Posts tagged risd

Braving the Elements


Putting the A in STEAM, a recent story in the New York Times, features a piece by sculptor Rebecca Kamen MFA 78 SC, who continues to bridge the perceived divide between art and science while advocating for reintroducing the arts to the reigning educational emphasis on science, technology, engineering and math.

Times writer Susan Hodara describes Kamen’s piece Divining Nature: An Elemental Garden – which was inspired by the periodic table – as “an assembly of 83 delicate sculptural forms made of shapes cut from white Mylar and stacked on fiberglass rods. Each of the shapes represents a naturally occurring element; they sprawl across the floor like spinning ballerinas and climb the wall in a spiral based on the Fibonacci sequence.”


Kamen is currently working on a new installation inspired by gravitational wave physics, which will be exhibited at the National Academy of Sciences in 2015. “It will combine sculptural elements and a soundscape composed of sounds emitting from black holes,” the artist explains. “The installation will celebrate the 100th anniversary of Einstein’s discovery of general relativity.” 

Three RISD Artists Exhibiting Together


All Is Dvasha new show that just opened last weekend at Sienna Patti in North Adams, MA, presents over-the-top gold-plated jewelry by Israeli-born artist Ruta Reifen MFA 11 JMDvash is Hebrew for honey – perhaps a reference to nectar – the hope and potential abundance contained within each of Reifen’s finely hand-sculpted flowers.

Continuing through August 17, Reifen’s show is one of three RISD-related exhibitions at Sienna Patti this summer. The gallery is also displaying jewelry by recent alumna Mallory Weston MFA 13 JM and installations (pictured below) by Jewelry + Metalsmithing Critic Lauren Fensterstock.


Inspired by nature, Fensterstock’s work (on view through August 24) incorporates meticulously cut and curled paper, charcoal and Plexiglass. It makes reference to French and English garden design of the 1500s through the1700s, the 18th-century practice of quilling (sculpting paper by wrapping it around a quill) as well as 20th-century American artist Robert Smithson.


“My task is to weave together these disparate histories,” Fensterstock says. “Making becomes my way of manifesting the ideas I read about, bringing my own logic, allowing me to touch – with my own hands – an interpretation of times and people past.”


Weston, whose jewelry is on view through August 3, leaves the past behind to explore graphic icons made popular in current “tween” culture: peace signs, hearts and smiley faces. “My recent work references and finds a home in the world of alternative DIY comic books, cartoons and illustrations,” she says. “I admire these publications because they are humorous, uninhibited, vulgar, sexual, dysfunctional, youthful and absurd” – all characteristics that she says she hopes to convey through her work.



Harty to Head CCS Glass Program


Good news for artist and educator Kim Harty 06 GL, who has been named head of the glass program at the College for Creative Studies (CCS) in Detroit, MI (originally the Detroit Society of Arts and Crafts). “We are fortunate to have such an accomplished artist and up-and-coming scholar joining not only the CCS community, but the Detroit cultural community as well,” says CCS President Richard L. Rogers.


Human Factors examined the tension between personal expression and efficiency in the studio.

Harty has taught a wide range of art classes at Ox-Bow, the School of the Art Institute Chicago (where she earned her MFA), Penland School of Crafts and the Pilchuck Glass School. After serving as a resident artist in the Chicago Artists Coalition’s BOLT program, she exhibited the resulting work in Human Factors, a solo show that just closed last month. Harty also serves on the board of the Glass Art Society and edits the organization’s quarterly publication GASNews.


Harty performing in The One Best Way to Do Work (2013).

Help RISD Students Win!

RISD students are keeping their fingers crossed as they wait for the results of LG Electronics’ Art of the Pixel competition, which runs through this Thursday, July 31. LG invited creatives from nine of the country’s top art schools to submit artworks that show off the capabilities of the company’s powerful, high-contrast monitors. Rising to the challenge, dozens of artists have entered whimsical animations and arresting images that make the most of these digital canvasses.

Click here to review the student submissions and vote for your favorite entries. But hurry. Voting ends this Thursday.


Harnessing the Wind


People participating in last month’s Renewable Energy Islands International Forum sponsored by UNESCO were invited to imagine a colorful forest of small-scale wind turbines that would create enough renewable energy to power thousands of homes. Dubbed The Whirlers, the project is the brainchild of Eduardo Benamor Duarte and Caterina Tiazzoldi, RISD faculty members in Interior Architecture. Their inventive idea would make use of 10,000 Darrieus turbines – each about 10 to 15 feet tall ­– creating an enhanced, human-friendly landscape.


Tiazzoldi traveled to the Canary Islands (off the coast of Spain) to present The Whirlers at UNESCO’s Biosphere Reserve, where an international group of engineers, politicians and landscape preservation experts gathered to explore renewable energy sources that would mitigate climate change.

“It’s a fun project,” says Duarte. “The idea is to construct a new environment that wouldn’t detract from the human experience – to make a clear cultural connection with the production of energy.”

