RISD XYZ Spring/Summer 2020

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spring/summer 2020 rhode island school of design

// rooted



spring/summer 2020


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Where I Come From Rose Simpson MFA 11 CR lives on the reservation in New Mexico where she grew up and continues to show huge respect for her lineage.

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Narratives from the Far North

Metabolizing the Border

Born and raised in Alaska,

Daily crossings of the US/ Mexico border as a child led Tanya Aguiñiga MFA 05 FD to focus on migrant issues through her multimedia practice.

Acacia Johnson 14 PH feels naturally drawn to documenting dramatic change in the Arctic.


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campus news

online, incoming, ongoing

// 06 listen reflections, opinions, points of view

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• rapid response • mutually supportive— at a distance • cheers for the old normal • fresh from the studio • final frontiers

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Visions of Dahomey Before the pandemic forced him back to the US, Ashton Agbomenou 14 FAV eagerly soaked in the rich culture his parents left behind in Benin.

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six degrees

moving forward

re: faculty, studios, initiatives

connecting through the alumni association

graduate class notes + profiles

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moving forward


undergraduate class notes + profiles

sketches, doodles, ideas in progress

impact who’s giving to risd + why

start here // remaining rooted

THOUGHTS FROM RISD’S PRESIDENT Who would we be—and what would we create—without drawing on the roots that helped us become who we are? The taproots of our origins emerge from a combination of factors such as genetic inheritance, influences of cultural heritage, and the impacts of experience. As we enter early adulthood, we often diverge from those roots and hone our own identity and voice. But this surge towards individuality does not occur in isolation, divorced from what is happening around us. I believe that artists perceive their worlds with attuned intensity, which means that those external experiences have even greater impact. This spring the entire world was forced to focus like never before on a global crisis happening to all of us. Together we were uprooted from routines and expectations, and forced to accept an unimaginable degree of uncertainty—along with the strange new phenomenon of shared isolation. continued ▶ ▶ ▶


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nothing of her ancestry. What we do know is that she grew up in a family of artists—and has no interest in making art, though she is a marvelous cook. Through love and support and voracious motivation, she is now preparing for a career in healthcare. Interestingly, growing up, she experienced our family looking after aging parents. Her grandmother came to live with us in her final years and had the good fortune of excellent home hospice care. I think that seeing the impact of such dedicated care on someone she loved sparked my daughter’s interests. Now, by pursuing a career in that field, she is expanding our own family’s root system.

TIME FOR MAJOR DISCOVERIES This moment in time is devastating for so many people around the globe. But individually and collectively we are making exciting, troubling and profound discoveries as well. For one, as we share data, protocols and outcomes, we are keenly aware that this pandemic is impacting everyone. This novel coronavirus continues to spread with intense levels of contagion that do not recognize borders, or human differences. In the US, the harsh reality that people of color experience far higher incidences of severe illness and death is particularly disturbing. It calls for directed responses to figure out why, and to address these heightened community needs. At RISD we are fully committed to creating just societies, so this reality is very troubling. Many of our students, faculty, staff and alumni have pivoted in their practices, projects and research to address aspects of the dire needs we are all facing this year, from economic injustices resulting from the pandemic, to looking at the design of protec-

Yarrow Thorne 11 ID and his organization The Avenue Concept enhance urban life in Providence through public art. He recently invited renowned muralist Gaia to create Still Here, which celebrates Rhode Island’s own roots through its indigenous people. The painting now faces RISD’s campus from across the river.

tive gear. Their socially driven commitment both honors and adds to the breadth and depth of RISD’s roots. When our institution was founded in 1877 by a group of visionary women, its mission was to educate local students as artists and designers to encourage Rhode Island’s burgeoning textiles and jewelry industries, enhance its cultural fabric and contribute to society through the arts. Today, we continue to see the role of artists and designers as culture drivers of a different sort— thinkers, makers and problem solvers who can grasp the needs of our fast-changing times, contribute to public engagement, and partner with the once-separated realms of science, technology, medicine and business, all with the intention of shaping a better world. Throughout history artists and designers have shown that their enhanced perceptive abilities enable them to sort through myriad challenges and opportunities to explore, experiment and create the world anew. Extraordinary times such as the one we are living in now provoke questions for which there are no clear or easy answers, and for which nimble and inventive thinking is essential. As we combine our creative instincts with news and information that changes daily, we can ultimately find meaningful answers. And in so doing, we fulfill the potential of our own growth—and expand the reach of our own rootedness.

Rosanne Somerson BFA 76, President Follow President Somerson on Twitter @rsomerson.

previous page + above: photos by David O’Connor

▶▶▶ Our students ended up studying from homes across the country and around the globe. Everyone was upended by stay-at-home orders, and filled with anxiety about the present and the future. Students felt the loss from being pulled away from friends, peers, mentors and loved ones. And they had to adjust to the challenges of remote learning at a school known for intense material-based making. Those who returned to their family homes have also had the jarring experience of juggling the independence that defines them at RISD with their past lives. And though a small number of students have remained on campus, they, too, are isolated. A campus no longer filled with students feels like a hollow place. So, while I hope students have also managed to find a semblance of comfort in their online communities and families during this pandemic, I know that doing so is complicated. My youngest daughter is in college, too, and as she is choosing her own path in life, I have often marveled at how she has developed a sense of self despite the mystery about her own roots. We adopted my daughter as an infant and know


// online, incoming, ongoing

Use whatever leverage and power you have—in whatever position you’re in— to do what you can to help. MacArthur Award winner Nicole Eisenman 87 PT in a piece in Vulture (4.23.20)

Take this time to officially allow yourself to procrastinate—to think about what it is you want to do, because you’ve been prepared to tackle anything…. And there is a silver lining to this mess. David Macaulay BArch 69 in a video message to RISD’s Class of 2020 (5.30.20)

At first this pandemic felt like a classic man vs nature kind of narrative…. But since… defeating the virus [calls for] isolation, the situation feels truly… contemporary—more like man vs himself.

Despite the many uncertainties during the pandemic, newly accepted students like Sydney Hsieh are excited to join the Class of 2024.

As noted in a recent RISD Nature Lab newsletter, Maggie Swanson 73 IL—an accomplished children’s book illustrator who is perennially inspired by nature—collects flowers and other natural finds during morning walks through her neighborhood and then pauses to make lovely little arrangements that bring joy to others passing by.

Cindy Ji Hye Kim 13 IL in a wide-ranging interview in Ocula (5.8.20)

Though the coronavirus pandemic has taken so much away from us, for our industry it presents an opportunity to stop and rethink.

CORRECTIONS + CLARIFICATIONS Several details in the feature story Exploring Extremes in Iceland (see pages 26–31 in the fall/winter 19/20 issue) were unclear as printed. In addition to the expedition team noted (Michael Lye 96 ID, Dan Leeb 00 FAV, Gunnar Gudjonsson, Dave Hodge, Benjamin Pothier and Helga Kristín Torfadóttir), executive producer Ali Watson and nutritionist Sóley Arngrímsdóttir were also part of the team (and Helga’s surname was omitted). As for the two designers who worked with

Lye in developing the space suit as students, Erica Kim 18 AP/ID spells her first name with a c not a k (as in the published piece). And finally, in terms of financing the expedition, producers Ali Watson, Dave Hodge and Abbey Smith spent months planning and securing backing from United Airlines, the Explorers Club and several other outdoor and adventure brands, whereas Leeb and Lye were responsible for planning and logistics.

new Apparel Design graduate Olivia Shen 20 AP (WWD, 5.13.20)

We are in a really hard time right now, with a lot of uncertainty and fear…. So, in the words of my four-year-old daughter: Be brave! Grace Lin 96 IL in a video message to RISD’s Class of 2020 (5.30.20)


spring/summer 2020



Liisa Silander lsilande@risd.edu LEAD DES I GN E R/ PRO DU CTION C OOR D I N ATOR

Elizabeth Eddins 00 GD WRITERS /C OPY ED I TORS

Robert Albanese Simone Solondz CO NTRIBUTORS

Irina V. Wang MID 20 pages 6-7 Rose B. Simpson MFA 11 CR pages 18-25 Christy Blanchard pages 62-63

STAY HOME. REACH OUT This spring Nina Roesch 06 GD launched the site stayhomereachout.com, a global project meant to connect people around the world through the simple act of sending a postcard to a stranger. “The world has turned upside down,” she writes on the site. “How are you dealing with the new reality we live in?” Reaching out to people you don’t know is one way to break through the “echo chamber” of social media, Roesch says. “Sending a postcard makes you connect with another person on a human level that cannot be matched by emails, text messages or social media posts.”

Emily Neilson 15 FAV page 87 Shterna Goldbloom MFA 19 PH page 94 Gracey Zhang 16 IL page 96



Tanya Aguiñiga MFA 05 FD see more on pages 34-41


Christina Hartley 74 IL PRINTIN G

Lane Press, Burlington, VT FO NTS

Quiosco and Scout designed by Cyrus Highsmith 97 GD RISD XY Z

Two College Street Providence, RI 02903-2784 USA risdxyz@risd.edu risd.edu/xyz Published twice a year by RISD Media (in conjunction with Alumni Relations) ADDRES S UPDAT ES

Postmaster: Send address changes to Office of Advancement Services RISD, Two College Street Providence, RI 02903 USA

Just after I held two weekend open studio events in October at T Barny Gallery and Sculpture Gardens, the Kincade Fire broke out, just above our property. At 9:30 pm on October 27 the first of 30 fire engines raced up Pine Flat and by 3:30 am we could see the fire north of our neighbor’s vineyard. About 4:30 am Melinda and I got the dogs in the car along with our Go Boxes and some clean clothes in a laundry basket. We had no sculpture with us. We decided not to leave Pine Flat but parked in our neighbor’s vineyard watching as the fire moved towards their homes. As dawn broke a surge of fire trucks, dozers and water planes began saving Pine Flat. By noon we could see the immediate threat

was under control. We decided to go back home because we still had 42 sculptures at our place and more to pack. By Saturday it was clear the fire was not contained and we would have to leave again, this time going north to Cloverdale to stay with friends. That night, according to the scanner, fire “engulfed” Pine Flat Road and moved south. It was not until we returned Monday morning that we could confirm the T Barny Gallery and Sculpture Garden was still there! With everything burned out around us, we decided to stay home and rough it until power returned a week later. The garden was a mess, but we quickly got into clean-up mode—and can only say: Thank you, firefighters!

T Barny 80 SC Healdsburg, CA

// comments

SO MANY SILVER LININGS Hello everyone! I’ve spent the last 15 years working and designing for a denim brand here in Los Angeles but am now staying home like the rest of you. Unfortunately, I was furloughed along with the rest of my design department due to COVID-19, but that has opened up a lot of new experiences—positive and negative—for me. I had to file for unemployment for the first time in my life, which was terrifying. I have also seen my income negatively affected by the loss of Airbnb’ing my guest room (shout out to my classmate Brian Chesky 03 ID). But I’m actively consuming less and finding new ways to be resourceful with purchases. I’ve been landscaping and gardening more, which in turn led me to explore using things in and around my home to naturally dye fabrics for new development. I work out every morning, which was almost impossible with my prior commute (LA you know what I’m talking about). I’ve taken time to revisit my website and update my portfolio, which in turn led to some new freelance projects. I’ve managed to take a few socially distant trips to the desert to reconnect with nature. I’ve enjoyed the slower pace and setting my own schedule…. I hope that the apparel industry learns from this experience and values their employees’ time more and also works to be more sustainable and resourceful. Companies that survive this pandemic will be lean and very conscious of the money they have to spend on talent. So my advice to recent graduates is: Don’t be afraid to reach out for positions you may think you’re not qualified for. You may find this new environment provides access to opportunities you didn’t expect. Hang in there and enjoy the peace and solace of home while it lasts.

Christian Schulze 03 AP Los Angeles, CA

HOLY SOCKS! I completed my first marathon (26.7 miles), under quarantine, in socks, jogging circles in my kitchen!!! Then a second (28 miles) and third (33 miles) the following week! Two years ago after emergency heart surgery, I walked 4–15 miles daily in my kitchen for months and later on in Boston, as it was the only exercise allowed. Last December blood work signaled I needed to get back in shape, so I pushed walking for the next four months (8–22 miles daily exploring the city I love). When I quarantined on March 15, I started to jog in the same kitchen circle to get the steps desired. Running was tough as it was like running around a limo in a tight garage with walls, but jogging allowed me to hold my phone to chat, watch COVID-19 news, do some work and also help get PPE supplies from overseas to various places. When I neared 22 miles one day I thought, ‘Potatoes like me never do this, but another hour and I’ll be at marathon distance.’ So I said, ‘Go!’—and boom, I finished my first marathon ever.

FEELING THE WEIGHT During this trying time for our country and our world, I seem to have sought refuge on the bed of a printmaking press. Maybe it is the perfect metaphor for this moment— the mix of intense pressure with resistance (viscosity) to produce a record. Feeling the weight of not only past but future generations counting on our resolve in these moments, we stand on the precipice, contemplating the gravity of our situation, hoping for loopholes.

Dorothea Van Camp 84 IL (see also page 75) Boston, MA

Aaron Tang 02 ID Boston, MA Please email us with comments, queries, feedback, input: risdxyz@risd.edu.


spring/summer 2020



// reflections, opinions, points of view


by Irina V. Wang MID 20

As an editor of the student publication v.1, Irina worked with her co-editors and Jen Liese, director of the Center for Arts & Language, to launch Pandemic Publishing, an SOS online edition this spring. She originally posted this piece there on 3.29.20 and made selected updates to this version for XYZ. 06

IN MID MARCH OUR STUDIOS —like so many other places of work and gathering across the world—were abruptly vacated. One week, RISD was an art and design school bustling with predictable amounts of pre-midterm chaos and booking logistics for the graduate exhibition; the next week, campus shut down and we cleared everything out. Things happened impossibly fast before becoming impossibly slow, like Time making up for lost time. As the dust settles and I sit alone at home indefinitely, I miss my cohort’s multitextured piles of collective

debris and semi-biological experiments lined up by the window in various stages of growth/decay. I miss the brazen agency that comes with being freshly trained and over-equipped—because, of course, the loss of studio is the loss of the lathe, the laser cutter, the jacquard, the forge, the CNC, the kiln, the letterpress, the darkroom, the table saw, even the damn whiteboard and spare pliers. But the loss of studio is also the loss of a culture, which is why the work we finish will not be the work we started.

Studio culture is something only students can sculpt—with critique, commiseration, creation, exhaustion and excitement— together tempering anxiety and ambition.

“Studio culture,” a phrase bandied about in design school, suffers from the meaning-fatigue of overuse. In my experience, it’s something professors and programs attempt to instill, but only students can sculpt— with critique, commiseration, creation, exhaustion and excitement—together tempering anxiety and ambition. Crucially, every studio culture is built on the foundation of shared time, shared space and shared context. This simple combination, sustained over semesters, does something wonderful: it matures acquaintance into a blunt familiarity that honors solidarity over compatibility. It’s the stuff of families and platoons and summer camps. It’s profound without a capital “P”—it’s rare, but also ordinary. Like Japanese bathhouses and Parisian sidewalk cafés, the best studio cultures are an artful collision of the public and the private spheres. They are spaces where the communal and the individual cross-pollinate. They can represent the liminal space between solidarity and solitary—like library nooks, hiking trails, church pews, dance floors. Late Thursday nights in the studio, each of us could be plugged into a playlist and bent over a half-formed prototype, alone together before #alonetogether. As a semblance of spring semester restarts and “remote learning” launches in earnest, I try to imagine how I’ll recreate a sterilized slice of the public sphere right here in my one-room quarantine cage. How will studio culture evolve or devolve when our shared time is separated from a shared space? More puzzlingly, can it continue after our shared context has been uprooted, dissolved, displaced by the pandemic? My cohort was set to finalize our masterpiece theses this spring in order to earn our master’s degrees in May, a once-singular focus that suddenly seemed both trivially simple and impossible to attempt. We had always been excited to carve out our niche and amplify the value of our work. Months before the grand finale, that sense of pride wavered. Yes, there is still too much carbon dioxide in the atmosphere; yes, socioeconomic inequality still plagues climate solutions; yes, the privacy of our healthcare data is still compromised; yes, polarization is still stunting our quality of conversation; yes, gender stereotypes are still driving product development and division of labor; yes, hyperconnective technology is still altering our behaviors and spaces. Acknowledging that our Pet Problems retain—even gain—urgency in this quarantine, many of us may still feel unmotivated to vie for importance during a pandemic. In order to get any thesis work done, I have had to remind myself that equitable carbon sequestration Read more student writing at volume-1.org/pandemic-publishing.

will still matter when COVID-19 no longer does; it is an awful mantra to repeat while tens of millions of Americans file for unemployment and more than 340,000 have already died around the world. It seems my dissociation would have to grow along with those numbers. But in reality and throughout history, tragedies have always risen simultaneously and in multitudes. We will experience the cognitive dissonance of ranking urgencies as long as we model our internal landscape on competing media headlines and zero-sum Congressional budgets. Instead, I have to remind myself that equitable carbon sequestration still matters a whole lot even as COVID-19 also suddenly matters a whole lot. It also matters to the struggling local restaurant that I bike through the rain to pick up dinner sometimes. It matters to healthcare workers and the immunocompromised that I otherwise stay inside. It definitely matters to my sanity that I invent reasons to continue waking up early and putting on pants.

The loss of studio is also the loss of a culture, which is why the work we finish will not be the work we started. It’ll be the challenge of newfangled remote studio culture to help me hold all these things up at the same time. For the first time in weeks, I feel a rush of something like encouragement or relief. Maybe some normalcy and motivation will return through the sheer force of banal familiarity, inherited from the two years of shared times and spaces that keep on giving. Foolishly, I look forward to seeing everyone’s face pop up in a patchwork of video squares. This never could have been a job for the individual without the communal, and it is our new shared context— inside, outside, during and after studio—for shaping these commons. // RISDXYZ

spring/summer 2020


// rapid response

top right: photo by Xxxxxxxx Xxxxxxxxxxx



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changes each issue

NEW PRIORITIES As the curve in coronavirus hospitalizations in the US began to rise rapidly in early March, severe shortages of basic personal protective equipment left healthcare workers scrambling to find alternatives. Alarmed by the need, resourceful alumni across the country jumped in to design and produce low-cost masks and face shields. In Providence Matt Muller 14 FD (left, shown testing a new shield) and fellow designers at the inflatables startup Pneuhaus rejiggered their studio to 3D-print viable plastic face shields. Local medical professionals “love the fact that they can lay them flat and wipe them clean,” Muller says, adding that the $2–3-per-unit cost is less than a third of most shields. In rural Georgia Grady Sain 92 FAV transformed Positive Fields, the nonprofit arts and tech education center he leads, into a production site for making face shields for local healthcare workers. And in NYC the Brooklyn-based companies Studio Den Den (George Coffin 12 FD and Jillian Wiedenmayer BArch 12) and Rich Brilliant Willing (Theo Richardson 06 FD, Charles Brill 06 FD and Alex Williams 06 FD) were among the many who pitched in to do the same. “It’s easy to feel powerless in times of crisis,” Williams noted as RBW donated 10,000 face shields to healthcare providers in NYC. “But we saw an opportunity to really push ourselves to... solve challenging problems.”

