “explore themes of place, explanation, culture and relationships, all within a mystical context.”

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Gardner’s proposed geo-markers would delineate the triangle’s corners.

In hopes of making the three points of the legendary triangle “a tripartite destination,” Gardner wants to place sculptural “geo-markers” in Bermuda, Miami and Puerto Rico and encourage these three “cultural communities” to “positively embrace their relationship as defined by the triangle, transcend its origins and redefine [it] as a modern construct based on mutual identity.”

Triangle remains on view through November 22 at the Bermuda National Gallery East in St. Georges.

Snapping Up Gold

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Momo and Snap are not friends – at least not at first. But the two storybook characters created by author/illustrator Airlie Anderson 00 IL bond during a close encounter with hungry lions.

Published last year, Anderson’s latest book recently won a gold medal for excellence in the Children’s Picture Books category at the Independent Publisher Book Awards in NYC. 

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“I start with pencil on printer paper to make the initial sketch,” says Anderson, who works out of her studio near Princeton, NJ. “Once I’m happy with that, I transfer the image onto smooth Hot Press watercolor paper using a light box. Then I go to color, using washes of gouache and layering until opaque. I love Holbein Acryla Gouache because it’s very forgiving – you can layer and layer, and it never gets muddy.

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Momo and Snap plush toys from Hearthsong round out the picture.

“I got a lot of support and advice from my RISD friends in publishing,” adds Anderson, who is now working on her second picture book for Child’s Play. “They’ve been the best sounding board anyone could ask for.” 

Green Turtle Back in Action!#?!

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Talented comic book artist and illustrator Sonny Liew 01 IL is in the spotlight this month for illustrating The Shadow Hero (First Second Books)a new graphic novel about the 1940s superhero known as the Green Turtle.

In a story on NPR today – part of its ongoing CodeSwitch series about race and ethnicity – reporter Hansi Lo Wang speaks with Liew’s collaborator, author Gene Luen Yang, about whether the Green Turtle was the first bona fide Asian-American superhero. In this video Yang explains the backstory:

Though the short-lived original series left the true ethnic identity of the hero largely unanswered, the new graphic novel “firmly establishes the Green Turtle as Asian-American, unmasking the superhero as a teenager named Hank Chu, the American-born son of Chinese immigrants living in the Chinatown of a fictional city on California’s coast in the 1930s.”

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With The Shadow Hero just officially released as of today, Publisher’s Weekly  picked it as one of the leading books out this week and Boing Boing pronounces it “a provocative, exciting adventure that lives up to the promise of a collaboration between Yang… and illustrator Sonny Liew.” 

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A reviewer for Estella’s Revenge calls Liew’s artwork “a seamless blend of nostalgia and 21st-century aesthetics.” Fanboy Comics says the book is “exceptional,” and it has already landed on Amazon’s lists of Best Comics + Graphic Novels and Best Teen + Young Adult Books of the Month.

Liew, previously best known as the creator of Malinky Robot, has long been based in Singapore, where he purportedly “sleeps with the fishes.”

When experimental apparel designer Jenny Lai 10 AP discovered the bold styles of Smarteez, a South African DIY fashion collective from Johannesburg, she was immediately drawn to their creative process and especially intrigued by striking millinery by Floyd Manotana, who makes reed safari hats and wide-brimmed felted bowlers in his backyard studio.

“As part of the first post-apartheid generation, these young men are creating what looks to be the first distinctly South African street fashion,” Lai writes on her blog. “There is a rawness to the style – a careless appropriation of anything and everything – that strikes me as totally fresh and exciting. Simply put, it’s nothing like anything I’m seeing in New York.”

For Lai it was clear that communicating with these stylish ingenues via email and Skype just wouldn’t cut it. So the designer contacted Chris Saunders, a photojournalist who has made a name for himself documenting the country’s fresh street ensembles, which can be described as equal parts grunge, punk and dandy. 

The two decided to start a cross-cultural collaborative project that would document Lai making avant-garde garments with noted South African designers such as Dennis Chuene and Macdonald MfoloThe final photographs and videos feature stunning visuals of hip hop dancer Manthe Ribane performing in the brilliant, one-of-a-kind clothing.

Much to their delight, the Manhattan gallery WALLPLAY has now promised to exhibit the results of their creative collaboration in August. To help offset the costs of the show, the artists have launched an Indiegogo campaign to raise $5,000.

Direct Research for Direct Action

Maharam Fellow Allison Wong 15 ID recently spent an entire weekend pounding the pavement in Rhode Island’s urban neighborhoods. With a clipboard in hand, the industrial designer collected hundreds of signatures in support of legislation that would prohibit banks from evicting tenants from foreclosed properties. She also persuaded residents to call their local representatives to keep the bill from being shelved before the state’s legislative session came to a close.

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“A lot of people didn’t open their doors, but some were really nice,” Wong explains. “Luckily we made a lot of progress and the bill was actually passed in the Senate and House. It’s now waiting for the governor’s signature.” 

