Last Thursday evening the RISD Auditorium was filled with Beasts lovers – students and other members of the RISD community who were profoundly moved and encouraged by the 2012 film Beasts of the Southern Wild – due both to the impact of the film itself and the crazy communal, creative and hand-built way it was made.
Director Benh Zeitlin and his sister and artistic collaborator Eliza Zeitlin 08 SC were at RISD to talk with fervent fans about their process and what they hope to do now given the mutually inspirational group of collaborators – including several RISD alums – who got involved in the project.
Benh on the Beasts set with natural talent Quvenzhané Wallis, the phenomenal 6-year-old who earned an Oscar nomination for her first film role.
Students asked all sort of questions – mostly preceded by expressions of profound gratitude to the Zeitlins “for making such a beautiful film” – including what Eliza has learned about making art in the years since she graduated from RISD.
“The most important thing I’ve gleaned is to start with an idea but not a plan,” she responded. “If you just start and let the plan evolve naturally, you’ll reach a lot further.” You just need to sort of “guide” or channel the process, she said.
At RISD the Zeitlins showed a few minutes from Glory at Sea, a short film that was also set in the watery bayous outside of New Orleans and opened the door to making Beasts.
Among Benh’s many bits of advice for aspiring filmmakers and others students in the crowd: enjoy the “freedom” you have in college “to work all the time.” And recognize it as “a great time to find collaborators” you’ll want to work with in the future.
After graduation “don’t wait for permission to create art. Just do it,” Benh urged. “And don’t be afraid to be poor,” he added with a laugh. “It’ll kill you a lot more slowly than having a job you hate.”
The amazing Zeitlins – director Benh Zeitlin and his sister Eliza Zeitlin 08 SC – are coming to RISD this week to talk about their exceptional film, Beasts of the Southern Wild.
If you haven’t yet seen it, see if there are any more free student tickets at CSI for the 7:30 pm screening on Wednesday. You’ll also need a ticket for the next night – to hear the Zeitlins talk about what they did to make their very first film one that became an indie favorite last year while also getting nominated for Academy Awards for Best Picture, Best Director and Best Actress!
Read the RISD XYZ feature article Living Beasts (it starts on page 20) for more about the role Eliza and three other alumni played in making the film what it is.
Huma Bhabha 85 PR could hardly dream of a better response to Unnatural Histories, her current solo show at MoMA PS1, than this ecstatic summary in The New Yorker:
A stunning abundance of recent sculpture and works on paper by the Pakistani-born virtuoso. Who would have thought that today’s strongest sculptor would advance forms of pedestalled figures with heart-wrenching, humanistic content? For all their slangy use of Styrofoam, wire mesh, crumpled drainpipes, bones, and other detritus – along with the more traditional wood, plaster, and bronze – Bhabha’s creations convincingly resuscitate several sorts of lapsed tradition, both primitive and classical. She’s our hip-hop-era Giacometti.
In its own rave review (called Huma Bhabha Does Rodin Meets Mad Max), The Village Voice calls Bhabha’s sculpture “a rare species of mesmerizing bravura 3D art.”
And New York Times critic Karen Rosenberg notes that the juxtaposition of the materials she uses is “arresting,” with the overall effect of the show being to “bookend the history of figurative sculpture, from ancient fertility icons to what could be the last vestiges of the human race.”
In this post from polich tallix foundry, you can find out more about Bhabha’s process for producing her lost-wax cast pieces – some weighing as much as 1,100 lbs.
Unnatural Histories continues at MOMA PS1 through April 1.
After spending over 40 hours kneading children’s clay into whimsical replicas of presidential contenders Barack Obama and Mitt Romney, Ian Williams 13 SC has earned the title of “Official PLAY-DOH Artist of the Year,” an annual contest run by the RI-based toy company Hasbro Inc.
“I’m passionate about sculpting and grew up playing with PLAY-DOH so I’m truly honored,” Williams said. “Working with Hasbro is a wonderful opportunity and I look forward to sharing my creativity with the PLAY-DOH online community.”