Fast-Tracking a Viable Ventilator Industrial designer Colin P. Kelly 07 ID raced against the clock earlier this spring as part of the team creating the Spiro Wave bridge ventilator in New York City. Working collaboratively out of a high-tech manufacturing facility in Queens, the group of researchers, scientists, engineers, designers, physicians and regulatory experts got emergency approval from the FDA to turn an open-source design created in a class at MIT into an effective ventilator—and one that can be massproduced at a fraction of the average cost. As NYC quickly became the top hotspot for COVID-19 cases in the US, “we worked 24 hours a day to get this thing developed,” Kelly says. ventilatorresponse.com

Major Move to Masks As people around the world agree to protect each other by wearing masks, RISD makers are right there with them, using their skills and ingenuity to produce comfortable, washable face masks and teaching others how to make their own. In Austin Melissa Borrell MFA 05 JM got to work immediately, while in Providence textiles artist Jungil Hong 99 CR/MFA 15 TX made hundreds (like the ones shown here). Apparel designers who have also developed their own unique and often quite fashionable takes on this must-have accessory include: Karelle Levy 97 TX, Lindy McDonough 08 ID, Nicole Miller 73 AP, Naomi Mishkin 11 GL, Marcia Patmos 91 AP, Aiala Rickard 17 AP and Isabel Sicat BRDD 16 IL, among others. // RISDXYZ

spring/summer 2020



// mutually supportive—at a distance

SIGN OF THE TIMES Five years ago when Tavares Strachan 03 GL first began making art with the unifying phrase We are in this together, he didn’t exactly anticipate the widespread disruption caused by COVID-19. But during the pandemic, these words ring with unprecedented urgency: even in isolation from one another, everyone everywhere is intensely in this together. For Strachan—a multidisciplinary artist and RISD trustee—the statement felt especially apropos for his most recent public project with the residents of Telluride, CO. In designing the piece for the town’s renowned ski resort, he broke the text-based neon sculpture


// look

into individual words that are placed sequentially going up one of the mountains. As viewers ascend the slope on the gondola, the piece unfolds almost cinematically. “Once you put text in the public realm,” Strachan notes, “it takes on the ethos of the people viewing it—and they take ownership of it.” As part of an ongoing collaboration with The Telluride Foundation and the Ah Haa School for the Arts, his Together project will raise funds for local food banks and other charitable causes—a meaningful gesture of solidarity in extraordinary times. weareinthistogether.co + mariangoodman.com

Resilient Earthlings Like countless school teachers throughout the US, Kimberly Olson 92 IL/MAT 93 marvels at how well students have adapted to remote learning this spring. “Our littlest, seemingly most vulnerable Earth inhabitants have turned out… to be our most resilient,” says the longtime art educator at Centre School in Hanover, NH, where she teaches preschool through second-graders. Determined to keep art “hands-on, tactile [and] messy,” Olson is also embracing video and other tech supports that help her connect with students and encourage them to explore. “And the work is happening,” she says. “How? It is beyond my comprehension and increases my own admiration… and commitment to them.” instagram.com/mrs.olsonsclass

right: photo by Elaine Melko Photography

Finding Buoyancy Elaine Frei MLA 06 wears a mask that reads “spreading joy not germs” as she installs brilliantly bundled balloons all around Chicago. When local stay-at-home orders went into effect, she refocused the energies of her small staff at Luft Balloons on animating silent streets and buildings with ebullient arrangements typically made for more celebratory times. In aiming to brighten the days of frontline healthcare workers and people feeling cut off from their everyday lives, the former landscape architect has discovered volunteers who want to help, too— a community she calls the Joy Club. “We are doing this together,” she says—“connecting with love, perseverance and… balloons.” luftballoonstore.com


spring/summer 2020



// cheers for the old normal

JOY RIDE For more than a decade, Will Gurley 04 PT has poured his lifelong A native of Colorado, Gurley studied painting at RISD and induslove of play into helping Tivoli Gardens, one of Europe’s oldest and trial design at Central Saint Martins in London before relocating perennially most popular amusement parks, continue to attract Danish to Copenhagen. In addition to the Art Deco-infused amusements families looking for fun. He collaborates on themed environments he designs for Tivoli, he also maintains a studio practice focused on and attractions like Mælkevejen (Danish for “Milky Way Express”)— issues of industrialization, land conservation and the environment. a fantastical, technicolor revamp of the park’s historic Odin Express In both pursuits, humor and play are central to his approach—both roller coaster—which opened to great excitement last fall. as a maker and consumer. Gurley developed the retro-futuristic look and feel of the new As for his assessment of Mælkevejen after his first test run? roller coaster’s rocket train—including a rear engine that emits steam “I absolutely adore it.” and beams of light—and of the towering space probe at the center willgurley.com of what Tivoli calls “an intergalactic experience for slightly older children and other childish souls.” 12

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Stamp of Recognition Inspired by fantasy and mythology, Camille Chew MFA 20 PR has developed an online following as the Lord of Masks. Several years ago her intricate, fanciful work caught the eye of an art director at the United States Postal Service, who commissioned her to create a 2020 “forever stamp” honoring the Chinese Lunar New Year. After researching folklore and rituals associated with the Chinese zodiac, Chew created a mask for the Year of the Rat, which celebrates the rodent’s positive attributes: intelligence, resourcefulness and sociability. Now her new stamp is subtlely sending those same messages around the world. instagram.com/camillechew

Happily Grounded Named after the endangered flightless birds native to New Zealand, Kiwi is the plump protagonist of All the Birds in the World, the first picture book David Opie 90 IL has written and illustrated during his well-established career as an editorial illustrator. In this informational celebration of all things avian (released in June by Peter Pauper Press), the adorable tour guide laments not sharing the abilities of his peers, but ultimately embraces what makes him unique. “It’s a nonfiction book about one of my favorite topics,” says Opie, who lives in Connecticut with his wife, sculptor Miller Opie 90 JM, and their dog Amelia. spacemandave.com


spring/summer 2020



// fresh from the studio

SLIPPING + SLIDING Working in her studio over the past four decades, Arlene Shechet MFA 78 CR has built a remarkable body of work shaped by opposing forces: mass and motion, solidity and fluidity. “I want my work to look like it’s slipping and sliding and has life,” she said in a wide-ranging interview that ran in T: The New York Times Style Magazine the same day in late February that her solo exhibition Skirts opened at Pace Gallery in NYC. Though the gallery—which represents her—closed less than two weeks later due to COVID-19, the exhibition is viewable online through August 14. Similar tensions of opposites define both her process and work habits, Shechet says. While she’s “incredibly disciplined” when working in her Kingston, NY studio, she doesn’t like “being too goal oriented” and describes the time she devotes to making as wonderfully amorphous, with no beginning or end. “It’s a river... I swim in.” In fact, Shechet never sketches her sculptures in advance, preferring instead the spontaneity of serendipitous discovery. “I like to keep the energy in the art,” she says. “Any time I’ve had a preexisting idea and tried to make it, it’s been a complete failure.” arleneshechet.com


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The Joy of Looking In the five years since he relocated upstate to Coxsackie, NY, Colby Bird MFA 04 PH has set up shop in four different locations, including an abandoned firehouse and a defunct diner. The quirkiness of these workspaces seems to have seeped into the sculptures he exhibited in Unavoidable Blemishes, his latest solo exhibition at Halsey McKay Gallery in East Hampton, NY. Inspired by a Salvador Dali quote about the death of his mother, Bird achieves something seemingly contradictory with his intriguing, interactive pieces: in activating destructive processes within individual works, he invites viewers to consider serious subjects with a sense of wonder that elicits joy. halseymckay.com/colby-bird

A Future Fifth Race? In creating the 16 thought-provoking screenprints in La Raza Cósmica 20XX, Michael Menchaca MFA 15 PR drew from a wide range of references—including Silicon Valley, surveillance capitalism and the colonization of Mexico, along with a 1925 essay speculating on a future fifth race. Through the mode of Spanish Casta paintings, the San Antonio-based artist recasts New World Latinx identities as anthropomorphized animal families clutching modern-day “smart” devices—an allegorical hybrid symbolizing centuries of oppression. In addition to the Cósmica series (printed and published in Providence by Julia Samuels MFA 15 PR), the artist has curated shows and exhibited his own work widely in the past year—from NYC to Buggenhagen, Germany. michaelmenchaca.com


spring/summer 2020



// final frontiers

Still So Very True On the 50th anniversary of Earth Day in April, Jenny Holzer MFA 77 PT released a reimagined 1994 piece from her Truisms series that she finds poignantly well-suited to our concurrent public health and climate crises. “I was glad to find a sentence— however dusty—that could sincerely address both,” she told artnet about her limited-edition print made to raise funds for conservation and pandemic response initiatives. Yet, for however much she can help through art, Holzer isn’t thinking much right now about what COVID-19 means for art. “Let’s concentrate on how more people might stay alive and not suffer unnecessarily.” hauserwirth.com

In Emmet Gowin: The Nevada Test Site—a monograph of aerial photographs depicting the US government’s main Cold War-era nuclear testing grounds—Emmet Gowin MFA 67 PH offers a humbling, haunting vantage point for viewing humanity’s most destructive impulses. “The astonishing thing is that in spite of all [humans] have done, the earth still offers back so much beauty,” the photographer says of the work on view last fall at Pace Gallery in NYC. Rendered without judgment, the images Gowin made more than 20 years ago offer instruction. “The thing that we can do for the world,” he says, “is always expressed in terms of how we treat the world and each other—the quality of our behavior.” pacegallery.com


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left: photo © Emmet Gowin, courtesy of Pace Gallery

Considering Our Behavior

ANOTHER FINAL FRONTIER Last summer artists Shona Kitchen, head of Digital + Media at RISD, and Alyson Ogasian MFA 15 DM, an assistant professor in the program, set up camp on a small island on the east coast of Florida, in the space shared by a large wildlife refuge and the historic Kennedy Space Center. This “spoil island”—a landmass formed via government-led channel dredging in the mid-20th century—was the focus of Another Final Frontier, a site-specific collaboration (with writer/architect Charlie Hailey) that questions the boundary between nature and technology.

Cheekily mimicking the methods and behaviors of lunar explorers, Ogasian and Kitchen examined the biodiverse island as though it were extraterrestrial terrain in its own right—a place where humans could learn to live in harmony with the local flora. “There is less information [available] about this spoil island and the thousands like it that necklace the [Atlantic] coast than there is about the surface of the moon,” say the artists, who also led a series of public tours of the island and last winter exhibited their work at the Atlantic Center for the Arts in New Smyrna Beach, FL. “We have traveled far into space without even leaving Earth.” alysonogasian.com + shonakitchen.com // RISDXYZ

spring/summer 2020


Where I Come From

A mixed-media artist, Rose Simpson works out of her studio in Santa Clara Pueblo, the reservation in New Mexico where she grew up and is now raising her own young daughter.

by Rose B. Simpson MFA 11 CR I COME FROM A LONG, LONG LINE OF ARTISTS and creative people—and by a long line, I mean as far back as you can go. The idea of being an artist as separate from life is a very Western concept. To me it’s how you move through the world, and colonization was the very thing that separated art from our life—from everyday life. But with Western ways of living, we’ve had to figure out how to market our aesthetic ways of being—and to make a living from that because we’re not sustaining ourselves from the land anymore. For me it’s been a really interesting thing to watch how a lot of indigenous people have navigated that sort of new way of finding a livelihood.

• • • • When I came to RISD for graduate school in ceramics a lot of the conversation was about art versus craft. And there was this attitude of, “Don’t call me a craftsman” because “craft” is apparently bad. It was 2009—two years after I graduated from the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe—and I left home not only to get a master’s degree in ceramics, but also because I wanted to know what it felt like to be anonymous. I loved Rhode Island. I loved being away. I loved the freedom to build myself from what felt like scratch. I loved my classes and the pull and stretch of thoughts and creativity. I loved the


// Where I Come From

Rose B. Simpson MFA 11 CR

time to consider—subject, process, material, culture. “Rose comes from a family of potters,” one of my professors there once told a visiting artist. The woman looked up from her ceramic work and her not-very-dirty hands and studied me. “How long has pottery been in your family?” she asked. “About 700 years,” I said. “Give or take.” (It didn’t seem so long compared to the 13,000-year ancestry of ceramics in, say, Asia.) “But why would someone with a cultural pedigree like that go to grad school for ceramics?” she asked. “Not quite sure,” I said. “Masochism?”

My studio in late February, just before I left for a two-week residency at Anderson Ranch. It was a great experience and I was able to finish some work for my spring show at Jack Shainman Gallery in Kinderhook, NY. The show is now on hold due to the pandemic.

At RISD working with ceramics strummed at the rubber band that connected me to home—the place where I noticed usable clay in the dirt sides of roadcuts, where I lived in a mud house and dug my hands into the earth—where the entire context is clay.

As much as I loved RISD, it was also painful to work with clay theory and ceramics there. It strummed at the rubber band that connected me to home—the place where I noticed usable clay in the dirt sides of roadcuts, where I lived in a mud house and dug my hands into the earth to plant, to clear the fields, to cook pots and to roast food. Where I come from, the entire context is clay. But RISD also gave me opportunities like the study abroad course Clay in Japan. In Kashihara I lived with other students and worked behind a printmaking factory in a traditional ceramic studio with an anagama kiln. I wandered with my Japanese-speaking RISD buddies, intentionally getting lost and strengthening our aesthetic-appreciation muscles. But over time, I still yearned to return to my center place— to return with new eyes and find these aesthetic moments in the density of the familiar. • • • • Doing ceramics at RISD meant talking a lot about how work that’s utilitarian can’t be art. And when I was there a decade ago so many people wanted so badly to not be seen as craftspeople. They wanted to be artists, and they wanted to make work that ended up in museums. I actually did a piece once where I spent the same amount of time making a thing that hung on the wall as throwing cups that were useful—and then I tried to sell them for the same price. Nobody would pay the same price for the cups that I had spent the same amount of time on as the wall piece. That little experiment was just my own sort of investigation into that endless craft conversation, but I guess it proved a point.

previous spread: photo by Kate Russell

previous spread: River Girls (2019), photographed in situ right: Reclamation III: Rite of Passage (2019, ceramic, leather, steel, auto body filler, wood, 42 ½ x 17 x 12") was shown in Duo, my fall solo show at Jessica Silverman Gallery in San Francisco.



spring/summer 2020


To me lineage has a lot to do with respect and humility.... To feel like I’m independent of that lineage... would be very naive and disrespectful.

Indigenous peoples have navigated multiple apocalypses— genocide, land loss and cultural decimation. Through it all, many of us have maintained our relationship with the creative process, and innovation and spiritual empowerment have been our life raft. During stressing times like these, we need to look to our indigenous people for guidance (without exploitation). At the same time, indigenous people need to get into high art places, and say, “Hey, remember our power is in our hands, and you are powerless if you can’t make, and you can’t create, and you can’t live in this world.” As this pandemic is reminding us, what happens if this all falls apart and we don’t know how to cook anymore and we don’t know how to make our own food, we don’t know how to grow our own food? True power lies in all those things—in utilitarian ways of being. So I think what I’m trying to do is kind of enter into those places that still put high art at the top of the hierarchy, and try to wake people up to their humanity.

• • • • To me lineage has a lot to do with respect and humility. My mother—Roxanne Swentzell—supported her family with her ceramic sculpture. I remember watching her work from when I was still crawling and she was always telling me not to touch her work. I wanted to “help her” so bad and wasn’t aware that there was any difference between art and life. My mother still works hard as a ceramic sculptor, but she would not have had the recognition and platform for her work that she has if my grandmother hadn’t created that for her. And my great-grandmother also created that for my grandmother and I’m now trying to do the same for Nugget, my three-year-old. So we’re all sort of creating this next step for our next generations. To feel like I’m independent of that lineage—or that kind of foundation and establishment—would be very naive and disrespectful.

images courtesy of the artist and Jessica Simpson Gallery, San Francisco, CA

When Jessica Silverman invited me to participate in a group show at her San Francisco gallery a year ago, it was the beginning of my representation by JSG and a really amazing friendship with both her and her partner, Sarah Thornton. I made Root 1 (2019, ceramic, glaze, linen, jute string, steel, leather, 70 x 20 ½ x 16") for my fall solo show there, which pushed my creative process in really vulnerable and exploratory ways.


// Where I Come From

Rose B. Simpson MFA 11 CR

• • • • I now live where I grew up—in Santa Clara Pueblo, a reservation in New Mexico. It’s directly adjacent to Espanola, which is a small city in northern New Mexico that’s sandwiched between two reservations and has a strong heritage of Hispanic culture. Like the women in my family, my dad’s an artist, too— Patrick Simpson. He works in wood and metal. When I was a kid my mom decided to turn off the electricity just to see if we could live off the grid. She’s a very do-it-yourself woman, so we were very empowered to figure things out on our own. She was always the one out there with a chainsaw, fixing cars, building the house. I definitely didn’t grow up with any specific gender roles for work.


As a teenager I’d be hanging out with my friends and when we drove through town we would see these amazing cars, because Espanola is the so-called Lowrider Capital of the World. (It has more lowriders per capita than even Orange County in California!) I would see these spectacular works of art on the street and I remember as a kid being like, “When I grow up, I’m going to have a custom car.” I just wanted to feel that fabulous, you know? There was something about the sense of accomplishment making a custom car represented. In retrospect I realize that that came from disenfranchisement and what I call “postcolonial stress disorder”—something our communities are wrought with. It’s this daily struggle of being in a world that isn’t necessarily in line with your


spring/summer 2020



// Where I Come From

Rose B. Simpson MFA 11 CR

photos by Kate Russell

For a performance piece I first did during an artist residency at the Denver Art Museum, I drive my lowrider Maria flanked by a squad of indigenous and queer warriors wearing this post-apocalyptic gear I made. A loud heartbeat throbbing through the car’s 1,000-watt speaker system creates a kind of drum beat for the parade.

ancestral ways of being. So it sort of jars everyone, and that causes a lot of trauma, and a lot of difficulties—alcoholism, drug abuse, domestic violence, things like that. As a child I feel like I was sort of up against a lot of things that I probably shouldn’t have been—that were sort of unhealthy. But it was in the entire community, and everyone goes through that, and we’re all figuring out ways to try to survive it—and a lot of us don’t survive it. One of the ways that I found out I could survive was to escape through cars. I bought my first car from my mom when I was 12. It was a Jeep Cherokee that was always breaking down. I kept having to fix it on my own because I needed it to run. And I drove myself to driver’s ed at 14 and got my driver’s license when you could—at 14. My car became my freedom, and it became my safety, and it became a true comrade in my survival. Because I didn’t have a lot of money, I worked on my car a lot and I think it wasn’t just that it broke down a lot and I had to fix it, but actually in a world where things are incredibly psychologically confusing and hard to process, an engine is very calming. It’s all very dependable. Gear A turns right, gear B turns left, gear C turns right. Even if it’s breaking down all the time, there’s a way to fix it. I think I projected myself onto my vehicle—and throughout my life, all of my vehicles. By understanding that it is fixable and it is customizable, you can make it fabulous. And if it does break down, there’s a way to get it running again. My car was always so much a projection of myself. So when I came back to Santa Clara Pueblo from Rhode Island, and I had been studying relational aesthetics at RISD, I drove through Espanola and I was like: “Man, talk about relational aesthetics. These lowriders—these custom cars— are everything they’re talking about. This is performance art.” This is like your house is missing windows and half burnt down, but you have a nice car in the yard—and that’s survival. I understand the psychology of needing a car as a projected source of self-worth. When your life is crumbling but you can drive through town with a sense of pride, it might just keep you alive. And I think the reason that it makes sense that my lowrider Maria is in this major traveling exhibition at the Smithsonian is because I was trying to stay very true to applying my aesthetic integrity to my personal, psychological investigation. And so, I wasn’t like, “Oh, I’m going to make it so that she makes it into a museum.” I was like, “I’m going to make it so that it changes me.” If it changes me, and it transforms me, and it makes me just walk with my head a little bit higher today, that was the whole point, right? She is one of a kind, and very, very specific. She has so much heart. That car is dripping with my heart.

My car became my freedom, and it became my safety, and it became a true comrade in my survival.


I poured my heart and soul into making Maria. She’s a 1985 Chevy El Camino lowrider I built and named after Maria Martinez, the Pueblo potter who developed the look and feel of Santa Clara black-on-black ceramics in the early 1900s. And of course, just before I was supposed to drive her to the Smithsonian to be part of a big traveling exhibition, she broke down and I had to scramble to fix her.


spring/summer 2020


Born and raised in Alaska, photographer Acacia Johnson is drawn to documenting dramatic change in the Arctic.

Narratives from the Far North FROM THE FIRST MOMENT she could work a camera,

Acacia Johnson 14 PH began focusing on her most immediate surroundings—the breathtaking nature in Alaska, her home state. So far she has made more than 55 photographic expeditions to polar regions, returning with poignant visual narratives of the impact of globalization and climate change on ancient traditions and ways of life. Now that two of her most recent series—on Alaskan brown bears and an Inuit community in Canada—have appeared in National Geographic, she’s reaching wide audiences.