Wong has earned a Maharam STEAM Fellowship in Applied Art and Design in support of a summer internship with NuLawLab – Northeastern University School of Law’s innovation laboratory. In the coming weeks, she’ll visit district courts to observe the legal transactions that take place within judicial chambers. Using that research, Wong will develop user-centered design strategies meant to improve public access to legal services.

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“As a designer, I know that technology has the incredible potential to support civic engagement,” Wong notes. “There are so many examples of where it has allowed new forms of participation and communication. Yet, it can also supplant and dissolve the power of people coming together [to communicate] in the flesh. I’m researching ways in which art, design and advocacy can work best together.”

To read more about the experiences of the 2014 Maharam STEAM Fellows, check out their posts on this frequently updated blog.

When T. Michael Tracy 99 IL broke open a mold he had formed using a 3D printed plastic figurine, the illustrator had no idea what to expect. Luckily, the computer-designed model was made from an organic compound and melted away cleanly in the kiln, leaving behind a hollow vessel. The artist then used molten-hot bronze to cast a finely grooved sculpture (pictured above, large middle photo).

“Some of my fellow educators were concerned that melting the 3D printer plastic would be an environmental hazard,” Tracy explains. “But heating up the substance is like burning an ear of corn. It’s harmless.”

The intriguing piece is part of the Summer Faculty Exhibition now on view at Woods-Gerry Gallery. The show features work by RISD faculty members who are teaching a diverse range of courses for teenagers and adults this summer, including the web design and photography courses Tracy is teaching through RISD Continuing Education.

“I really love being in the classroom with developing artists,” he noted at the opening reception for the show last Thursday. “Their energy is infectious.” 

At the opening visitors were entranced by Frog Legs (above bottom), an arresting painted resin sculpture by Jesse Thompson MFA 07 SC portraying a small girl trying on “life-cast” adult-sized arms. “I really enjoy playing with proportions and textures,” he quipped.

Viewers also lingered near Visual Statistics, digital prints by Emma Hogarth MFA 09 DM present microscopic images of human skin (top photo). The artist is fascinated by the ability of technology to mistakenly alter colors, textures and other fine details when capturing biological phenomena. 

“People have asked me if these pieces are supposed to be moons, alien planets or other spacey objects,” Hogarth says. “In reality, these prints are capturing life on earth close up.”

Deluxe Chucks

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Corrado’s design: My Pet Monster

Chuck Taylor fans recently had the opportunity to buy limited-edition hightops handpainted by local artists. For its latest popup promotion, Converse and Nordstrom invited Washington, DC artist Matt Corrado 05 IL and Seattle-based architect and contemporary artist Frances Nelson MArch 07 – along with 13 other artists from across the country ­– to make their marks on white Chuck Taylor All Stars. Thirty pairs of each design left local Nordstrom stores in a flash, selling for $74.95 each.  

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Frances Nelson MArch 07 collaborated with Jesse LeDoux on The Eyes Have It and Making Faces.

Handweavers Converge in Providence

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Spinners, weavers, dyers and other textile devotees have begun to arrive in Providence for next week’s Convergence 2014, the biennial gathering of the Handweavers Guild of America (HGA). When planning the event at the RI Convention Center, conference organizers knew they’d want to tap into RISD resources and talent, too. Interim President Rosanne Somerson 76 ID will give a talk on critical making and four Textiles department faculty members will host intensive workshops at RISD starting this weekend.

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Summer Vine Border by Michael Savoia, who will teach a workshop on digital embroidery.

“Since we have such great facilities in Textiles, we decided to host some hands-on workshops using our more technical and digital equipment,” explains longtime Senior Critic Susan Sklarek MFA 77 SC, who organized the RISD workshops. She’s looking forward to leading a weaving workshop that will harness computer-interfaced dobby looms. Textiles Department Head Brooks Hagan MFA 02 TX will illuminate the basics of Jacquard design, Anne Emlein MFA 06 TX will teach a workshop on machine knitting and Michael Savoia will introduce participants to computerized embroidery.

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DT/DP by Henry Rolnick 14 TX is among the work on view at the Sol Koffler Gallery.

Sklarek has also organized an exhibition at the Sol Koffler Graduate Student Gallery to run concurrently with the conference. Materials and Meaning: Selected Works from the RISD Textiles Department features experimental fabrics, design collections and other recent student work.

The opening reception is on Thursday, July 17, from 5­–9, with the exhibition open daily from 12–5:30 from tomorrow, July 12, through Sunday, July 20.

Backing for Baffin Island Project

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Though recent graduate Acacia Johnson 14 PH has earned a coveted Fulbright grant for research in the Canadian Arctic, she still needs to raise additional funds to help offset the expense of documenting culturally significant Inuit sites around Baffin Island.

“My hope is to be in Arctic Bay from the last day of sun in November until the day it rises again in February,” Johnson says. While there she plans to use a 4x5 view camera and digital video to create work to be presented as a traveling exhibition exploring the deep connection of northern people to the Arctic landscape.