Industrious Activity

This summer Blake Hiltunen MFA 14 SC is as busy as the southern honeybees he’s raising in northern Maine. After discovering that two of his colonies had lost their precious queen, the sculptor turned to Erin MacGregor-Forbes, a founder of the all-natural beekeeping operation Overland Apiaries, where he’s interning as a 2014 Maharam STEAM Fellow in Applied Art and Design.

Heeding her advice on how best to intervene, Hiltunen introduced hearty Vermont-raised insects to the hive.“The new queens will be able to handle the drastic temperature changes that occur up here,” he explains. “They’re now laying new generations of larvae with genes suited for our geographical location.”


The environmentally-minded graduate student is tending to the honey-makers as part of an “observational hive” that encourages visitors to Overland to peer into their carefully constructed combs. But before creating the new educational exhibit, Hiltunen needed to eradicate unwanted larvae that might jeopardize the colonies’ health.

“Removing these cells – which contain incubating larvae – is quite intense,” he explains. “They burst and ooze white liquid when scraped from the frame [of the hive]. Killing infant bees is messy.”


Keep up-to-date on all the STEAM-related internships going on this summer by perusing the 2014 Maharam Fellows’ blog!

Alums Discuss Design + Process


Illustration faculty member Antoine Revoy 99 FAV recently interviewed fellow alum Charles Tsunashima 97 ID/MFA 00 TX, a Tokyo-based interior architect and furniture and product designer, for the online creative culture magazine SHIFT. Tsunashima runs an interesting design studio called genereight and teaches at Tama Art University in Tokyo. He also frequently gravitates towards working with bamboo.


“My first year at RISD was a significant moment and still influences my decisions today,” Tsunashima says in the interview. “As a relatively over-confident high school graduate, I thought I was the next Picasso but quickly realized I was surrounded by equally talented people. To this day, I question stereotypes and my own biases, as those are the elements that limit my imagination.”

You can read the full interview here.

Painting in the Wild


As a summer artist in residence, Kathy Hodge 79 PT* is once again heading west (from East Providence) to experience America’s wilderness. This time she’ll visit the Tongass National Forest in southeast Alaska for a weeklong adventure that involves kayaking, camping, glaciers and – of course – painting.


The US Forest Service has modified its Voices of the Wilderness (VOW) program this year by pairing artists with forest rangers, thus providing them with firsthand experience as stewards of America’s public lands. Hodge will have the opportunity to “kayak calm fjords and camp on glacier-carved shores,” to see with her own eyes “a bear foraging among intertidal mussels or seals hauled out on the ice.” She’ll follow up her Alaskan adventure with a series of talks and gallery exhibitions that help spread the word about the value of land preservation.


Hodge’s Under the Shore (2012, oil on canvas, 30x40”) captures the movement of glaciers in Prince William Sound.

In the last decade, Hodge has served as artist in residence in 10 National Parks – from Cape Cod to the Badlands of South Dakota to the Grand Canyon. In 2011, when she kayaked through Prince William Sound with the VOW program, she wrote: “I pull out my watercolor kit and place within arm’s reach my canteen, binoculars, marine radio and bear spray. From the beach I hear the thundering of glaciers calving.”

Thirty-eight RISD students are keeping their fingers crossed as they wait for the results of LG Electronics’ Art of the Pixel competition, which runs through July 31. LG invited creatives from nine of the country’s top art schools to submit artworks that show off the capabilities of the company’s powerful, high-contrast monitors. Rising to the challenge, dozens of artists have entered whimsical animations and arresting images that make the most of these digital canvasses.

Earlier in the month, actor Neil Patrick Harris, who’s serving as LG’s spokesman for the competition, hosted a Google Hangout to talk about contemporary art and its relationship to technology with students from RISD, Pratt, CalArts and the other colleges invited to participate.

When Oscar Henri Robert 15 GD asked the celebrity the best way for aspiring artists to break into the gallery scene, the actor warmly advised him to forge influential relationships with respected curators and educators. Robert has submitted Grumble, a dark-toned digital collage (middle left photo) he made Foundation year by layering webcam images with differing pixel values. He says the piece investigates the seemingly small changes that occur as humans move forward in life.

“It’s wonderful to see my work on such a brilliant screen,” Robert adds. “Technology will always have an influential role in the art world.”

One finalist from each of the nine schools will receive a $5,000 cash prize, plus a trip to a gala event in New York City. The top winner will receive an additional $5,000.

You can peruse the student submissions and vote for your favorite entries. But do it soon! Voting ends on July 31.

It’s Gallery Night in Providence!


This evening promises to be blissfully rain-free and pleasant for the July Gallery Night Providence event. Visitors are welcome to tour participating galleries on foot or to take advantage of free guided bus tours that run every 20 minutes (from One Regency Plaza) beginning at 5:20 pm.

Material & Meaning, a special exhibition featuring recent work by students in RISD’s Textiles department (photo above), is  on view at Sol Koffler Graduate Student Gallery, where an opening reception runs from 5–9 pm. Among other highlights, contemporary fiber artist and Furniture Design Critic Debra Folz is presenting her hand-stitched objects at the Bert Gallery.   


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


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.


“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… .”


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.”


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


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. 


“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.


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.” 

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.


“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.


“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.”