It’s a story of incredible environmental urgency— and one that hits close to home…

“I’ve been thinking a lot about the impact of what I create and which stories the world could benefit from most,” Johnson says. That led her to approach NatGeo last year with a timely story about growing environmental threats to Alaskan brown bears. Now that a proposed new gold and copper mine near the Alaska Peninsula has gotten the green light from state and federal officials, activists warn that the fragile ecosystem supporting the densest population of brown bears on Earth will be irrevocably ruined.


// Narratives from the Far North

Acacia Johnson 14 PH

“It’s a story of incredible environmental urgency— and one that hits close to home for my family,” says Johnson, whose parents both worked as brown bear guides in the 1980s. Today, roughly 8–10,000 bears— a fifth of North America’s total—live in the state sanctuary and surrounding region most closely impacted by the proposed Pebble Mine.

above: A female known as T Bear nurses her year-old cubs in the tidal flats of McNeil River State Game Sanctuary and Refuge, with Augustine Volcano in the background. A proposed mine corridor to the north is expected to disrupt the habitat for all wildlife in the region.

Flying over Alaska’s McNeil Falls at 2,000 feet in a single-engine aircraft—with bush pilot Kirk Johnson, her father—Johnson was able to photograph brown bears feasting on chum salmon in the river.


“To see this many bears in one place is a huge testament to how pristine the entire ecosystem is,” Johnson notes in the online NatGeo story, which went live in January. But as the piece points out, all that is in jeopardy now that Alaska Governor Mike Dunleavy and President Trump teamed up to “enthusiastically endorse” the Pebble Mine and the US Environmental Protection Agency subsequently dropped its opposition to the ecologically precarious project. “I had shot some wildlife photos while working as a polar expedition guide,” Johnson says, “but up until last summer, it was never my focus.” Still, happy to revisit her family in Anchorage and tap into transportation help from her father, an accomplished bush pilot, she spent six weeks photographing bears in and around the pristine McNeil River State Game Sanctuary and Refuge last summer in what became “a dream assignment and a family camping adventure rolled into one.” Thinking about the project in retrospect, Johnson notes the clear contrasts from her previous photojournalistic ventures. “With animals you need a lot of time and patience. It’s kind of a meditative experience,” she says. “But with people, it’s completely different. It’s about cultivating relationships and listening to their stories.”


spring/summer 2020



// Narratives from the Far North

Acacia Johnson 14 PH

far left: Winter clothing made from caribou skin keeps Valerie and Michael Qaunaq warm, while their three-yearold son Joshua is bundled up in an outfit made from a harp seal. left: A break in the sea ice means a carefully orchestrated crossing for Olayuk Naqitarvik, pulling his grandson in a qamutik (sled) packed with supplies for a family camping trip. Despite being ill and frail, Naqitarvik’s wife Martha insisted on taking part to relay her deep knowledge of living off the land to the next generations.

LEARNING FROM THE ICE That difference is clear in Johnson’s series Sea Ice Stories, which ran in the September 2019 issue of National Geographic—as the cover story in selected international editions. In 2014, right after graduating from RISD, she earned a Fulbright from the Canadian government to spend the long, dark winter living in an Inuit community in Ikpiarjuk, Nunavut on Baffin Island. “When you don’t see the sun for a long time, your eyes grow more sensitive to light,” Johnson points out. “My perception of the moon and the stars was a lot greater than I was accustomed to—their light was staggering.” So, too, was the experience overall. After originally proposing to do a landscape-focused photography project on Baffin Island, Johnson says: “Once I showed up the reality was quite different from what I imagined. Instead it seemed more important to focus on the cultural transition happening there and the importance of the Arctic landscape in people’s lives.” Struck by the richness of the sea ice ecosystem, which has sustained the Inuit for millennia, Johnson realized that she needed to focus on the effect melting ice will have on people’s lives, cultures and subsistence traditions. websitexxxxxxxxxxx.com acaciajohnson.com

…everything revolves around the stability of the sea ice. It’s a living ecosystem— a facilitator of life.

“In the past three decades, multiyear ice—the thickest and oldest type that supports the Arctic marine ecosystem—has declined by 95 percent. But everything revolves around the stability of the sea ice. It’s a living ecosystem—a facilitator of life,” Johnson says. “Elders no longer can predict safe travel routes on thinning ice, and animal migration patterns are changing. The future of the ice—and those who live on it—is uncertain, but the warming climate will drastically impact the people who live here.” Just as these projects started to provide inroads into photojournalism, Johnson got accepted to grad school at the University of Virginia. Although COVID-19 forced her to leave campus this semester, she's now halfway through an MFA program in creative writing, still trying to figure out how she wants to work with words and images going forward. // RISDXYZ

spring/summer 2020


left: Wearing a parka sewn by her mother, Ashley Hughes celebrated her 10th birthday camping with friends and family at Ikpikittuarjuk Bay, where they participated in the Inuit community’s annual ice fishing competition for arctic char.

I feel a magnetic draw to polar landscapes and have many more ideas for stories about the Arctic.

“I think it would make sense for me to write the words of a photo documentary I’m heavily invested in,” Johnson says. “But in some cases it can divide your focus, so I’ve been extremely grateful to the writers I’ve partnered with.” For now Johnson is thinking about other environmentally focused photo essays she might want to pursue in faraway places after she earns her degree. And she also plans to return to Baffin Island after a few years—to document “the passage of time” and reconnect with friends there. “I don’t want to limit myself,” she says, “but I do feel a magnetic draw to polar landscapes and have many more ideas for stories about the Arctic.”

32 32

// Narratives feature titlefrom theName Far North XxxxxxxxxAcacia XX XX Johnson 14 PH

—Liisa Silander and Simone Solondz

top right: photo by Xxxxxxxx Xxxxxxxxxxx

right: Detail of Johnson’s photo of fireweed blooming in the foreground as visitors watch brown bears walk through the edge of the McNeil River campground on the Alaskan Peninsula.

top right: photo by Xxxxxxxx Xxxxxxxxxxx



spring/summer 2020


by Tanya Aguiñiga MFA 05 FD

Metabolizing the Border Building on public and private support for her recent advocacy projects, Tanya Aguiñiga has earned a 2020 COLA Artist Fellowship from the city of Los Angeles to continue raising awareness of migrant rights. Her recent projects promoting dialogue on the US/Mexico border were exhibited at MAD in 2018, the Smithsonian American Art Museum in 2018/19 and this year in Borderlands Within, which—before COVID-19 changed everything—was scheduled to continue through August 9 at the Armory Center for the Arts in Pasadena, CA.

America’s Wall (2018) extracts evidence of the existing wall in front of Trump’s proposed wall. Made of corrugated jet landing mats recycled from the Gulf War/Desert Storm, this section of border fence dates from Operation Gatekeeper, a reinforcement of the border in 1994/95 that was responsible for more migrant deaths 36

// Metabolizing the Border

in its first year than in the previous 75 years. Rust impressions of the wall on cotton suggest its lasting impact on the people who cross it. photo by Gina Clyne | courtesy of the artist and AMBOS Project | performed by Tanya Aguiñiga, Jackie Amézquita, Cecilia Brawley, Natalie Godinez, Izabella Sanchez and Shannen Wallace

Tanya Aguiñiga MFA 05 FD

I WAS BORN IN SAN DIEGO but grew up in Tijuana, Mexico and for 14 years— from when I was four years old until I graduated from high school at 18— I crossed the border every day to go to school in the US. It was a pretty difficult thing to do as a child. My father and I would cross at 3:30 in the morning so I could go to school at 8, and if the crossing went quickly, I would have to find a place to wait in the morning before school started. The border crossing itself is a very harrowing thing to go through. Everybody is defensive and on edge trying to get across to work or school. It made for a different experience growing up, and it was also something I couldn’t talk to other people about. If they knew that I lived outside of the school district, I would have been kicked out immediately. So it was very stigmatizing. Hundreds of thousands of us go through this experience of commuting across the border every day, but we go through it in silence, without talking about the traumatic aspects. So it was one of those things that really shaped my life—especially in the 1990s when there were thousands of migrants lined up along the border fence. During our commute, I would see how many grown men were risking their lives to make it to the other side, when I, as a child, could just go back and forth. My privilege of being a US citizen was always something I was aware of. When I studied furniture design at RISD, that experience was something that allowed me to be creative and expressive, but it also kept my work within a more working-class mindset.

I was always an artistic child but was never really given the outlet to make art, you know? Because everyone in my family worked service-level jobs, I never really knew that that was an option— that you could design things and make a living. So at RISD I found a whole new language for design—and how to make meaningful work, things that you’re emotionally invested in. You make much better decisions when you know how the work connects to your personal story—and that’s something I learned at RISD. As I got older, I started to focus less on making objects and more on communitybased work and migrant rights. So now it has been this long process of working with these communities for 20 years.

DEEPER UNDERSTANDING After the presidential election in 2016 I decided that because there were so many bad things being said about Mexicans and Mexico, it was time for me to return to doing work on the border. When I got a Creative Capital Award and later the first Johnson Fellowship from Americans for the Arts, I was able to start the AMBOS project, which stands for Art Made Between Opposite Sides. In the beginning it was really specific to the San Ysidro border crossing and the vendors there that I knew so well, who really humanized the process of crossing. We turned a stall on that border crossing into a community space where artists from Tijuana, LA and San Diego could do different activations about the border from their perspectives as Mexicans, Mexican-Americans and Chicanos.

At RISD I found a whole new language for design—and how to make meaningful work, things that you’re emotionally invested in. previous spread: Metabolizing the Border (2019-20) is made of blown glass embedded with pieces of border fence. I wear it to explore how the body confronts fragments of the border fence through sight, sound, smell, taste and tactility. photo by Gina Clyne | courtesy of the artist

tanyaaguiniga.com + ambosproject.com


spring/summer 2020


Hundreds of thousands of us go through this experience of commuting across the border every day, but we go through it in silence, without talking about the traumatic aspects.


// Metabolizing the Border

how people feel emotionally in each of the ports of entry. Also, because of the changing state of Trump’s fence, we wanted to document what life is like in each city on opposite sides of the border. We engaged artists to document the art being made on each side and whether there is any dialogue between the communities on either side. For me, as someone who crossed this border every day as a child, it all felt very raw and emotional. I kept thinking back to the many times when I was in emotional distress as a border commuter and realized that all I really needed was someone to check in with me—to ask me how I was feeling. It’s something we rarely do—we just go about our everyday routines. We don’t give a lot of attention to the psychological aspects of the things we go through. So, I just wanted to check in with people and give them an opportunity to express themselves. Once we saw what was coming back through the postcards—how that reflected the different issues that each part of the border faces and how all the different areas are affected by border policy per state, border patrol sectors

Tanya Aguiñiga MFA 05 FD

and the political issues in either Mexico or the US—it became this really interesting three-year project. As a result of engaging with different artists in each of the border cities, we ended up doing collaborations at the border or activations at the actual fence. Every region is so different. The way people live with borders in different places is something we can learn from. Every place started to project its own emotion through the postcards and our conversations with people. At the Douglas/Agua Prieta crossing in Arizona people see the wall as a place of coming together rather than a point of division. They work together to do cultural programming along the fence, so residents of both cities can come together through music or theater. In other places in Arizona, the fence is super militarized. Those places where there’s a majority of undocumented crossings—in the desert—it’s very intense. When we got close to the fence, a helicopter would come and kind of harass us. Being in places where the border patrol has killed people through the fence makes for a really different way of people interacting with the border.

For Border Quipu (2016– 18), one of the interventions undertaken as part of Art Made Between Opposite Sides, we went up to people waiting to cross the border in cars or on foot and gave them a postcard and two strings representing both sides of the border and their two selves on either side of it. We asked each person to tie the strings together and return them to us with comments on the card about what they were thinking as they crossed the border.

photos by Gina Clyne | courtesy of the artist and AMBOS Project

But once I started thinking about the larger implications of the work, the project expanded so that it could be more open and relate to regions outside of the one where I grew up, which is just one of many. One of the big projects, the Border Quipu, is a piece that visualizes our experience as a community through engaging people who congregate at and cross the border. We went up to every pedestrian and every person in a car waiting to cross and gave them two strings and a postcard that explains that the strings represent the relationship between the US and Mexico—our two selves on either side of the border and also our emotional state while crossing. And the card reads: “Please make a knot.” On the opposite side it asks: “What are your thoughts when you cross this border?” The postcard allowed us to engage with people on a very simple level. Through it we could talk to vendors, taxi drivers, the young and the old—everybody whose lives are highly affected by border politics. As we continued the Border Quipu we got a better sense of what life is like and

I have started to distill the 2,000-mile border through my body— trying to understand [it] with my five senses and attempting to metabolize the physical as emotional.

photos by Gina Clyne | courtesy of the artist and AMBOS Project | performed by Tanya Aguiñiga and Jackie Amézquita

ENGAGING THROUGH CRAFT For me, using craft-based mediums is a really beautiful starting point for projects like this. We all have a relationship to crafted objects and materials like fiber and ceramics—they’re the things we all live with. In most places outside of the US, craft is art. There’s not an issue of its value constantly being questioned. So for me, craft-based prompts offer a really incredible design solution to engaging communities and creating community around the collective creation of objects. With the Border Quipu project, at first I wanted to teach people to knit and crochet. But thinking about it in practice, we imagined ourselves physically running after the cars to do that. It seemed like the easiest way to do a really successful engagement would be to ask people to do the most minimal thing. Once you get them involved, you can spend more time talking about where this is going, or what it’s for. It leads to a lot of interesting conversations about cultural erasure, colonialism and hierarchical structures. Craft offers a solution for a lot of problems. When people say, “I don’t know how to make a knot,” I respond, “Well, you tied your shoes this morning!” Then it allows you to start a conversation, and demystifies what art or sculpture is. It allows people to participate regardless of their social or financial status. Now, after almost four years of AMBOS and the active physical and emotional labor of that project, I have started to distill the 2,000-mile border through my body—trying to understand how

I dealt and deal with the materiality of the border with my five senses and attempting to metabolize the physical as emotional. My latest piece Metabolizing the Border is made of blown glass embedded with pieces of border fence. I wear it to explore how the body confronts fragments of the border fence through sight, sound, smell, taste and tactility. The sandals are modeled after tire-soled huaraches that rural and indigenous people wear in Mexico and Central America. They are sculpted in glass to represent the struggle migrants face when arriving in the United States. And they are designed to fail. These glass prosthetics represent a radical shift in my work methodology and materials, bringing my 20+ years of work on the border to an acute focus on the emotional and psychological effects that a wall has on those living on the border. I have also been working with transgender asylum seekers in Tijuana and had been working to open a ceramic studio at a shelter for LGBTQ asylum seekers. We want to use craft as a way to positively change narratives of how the most vulnerable in the asylum community are seen in the eyes of Mexican border towns and US media. Now, with COVID-19, that project is on hold, Metabolizing the Border at the Armory is closed, my COLA Fellowship group show got cancelled and two other museum shows scheduled to open this spring have been postponed. But, the border has taught me to adapt to change and uncertainty. And we will adapt.

In Tension (2017) Jackie Amézquita and I did backstrap weaving together, with each of us on opposite sides of the border fence at Douglas, AZ and Agua Prieta, Mexico—in constant view of the US Border Patrol. For us this type of indigenous weaving represents the resistance and resilience of precolonial culture, along with the bodily connection to labor. This site is especially significant because it is where Jackie attempted to enter the US illegally as a teenager to reunite with her mother. tanyaaguiniga.com + ambosproject.com


spring/summer 2020



// feature title

Name Xxxxxxxxx XX XX

top right: photo by Xxxxxxxx Xxxxxxxxxxx

Visions of Dahomey A Fulbright experience in Benin, West Africa gave Ashton Agbomenou insight into the culture and people his parents left behind when they sought a brighter future in the US.

by Liisa Silander

top right: photo by Xxxxxxxx Xxxxxxxxxxx

THE NIGHT WAS UNFATHOMABLE on the drive to Togo—a black-

ness so deep that the primeval glow of the moon offered an eerie counterpoint to the occasional howls and growls in the distance. For Ashton Agbomenou 14 FAV the memory of that nighttime drive during a visit to Benin was “kind of scary” but also “exhilarating.” As a teenager about to enter RISD, he wasn’t really into participating in a family odyssey that summer. Why put up with getting devoured by mosquitoes when he had one last chance to hang out with his high school friends in Harlem? websitexxxxxxxxxxx.com

Yet that night he felt oddly at home in the small West African country his parents had left shortly before he was born in 1992. “Knowing where I was in the world at that point in time contrasted so starkly with the reality of what I had experienced for most of my life in the US,” he recalls. It’s that reassuring moment of recognition—of feeling deeply and inexplicably at home despite literally being thousands of miles from home—that made Agbomenou realize for the first time that he wanted to learn more about his Béninoise roots. // RISDXYZ

spring/summer 2020


previous spread: Self-Portrait (2020, oil on linen, 40 x 20") and Mino (2020, oil on linen, 40 x 26"), one of Agbomenou’s historical paintings of the Dahomey Amazons. left: With his iPhone in hand, the artist captured photos of everyday life in Benin. Several—including the napping motorcyclist— inspired subsequent paintings. right: Guilty Gear (2017, oil on polytab, 58.5 x 63") is among the paintings Agbomenou made several years ago while focusing on the lived experiences in his community in NYC.

Although both of his parents immigrated to the US from Benin, talk of the home country in his household centered more on updates from friends and relatives living in Grand Popo (his mother’s small town) and Porto-Novo (his father’s home city) than on the rich history of the Dahomey Kingdom, as that region of Africa was known for the 300 years prior to French colonial rule in the 20th century. Like so many immigrants, his parents had come to America more interested in assimilating than standing out. As a result, “ever since I was young my knowledge of my ancestry has remained limited to the fragments of information I’d get from world history books and frail online searches,”


// Visions of Dahomey

Ashton Agbomenou 14 FAV

Agbomenou wrote in applying for a Fulbright grant to spend most of the 2019/20 academic year in Benin, going to school at the University Abomey Calvi and doing cultural research to inform a new series of paintings.

TRANSITIONS Growing up in NYC, Agbomenou experienced both a sense of community and the racism endemic to life in the US. When he studied at RISD, where he majored in Film/Animation/Video, it wasn’t easy to adjust—to peers from more privileged backgrounds, long studio hours and few faculty members of color.

But by the time he graduated, Agbomenou had pushed, stretched and connected with a wide range of people who he now considers friends for life. “The most valuable thing I got from RISD was being part of such a diverse creative community,” he says. “Although you’re ultimately accountable for the work you produce, your peers act as your guides and we were there for each other.” After graduation Agbomenou returned to NYC and, like so many other artists, landed in Brooklyn. He worked as a production assistant in the film world and as a studio assistant for two amazing artists he had met at RISD, Simone Leigh and Chitra Ganesh.

Within a couple of years of being back in NYC, Agbomenou realized that he “wanted to create a series of portraits exploring and celebrating the faces of the African diaspora that would also preserve the cultures of these communities.” During a 2018 residency at Wave Hill in the Bronx, he began a body of work to celebrate the diverse cultural heritage of other New Yorkers who had emigrated from Africa. He initially set out to interview black people living in Harlem about both their changing neighborhood and their sense of their own place in society.

The most valuable thing I got from RISD was being part of such a diverse creative community.... We were there for each other.



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Yet the more people Agbomenou spoke to, the more he was reminded of just how different the experiences are for recent arrivals from Africa and for African-Americans whose families have lived in the US for generations. “There is real conflict between the two black communities,” he acknowledges.


// Visions of Dahomey

Ashton Agbomenou 14 FAV

Even after accepting a position teaching film at his old high school, Agbomenou continued to be troubled by how much issues of income inequality, police brutality and racial profiling impact his community. And he was itching to figure out a specific direction for his practice—a meaningful way to make a difference in a country that no longer felt much like the shining beacon his parents had sought when they left Benin.

In Benin I learned a lot about the customs and rituals of voodoo, which... presents ways of honoring your ancestors.

