Illustration Professor David Porter opened his April 18 sabbatical presentation with a slide that simply read: Fuck Your Kids. In a much smaller font at the bottom, it said: (Ignore Climate Change). The point of the exercise was to get the viewer emotionally involved in the issue at hand.
After using much of his sabbatical completing the same assignments he gives his students, Porter plans to use the examples he has created to help his students tackle the notion of using illustration and design to make a statement.
This image from Chris Van Allsburg’s book The Mysteries of Harris Burdock inspired Porter’s tongue-in-cheek tale of marriage and murder.
Porter’s lighthearted presentation last week also featured a few of the short stories he’d written to accompany the photos and captions in The Mysteries of Harris Burdock by Chris Van Allsburg MFA 75 SC, which was republished last year as The Chronicles of Harris Burdock, with text written by famous writers (including Stephen King). King may be good, but Porter spun a pretty dark yarn about a malevolent pumpkin, marriage and murder …
How can we combine social scientists’ emphasis on critical thinking and careful analysis of the problem at hand with the productivity of the design world in order to construct a viable future for our planet? Can we overcome the taboos associated with utopian communities and retrofit our existing culture in response to environmental crises? These are some of the questions that kept Damian White, associate professor of sociology, busy during his recent sabbatical.
Last week White shared the arc of his research at a lunchtime presentation in the Tap Room entitled Design, Sociology, Sustainability. He explained that environmental problems are deeply intertwined with social power, creating a kind of “politics of nature” in which certain groups of people are far better served than others. White’s work builds on the foundations of ecological philosopher Murray Bookchin, architect Colin Ward and design theorist Tony Fry, and is aimed at furthering positive steps in support of Green Urbanism.
“We need to push back against the reduction of sustainable urban design to just the technological or we will end up with the green panopticon,” White noted in a recent paper.
In addition to coordinating a pilot program in Nature-Culture-Sustainability Studies at RISD, he is currently working on two books – The Environment, Nature and Social Theory: Hybrid Approaches and The Future by Design: A History and Sociology of Design Utopianism and Design Futurism.
Every month in the Tap Room, RISD faculty talk about the work they produce while on sabbatical. On April 3, at 12 pm, Associate Professor of ID Khipra Nichols and Professor of Illustration Judy Sue Goodwin Sturges will present.
This week Mike Fink, RISD’s longest-serving professor of Literary Arts + Studies, shared his lifelong love of birds – pigeons included – with listeners of Rhode Island’s public radio station, RIPR.
Long “drawn to search out and unearth anything that one might consider ‘surreal,’” Wendy made a radical shift in her approach several years ago by beginning to incorporate digital media into her oil paintings. Her process now “involves a back-and-forth swing between the computer and the drawing board,” she says.
Big Girl (2011, digital collage)
A 2011 sabbatical in Ireland and a month-long residency last summer at the Burren College of Art in County Clare gave her the space and solitude to produce a lot of new work. “In this tranquil landscape so rich with beauty and history, abandoned stone ruins are found at every turn, visually and metaphorically exploding with colorful vegetation from their unprotected interiors,” she says.
Vital Transformations opened last Monday and continues through February 21, with a reception and gallery talk on Wednesday, February 6 from 11 am – 1 pm. There’s also an evening reception the same day from 5:30–7:30. Taber Gallery is on the Holyoke Community College campus.
Diehard film fan and Professor of Literary Arts + Studies Mike Fink sent in this clear-eyed review of Promised Land, the new film by Gus Van Sant 75 FAV:
In my heart I nominate Hal Holbrook for an Oscar as a supporting actor at the Academy Awards coming up. My former student Gus Van Sant, who very often casts older stars as distinguished and honorable professors, chose Holbrook as the dissenter in Promised Land. He plays the role of a retired scientist who volunteers at a Pittsburgh high school and speaks out against a fracking proposal in a farm community suffering from the recession and tempted to sell out, just to make ends meet.
The other (to me) virtue of Van Sant as a director of alternative and independent cinema is that he looks at locales with an appreciation for quirky beauty – for landscapes not standard but dramatic and unique.