But the challenge was anything from child’s play. The RISD senior had to keep the pre-formed busts sealed in plastic bags and moistened with vegetable oil to prevent them from drying out. He also had a particularly hard time sculpting Romney’s voluminous hair (fit for a VO5 commercial), which tends to stick straight up.
“It was so much volume and there was so much height to it that the weight of the Play-Doh made it want to slump down,” Williams said in an interview with the New York Daily News.
The 21-year-old Rochester, NY native doesn’t just get the title of PLAY-DOH King; he also gets a $5,000 tuition stipend and the chance to create clay creations with Hasbro that will be posted to the company’s Facebook site.
Five students in four different departments have been putting the final touches on a series of amazing installations (plus a performance) this week, scrambling to prep for tomorrow’s public debut as part of FirstWorks Festival’s big On the Plaza event.
The works all stem from Professor Ellen Driscoll’s spring studio Spokes of the Wheel: Public Art in Kennedy Plaza.
RISD peeps are invited to gather at Burnside Park at 5 pm on Saturday to celebrate a super solid achievement by Cody Henrichs MFA 13 SC, Qian Huang MLA 12, Stuart Penman 14 ID, Roy Small MLA 13 and Taniya Vaidya MFA 13 PT.
When artist Cai Guo Qiang came to campus last Friday – to speak as part of the Fine Arts Division Lecture Series – he wanted to visit the Sculpture studios prior to his presentation. Here he’s attentively listening to Department Head Ellen Driscoll.
For more than 30 years, Cai has presented breathtaking (and sometimes explosive) installations and 2- and 3D work on the world stage, drawing respect and admiration from artists and art lovers everywhere.
Sculpture students obviously loved having the opportunity to share their work with him and talk shop last week.
Dana Schneider 82 SC says it was “like winning the lottery” when she was invited to make the hottest piece of jewelry to emerge this spring: the mockingjay pin Jennifer Lawrence wears as the character Katniss Everdeen in The Hunger Games. It’s already spawning a rash of knockoffs on Ebay and Amazon.
After working in steel, cast bronze and aluminum as a Sculpture major at RISD, Dana taught herself to make jewelry. And since 1999 she has been creating iconic stuff for movies ranging from X-men to Green Hornet, Green Lantern, Tron, The Last Airbender and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (Rooney Mara loved the work and has taken to wearing the necklace below, which is one of Dana’s own designs).
Dana now spends about 70% of her time making jewelry for the film and music industry, pieces like these rings for (from L–R below) Snoop Dogg, Cher, Marilyn Manson, Dr. Doom (in Fantastic Four) and the band Slipknot.
“It’s fun to customize something to a character and a scene,” she says. “But I have to maintain my own integrity and vision,” too – which is why she insists on making her own art. “If I go too long without making my own work, I get antsy. I have to do it.” Read more in our risd.edu story From The Matrix to the Mockingjay.
In his latest video, Paris on Ten Valiums a Day, unLucky Leone 93 ID/MFA 08 DM unpacks his personal (but I suspect widely shared) “philosophy of positive pessimism.” In this 18+-minute rumination, he tells an engaging, well-paced story based on an especially painful visit to Paris last March.
Lucky teaches in the Sculpture department at RISD and has the good sense to sign his emails:
Partial Research Foundation (“we never stop thinking about your problems”)
Four of the five artists showing in Surfacing, the current exhibition at the Chazan Gallery in Providence, are RISD MFA grads. Focusing on surface manipulation, the show continues through the end of the month and includes recent works by…
Jennifer Cawley MFA 11 PH, who’s showing a politically motivated wallpaper series called For Congo (detail, pigment print wallpaper).
Kevin Hughes MFA 08 JM, whose series of painted brass pendants and brooches includes Breakfast of Champions.
Theodor Kropf MFA 03 SC, who’s showing porcelain replicas of everyday objects à la this one, Reel Mower Blade (porcelain, wood, brass).
And Gunnar Norquist MFA 06 SC (aka the Exhibitions Coordinator in RISD’s campus exhibitions office), who presents work such as Untitled (ink and gouache on white pine and cast cement) from his Concrete series.