HOME AGAIN When Agbomenou’s Fulbright proposal was approved last spring, the last thing on his mind was that his year abroad would get interrupted by a global pandemic. He took a leave of absence from his new teaching job and was beyond excited when he arrived at his grandparents’ home in Cotonou last fall to begin learning more about his ancestral culture at a very deep level. As he was welcomed into the fold, Agbomenou quickly learned that as a people the Beninese are warm and kind. “The festive nature I thought to be a trait of my own family turns out to be something of a national characteristic,” he says. “Music permeates the streets. The people are also very spiritual. I learned a lot about the customs and rituals of voodoo, which, like most other religions, has dualistic qualities of good and evil. But mainly it presents ways of honoring your ancestors.”

above: In Beach Boys (2020, oil on linen, 40 x 30") Agbomenou portrays three friends fishing at Fidjrossé Beach. right: Pose (2020, oil on linen, 14.5 x 20") depicts a Zemidjan taxi driver catching a midday nap. left: A watercolor made during his 2018 residency at Wave Hill in the Bronx.



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Knowing where I was in the world... contrasted so starkly with the reality of what I had experienced for most of my life in the US.

above: Work in progress in the studio Agbomenou worked in while living in Cotonou, Benin. right: In Nuevo Benin (2020, oil on linen, 23 x 13") a boy carries a bucket of clean water as construction continues in downtown Cotonou.


Agbomenou also discovered the power and significance of his own surname. “It means ‘person from Abomey’—the capital of Dahomey,” he explains, “so it almost always grants me access to places otherwise reserved for locals. The other day someone said to me: ‘You seem like you are from somewhere else.’ When I told him my last name, he was shocked and celebrated my return!” In the five months Agbomenou lived and studied in Benin before the rapid spread of COVID-19 forced the US government to recall all Fulbright recipients from their host countries, he was able to begin the series of paintings he had set out to do—“to encapsulate the history and daily routines of the people of the Dahomey Kingdom.” Agbomenou had been working on finding the best guide to take him through Abomey (the historic center of the kingdom) to research artifacts and collect other reference materials. He

// Visions of Dahomey

Ashton Agbomenou 14 FAV

was thrilled to have arranged for an early April tour with Prince Maurice Benhanzin, the fourth-generation son of former King Benhanzin, when the escalating pandemic suddenly squashed those plans and he was forced to return to NYC. Despite the staggering disappointment, Agbomenou is busy processing everything he learned about his ancestral home and with the help of reference material from the prince, is still working on his Dahomey series—albeit from the opposite side of the Atlantic. “In Benin I learned to be more resourceful given the obstacles I was facing with transportation and communication,” he says. “I learned to be more tolerant of mosquitoes, ride a motorcycle and most importantly, bear witness to a lot of the poverty and struggles that my parents had always spoken of. And I’ve learned to unwind and think about my place in the flurry of historical waves that landed me in my ancestral home.”

campus news

// re: faculty, studios, initiatives

PIVOTING TO REMOTE LEARNING As educators around the world responded to the sudden need to teach remotely this spring, nowhere was this major disruption in pedagogical practice more challenging than at art and design colleges like RISD. Hands-on material investigations, late-night studio conversations, in-person crits, visiting artists and access to highly specialized tools and equipment are all vital components of the overall experience. Still, in less than two weeks in March, every RISD faculty member figured out how to transform their spring classes in progress into remote learning experiences for students needing to complete the semester from homes around the world. Here and on the next two pages we offer a few examples of how that played out.

left: photo by Jo Sittenfeld MFA 08 PH

Adapting to New Realities Connecting from their homes around the world this spring, Graphic Design students and faculty reconsidered what—and how—they make. “We’re lucky in Graphic Design because we can go back and forth with dexterity between the physical and digital worlds,” notes Assistant Professor Ramon Tejada, who taught sophomores and senior degree project studios this semester. “The department is also very collaborative by nature and there’s a lot of trust among the faculty, so that helped us figure out how to do this together.” Assistant Professor Kelsey Elder agrees and points out that many of his students took the opportunity to “dig deeper into research,” showing a lot of “heavy lifting” behind their work. Among grad students, in particular, “what they’re writing right now is less reflective—more prescient and future facing,” he says. Assistant Professor Minkyoung Kim MFA 15 GD, who taught two courses from her home base in NYC this spring, noticed that since remote Find the full-length versions of these stories and more at risd.edu/news/covid-19-coverage.

“Maybe we all just have too much… of everything. Now we have a chance to think about the essentials of our practice and realize that we can actually make things with very little.” Assistant Professor of Graphic Design Ramon Tejada

Rachel Kim 21 GD (above, left) overlays imagery drawn from the deluge of media covering the spread of the virus, while G Cha 20 GD explores ideas of connectivity in the context of social isolation, digital networks and cloud computing.

teaching is screen-based, she was able to better “observe the vibe of the room and really see each person.” This allowed her to focus more on tailoring her teaching to each student’s needs. Tejada notes that the sudden shift required of everyone this spring made him think that “maybe we all just have too much—too much expectation that we must always have all of everything. And maybe that’s made our work as designers something that it doesn’t really need to be. Now we have a chance to think about the essentials of our practice and realize that we can actually make things with very little.” // RISDXYZ

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FAV Goes Virtual While film is a medium that translates into the digital domain more easily than fine arts disciplines like glass, ceramics, sculpture and so many others, Film/ Animation/Video Department Head Sheri Wills says that both students and “every single member of the department needed to be committed, caring and incredibly resourceful” to make the transition required this spring. Instead of using high-end cameras and other specialized equipment, students working from home needed to tell their stories using smartphones and DIY workarounds. Animation instructor Gina Kamentsky showed them how to make their own “Dirt-Cheap Down-Shooting Stand for Wayward Animators”—out of cardboard moving boxes. Professor Amy Kravitz, who teaches junior- and senior-level animation classes, says that the transition was probably toughest for students using stop-motion animation and puppetry. She worked with Wills and other members of the department to ship out the necessary equipment on a loaner basis, giving priority to graduating seniors.

“Provided that everyone is healthy and in a good place financially, we can see this remote learning situation as an opportunity to let go of the vanity and the luxuries and really delve into the center of the work,” Kravitz says. “With the simplest of tools, we can still make meaningful art and find the truly important parts of the creative process.” top: Before heading home in March, senior Roscoe Bernard 20 FAV captured footage (with the help of cinematographer Riley McClenaghan 20 FAV) for his live action film The Aviary. | above: Working from home in Texas, junior Sydney Mills 21 FAV improvised a stop-motion animation setup on her desk. 52

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Experiments from a Distance In March, needing to quickly adapt three studios for remote learning, Assistant Professor Sean Salstrom MFA 06 GL responded to the challenge much the same as he did when he was a grad student at RISD: by processing the situation as objectively as possible and then “getting to work with renewed focus.” Though neither his sophomore and junior studios nor the interdisciplinary Graduate Studies course Experiments in Optics focused on technical aspects of making with glass, Salstrom grasped that students would be unable to interact with materials at home in the same way they do in studio. So for the undergrads, he encouraged them to delve into research, conceptual thinking and professional development—aspects of creative practice that happen before and beyond studio making. And for grad students in Optics, he provided a supply kit to conduct experiments— which yielded interesting results. Industrial Design major Yuqing Ma MID 21, for instance, used widely available reflective materials to turn her bedroom windows into interactive optical objects that helped activate the space where she was sheltering and make it feel “new and alive.” In responding to feelings of confinement and isolation, the designer says she gained insight into how emotional considerations should inform creative decisions. “I’m really surprised by what students have shared,” says Salstrom. “They are fully partaking in domestic optical experiments and tests—and making artworks.”

This spring Amanda Lee MFA 21 GL continued experimenting with isomalt—a transparent sugar substitute derived from beets—and discovered its optical similarities to glass.

HOPE FOR RHODE ISLANDERS Earlier this spring, when Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo reached out to President Rosanne Somerson BFA 76 to invite her to participate in the governor’s New Normal Advisory Group, she also wanted to discuss the role art could play in bringing people together despite stay-at-home orders. Somerson suggested that Shepard Fairey 92 IL, a RISD trustee who now lives on the West Coast, might be willing to help. “I spent a significant eight years of my life living in Providence, attending RISD and then (semi) establishing my first print studio,” Fairey says. So he felt honored when Governor Raimondo invited him to create an image to help launch her new #RIArts initiative, lift the spirits of Rhode Islanders and salute frontline workers. A lifelong activist and social justice advocate, Fairey drew on the state’s motto of Hope in creating a piece called RI Angel of Hope and Strength, which was projected on two RISD buildings and is available to download for free at riarts.org.

top: photo by David O’Connor

New Approaches to Public Space As people everywhere combat the spread of COVID-19, grad students in Landscape Architecture have been considering how—and how dramatically—our community interactions will change going forward. Will parks, playgrounds and beaches have occupancy limits? Can our urban infrastructure accommodate new public health demands? And how do we create larger open spaces without encroaching on neighborhoods and natural systems? The pandemic “is forcefully bringing forward questions about scenario-building and decisionmaking and conditions related to the climate crisis,” says Department Head Johanna Barthmaier-Payne. This spring the 33 grad students in the first-year studio Site / Ecology / Design, which she co-taught with adjunct faculty members Courtney Goode and Gavin Zeitz MLA 18, used drone footage, site analysis, in-depth research and teamwork to develop proposals for transforming an abandoned industrial area in East Providence, RI into a dynamic site for social interaction, industrial innovation and sustainable biodiversity. In March these three faculty members developed a hypothetical request for proposals (RFP) replete with a website full of site history and documentation as both a playful and real-world way to translate the studio to a remote model. Find the full-length versions of these stories and more at risd.edu/news/covid-19-coverage.

Once classes resumed online, students embraced the revised studio “as a fun, visionary exercise that also came with a little less stress,” Goode says. At a time when all aspects of life have come unmoored, the trio teaching the studio was committed to providing students with an inspiring challenge that was also firmly grounded in the realities of the discipline. Responding to a hypothetical RFP, Landscape Architecture students developed proposals for revitalizing this former industrial site in East Providence, RI as a biodiverse public space. // RISDXYZ

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UNPRECEDENTED SEMESTER Given that all crits took place virtually and no end-ofyear events and exhibitions could take place on campus this spring, students and faculty in every department needed to figure out alternative ways to share their work. For grad students, that meant foregoing the muchanticipated graduate thesis exhibition in favor of an online presentation of their work (see 2020risdgrad.show). Seniors were unable to exhibit their work at Woods-Gerry this spring, but the annual Senior Invitational morphed into the RISD Senior Show 2020 and moved online, too (2020risdsenior.show). In Film/Animation/Video, the Senior Show 2020 of wonderful new films premiered online over four evenings in late May (fav.risd.edu). Photography showed multiple examples of final work from all BFA and MFA graduates (with links to their own sites) at photo2020.risd.edu. In Architecture new graduates are working on a forthcoming book, and in Interior Architecture seniors opted to create an AR experience (available in the Apple App Store) in the RISD Museum.

In Furniture Design new MFA grads exhibited virtually in Dezeen and Site Unseen Offsite Online, while seniors exhibited their degree projects in a Wanted online exhibition. And with runways now empty around the world, Apparel Design seniors contributed to a book that beautifully sums up their work for Collection 2020 (find it online via risd.edu/collection).

“To the Class of 2020, the class of perfect vision, with the distinct and very strange honor of being the first class in RISD history to graduate from the privacy of your own homes, …remember how lucky [you are to be an artist, now ready to] smash things down… rebuild… [and] make something beautiful.” author/illustrator Brian Selznick 88 IL 54

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Find more details about RISD’s many 2020 virtual exhibitions at risd.edu/news.

Showing half a dozen examples of graduating students’ work only begins to hint at the sheer beauty, inventiveness and quality of the work emanating from RISD’s studios—even when those studios had to suddenly shut down in mid March. Clockwise from above: before the third star appears (sisters) (oil on canvas) by Hannah Lupton Reinhard 20 PT, apparel from her thesis collection by Zoe Grinfeld 20 AP, a still from straneria shot by Giovanna Elia 20 PH in Rome just before the outbreak of the coronavirus, a vessel by Tiffany Tang MFA 20 CR, an award-winning digital illustration called Silk Road by Jiani Yu 20 IL and Dumbbell Purse Cabinet by Emma Fague MFA 20 FD.

RETHINKING COMMENCEMENT This spring RISD joined colleges and universities around the world in postponing its 2020 Commencement ceremony due to the pandemic. As an alternative, the community sent heartfelt congratulations via video to the 458 undergraduate and 209 graduate students in the Class of 2020. The tribute went live at 9 am on Saturday, May 30—when the actual event had been due to begin—and remains online at commencement. risd.edu. RISD is postponing an on-campus Commencement ceremony until circumstances permit. “While this year ended so much differently than any of us could have imagined, I am incredibly proud of the Class of 2020 and the resilience and resourcefulness they have shown during this unprecedented time,” notes President Rosanne Somerson BFA 76. “Commencement marks their extraordinary accomplishments and represents a milestone years in the making.”

In addition to remarks from the president and Provost Kent Kleinman, the names of all graduating students appear in the video, along with presentations to Sophie Chien BArch 20, who earned the Warren Family Social Engagement Award, and Alla Alsahli 20 AP, the Steven Mendelson Community Service Award. Providence-based filmmaker Jon Gourlay 15 FAV and photographer Jo Sittenfeld MFA 08 PH made the piece, with Huy Vu MFA 09 GD art directing and faculty member Thad Russell MFA 06 PH handling cinematography. It also features comments from graduating students and messages of warmth and solidarity from these alumni:

▶ ▶ ▶ ▶ ▶ ▶

Janine Antoni MFA 89 SC Korakrit Arunanondchai 09 PR Deborah Berke BArch 77 Gabrielle Bullock BArch 84 SooJin (Chun) 96 IL + Chris Buzelli 95 IL Ilene Chaiken 79 GD

▶ ▶ ▶ ▶ ▶ ▶ ▶ ▶ ▶

▶ ▶ ▶ ▶ ▶ ▶ ▶

Roz Chast 77 PT Shepard Fairey 92 IL Jenny Holzer MFA 77 PT Clara Lieu 98 IL Grace Lin 96 IL David Macaulay BArch 69 Michael Maltzan BArch 85 Nicole Miller 73 AP Wael Morcos MFA 13 GD + Jon Key 13 GD Oge Mora 16 IL Brodie Neill MFA 04 FD Mel Ottenberg 98 AP Robert Richardson 79 FAV Brian Selznick 88 IL Gus Van Sant 75 FAV Jing Wei 08 IL


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CULTURAL IMMERSION IN MEXICO Through three different Wintersession courses, students worked closely with artisans in the Oaxaca region learning about traditional materials and practices.

“It’s one thing to see a Diego Rivera mural in an auditorium slide show,” says Assistant Professor Sean Nesselrode Moncada. “But it’s totally different to see it on site, in conversation not only with the architecture but also with the climate, the food, the language, the people. It’s an experience you just can’t get in a classroom or from a book.” Moncada and longtime HPSS faculty member Wini Lambrecht taught Pre-Columbian Architecture and Traditional Crafts in Mexico, one of three Wintersession travel courses that brought students south of the border prior to the pandemic. Color, Mestizaje & Design Futures—led by RISD Museum curator Kate Irvin, designer and RISD honorary degree recipient Christina Kim and Raul Cabra of Oax-i-fornia—paired students with highly skilled indigenous artisans in Oaxaca. 56

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“I just wanted to throw myself into something I’ve never done before,” says printmaker Haley MacKeil MFA 22 PR, who worked with weaver Alfredo Hernández Orozco. “And I really appreciate that Mexican artisans use everything, right down to the agave fiber—they don’t throw anything away.” Elsewhere in Oaxaca, students wove together cultural research, material exploration and full-scale construction as part of Material Propositions, led by Architecture Professor Silvia Acosta in partnership with RootStudio, a multidisciplinary design practice. “Students participated in a series of hands-on workshops testing material properties in art and architectural works,” Acosta explains. David Waite MArch 21 was taken with the commitment local makers have to using techniques and materials handed down through generations. “There’s such a deep history and understanding of materials like adobe,” he explains. “The architects we worked with in Oaxaca are committed to using locally produced and sustainable products rather than shipping in a bunch of artificial, manufactured materials.”

Reimagining What Comes Next In delivering RISD’s 2020 Martin Luther King, Jr. keynote address, legal scholar and social justice advocate Michelle Alexander spoke to a packed house in the RISD Auditorium on January 22. The eloquent author of The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness says that an “us-versus-them mentality” of seeing certain people as less human breaks down our sense of moral obligation. And intentional or not, our biased systems in the US continue to thrive as much through indifference as anything else. Yet Alexander remains hopeful. “By speaking our truths unapologetically, with courage and compassion, we’ll create a movement… a gravitational force that will attract more and more people,” she predicts. “A fierce, warrior-like commitment to justice will birth a new democracy.” Alexander adds that “achieving justice is a creative act. Artists and designers are central to reimagining what our democracy can be—to creating something promising out of nothing. It’s up to us to reimagine what comes next.”

BEARING WITNESS DOWN UNDER With the wildfires continuing to burn 100 miles south on Kangaroo Island, signs of damage and pollution were everywhere in Adelaide, presenting a clear, global wake-up call that informed the group’s daily discussions. “Many of us felt a sense of responsibility and a need to respect the affected lands,” says Furniture Design senior Jasmine Gutbrod 20 FD, who also completed a concentration in Nature–Culture– Sustainability Studies this spring. Happy to have visited Australia before the pandemic made such travel impossible, she says the Witness Tree experience will continue to inform her ongoing research into how humans interact with the land.

Immersion in aboriginal culture offered students in the Wintersession Witness Tree course insight into the cultural ecology of Southern Australia.

top: photo by David O’Connor

As wildfires raged in Australia at the start of this year, students traveled there for Witness Tree: Memory, Place and Cultural Ecology, an intensive examination of how aboriginal societies have historically understood and used local trees—and the ways in which European colonialism transformed the continent and disrupted indigenous ways of life. Furniture Design faculty member Dale Broholm and Vice Provost Daniel Cavicchi offered the five-week travel/study course as a spin-off of the full-semester Witness Tree course they initially launched more than a decade ago. It also involved students and faculty from the University of South Australia, Adelaide (UniSA)—including Peter Walker, a former Furniture Design faculty member at RISD and now director of UniSA’s Master of Design program—and Assistant Professor Meg Callahan 11 FD, who took part as an artist in residence.

Find the latest stories about students, faculty and studios at risd.edu/news.


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What have you talked about with students during your visit? That art isn’t a step deal. It’s not like you do high school, then undergrad, then grad school and then life. Art is not that. I honestly don’t think I hit a stride until I was well into my 50s. And still, when I get home from this trip I will try something else new, too. That’s what I tried to tell the grad students I spoke to yesterday: This is just the beginning of a journey, so be patient. That’s important to know.

So what did you take from being at RISD? What I think happens here is that you grow into being a person. A road through the world emerges, a path is suggested. If you stay on that path for a little bit, then you can start to find out who you are as a human being…. I actually think of the work I made during my six years at RISD as pretty floundering. I was looking for anything—I was looking for everything. I would glom on to certain people like Matisse (who I tried to imitate) or look at current art magazines and try to become cutting edge—which I’m not! I’m as dull as a butter knife and always will be. 58

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In American Dreams are you drawing on your own memories of growing up in the 1950s? I am. A drawing teacher I had here named John Frazier [a 1909 Painting alum, longtime professor and RISD president from 1955–62] said, “Look at art—at all the art you can look at—and look at your life.” Well, at this point I’ve definitely [done that] and most of [my life] is now in the rearview mirror. I don’t regret or bemoan that. It’s just a fact. But when I do look back, man! The first three or four decades of my life just pissed by! You’re so busy doing that you don’t see it. Now, in hindsight, I’m trying to slow it down, to put the brakes on.