Critics – and audiences – have found fault with this movie on several counts. First of all, the controversy created by the funding source, which is tied to OPEC, suggests that interests from abroad are casting doubt on fracking for selfish reasons. American energy independence could threaten foreign powers.
The other accusation is that both Van Sant and his star and scriptwriter, Matt Damon, are condescending toward the agricultural community. I felt the opposite: that they confer dignity and intelligence upon most, but not all, of the people most concerned about fracking. I think both Van Sant and Damon have produced a movie with thoughtful dialogue, elegant scenery (I love the miniature horses and the newborn kids) and considerable character development. They warn us, as viewers, to beware the Trojan Horses of big business interests and to respect the hesitant voices of tradition and education.
Promised Land is a good title, as well. If for no other reason than to watch and listen to Hal Holbrook, it is worthwhile for anybody who cares about the environment to catch this flick before it leaves town altogether. —Mike Fink
In an interview in the January issue of Modern Painters (and published on ARTINFO), Painting faculty member Christopher K. Ho clearly shows his “mordant wit.” He also talks about the inspiration behind his new show Privileged White People, which opened last week at Forever & Today in NYC.
In looking at the genesis of his well-named exhibition, Ho told aritst/interviewer Roger White – a privileged white person himself – that in teaching at RISD for over a decade, he has “encountered many preternaturally well-adjusted students. Their social ease impresses me,” he admits, adding that “looking back on my own early 20s, I didn’t have that at all.”
So Ho began wondering: “How does well-adjustedness manifest in art? What is the visual and formal vocabulary of well-adjustedness, or of a generation of particularly well-adjusted people?”
Read more about it in the interview or better yet: see the show. Privileged White People continues through February 17.
Rick Benjamin, a gifted poet and senior lecturer who has taught in RISD’s Literary Arts + Studies department for over a decade, has been named the State Poet of Rhode Island, according to an announcement released today.
As this photo of Rick with students from Providence’s Central High School indicates, he’s already an active member of the local literary scene who is known for his effective educational outreach efforts.
“My deepest wish during my tenure will be to saturate this small state with poetry – in schools, community and assisted living centers, in places where poetry already has a presence and in some other ones where it is desperately needed,” Rick said in acknowledging the appointment from Governor Lincoln Chafee. “I am delighted to accept this position.”
At RISD, we’re equally delighted with the good news. Congratulations, Rick!
The campus community is saddened to learn that Professor Emeritus Tom Sgouros 50 IL, who taught at RISD from 1962–2007, passed away in Providence on Monday, December 19 after a long struggle against cancer. He was 85.
A gifted artist with work in the RISD Museum, Tom repeatedly served as head of the Illustration department (from 1969–70,1971–77, 1979–83 and 1984–1991), was chair of the Design Division from 1971–78 and from 1991–94 served as RISD’s first ever Helen M. Danforth Distinguished Professor.
Although Tom suffered from macular degeneration in recent years, he continued to work in his Providence Art Club studio almost every day. His ongoing series of breathtakingly beautiful Remembered Landscapes (like the ones shown above and below) made his escalating loss of sight that much more poignant.
Current Head of Illustration Robert Brinkerhoff notes that when he first met Tom 16 years ago, he “was immediately disarmed by his gentle and self-effacing manner…. Like everyone, I continued to be touched by his kindness, his gracious intellect in guiding a conversation and his unwavering dedication to art-making….”
Rob also points out that the Illustration program continues to feel Tom’s positive influence: “Our truly unique grounding in drawing and painting from observation coupled with an assertion that the individual voice of the illustrator is key to the synthesis of the poetic and pragmatic is largely due to his considerable insights as the program’s leader for so many years.”
A memorial service for Tom is being held on Sunday, December 23 at 2 pm at the Unitarian Church, One Benevolent Street in Providence, followed by a reception at the Providence Art Club. The Illustration department is planning a memorial on campus this spring. More information will be forthcoming as that event takes shape.