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As autumn approaches, Johnson is preparing to begin her journey at the Ontario College of Art & Design University in Toronto. But first she has launched a Kickstarter campaign (through July 27) to help cover her living expenses for four months as well as the costs of film, developing, framing and shipping. 

Booking Maisie

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When Boston-based artist Ryan Jude Novelline 12 IL got an invitation from an antiquarian book retailer in England, he was happy to comply with the request to make a dress for the person judging a competition for clothing made entirely out of books. After all, he’s best known as the talent behind the Golden Book Gown (above)

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Maisie Williams models the dress Ryan Jude Novelline 12 IL made for her using books | photo by Paige Mocock

Little did he know that the judge in question would be Maisie Williams, who plays Arya Stark on HBO’s Game of Thrones. “By some miracle, I was able finish the dress on time – and Maisie loved it,” Novelline says. In fact, after wearing it at the competition last month, she plans to wear it again at the international Comic-Con in San Diego later this month. 

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On a totally different front, Novelline recently completed work on a children’s book due to be self-published this summer. “My mother wrote the story and I did the cover, formatting and art direction for a younger, very talented illustrator who currently works as a character designer for Disney,” he says.

Illustrators Get Together in Portland

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Illustrators from around the world are gathering in Portland, OR from from today through Saturday for ICON8, the eighth iteration of the biennial illustration conference. More than 50 illustrators, designers, art directors, educators, reps, publishers and makers are presenting to the hundreds of professionals attending the conference, which is sponsored in part by RISD and organized by a team that includes Illustration Critic Ellen Weinstein and Illustration Department Head Rob Brinkerhoff.

“An expanded Educators’ Symposium will include two days of talks by international illustration faculty, which is a major development in the evolution of the conference,” Brinkerhoff says of this year’s event. (RISD hosted the last illustration biennial, ICON7, which was held in Providence in 2012.)

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Detail of a new card design by ICON8 speaker Allison Cole 03 PR

The workshops, panel discussions and lectures feature plenty of artists with RISD connections. Susie Ghahremani 02 IL will shed light on Chronicle Books’ untraditional practices, while former visiting faculty member and native Colombian Leo Espinosa and freelance illustrator Victo Ngai 10 IL, who grew up in Hong Kong and is now based in NYC, will compare notes on how cultural influences shape their work. Associate Professor of Illustration Susan Doyle MFA 98 PT/81 IL will participate in a panel discussion on the history of the medium.

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Victo Ngai 10 IL creates a lot of evocative editorial work for clients ranging from The New York Times to The New Yorker to RISD XYZ.

Elegant Efficiency

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In his coverage of the Techstyle Haus now competing in the Solar Decathlon Europe, Metropolis writer Martin Pederson has good things to say about the 800-sf prototype – which represents almost two years of collaborative work by students from RISD, Brown and the University of Applied Sciences in Erfurt, Germany.

The house not only uses 90% less energy for heating and cooling than most, it “actually generates 50% more energy than it uses,” Pederson points out. And it’s “an elegant piece of design as well.”

Read the full Metropolis post here. And remember to cast your Public Choice vote for Techstyle Haus by this Saturday.

Filmmakers Unite Worldwide

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It’s not too late to sign up for the 2014 48-Hour Film Project (48HFP) here in Providence, scheduled to take place this weekend (July 11–13). Mel Rainsberger 04 FAV, who has been involved with the annual competition for years, reports that space is available and interested participants can register right up until the last minute.

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48HFP is an international summer competition in which teams of filmmakers collaborate on a short piece based on a genre, line of dialogue, prop and character that are all stipulated at the last minute. From its informal, grassroots beginning, the competition has grown to include filmmakers in 130 cities spanning six continents. 

It’s “a wild and sleepless weekend in which you and your team have a blast making a movie,” the 48HFP site promises. “All writing, shooting, editing and scoring must be completed in just 48 hours.”

On Friday June 27th the Northern California Alumni Chapter came together for the opening reception of First/Last, a RISD Alumni show at Park Life Gallery in San Francisco.

First/Last highlights each artist’s unique process, and points that define it—from the first moment of inspiration, the journey of making, up until the last moment, when the piece is deemed complete.

The show will be on display at Park Life Gallery from June 27–July 27 2014.

Featured Alumni:

Jonathan Anzalone (BFA Painting ‘03) 

Raïssa Bump (BFA Jewelry ‘03)

Lara Cannon (BFA Illustration ‘06)

Percy Cannon (BFA Painting ‘06)

Lizzy Cross (BFA Painting ‘04)

John Freeborn (BFA Fine Arts ‘97, BARCH ’99)

Alice Gould (BFA Painting ‘93)

Jessica Hess (BFA Illustration ‘03)

Ritsuko Hirai (BFA Printmaking ’02, MFA Textiles ‘08)

Michael Neff (BFA Photography ’04) 

Mel Prest (BFA Painting ’91) 

Elizabeth Thorp (BFA Sculpture ‘07)

Curated By:

Heather Phillips (MFA Graphic Design ‘10, RISD NorCal Club Leader

Photos by Dallis Willard