Do you see these paintings as challenging a Norman Rockwell vision of the 1950s? In that I’m a product of that narrative, I have to allow that at least the lion’s share of it is true—because it did create me. You can’t bely the societal sperm and egg of who you are. Do I challenge a bit of it? Yes. Someone once said, “We portray ourselves as we would like our enemies to see us.” So back then if someone asked you, “How is your family doing?” you would tell them, “We’ve got a washer, a dryer, two cars in the garage and one of those lawnmowers that you sit on. The kids are in school, everything’s great,” because that’s how you wanted your enemies to see you—as invulnerable. But I also think the era hasn’t been chronicled as well as it should be. It’s like when Audubon found 9,000 varieties of birds in the woods and said, “Someone needs to make a record of this because some day some

photo by Jo Sittenfeld MFA 08 PH

When Martin Mull 65 PT/MFA 67 visited RISD in early March, it was the first time the artist and longtime TV and film actor/comedian had been back on campus in more than 30 years. He appreciated the changes but was also happy to find so many of his old haunts from the 1960s still intact. Before Mull took center stage at the opening reception for American Dreams, the exhibition of his recent paintings on view at Sol Koffler Graduate Student Gallery, he visited studios, spoke to small groups of students and faculty, and made time to respond to a few questions.

Martin Mull’s oil-on-linen paintings Catch and Winter/Summer from the Four Seasons series were on view earlier this year at RISD’s Sol Koffler Graduate Student Gallery. When the artist/actor visited campus for the opening, he also spent time visiting studios and speaking with students.

of these won’t be here.” To some extent my paintings of that era are made in the same spirit: That era is gone. Things are changing rapidly. In fact, I was terrified of talking to undergrads here because with about 50 years of difference between us, I wasn’t sure that I even had a code for communicating with them. The world has changed that much. But I can only represent the genealogical, historical district that I come from—and that’s what is in my paintings.

“You can’t bely the societal sperm and egg of who you are.” You always identify as an artist first, but how did you end up with a successful career as an actor, too? First of all, art materials cost money, a studio space costs money, and so… I could have driven a cab, I could have worked in a lumberyard, I could have delivered papers or I could be on a sitcom. The latter pays a lot more and gives you vast periods of time off, so it seemed like the gift horse of all time— and not a Trojan one. Acting has been very good to me. I’ve been extremely fortunate.

Are there times when acting has given you a break from the studio? Or vice versa? Absolutely. Painting is a solitary process. It is a oneperson operation: You are judge, jury, defendant and litigator. That can get very lonely—to the point where you feel like you’re in a cave somewhere.

So the perfect antidote for that was being on a movie set with hundreds of people running around, interacting with other people, learning lines… But then that becomes utter mayhem—and the perfect antidote for that is going back to the studio. Each one became the therapy for treating the other. That was great. Still is.

You said you’ll begin working on something new when you get back to California. How do you approach new projects? I think the easiest part is the start of something. That’s when you own the process. But with any picture there is a point—good, bad or indifferent—when it starts calling the shots. The picture tells you that it wants a jet plane in the upper right corner, or other paintings in the room do. You look back and forth from what you’re working on to what else you’ve made and… you get suggestions. At that point it doesn’t come from you anymore. You become the artisan, not the artist. I crave that. I love being the workman. Just take the word poet and throw it out the window. It’s a self-conscious thing to think that you’re “telling truths” or something. No! I’m painting a picture! And I’m working on it as hard as I can. When I’m in that mode it’s just heaven on a stick. —interview by Robert Albanese // RISDXYZ

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In a year when good news is hard to find, Ceramics Department Head Katy Schimert is thrilled to have earned a 2020 Guggenheim Fellowship and a Joan Mitchell Foundation residency in New Orleans. Although she works fluidly between 2- and 3D work, the sculptor has “always loved working with clay” because “the process reminds [her] of how the world was formed.”

NATURAL EVOLUTION Neal Overstrom, director of the Nature Lab, retired on June 1 after expertly guiding its evolution over the past 10 years as a hub for biomimicry, imaging, climate change, biodesign and more. Under his leadership, the scale and scope of exploration at the Nature Lab expanded enormously, making it an interdisciplinary locus on campus for addressing the challenges of climate change, sustainability and social equity. Overstrom’s natural abilities as a leader, educator, mentor, fundraiser and partner has furthered RISD’s ability to connect art and design disciplines with living systems. His productive relationship with the National Science Foundation (NSF) led to the advent of the Microscopy and GIS Lab and the Biodesign Makerspace. It also kept RISD central to the NSF-funded consortium of eight higher education institutions involved in Rhode Island’s Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR) grant, which focuses on new approaches to dealing with the effects of climate change on Narragansett Bay ecosystems. In short, thoughout his tenure, he consistently proved the importance of art and design to scientific inquiry.


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Speaking about her ongoing Niagara Falls series, Schimert explains that while growing up outside of Buffalo, NY, “we’d all pile in the car and go to Niagara Falls” in every season. After visiting as an adult, she suddenly “saw it so clearly”—the concave and convex relationship between the Canadian and American sides. “I got obsessed with the structural nature of the falls,” she says, “and started playing with that idea.”

Phenomenal Faculty Move On Three professors and three long-term adjunct faculty members who have touched the hearts and minds of thousands of RISD students are beginning new phases in their lives this spring. Those retiring at the end of the semester are: ▶ Professor Todd Moore MFA 84 PT, who began teaching in Foundation Studies in 1984 ▶ Professor Peter O’Neill MFA 73 FAV, who has taught here since 1971

▶ Professor John Terry, another icon in FAV who has taught at RISD since 1983 ▶ Alba Corrado 60 PT, who has been teaching in Foundation Studies since 1986 ▶ Jeff Poland, a psychologist who has taught in History, Philosophy and the Social Sciences since 2002 ▶ Jamie Murphy Hlynsky 74 IL, who has been teaching in Illustration since 1993


Faculty Newsbits Matthew Bird 89 ID, a senior critic in Industrial Design, earned a John R. Frazier Award for Excellence in Teaching for his extraordinary approach to the art of educating. “Matthew’s infectious energy, laser focus and good humor shape his classes,” the citation read.

Visitors to Aerobanquets RMX, a delightful virtual reality experience at the James Beard House in NYC, perceived flavors in entirely new ways.

“We’re so obsessed with posting, sharing and commenting on images of food that taste is becoming an afterthought,” laments Mattia Casalegno, who grew up immersed in the rich culinary traditions of Naples, Italy and now teaches undergrads in both Illustration and the Computation, Technology and Culture (CTC) concentration, along with grad students in Digital + Media. Casalegno’s installation Aerobanquets RMX—a VR experience offered last winter at the James Beard House in NYC—paradoxically elevates flavor by interpreting it in a virtual space. The bite-sized food that people eat during the seven-course Aerobanquets meal is in fact beautifully presented—yet diners only see digitally animated bursts of color and shape that evoke the essence of flavors. “It’s delightful—plates and spoons fly around your head, and when you reach out to touch them… poof! They slide out of reach and disappear,” wrote Emily Heil in The Washington Post. The ideas about technology that Casalegno explores through Aerobanquets also come up in the conversations he has with students at RISD. “I see a lot of enthusiasm from students for new languages like VR, augmented reality and immersive arts in general,” Casalegno says. “RISD is quickly positioning itself at the forefront of the digital arts.”

Read more about faculty research and projects at risd.edu/news/faculty-stories.

Architecture faculty members Laura Briggs and Jonathan Knowles of BriggsKnowles A+D recently completed an incredible prefab passive home—a “sailboat in the middle of the forest” in Saugerties, NY—that is featured in the May/June issue of Dwell. Avishek Ganguly, an assistant professor of Literary Arts and Studies, has been recognized with a John R. Frazier Award for Excellence in Teaching for consistently conveying complex ideas in accessible and inspiring ways. His sense that “the world is bigger than our thoughts” is exemplified in his syllabi and inspires students to think in new ways.

Filmmaker Ramón RiveraMoret, an assistant professor in FAV, has received a 2020 Media Arts Grant from the National Endowment for the Arts to continue work on a film he’s shooting in Puerto Rico about local writers, poets and visual artists from the 1950s and ’60s. // RISDXYZ

spring/summer 2020



// who’s giving to risd + why



has “developed an obsession with architecture and a need to spin and dye wool constantly.” Most importantly, she says, “I have also grown and changed in ways I didn’t expect.” But she concedes that her experience at RISD hasn’t been easy. “For me, as a white-passing Chicana, low-income, first-generation college student who grew up in poverty for part of my childhood, RISD was a huge culture shock,” she says. “I have been surprised by how lonely I have felt because of my background. I have to worry about finances more than other people and some opportunities are slightly more closed off. There are always extra steps for me—like applying for scholarships and working multiple jobs.”

At a February event at the RISD Museum, Nancy Jean Guerrero 20 TX made a space for other low-income, Latinx and first-generation students who wanted to chat with her “about love, guilt and memories through the lens of class and culture.”

To learn more about how you can support financial aid, please contact Joanne Ferchland Parella at jferchla@risd.edu or call 844 454-1877 (toll-free).

photos by Jo Sittenfeld MFA 08 PH

FOR GRADUATING SENIOR Nancy Guerrero 20 TX, growing up in Stockton, CA made her “curious and imaginative because it felt like such a box,” she says. “I learned to be observant and carefully note my surroundings. Stockton was on Forbes’ list of ‘America’s Most Miserable Cities,’ but my art shows that I’m proud to be from there.” Although Guerrero’s parents were unable to pursue higher education for themselves, they instilled in their four children a desire to learn and go on to college. “They found a way to nourish and support us all,” she says. Guerrero applied to many colleges—but only one art school—to study biology and art. At RISD she

Investing in a Shared Experience “RISD shaped the way I think and observe,” says Phil Tobey BArch 66, an architect who drew on what he learned in the Architecture program throughout his career—including for the four decades he worked with one of his clients, the US Army, to design healthcare facilities for veterans with traumatic brain injuries. “Critical thinking helped me solve logistical problems and design issues. The ability of RISD graduates to think critically is why I always looked to hire them at our firm, the SmithGroup JJR,” he adds. Tobey’s experiences at RISD, where he met his wife Pam (Boyd) Tobey 68 AE more than half a century ago, have driven him to keep connected and support today’s students. “Some of my best friends are RISD alumni and leaders,” adds the longtime trustee, who remains close to former President Roger Mandle HD 13 and his wife Gayle Mandle MFA 97 PT/PR, among others. Tobey stays involved with RISD as a trustee emeritus and by attending regional events, participating in Career Center programs and returning to campus for RISD Weekend. Eager to “make a meaningful gift,” the Tobeys spoke to their financial advisor and purchased a life insurance policy with RISD as the beneficiary. “We were not in the position to make a large gift outright,” he explains, so by paying modest premiums, the couple will eventually leave RISD a large bequest. “This is a wonderful way to pay back the institution that we love and pay it forward to future students at the same time,” Tobey says. And in choosing to make an unrestricted gift, he and his wife are able to give future “college leadership the flexibility to use it in the best way at the time.”

“For me, as a white-passing Chicana… who grew up in poverty... I have to worry about finances more than other people.”

To learn more about how you can support RISD through your insurance policies or estate planning, contact Chad Nelson at cnelson@risd.edu or call 844 454-1877 toll free.

Guerrero has received support from the Cranston Print Works Foundation Scholarship and Echo Design Group Scholarship and applied to the SEI Materials Fund to buy yarn for her degree project. “I wouldn’t be here without financial aid—it’s as simple as that!” she says. “Now [I have] many opportunities because someone believed in me.” For instance, support from RISD’s Social Equity and Inclusion Fund made it possible for Guerrero to participate in a Wintersession course in Italy last year. “Since socioeconomics make it an inherently privileged experience, this was the first time that anyone in my family had traveled outside of the country for an extended period,” she says. “The support RISD provided to study abroad changed my life. While experiencing exceptionally old art and design in Naples, I was acutely aware of how much it meant to my family for me to be there.” Guerrero’s work taps into her Chicana roots by using ritual masks found in Mexican culture “as a metaphor for unseen experiences. My imagery derives from spirit animals, cockroaches as a historical example of the unwanted and dolls as a form of comfort,” she explains. “It also explores the grotesque and humorous in relation to intersections of my identity.” Looking ahead to life after graduation this spring, Guerrero says, “I see myself working in the fine arts but want to work with underserved communities to make the problems they face unavoidable to the people who can solve them.” —Christy Blanchard

In designing the National Intrepid Center of Excellence in Bethesda, MD, Tobey considered the needs of veterans suffering from traumatic brain injuries. Patients at the Center for the Intrepid at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, TX—another facility he designed for the US Army—take advantage of a state-of-the-art climbing wall.


spring/summer 2020


six degrees

// connecting through the alumni association

Alumni are invited to support one another as well as current students by joining the newly launched RISD Network, an opportunity for seasoned artists and designers to offer real-world guidance and support to others who are either launching their careers or shifting into a new field. “In response to feedback we got through the 2018 alumni survey, we’ve attempted to create a multifaceted platform that helps foster connections between RISD students and more than 30,000 alumni around the world,” explains Christina Hartley 74 IL, executive director of Alumni + Family Relations. The budding program allows mentors to connect one-on-one with their peers and to help the next 64

generation of RISD graduates succeed by participating in career-related discussion forums with students and other alumni. When you sign up, you’ll be asked a series of questions that help match you with other members of the RISD community from your own field and others, allowing you to make helpful connections and exchange expertise. You’ll also be able to browse through the RISD Network to identify fellow professionals by industry, major, location and other variables and reach out to them via phone, email or video-chat. The amount of time you commit to the program is totally up to you, and you’re welcome to decline any requests that don’t seem like the right fit.

With pandemic protocols making travel and in-person gatherings unfeasible for now, it’s more important than ever to build strong virtual connections with people you can trust. In under four months, more than 2,300 students and alumni have already signed up for the free service, recognizing that the timing couldn’t be better for coming together as a global community. Visit risdnetwork.risd.edu to learn more.

above: photo by David O’Connor


With many of us spending more time collaborating in online meetings, the Alumni Association is offering free downloadable background images to remind you of RISD. Find these four and more at alumni.risd.edu/zoom-backgrounds.

CONNECTING THROUGH COMMON INTERESTS In response to growing demand, the Alumni Association has been introducing new affinity groups that invite alumni to connect through shared interests and professions—regardless of disciplines, age and location. One of the newest affinity groups, RISD READS, is getting off the ground in June with a discussion of How to Do Nothing: Resisting the Attention Economy by artist Jenny Odell. “Following the success of our Rhode Island club initiative RISDRIREADS, we are expanding it into a global affinity group,” says Amy Cohen 76 TX, who chairs the RISD RI club and is leading the new affinity group. RISD READS invites

alumni everywhere to come together virtually three times a year to talk about a specific work of fiction or nonfiction—thematically focused on aspects of creativity— that they’ve all agreed to read in advance. In addition to RISD READS, the affinity groups that have already sprung up since last year include:

▶ RISD Architects ▶ RISD Alumni in Film and Television ▶ RISD Alumni in Photography ▶ RISD Founders and Entrepreneurs ▶ RISD Lawyers ▶ RISD in Tech ▶ RISD Zero Waste Alumni “Affinity groups are a wonderful new way for our community to remain connected,” notes Tue Tran, director of Alumni Communities. If you have an idea for a new affinity group, email alumni@risd.edu.


Given the global pandemic, RISD’s leaders have made the difficult and unprecedented decision to postpone our notoriously ebullient Commencement ceremony (see pages 54-55) to the fall. If health and safety conditions allow, we will celebrate the Class of 2020 through belated Commencement festivities held during RISD Weekend, our annual gathering for alumni and parents. Although no one yet knows what COVID-19 conditions will permit this fall, planning is still underway for RISD Weekend events scheduled for October 9–11. The weekend offers all alumni— including those marking significant reunions—the opportunity to come together to celebrate on campus, remember how much their years at RISD meant to them and reconnect with friends, professors and other members of the campus community. “Clearly, we are all holding out hope that we will be able to host an amazing RISD Weekend and Commencement ceremony here on campus,” says Christina Hartley 74 IL, executive director of Alumni Relations. “But as we have learned repeatedly this year, the severity of this virus is forcing decisions that no one wants to make. And it’s making it impossible to predict anything—even just weeks ahead. So we promise to keep our global community updated as we learn more.” // RISDXYZ

spring/summer 2020


ALUMNI CONNECT AROUND THE WORLD As alumni both fondly remember and look forward to the resumption of in-person group activities, those active in our 27 regional clubs across the country and around the world are planning viable virtual gatherings that uphold social distancing measures during the COVID-19 crisis. Please check your email and alumni.risd.edu/connect for information about upcoming events in your area.

Seattle Portland


Vermont London

Maine Colorado

San Francisco Los Angeles San Diego Miami


Boston Rhode Island New York New Jersey Philadelphia Washington, DC

Gulf Region (Qatar/UAE/Saudi Arabia)

clockwise from above: Just before the holidays last December, alumni in Boston gathered at More than Words Warehouse Bookstore for a reception with President Somerson. | In Austin alumni got together at ICOSA, a vibrant nonprofit cooperative gallery run by artists, including several who graduated from RISD. | In January members of the NYC club gathered for an informal celebration at David Weeks Studio x Stellar Works Showroom. | New York City alumni honored RISD Founders Day by helping to run a Project Cicero book drive in support of local public schools. | And in Los Angeles, their West Coast counterparts were able to follow through on their Founders Day community service project on March 7 by joining members of the Surfrider Foundation to help clean up Newport Beach.


// six degrees

top: photo by Thad Russell MFA 06 PH


“Even though club events had to be postponed this spring, there’s a lot of pent-up energy out there. We’re looking forward to the activities we all love picking up as soon as it’s safe to get together again.” Christina Hartley 74 IL, executive director of Alumni + Family Relations

PRIME TIME FOR ONLINE LEARNING Beijing Korea India Shanghai Hangzhou Hong Kong

Entrepreneurial alumni looking to bone up on everything from tax laws in flux to adapting their creative practices in response to social distancing needs are tuning in for a growing series of free webinars offered through the Alumni Association. Open to alumni and students, the series features experts from a variety of industries focusing on topics of interest to artists and designers. Among the recent offerings this spring were Managing Your Creative Practice Through a Crisis and How the Recent Relief Bills Affect Freelancers. In mid-June lawyer Greg Kanaan 02 FAV offered a session called A Fairly Useful Guide to Fair Use, and many other helpful options are in the works for this summer and fall. Check alumni.risd.edu/learning for upcoming webinars.


Find information on club activities and online programming at alumni.risd.edu.


spring/summer 2020


moving forward

// undergraduate class notes

“My sense of time seems to stretch and shrink in weird ways, and I am working more than ever to escape the dire reality.” JooHee Yoon 11 IL in a New York Times piece (4.16.20) about “surreal” images NYC-based artists are capturing from their windows

Bruce Helander

69 IL/MFA 72 PT right: A striking pastiche of 20th-century art movements, Bruce’s mixed-media painting The Color of Money was among the work on view in The Prearranged Marriage of Pablo & Other Scenic Viewpoints, a March solo show at Octavia Art Gallery in New Orleans that moved on to the gallery’s exhibition space in Houston. welcomed the public into her studio in Long Island City, NY last December and offered gardeners in the group a glimpse of her winterized garden, which she sees as an important source of inspiration. Martin Mull PT/MFA 67 (see page 58)


Phil Tobey BArch (see page 63)

Miriam Beerman 45 PT Collages 1965–2008, a large retrospective bursting with color and focused on the painter’s extraordinary collage work, was on view at QCC Art Gallery in Queens, NY from February 6–April 2. Miriam’s work is in the permanent collections of more than 60 major museums around the world and a 2015 film about her career, Miriam Beerman: Expressing the Chaos, is now available on Amazon Prime.


Ruth Adler Schnee IA (see next page)


The Emily Harvey Foundation has awarded Elizabeth Ginsberg TX a residency in Venice, Italy as soon as it’s safe to travel again. Last fall her work was on view in Everyday

Objects at SMI Gallery in Montclair, NJ and in Holiday Madness, an invitational exhibition at Viridian Artists in Chelsea. In March her work was included in HERSTORY, a group exhibition honoring Women’s History Month, also at Viridian.


Painter Dianne Martin PT

Karol (Bowker) Wyckoff 58 IL Baxter’s (2019, watercolor, 36 x 26") won both the People’s Choice Award and Best of Show in the group exhibition Doors & Windows at the Cape Cod Art Center in Barnstable, MA. Karol donated the painting to the Hyannis [MA] Rotary Club’s Karol B. Wyckoff Art Scholarship Fund—a gesture she has made every three years for the past 32 years—to aid a Barnstable-area high school student headed for art school.


Earlier this year Mary Curtis Ratcliff AE participated in both group exhibitions of the TRUTH/DARE/20/20 series at Mercury 20 Gallery in Oakland, CA (where she lives). The first “chapter,” Truth, was on view in December, with its counterpart Dare following in January. New Day Films cofounder Amalie Rothschild GD got a shout-out in The New Yorker for the December screenings of her personal documentary Nana, Mom and Me (1974) at MoMA in NYC. The piece credited the film (which is available to stream on Kanopy) with introducing “a new age of feminist self-awareness.” Work by fiber artist Deidre Scherer AE was included in MGFA 2020, a group exhibition at Mitchell Giddings Fine Arts in Brattleboro, VT, and in Relative Relations, a spring show at the Heller Museum at Hebrew Union College (NYC), which is on view through June 30.


Connecticut-based artist Nancy Lasar PT contributed work to INK: NEW PRINTS, a winter group show at Site: Brooklyn Gallery in NYC.


50th Reunion October 9–11

Andrew Stevovich PT showed work from 1987–present in a retrospective exhibition that ran from early February–late March at the Greenville County [SC] Museum of Art and in The Winter Show, a one-week group exhibition at the Park Avenue Armory in NYC. In February Skira Editore released Andrew Stevovich: Beyond the Figure, a collection of 120 color reproductions of the Massachusettsbased artist’s work dating back to 1968, when he was still a student at RISD.

Outlaws (Seastory Press, 2019) by Allen Cody, the pseudonym for author/illustrator Allen C. Taube BArch*, presents a collection of short stories about honorable thieves. Through his writing he aims to paint scenes that are highly visual and cinematic. This spring work by painter Paula Wittner PH was on view in Both Sides Now, concurrent solo exhibitions on either side

of the US/Mexico border—at the Museo de Arte in Nogales, Mexico and at Borderline Gallery in Patagonia, AZ.


In Lux Toys, a solo exhibition on view last fall at the Casoria [Italy] Contemporary Art Museum, multidisciplinary artist Sergio Tarantino BArch focused on markers and milestones of his real and imaginary travels.


Last fall T: The New York Times Style Magazine made note of the stunning façade architectural glass expert James Carpenter IL designed for the new Nordstrom’s on West 57th Street in Manhattan. “His often monumental installations have the quality of grand-scale statuary,” writes Nancy Hess.

Phyllis Limbacher Tildes 67 IL In January Phyllis released her 24th(!) picture book for Charlesbridge Publishing: Bunny’s Big Surprise, a story of discovery that takes place in the wetlands of Georgia.

PLEASE NOTE Many exhibitions and events mentioned in this section have been postponed, cancelled or moved online due to the pandemic.


spring/summer 2020



Wireworks, Lamplights and Fission Chips are among Ruth’s wonderful, modernist textile designs. Below, the designer at work on Slits and Slats in 1947—in her first studio in Detroit.

Ruth Adler Schnee 45 IA

As a young teen growing up in 1930s Germany, Ruth was so obsessed with modern art that she browbeat her parents into letting her attend the Degenerate Art Exhibition, a Nazi-sponsored show meant to convince the public that modern art was eroding German culture. Given the growing anti-Semitism as Hitler came to power, it was an audacious move for a Jewish teenager. “Once I got to see the art, I was beside myself,” Ruth recalls. “I had never seen colors so brilliant and so unusually put together as in the Kandinsky paintings…. I had been introduced to a new world—and I came home just totally transported by that.” Color, texture, design and composition have remained central to her life ever since. Now 97, Ruth was delighted to attend the opening for Modern Designs for Living, the latest retrospective of her work, which was on view for three months over the winter at Cranbrook Art Museum outside of Detroit. Until recently, she lived and worked in Detroit and is still closely associated with the Cranbrook, where she earned her MFA. Once her family fled Nazi Germany, Ruth’s life opened up in amazing ways. Her mother had been a student of the Bauhaus, and Swiss painter Paul Klee was a family friend. Ruth married Edward Schnee, who also became her business partner of 52 years, and in the man’s world of architecture and design, pushed hard against the norms, collaborating with top 20th-century icons in the field. // undergraduate class notes

Ultimately, as a driving force behind mid-century modernism, Ruth helped both introduce the aesthetic in the US in the 1940s and revive it a half century later. In 1995 Anzea Textiles invited the then 71-year-old designer to create new designs for woven upholstery fabric and also reissued her hand-printed lines from the ’40s and ’50s. “Good design is my life,” Ruth has said many times. “I have tried to learn from the genius of others to bring my own vision to my story. I will do a project over and over until I find validity in my own statement. This brings me the thrill of discovery.”

Carlton Fletcher 72 PT Angler’s (Dusk) (2009, oil on panel, 18 x 8") was among the works on view in Carlton Fletcher: Masterful Landscapes, his spring solo show at Susan Calloway Fine Arts in Washington, DC.


Deborah Pierce Bonnell

73 AE left: Florida Blues was among the recent oil paintings on view this spring in Reflecting on Florida, a one-person exhibition at the Conservation Foundation in Osprey, FL. Deborah also makes prints and divides her time between Sarasota, FL and Norwalk, CT. semiotic essays… that interpret the peculiarities of the times.” Writing under the pseudonym Eva Rome, Laurie McDonald FAV is releasing the series (available on Amazon) through her publishing firm Blue Morpho Press New Mexico, which is based in Santa Fe.

1972 continued

Multidisciplinary artist and designer Allan Wexler BArch was one of seven jurors selected to develop Artists Choose Artists, a multigenerational exhibition that ran from November 10–February 23 at

Parrish Art Museum in Watermill, NY on Long Island.


What it Means: Myth, Symbol, and Archetype in the Third Millennium is the first in a collection of “semiserious

Toots Zynsky 73 SC From early March–mid April, Toots showed new work in Red List, her third solo exhibition at Heller Gallery in NYC. The title is from the inventory of threatened species that the International Union for Conservation of Nature has documented since 1964.


45th Reunion October 9–11


Robynn Smith PT—founder of Print Day in May, a longstanding annual celebration of the global printmaking community— describes this year’s May 2 affair as “more relevant in light of COVID-19 than ever before.” Hundreds of printmakers from every continent once again

shared their love of the medium and creative process by posting photos of their newly made prints on social media and at printdayinmay.com. Owl Furniture, a design/build studio run by Geoffrey Warner PH in Stonington, ME, has received a $15,000 grant from Maine Technology Institute (MTI) to help bring its ErgoPro Owl seat to market. Like all of Owl’s handmade wooden products, the ErgoPro combines ergonomic “postural support holes” with sustainable, cost-effective production processes.

Reinventing Eve, a multimedia group exhibition on view this spring at the Jewish Museum of New Jersey in Newark, included work by portrait photographer Aliza Augustine PT, one of 10 women artists featured—a group representing the continuum of Judaism, from secular to Orthodox.

Christina Blatt

74 ID Working out of her studio in NYC, Christina has been making work for her Sidewalk series—including this gouache painting Museum on the Sidewalk— while illustrating a new children’s story. In February she showed a selection of her paintings, illustration and photography in a solo exhibition at the St. Agnes Library in Manhattan.

Laurie Harden 76 IL below: Laurie’s painting Helplessly Hoping earned the Jack Richeson Award for Pastels at the 123rd annual juried Catherine Lorillard Wolfe Art Club Exhibition, which was on view in January at the National Arts Club in NYC. She also received the West Essex Art Association’s Best in Category Award for another pastel, Encased in Ice, which was included in their juried winter exhibit at Crane’s Mill in West Caldwell, NJ.

PLEASE NOTE Many exhibitions and events mentioned in this section have been postponed, cancelled or moved online due to the pandemic.


spring/summer 2020


Salley Mavor 78 IL In December and January Salley’s illustrative handsewn work was featured in Once Upon a Stitch, a solo show at the Cape Cod Museum of Art in Dennis, MA.

Eric Javits 78 AP This year Eric is celebrating the 35th anniversary of his eponymous hat and accessories company, along with the 25th anniversary of his iconic Squishee hat. Ariana Grande is among the celebrities who favor his hats and is pictured wearing one of his oversized Squishees on the August 2019 cover of Vogue.

1978 continued

From March 3–21, Geary Gallery in Darien, CT presented Light & Color in Our World, a solo exhibition featuring mesmerizing paintings by local artist and designer Betty Ball GD. “Light’s purity and

Stuart Karten ID, president of the California-based medical product consultancy Karten Design, shared his perspective on the longer-term impact of the pandemic in a Fast Company article that was published in late March. “The telemedicine that the crisis kicked into high gear is only the first step toward healthcare going almost completely virtual,” he writes, adding that the design of the tools needed to make this feasible is essential to its success.

Sally Gall 78 PH Efflorescence, Split, Croatia was among the photos on view last November and December in Heavenly Creatures, Sally’s most recent solo show at Robert Klein Gallery in Boston.


In February the Newport [RI] Art Museum honored Kathy Hodge PT* with its Member’s Prize for her compelling abstractions of landscapes. She also continues to lead Drawing Wild, a monthly workshop that makes use of taxidermy in Roger Williams Park’s Museum of Natural History in Providence.


Praxis: Abstraction, a fourperson show at the Bristol [RI] Art Museum curated by Robert Rustermier MFA 93 CR (see page 90).

Dionne Pia 80 PT Civilization (2020, acrylic and media on canvas, 30 x 40") is among the new work that will be on view in an upcoming solo show at the Bruce S. Kershner Art Gallery in Fairfield, CT, which will be rescheduled once the gallery reopens after the coronavirus shutdown.

40th Reunion October 9–11 T Barny SC (see page 4)

Colorful abstract paintings by Lloyd Martin PT were on view in Shift Stack Bend, a winter solo exhibition at Friesen Gallery (which represents him) in Sun Valley, ID. “My works all surprise me in the end,” the Providence-based artist says. Lloyd also participated in

left: © Sally Gall, courtesy of Robert Klein Gallery

Paula Martiesian 79 PT A River Runs Through was among the oil-on-linen paintings on view earlier this spring in Ebb & Flow, a threeperson exhibition at Narrows Center for the Arts in Fall River, MA. Paula paints out of her studio in Providence.

transcendent qualities are at the heart of my work,” she says.

Last fall Jack Sobon BArch completed his third book: Hand Hewn: The Traditions, Tools, and Enduring Beauty of Timber Framing (Storey Publishing). As founding director of the Timber Framers Guild and founder of the Traditional Timber Frame Research and Advisory Group (both based in Easthampton, MA), he has framed and built more than 50 timber-based structures

using exclusively traditional hand tools.


// undergraduate class notes

PLEASE NOTE Many exhibitions and events mentioned in this section have been postponed, cancelled or moved online due to the pandemic.


Although courtroom sketching is something of a fading art, Bill was one of three sketch artists assigned to cover the 2020 presidential impeachment trial in the US Senate. This old-school method resurfaced during the proceedings in January when press coverage was tightly controlled—with no cameras or cell phones allowed in the Senate chamber and only limited video footage available from the legislative body’s own cameras. Every day Bill covered the proceedings for CNN and CBS, while his two cohorts worked on assignment for The New York Times and the Associated Press, generating fascinating glimpses into history as it unfolded. Having been in the business for decades, Bill created news sketches to document major cases such as Bush v Gore in the Supreme Court and early Guantanamo Bay proceedings. He had


last been in the Senate chamber more than 20 years ago when covering the two-month impeachment trial of President Clinton. “It was striking to be back in that building and recognize that I’d done a drawing from this same angle,” he told The Washington Post. In fact, he actually sat in the exact same seat again during this year’s much shorter impeachment proceedings. “Americans rarely stop to think about the talent and energy that goes into that three-second pan [across the sketches that appear] on the television evening news or [in a] newspaper article,” notes Sara Duke, curator of a 2017 Library of Congress exhibition called Drawing Justice. “But there is a certain amount of genius that goes into rendering a likeness quickly,” Duke points out. “These images, whether we realize it or not, stay with us—[they’re] how we remember our collective legal past.”


spring/summer 2020


Since making his very first gift to the RISD Museum in 1984, Glenn is steadfastly working his way towards his personal lifetime goal of contributing 1,000 extraordinary examples of modern design to its permanent collection. In fact, the NYC-based interior designer has developed something of a side gig as an “independent huntergatherer for the Museum,” as decorative arts historian Lisa Zeiger calls him in a recent piece on her site Book and Room. Inspired by the RISD Museum’s 1982 exhibition Buildings on Paper, Glenn bought a 1960s rendering of a Warwick, RI steakhouse while he was still a student at RISD—and then gave the drawing to the museum when he graduated. Once his business became firmly established through award-winning design work, he began making gifts of objects to the museum on a more regular basis—especially over the past 15 years. A great advocate of eBay, Glenn loves scouring the site, looking for iconic objects to delight clients, add to his own collection and offer to the museum. “eBay is like an amazing library—an intellectual genealogy,” he says. “In my personal process of finding things, I take delight in serving as a sort of cultural editor… [It’s] about bringing passion to the hunt— a sort of clairvoyance.” // undergraduate class notes

Among his many brilliant finds that are now part of the museum’s permanent collection are a bright red portable typewriter and a playful lamp by Italian designer Ettore Sottsass, Jr., flatware sets by Gio Ponti and Zaha Hadid, a partners desk with two chairs by American minimalist Donald Judd, works on paper by Vija Celmins, Leon Golub, Sol Lewitt and Kiki Smith, multiple objects by the 19th-century industrial designer Christopher Dresser and pieces by 20th-century icons Josef Hoffmann, Ettore Sottsass and Russel Wright, among many others. “I often lived with many of these items in my NYC apartment before they found a new home at the RISD Museum,” Glenn says, adding, “my mission is to see all this information interwoven into a unified history of architecture, applied and decorative arts.” gissler.com

Colleen Kiely 84 PT

Deborah Ravin 83 IL Deborah’s pen and ink piece Ocotillo—Fouquieria splendens was among 41 entries from around the world included in the 16th International Exhibition of Botanical Art and Illustration, which was on view last fall at Carnegie Mellon University’s Hunt Institute for Botanical Documentation. The work is now a part of the institute’s permanent collection.


Colorado-based artist Trine Bumiller PR recently showed her work in solo exhibitions at the First Congregational Church in Boulder (February– March) and City Hall in Lafayette (February–April).

The paintings she created as an artist-in-residence at Rocky Mountain National Park were on view over the winter at Lafayette [CO] Public Library. Heather Davis PT showed new oil paintings in The Gift of Color, a winter solo exhibition at the Community Arts Center of Cambria County in Johnstown, PA.

Husband-and-wife documentarians David Hodge ID and Hi-Jin Kang Hodge recently premiered their new documentary Life on Wheels at the Nordic Future Mobility Summit at Stanford University. The feature-length film looks at shifts in global sentiment regarding the need for a transportation revolution.


above: Paintings from Colleen’s recent series Women on the Verge have been added to The Painting Center’s online Art File Gallery and were a Boston Globe Critics Pick when they were shown last fall at Robert Moeller’s Cost Annex. She also participated in The Odyssey Project, a group exhibition at the University of New Hampshire in Durham inspired by the first English translation of the Homer classic by a woman. With offices in Denver and Jackson Hole, WY, Dynia Architects—the firm Stephen M. Dynia BArch founded in 1993—recently completed the River Channel residence, the iCAM Research Facility and The Source Hotel + Market Hall in Denver’s RiNo neighborhood. The firm is known for inventive designs that connect interiors with the environment and for designing dynamic public spaces that connect buildings with community.


Architect Gabrielle Bullock BArch—a RISD trustee and principal director of global diversity at Perkins & Will in

NYC-based home goods designer Neil Cohen BID won a 2019 GOOD DESIGN Award for Chop Slice Scoop, which allows Ilana Manolson 82 PT cooks to safely chop ingrediTime: In the Mountains, a ents and then transfer them to one-person show of Ilana’s the pan without switching tools. somewhat unconventional landscape paintings, was due to run from mid April through Anna Boothe 81 SC mid June at the Whyte AmForUS (2014, kiln-cast Museum of the Canadian glass, 17.5 x 8") is one of Rockies in Banff, Alberta, Anna’s two pieces included in where she was born. Larry the 2020 Biennial Members Rinder, a former curator of Exhibition at the Fuller Craft contemporary art at the Museum in Brockton, MA. The Whitney and currently director show opened in February and and chief curator at BAMPFA remains on view through in Berkeley, CA, wrote the November 8. The artist lives in text for the accompanying Zieglerville, PA. catalogue.

Los Angeles—has earned the American Institute of Architects’ Whitney M. Young Jr. Award celebrating diversity and social responsibility. For more than three decades, Gabrielle has focused on ethical projects such as alternative housing programs that provide safety and shelter for homeless people. Sculptor/filmmaker Richard Goulis FAV, whose arboreal piece Condemned was on view in Providence earlier this year, spoke about his unique and diverse process at an early March talk sponsored by the RI arts organization The Avenue Concept, run by Yarrow Thorne 11 ID. Painter Steven Kenny IL— who works out of his studio in St. Petersburg, FL— took home first prize in a 2019 competi-

PLEASE NOTE Many exhibitions and events mentioned in this section have been postponed, cancelled or moved online due to the pandemic.


Dorothea Van Camp 84 IL Last spring the work Dorothea made while exploring unfamiliar printmaking processes for the first time in more than 30 years was on view in Gravitational Loopholes, a solo exhibition at HallSpace in Dorchester, MA. It stemmed from two transformative experiences: a residency with master printer Sue Ohme in Colorado and a viscosity printing workshop in Cambridge, MA. Dorothea is based in Boston. tion sponsored by the Australian magazine Beautiful Bizarre and exhibited the winning oil painting, The Ribbons, in a winter group show at Haven Gallery in Northport, NY. Earlier this year, he earned a $5,000 grant from the local arts agency Creative Pinellas.

spring/summer 2020


Jackie Saccoccio 85 PT left: Jackie’s powerful show Femme Brut drew critical acclaim during a long winter run at two venues: CHART in NYC and Van Doren Waxter, the NYC-based gallery that represents her. “The only distinction between realism and abstraction is how an artist handles her paint,” critic Andrea K. Scott wrote of the show in The New Yorker. From late fall through early winter, Fotini Vurgaropulou SC showed new collage work in a solo exhibition at DubArts in Brooklyn, where she lives.


35th Reunion October 9–11

1984 continued

Thanks to a grant from the Pollock-Krasner Foundation, East Coast artist Lily Prince PT has been able to continue her American Beauty project, a

series of plein air paintings and drawings recording the beauty of the American West. The work was on view this spring at Thompson Giroux Gallery in upstate New York.

Paul Brahms PT explores realist painting as a way to “imply atmosphere and mood rather than describe it.” A solo exhibition of his work was featured earlier this year at Mayo Street Arts in Portland, ME, where he lives.

Painter Stephanie RobertsCamello PT continues to focus on encaustic techniques, showing vivid work earlier this year in Above and Below at the Art Complex Museum in Duxbury, MA and in Histories: Lived, Learned and Inherited at the Grimshaw-Gudewicz Gallery in Fall River, MA from March 5–April 4. Talin Megherian PT, whose visual vocabulary weaves together recognized symbols with common objects to explore issues of identity, empowerment and rebirth, also exhibited work in the three-person show.


Last December the NY chapter

of the American Institute of Architects elected Scott W. Briggs BArch, a senior associate at Skolnick Architecture + Design Partnership in NYC, as secretary of its board. Last winter work by artist/ illustrator Trine Giaever IL was included in the 4th Annual Members Exhibition at Garner Arts Center in Garnerville, NY.

Jeff LaFlamme 89 FAV In January Jeff released Homecoming (hococomic. com), an ongoing, interactive graphic novel that he has been developing for the past two years.

far left: originally commissioned by Artpace San Antonio | photo by Kimberly Aubuchon

Katie Pell 87 PT Bitchen Stove, a piece from 2006 that captures Katie’s popart focus on suburbia and gender roles, is now part of the Linda Pace Foundation’s permanent collection at Ruby Pace gallery in San Antonio, TX. The multidisciplinary artist made a huge impact on the local community there before she passed away on December 20, 2019.

Artist/educator/curator Todd Bartel PT has been developing the concept of “uncollage” in a series of articles published in Kolaj Magazine. He first presented the idea in spring 2018 at the inaugural Kolaj Fest in New Orleans, where he gave the keynote lecture. Todd defines the newly coined term in part as “the combining of multiple sourced images into a cohesive whole without leaving any trace of their disparate origins.”

Brent Cardillo 89 IL Walter Wilson Wondered tells the story of an art museum librarian who is inspired to make his own art again after an evening of encounters with the museum’s masterpieces. Based in Park Ridge, IL, Brent was able to publish his first children’s book as a 40-page hardcover earlier this year with help from a successful Kickstarter campaign.


// undergraduate class notes

PLEASE NOTE Many exhibitions and events mentioned in this section have been postponed, cancelled or moved online due to the pandemic.

Bella Ormseth 90 PT Called The Sick Child, this painting was sold sight unseen— during the pandemic. Bella’s paintings of fantastical fungi were featured in two recent shows at Roq la Rue Gallery in Seattle: the February group exhibition A Beautiful Ghost and a solo exhibition in May titled Human Nature. She lives on the small island of Puget Sound, WA, near Seattle.


Striking photographs by John Ruggieri PT* were included in the Humble Arts Foundation’s online group show 100% Fun, the 2019 Kolkata [India] International Photography Festival, a group show called In Manual Mode presented in Boston by AREA at The Yard and in an interview published in BostonVoyager magazine’s July 2019 edition.

In response to the pandemic, Maine-based art teacher Valerie Wallace IL began offering free virtual drawing classes to children and adults on Facebook and YouTube. “I am thrilled to connect with friends and total strangers all over the globe as social media does its thing,” she notes.


For the second year running, Cristian Eterovic BArch exhibited work in Ping Pong, an independent exhibition held in December in conjunction with Art Basel events in Miami. Photographer Jill Greenberg

PH won a gold medal in

the Graphis Photography

Annual 2020 for her portrait of award-winning actor Michael K. Williams. Longtime librarian and archivist Suzanne S. LaPierre PT recently published an informative piece in The Student Research Journal exploring the evolution of archives in a multicultural, digital age.


30th Reunion October 9–11 David Opie IL (see page 13)

Last November David Weeks

PT launched a retail venture

in NYC joining David Weeks Studio and Stellar Works, two lighting and furniture brands known for their distinctive, contemporary aesthetic. He’ll continue to host installations, exhibitions and public events in his Tribeca storefront.

(a nonprofit space in Brooklyn run by Alexis Katz BArch 94) presented the works of Rebecca Chamberlain AP and Yasaman Esmaili as two sides of the same idea—around diaspora—executed in reverse. Rebecca’s work focuses on the human need for physical safety and spiritual refuge— most recently by focusing on The White City in Tel Aviv. Yasaman’s Studio Chahar is a nomadic architecture firm founded on the idea that communities must build their own architecture in order to make it equitable and sustainable. So while Rebecca looks at a displaced pedagogy in response to historic genocide, Yasaman considers a displaced architectural practice as a necessary, intelligent response to the rise of globalization. Last year New Mexico-based author Christine E. Eboch PH (aka Kris Bock) published 12 new books for young people across a wide range of genres, bringing her total catalogue to more than 70. The first three books in her new Furrever Friends Sweet Romance series are now available on Amazon.

Michael Riley 91 GD + Kate Mrozowski 06 GD Each episode of Dickinson, a streaming series on AppleTV+ based on the life of 19th-century poet Emily Dickinson, opens with imaginative title animations by Shine, the LA-based motion graphics studio Michael founded. Their work for Dickinson earned top-10 of 2019 recognition from Art of the Title. Shine also created the vibrant, pop-expressionist opening sequence of the DC Comics action film Birds of Prey and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn. Timeless pieces from the Transitory Space #9 series by Leah Oates IL were on view earlier this year at Black Cat Artspace and Artscape Wychwood Barns—both in Toronto, where she now lives—and at Upstream Gallery in Hastings-on-Hudson, NY. This spring her work was also included in Respite and Renewal: Inside and Out, an online exhibition curated by James Isherwood and hosted by Susan Eley Fine Art in NYC. Womenswear designer Marcia Patmos AP shifted gears this spring to focus on making breathable, well-fitting masks for social distancing, which

are available online. Ten percent of sales goes directly to the Food Bank for New York City. Last fall California-based artist Mel Prest PT showed work at the Crocker Art Museum in Sacramento, completed an artist residency at Bullseye Glass in Emeryville and curated Fundamental Complications, a group exhibition at Root Division in San Francisco. Her work was also included in Color Theory & Interaction, a group show celebrating the 100th anniversary of the Bauhaus, on view at Ruth’s Table in San Francisco, where Mel also conducted free, drop-in color workshops.

Chris Theiss 90 CR

Last fall Chris exhibited his cast porcelain vessels alongside his wife’s work in textiles and collage in a two-person exhibition at 1991 Skagit Valley College’s Art Apologies for misconstruing Gallery in Mount Vernon, WA. the information about this show “We are always challenging in the previous issue. Here’s each other and pushing each a corrected version: Last other to be better at what we November Salon Mlle Mars do in art and in life,” he says.

Email story ideas to risdxyz@risd.edu and post your own news at alumni.risd.edu.


spring/summer 2020


In designing a lovely large-scale metal sculpture for a client in Los Altos, CA, Susan Freda SC made it to become entwined with plants. The RI-based artist says that in time the color of the weatherproof sculpture will shift to a green-blue and totally blend in with its surroundings.

Chris Buzelli 95 IL Chris earned the 2020 Hamilton King Award—the Society of Illustrators’ top honor—after his Bubble Tea Rat (oil on wood, 24 x 36") was named the best work in this year’s SOI annual exhibition. A longtime RISD faculty member, he’s the second consecutive alum to win the prestigious honor, which went to Victo Ngai 10 IL in 2019.


The National Institutes of Health recently awarded Kristine Merz GD and her team at the RI-based consulting firm Orange Square with a research grant to improve postpartum care for underserved women. They are developing an interactive mobile tool for new mothers with the goal of reducing the postpartum mortality rate for women of color. Kimberly Olson IL/MAT 93 (see page 11)

Connecticut-based fiber artist Denyse Schmidt GD (dsquilts. com) is building community during the disquieting COVID era via an online community quilt-along that is 600-plus makers strong. Her supportive online forum provides patterns, tips, videos and bonus content. 78

// undergraduate class notes

Los Angeles-based artist/ educator David L. Simon IL had been looking forward to returning to Rome this summer to teach two 10-day sculpture workshops in June and early July, but, like everyone else, is figuring out contingency plans instead.


Art department leaders at the University of New Mexico have selected LA-based painter David Korty PR as the 2020 Frederick Hammersley Visiting Artist. The residency includes a public lecture at the Albuquerque Museum and an open-studio event at the UNM Art Annex. Architect Ian Smith BArch, founding principal at IS-DG in Philadelphia, recently joined the board at the Preservation Alliance for Greater Philadelphia. In February he served as a judge for Compete 360, an annual competition fostering design thinking in area schools.


Bold, graphic paintings by Stephanie L. Schechter ID were on view last December in the Anthony Brunelli Fine Arts booth at CONTEXT Art Miami.

Lindsay Packer TX showed her 16mm film Motion at a Distance as part of last fall’s Eyeworks Festival of Experimental Animation at Pioneer Works in Brooklyn and again in February at Mono No Aware, also in Brooklyn. Her Call and Response: Phillip K. Smith III BArch 96 Echolocation—a collaboration This spring Phillip participated in SITE: Art and Architecture in with Alex Nathanson and Dylan the Digital Space, a series of digital exhibitions presented by Neely—was also on view in Library Street Collective in significant architectural spaces Brooklyn, as was Solstice: An throughout the Detroit area. In 2018 he worked with the same Exhibition of Works in Light at organization to create Detroit Skybridge, this light installation Flux Factory in Long Island City, downtown. Last fall Phillip also showed new pieces playing with color and light in two solo exhibitions: Flatworks in his Palm Desert, NY and an immersive lightbased installation called Phase CA studio and 10 Columns at Bridge Projects in Los Angeles. Space at James Madison University in Harrisonburg, VA. “In all my work, composition An expansive gallery in the Resource Center in Boston, and color are determined by organized two shows last newly reopened Seattle Asian site, movement, chance and winter. Present Histories Art Museum features Some/ improvisation,” she says. Redefined focused on activism One, the intricate, oversized around the world and What robe Do Ho Suh PT created out They Don’t See presented of thousands of soldiers’ IDs. Karelle Levy 97 TX documentary work exploring He originally made the piece in the notion of self. response to an assignment at KRELwear, the apparel studio RISD to use clothing to express Karelle runs in Miami, emphaMultidisciplinary artist Marc sizes sustainability and body aspects of his identity—in this Cavello FAV (aka MediaMan44) positivity. This spring she case, the two-year mandatory recently released Poetry in Soli- shifted to supporting social military service he was required tude, his first sound art album. distancing measures by making to do as a native of Korea. You can listen to it for free at tubular masks out of readily mediaman44.bandcamp.com. washable cotton blends. 1995

25th Reunion October 9–11

A feature story art directed by Dean Welshman GD with photographs by Jesse Burke MFA 05 PH ran in the spring 2019 issue of Providence College’s alumni magazine and earned a 2019 Circle of Excellence Award from the Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE). The article focused on restaurant owner John Chan, a PC alum based in Woonsocket, RI.


In January Ed Bray IL showed architectural, figurative, portrait and landscape illustrations created with watercolor, colored pencil and graphite in a solo exhibition at the Milton [MA] Public Library.

Jessica Burko PH, curator and program manager at the nonprofit Photographic

PLEASE NOTE Many exhibitions and events mentioned in this section have been postponed, cancelled or moved online due to the pandemic.


Jarrett Mellenbruch 93 PT

On its surface, the Redwood Preserve project seems almost Sisyphean in magnitude. But at its core, Jarrett’s proposal to restore 1.2 million acres of California redwood forest while creating a monumental work of public art that will evolve for several thousand years is obvious. “Sometimes I laugh at how ludicrously simple the premise is. All I’m really suggesting,” Jarrett says, “is that people stop cutting down trees along a stretch of land that sequesters the most atmospheric carbon of any place in the world by a factor of two-to-three times. Who do you tell that to who says, ‘That’s a bad idea’?” Creative Capital certainly didn’t. This year the New Yorkbased arts nonprofit known for championing ambitious projects like this has awarded him $100,000. “I was super excited when I got the phone call and that really hasn’t faded,” says the artist and teacher, who serves as Social Practice program head at Kansas City Art Institute. With the new funding, Jarrett intends to create a decentralized network of individuals and groups that shares a rewarding, mutually beneficial and environmentally restorative stake in the small fraction of redwood forests remaining since the destruction began with the California gold rush in the 1840s. “I actually don’t think people want to do things that hurt the planet,” Jarrett points out. “I just think most people lack ways of taking action that are meaningful on a species level.” jarrettmellenbruch.com

Jarrett’s most ambitious environmental project to date stems from the sheer scale—and devastation—of California’s redwood forests.

Jarrett has been especially focused on ecological issues in the decade since he launched Haven, a network of sculptural beehives that he plans to install in 1,000 urban areas throughout the US. It’s the first in a series of works he calls the Deep Ecology Project, with Redwood Preserve being the second. “Historically artists have helped people reimagine how we see and live in the world,” Jarrett says. “I think that’s what we need most right now if we’re going to combat the planetary urgencies we’re facing.” — Robert Albanese // RISDXYZ

spring/summer 2020

Sarah Nguyen 01 IL left: Sarah’s cut-fiber panels feature flora, fauna and an ever-changing moon that elicit memories of myths, fables and folklore. In a nod to the fire-lit rituals of our paleo ancestors, the large sheets on view in Gathering the Names, a winter solo show at The Gallery at Penn College in Williamsport, PA, were hung away from the wall so that they cast strong shadows.

Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Journey of the Whooping Crane (Red Sky Productions), a new hour-long documentary by filmmaker Rhett Turner PH, was two years in the making and captures the giant birds’ annual, 2,500-mile migration.



The Industrial Designers Society of America recently presented a Personal Recognition Award to longtime brand strategist Michael J. DiTullo ID, who designs iconic products and brand experiences for such clients as Nike, Google and Hasbro.

Author/illustrator Jennie Palmer IL (Burbank, CA) is looking forward to the release of Milo’s Christmas Parade, her second picture book with Abrams Books for Young Readers, due out in October. The story was inspired by Jennie’s years working as a designer and sculptor for the

Matt Cottam BID 00 + Nick Scappaticci 00 ID et al Following a rigorous design competition, the National Media Council of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) has named Tellart and partner Kossmanndejong as lead designers for the UAE Pavilion at Expo 2020. Dubai is hosting the World Expo, which is due to open in October as the first to be held in the Middle East.

Last fall Sandra Gibson FAV of the creative duo Gibson + Recoder collaborated on an immersive cinema experience featuring Bucknell University student dancers in Lewisburg, PA. The Changeover System was choreographed by dancer Douglas Dunn, who also partnered with Gibson + Recoder on Corner, a new MAB Books publication presenting film stills, photographs and enlightening essays. Newer work by the duo was featured this spring in the publication Tique and as part of an online gallery hosted by A.P.E. Silver gelatin photographs by Rachel Scheinfeldt SC/MArch 06, an architect, designer and

Haavard Homstvedt 00 IL Last fall Haavard’s circular format, or tondo, paintings were on view in At the Lip’s Edge, a solo exhibition at Galleri Riis in Oslo, Norway. The artist, who splits his time between Oslo and NYC, also teamed up with his brother, product designer Hallgeir Homstvedt, for a spring exhibition at KHÅK Kunsthall, Ålesund called Inntil Hverandre, which—ironically given our lives now— roughly translates to Close to Each Other. fine art photographer based in Philadelphia, were included in a spring exhibition at Lonsdale Gallery in Toronto. Last year Liz Squillace IL partnered with Stamford [CT] Downtown and Future 5 high school students to create a unique public art installation featuring painted tree wells along the city’s Atlantic Street.


20th Reunion October 9–11


Painter Emma Copley PT created a site-specific installation celebrating women

scientists in the Department of Pathology at Cambridge University. Part of a larger program called The Rising Tide: Women at Cambridge, the collection of portraits was on view from November–March. Kalon Studios designer Johannes Pauwen ID showed a new tableware collection last December as part of the Echo Park Craft Fair in Los Angeles. The studio also contributed work to California Designed 2020, a group exhibition that ran from February 9–May 3 at the Long Beach [CA] Museum of Art in conjunction with the museum’s 70th anniversary.

John Gordon Gauld

99 PT right: The Archer (2014, egg tempera and 24-karat gold on panel) was among the labor-intensive paintings on view in Unborn Sun, a winter solo exhibition at the Berkshire Botanical Garden in Stockbridge, MA. “I am connected to the past through the rituals of the old masters and to the present through an investigation of life’s contemporary issues,” says John, who lives and works in NYC.


// undergraduate class notes

PLEASE NOTE Many exhibitions and events mentioned in this section have been postponed, cancelled or moved online due to the pandemic.

Chicago chapter—is included in Newcity Design’s Top 50 list of creatives producing “boundary-pushing work, immersive experiences and all-around impeccable design.”

Jessica Wimbley 03 PT Earlier this year Jessica showed mixed-media work in Belle Jet and Cabinet Cards, a solo exhibition at the College of the Canyons in Santa Clarita, CA, where she did an artist residency. The California-based artist describes the works on view as blending elements of autobiography, personal mythology and the literary novel, based on what poet Audre Lorde calls biomythography.


Last fall the new gallery at the Toledo [OH] Lucas County Public Library opened with A Public Tête-à-Tête. The solo retrospective featured interactive installation pieces by Jess Frelinghuysen PR, a

lecturer at Stamps School of Art and Design at the University of Michigan in Detroit. New England-based attorney Gregory R. Kanaan FAV is now chairing a subcommittee of the Connecticut Bar Association

Jane Kim 03 PR A longtime environmental activist, Jane continues to support the Xerces Society, a nonprofit that protects pollinators and their habitat, through her work with Ink Dwell Studio. She recently designed Monarch in Moda, her first-ever, limited-edition footwear collaboration with Le Mondeur. The shoes are embroidered and made by hand in Portugal.

Email story ideas to risdxyz@risd.edu and post your own news at alumni.risd.edu.

focused on intellectual property, business law and contract issues for artists, filmmakers and creative entrepreneurs. He writes for a variety of publications and speaks at colleges, nonprofit arts organizations and professional associations about the intersection of legal issues and artistic practice. King Covid and the Kids Who Cared, an illustrated e-book for children, encourages young readers to care for themselves and others during the pandemic. Created by graphic designer Nicole Rim GD, it is available in English and Spanish and doubles as a therapeutic coloring book. Designer and strategist David Sieren GD—a managing director at One Design Company and co-president of AIGA’s

On leap day (February 29) Allen Spetnagel IL taught a workshop on comic strip sequences at the Robert C. Williams Museum of Papermaking in Atlanta, GA, where he lives. Students used a ninepanel grid system to create and refine a stream-of-consciousness comic strip. Aaron Tang ID (see page 5)


Artist Laura Mae Noble IL, who teaches at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, is looking forward to co-leading a series of workshops in June focused on painting, drawing, monotype

Alan Foreman 00 FAV The Casagrandes is “a huge leap forward for honest and authentic representation in children’s entertainment,” says Alan, the supervising producer for the animated series on Nickelodeon. Spun off from the network’s hit The Loud House, the new show focuses on 11-year-old Ronnie Anne Santiago and her multigenerational, MexicanAmerican family living in a fictional place called Great Lakes City. printmaking and the important role of mindfulness in the creative process. Though the series may need to be postponed, participants are invited to unplug at The Tributary, a 200-year-old farmstead on 200 acres in northern Vermont.

Evian Zukas-Oguz 98 TX Outburst (24 x 42") earned first place in the Butler Institute of American Arts’ 81st Area Artists Annual Exhibition at the museum’s Trumbull branch in Warren, OH. The juried exhibition features work by artists living in eastern Ohio and selected counties like Evian’s in Pennsylvania.


spring/summer 2020


From last October through mid February, Pia transformed the central atrium of the Queens Museum in NYC through Fade into black: sit, chill, look, talk, roll, play, listen, give, take, dance, share, a textiles installation about the impact of overconsumption in the US on cultures beyond its borders—including her own in Mexico.

2003 continued

Christian Schulze AP (see page 5)

Multidisciplinary artist Tavares Strachan GL, a RISD trustee who lives and works in both NYC and the Bahamas, just completed a 2019/20 residency at the Getty Research Institute in California. Earlier this year Marian Goodman Gallery announced that it now represents him (along with such other high-profile artists as John Baldessari, An-My Lê, Gerhard Richter, Tino Sehgal,

Robert Smithson and fellow RISD grads Julie Mehretu MFA 97 PT/PR and the late Francesca Woodman 79 PH). (see also page 10) Printfresh, Voloshin and Printfresh Studio, the three ethical fashion and lifestyle brands spearheaded by Philadelphia-based designer Amy Voloshin TX, have been getting a lot of media coverage recently. A plug on Good Morning America just before Thanksgiving promoting her 100% cotton Printfresh

pajamas led to a spike of 2,000 rush orders. “It was crazy around here,” Amy told the Philadelphia Inquirer, “but it was so worth it.” In a fascinating, in-depth profile of Jordan Wolfson SC in the March 16 issue of The New Yorker, Dana Goodyear looks at whether the artist’s perpetually edgy and psychologically fraught work can continue to attract audiences in “a newly sensitive age.” The piece was written in conjunction with Artists Friends Racists, Jordan’s February solo show at Sadie Coles HQ in London.


A recent New York magazine article focused on the former paper-clip factory in the Port Morris neighborhood in the Bronx where painter Christian Breed PT and 50 other artists now rent studio space. “Getting to know the cultures of the communities in the Bronx continues to have a great impact on my work,” Christian said. Will Gurley PT (see page 12)

Becky Fong Hughes 05 GD Becky, her husband and young daughter Lulu live in Providence and welcomed Jacob Sum-Jun Hughes to the family on April 29, 2019. They chose the seemingly simple Mandarin middle name of Jun because it carries a lot of meaning: “smart, eminent, handsome, talented, distinguished, notable, noteworthy, great and influential.” 82

// undergraduate class notes

Cara Llewellyn 05 IL above + right: In two bright bits of news, Cara art directed and designed The Undefeated, a picture book by poet Kwame Alexander that won the 2020 Caldecott Medal, along with a Newbery Honor and the Coretta Scott King Award for Kadir Nelson’s illustrations. In January the DC-based designer also welcomed a new baby, Wilder Grey, who will soon be the first to offer critical feedback on the children’s books his mom designs.



Brooklyn-based artist/curator Reid Hitt PT, former co-director of Projeckt722, is now one of eight co-directors of Transmitter, a collaborative gallery in Brooklyn also led by two other alumni co-directors.

Eric Telfort IL, an assistant professor at RISD, is one of three RI-based artists to win a $25,000 MacColl Johnson Fellowship from the Rhode Island Foundation. The grant funding is freeing him up to work on a graphic novel about two friends who grow apart, along with a series of oil paintings that examine the idea of role play and dress-up.

Matthew Mosher FD showed work bridging the physical and digital worlds in far-flung group exhibitions this spring: at the Digital Spring Biennial in Salzburg, Austria; Input/Output at Mesa Community College in Arizona; the [nueBOX] performance residency program he cofounded in Phoenix, AZ; and the Garden of Eden open studios event at Art and History Museums Maitland just north of his home in Orlando, FL.

15th Reunion October 9–11

PLEASE NOTE Many exhibitions and events mentioned in this section have been postponed, cancelled or moved online due to the pandemic.

top left: photo by Hai Zhang, courtesy of Queens Museum

Pia Camil 03 PR


right: photo by Livia Radwanski

Jazzmen Lee-Johnson 06 FAV

“My creative process has always been grounded in archival research,” says Jazzmen. “We are where we are because of where we’ve been.” Based in Providence, the multidisciplinary artist and musician has been pursuing two residencies simultaneously this year—at the RISD Museum and the Rhode Island Department of Health (RIDOH)—while also making time to mentor teens at the local nonprofit New Urban Arts. Among the projects Jazzmen is working on at the health department are a graphic novel exploring food access and nutrition for immigrant teens and a community forum called Can We Talk?, which is inspired by a program of the same name in nearby Roxbury, MA. Recognizing that “it’s important to jazzmenleejohnson.com

build on programs and relationships that already exist,” she hopes to improve them by adding “an artist’s perspective.” Through her fellowship at RISD, Jazzmen is “attempting to create a dialogue” between the museum’s collection and the research she has conducted on slavery and colonialism— including at Brown, where she earned an MA in Public Humanities in 2015, and everywhere from the American Antiquarian Society in Worcester, MA to music archives in Chicago, Washington, DC and South Africa. Essentially, she’s asking two key questions: whose voices are absent and what stories might they tell if we were able to hear them? “Museums are repositories of our culture,” Jazzmen notes, “and the big question for me is how people from the African diaspora—and, more specifically, black women—are represented.” This spring Jazzmen created an installation in the Chace Center that reimagines the gallery space as a rocketship leaving Earth for good. “If I were to leave this planet tomorrow,” she muses, “what objects from the museum’s collection would I take with me on the journey?” — Simone Solondz Gijima (2019, silkscreen on paper, 11 x 19"/ edition of 11) from Jazzmen’s forthcoming afro-futurist graphic novel Grandma’s Lament/Sello sa Nkoko. // RISDXYZ

spring/summer 2020

Nick Mahshie 07 PT Nick’s 6:20am–8:41pm / Miami series captures the quiet moments of beauty he observes in Miami Beach, FL at various points on any given day. He describes the hand-dyed, screenprinted tapestries—which were on view at the city’s Mount Sinai Medical Center Surgical Tower from last August–February—as “grounded in light, reflected on water [and] emerging out of a humid sky.”


Apparel Design Architecture Ceramics Digital + Media Film/Animation/ Video FD Furniture Design GD Graphic Design GL Glass IA Interior Architecture ID Industrial Design IL Illustration JM Jewelry + Metalsmithing PH Photography PT Painting PR Printmaking SC Sculpture TX Textiles

MArch Architecture MAT Teaching MDes Design in Interior

Studies MFA Fine Arts MID Industrial Design MLA Landscape Architecture

FORMER MAJORS AD Advertising Design AE Art Education MD Machine Design MIA Interior Architecture TC Textile Chemistry TE Textile Engineering FORMER 5TH -YEAR DEGREES BGD Graphic Design BID Industrial Design BIA Interior Architecture BLA Landscape Architecture OTHER BRDD Brown/RISD Dual Degree CEC Continuing Education Certificate * attended RISD, but no degree awarded

2006 continued

The Vitis 7 LED Chandelier from Rich Brilliant Willing (Theo Richardson FD, Charles Brill FD and Alex Williams FD) earned a top-10 pick in Y Lighting’s Editor’s Picks. This spring RBW partnered with their neighbors in Industry City, NY to address the dire

need for face shields for area hospital workers dealing with the COVID crisis.


Colin P. Kelly ID (see page 9)


This spring Lindy McDonough ID and her team at Lotuff

Misha Kahn 11 FD Soft Bodies, Hard Spaces, Misha’s third solo show at Friedman Benda, included ambitious new works melding 3D scans of carved objects with virtually fabricated forms. A monumental tapestry for the show was designed in VR and then handwoven in mohair with embroidery. With NYC shut down for most of the run of the show, Misha did a lot of remote interviews and appearances online.

Leather in Providence repurposed their studio to make FDA-approved protective face shields along with a range of high-quality masks to support ongoing social distancing needs during the pandemic. Prior to the pandemic, Allie Pisarro-Grant PT and her husband launched Alcove, an inviting retail space on the Lower East Side of Manhattan featuring beautifully designed cannabis accessories and CBD goods.


10th Reunion October 9–11

Katie Stout 12 FD Fruit Lady (Gold) (2020, ceramic, paint, glaze and gold luster, 71 x 32 x 17") was among the work on view in Sour Tasting Liquid, Katie’s late winter solo exhibition at Nina Johnson in Miami, the gallery that represents her. Once people were advised to stay home due to the pandemic, the Brooklyn-based artist used her iPhone to photograph a piece for The New York Times showing the collection of fun and eclectic artwork (much of it by friends from RISD) that makes it much more tolerable for her to be holed up at home.

far left: photo by Daniel Kukla, courtesy of Friedman Benda and Misha Kahn

MASTER’S DEGREES MA Adaptive Reuse Art Education Global Arts and Culture Nature–Culture– Sustainability Studies

Textiles and apparel designer Lindsay Degen TX has been a driving force behind Converse Shapes, the first line of genderless sportswear that Converse plans to release this fall. The T-shirts, hoodies,

RISD reserves the right to edit submissions to class notes, which is a forum for alumni to share personal and professional news. This relies on an environment of trust and mutual respect. Views expressed by alumni are theirs alone and are neither endorsed by nor able to be ascribed to RISD. No information presented here may be used to defame, harass or threaten individuals or entities. All images submitted for publication must be copyright clear.


// undergraduate class notes

PLEASE NOTE Many exhibitions and events mentioned in this section have been postponed, cancelled or moved online due to the pandemic.

Jillian R. Wiedenmayer BArch 11 + George Coffin 12 FD After recently founding Studio Den Den, a Brooklyn-based merger of their respective architectural and product design practices, Jillian and George had begun focusing on a new line of furnishings and lighting products and transforming an upstate farmhouse into a Scandinavian-style home. But this spring, like other alums eager to apply their skills, they suddenly shifted gears to help make face shields for frontline healthcare workers in NYC. sweatshirts and chinos are all designed for specific body shapes rather than genders. On January 25 multimedia artist Leslie Goldstein CEC GD closed Finally Here!, her winter show at Southcoast Surface Design in New Bedford, MA, with an artist talk.

Last winter Polly Spenner TX, a tech in RISD’s Textiles department, showed a weaving called Chasing My Own Heart in Seeing Red, a group show at the Wickford [RI] Art Association. She is currently working on a sculpture that reflects on the fluid nature of history and combines her

woven jacquard pieces with reclaimed historic slate and selections from RISD’s Rare Woods Collection.


Providence-based animator Brian C O’Malley CEC Animation curated a series of screenings featuring his own short animated films alongside those made by fellow Rhode Island artists, including RISD faculty members Hayley Morris 08 FAV, Max Porter 03 FAV, Daniel Sousa 94 IL and Steven Subotnick. Rhode Island Animators Unite! was screened at the Jamestown Arts Center, the Hera Gallery in Wakefield and the Bristol Art Museum.

Meghan Kirkwood 06 PH Hero City, a fall exhibition at Highland [KS] Community College’s Yost Gallery, featured photographs from the compelling series Meghan began shooting in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia in 2007. She teaches as an assistant professor of art at North Dakota State University in Fargo. four weekly issues dealt with panic, boredom, longing and food, and all donations go

directly to frontline healthcare workers and others impacted by COVID-19.

John Sebelius 06 IL For the past two NFL seasons, John has served as the official shoe designer for My Cause My Cleats, hand painting cleats for the Kansas City Chiefs (this year’s Super Bowl winner) to represent a charity or nonprofit each player chooses to support. After players wore them in Week 13, the NFL auctioned off the cleats, with 100% of the proceeds going to the charities.

This spring Natasha Rosenberg TX and Kayla Mattes 11 TX teamed up with friends to launch a free, digital publication called Quaranzine. The first

Parker Manis 07 ID left: Parker and his business partner recently launched a nontraditional fragrance label in NYC called ES-84 PARFUMS, which has already won an innovation award in packaging. In christening their product Eau Shit, they hope to “steer clear of the way traditional beauty industry practices are maintained/ perpetuated” in favor of the “human experience aspects that we can all (as people) relate to.” Email story ideas to risdxyz@risd.edu and post your own news at alumni.risd.edu.


spring/summer 2020


Nathalie Jolivert BArch 12 In All My Dreams, a collective, multivalent exhibition Nathalie organized based on her degree project at RISD, was on view earlier this year at Barnard College in NYC. The show presented a visual dialogue between her work along with that of two other Haitian artists responding to René Depestre’s novel Hadriana in All My Dreams.

2012 continued

Carrie Witt IL, an art director, senior artist and “cat whisperer” at the VR-focused creative studio Owlchemy Labs in Austin, earned recognition in the Games category of Forbes’ latest 30 Under 30 list of top young creatives.


Minali Chatani GD earned 30 Under 30 recognition from Forbes in the 2020 Retail &

Ecommerce realm for cofounding and serving as brand lead for the burgeoning pet products company Wild One. Designer Jon Key GD, cofounder of the collective Codify Art, was included in the latest Forbes 30 Under 30 list of young creative entrepreneurs to watch. He and fellow alum Wael Morcos MFA 13 GD also head up the Brooklyn-based design startup Morcos Key.

Xinwei Che 15 SC During a residency in the Malaysian village of Kampong Ulu Dong, Xinwei worked with residents to make an installation called The Library of Shadows, which presents shadow paintings of and audio recordings about their everyday objects. In November she showed the work in Singapore’s URBN.SENI, the first triennial exhibition of Malaysian and Singaporean art and culture.

Artist/educator and former Fulbright Fellow Jessica Paik PT has been named director of the new Master of Arts in UX Design program at Azusa Pacific University in California, where she’ll harness her interests in technology, media and design to transform the learning experience.

Katy Wiedemann 13 IL

Illustrator/graphic designer Stephanie Vecellio IL recently won a 2020 Visual Arts Fellowship from the Somerville [MA] Arts Council, which is supported by the Massachusetts Cultural Council.

Katy illustrated the wonderful new book Anatomicum (2019, Big Picture Press) in collaboration with the Wellcome Collection, as part of its Welcome to the Museum series. Beyond the scientific illustrations she does on commission, she also carries her love of science into her work as an accomplished tattoo artist.



Ashton Agbomenou FAV (see page 42) Acacia Johnson PH (see page 26)

Industrial designer Deesha Misra ID joined forces with two friends from Brown University to launch a zerowaste eyewear company called Vision Z. After raising almost $30,000 in startup funds via Kickstarter, they’re working on offering sustainable, madeto-order glasses online.

Last October Brooklyn-based architect Sama El Saket BArch collaborated with design coach Nadine Zaza BArch 17 on Amman ya Amman, a series of intaglio prints on view in

The Hangar Exhibition at Amman Design Week 2019 in Jordan. With the theme possibilities, the show presented work by more than 50 designers from the Middle East and North Africa.

Matt Muller FD (see page 8)

Estella Ng 14 PT right: Having taken her practice back to Singapore, Estella now makes art, design, murals and more on commission as part of a creative duo called Ripple Root. “We recently painted Google’s Asia Pacific Headquarters,” she writes, “and were the youngest to be hand-picked for an online auction at Sotheby’s.” 86

// undergraduate class notes

PLEASE NOTE Many exhibitions and events mentioned in this section have been postponed, cancelled or moved online due to the pandemic.


Emily Neilson 15 FAV

A week after graduating from RISD five years ago, I moved to Portland, OR to begin an internship at Laika, the animation studio behind Coraline. My first assignment was to take a stylized drawing of a tree and interpret it in 3D. It was like I had stepped right back into my freshman foundation class at RISD. After a flurry of Bristol board mockups, the production designer walked by, shrugged and said, “Not a bad first thing to make.” I guess whatever I was doing was working, because they kept giving me drawings, and I kept making more things. I was in heaven. After the trees came shrubs, rocks, puddles, clouds, fire, buildings, wood, bigger trees, and on and on. One day I’d make a tiny plant, the next, a cardboard mockup of a tavern. And every now and then there’d be some lovely little statue or taxidermy creature that needed sculpting. The years flew by and eventually Missing Link came out last summer—without making a huge impact at the box office. It’s funny working on a movie: You have so much time to pick it apart, talk through its flaws with your coworker friends. You keep thinking about how good it might be or how much it could improve. When it finally comes out you can’t really see it anymore. This year Missing Link won the Golden Globe for Best Animated Feature, which was such a pleasant surprise for all of us. There was so much beautiful work done on that film, and so many emilyneilson.com

incredible people working on it—including alums Brittany Bennett 11 TX, Gates Callahan 16 FAV, Song Kang 16 IL, Ann Larson 03 IL, Evan Larson 99 IL, Brian Ormiston 93 IL and Katy Strutz 15 IL—and I’m just so pleased that I got the chance to work with all of them. Last year I left Laika to finish my very first picture book Can I Give You a Squish? I’d been chipping away at it in the evenings, but the deadline for Penguin Random House was looming and I needed to finish it—fast! The story is about Kai, a merboy who loves to give squishes (hugs) but soon realizes that not every fish wants to be squished. At its core the book is about learning to show love in new ways, which, sadly, is something that is on our minds right now. I hope this book can find its way into the hands of many kids and parents this summer. But I also hope that one day when all this is over, my old production designer will see it in a bookstore somewhere and think: Not a bad first thing to make.


spring/summer 2020

Tess Wagman 18 FAV Great! Lakes, the degree project film Tess made about the legendary Minnesota candy family the Canelakes, premiered on Twin Cities PBS in December and aired again in mid March—along with an interview with Tess—as part of the PBS series Postcards.

Mike Ruiz-Serra 19 ID In a Milk.xyz piece that cites Mike as “one to watch,” the NYC-based designer describes the tactile, functional sculptures in his Pulp series—all made using sustainably produced paper pulp—as “rooted in the idea that radical design doesn’t necessarily rely on radical new materials.” Suzie Shin 17 GD + Jenice Kim 17 IL Suzie (Chicago) and Jenice (New York) collaborated on creating a wonderful 2020 calendar that features contributions from fellow alumni: Jason Fujikuni 17 GD, Jeffrey Hsueh 17 IL, David Huang 17 IL, Joanna Seul 17 IL, Jean Wei 17 IL, Juan Tang 17 IL, Mary Yang MFA 17 GD and Ran Zheng 17 IL. Proceeds from the sold-out run went to the community nonprofits NYC Relief and Breakthrough, which is based in Chicago.


// undergraduate class notes

2015 continued

Forbes included NYC-based illustrator Marly Gallardo IL in its most recent 30 Under 30 roundup of the most promising creative entrepreneurs under 30 years old working in the US.


Experiential designer Nashra Balagamwala IL, a native of Pakistan, is included in the latest Forbes 30 Under 30 Asia list of young creative talent.

Best known for designing a board game to raise awareness about the ongoing cultural practice of arranged marriages, Nashra is currently pursuing a master’s degree at Harvard Graduate School of Design. Forbes selected NYC-based director/animator/designer Saad Moosajee GD for its most recent 30 Under 30 list of promising young creative entrepreneurs.

Gracey Zhang IL (see page 96)


Last fall the 798 Design District in Beijing commissioned Brooklyn-based artist David Huang IL to create a mural that is now brightening the city’s streets through the end of this year.

To help parents and teachers advised to stay at home due to the pandemic this

Tara Gupta 18 FAV Tara’s animated short Lucy won the top prize for creativity in the One Earth Young Filmmakers Contest in Chicago, earning the $1,000 Sally Stovall Planet Warrior Prize plus a $1,000 matching gift. She donated half to The Rainforest Alliance and Farm Fresh Rhode Island, where she interned when she was at RISD.

PLEASE NOTE Many exhibitions and events mentioned in this section have been postponed, cancelled or moved online due to the pandemic.

Michael Ee 15 GD right: For the 2019 Singapore Biennale, Michael translated spoken-word artist Pooja Nansi’s poem Coping Mechanisms into a 36 x 5' installation that surrounded the Singapore Art Museum for four months. Since returning to Singapore after graduation, he has been teaching and maintaining a studio practice. Ernesto Renda 18 PT Marcel Schein #15 is among the paintings shown in Frottage Works, Ernesto’s first solo show in NYC— on view in February at The National Arts Club. spring, Patrick Hulse IL and fellow alums at Todd Oldham Studios in NYC posted free online art lessons for kids that make use of materials most people already have in their homes. Chicago-based graphic designer Suzie Shin GD, who works at studio Span, is keeping herself grounded during the pandemic through the art of collage. She posts work daily on IG. (see also facing page) Boston-based artist Ocean Wong IL is exploring new avenues in the ed-tech startup

industry, specializing in interactive graphic narratives.


There’s No “E” in Wisconsin, the animated short Lindsey DeMars FAV made as she was graduating last spring, is one of 41 student films selected for Animafest Zagreb’s World Festival of Animated Film, scheduled to take place in early June in Croatia. Rebecca Ford FD exhibited recent work in Themselves, a show curated by TheTheThe for DesignTO, Toronto’s annual design week in January. Objects by fellow Furniture Design graduates Joyce Lin BRDD 17 FD, Shaina Tabak 18 FD, Jamie Wolfond 13 FD and Kit Howland MFA 19 FD were featured in the same exhibition.


Nancy Guerrero TX (see page 62)

Hanna Cha 17 IL NBC News selected Tiny Feet Between the Mountains, Hanna’s debut picture book, for its 2019 list of 13 Best Asian American Children’s and Young Adult Books. In addition to noting the “striking illustrations” she frequently posts on social media, the network notes that her new book “incorporates aspects of Korean mythology while also celebrating the power of young girls.”


Lawrence Voyer 58 ID* of Lincoln, RI on 3.14.20

David Akiba 73 PH of Jamaica Plain, MA on 8.24.19

58 IL of Bristol, CT on 3.19.20

Sandra (Southwick) Wilson

Dan Spector 73 ID of Memphis, TN on 3.31.20

Elizabeth (Shippee) Aitkenhead 46 ID of Narragansett, RI on 4.11.20

William Buckley 59 MD* of Pembroke, MA on 2.24.20

Alfred Ramage 74 IL of Winthrop, MA on 1.14.20

Merrill Budlong 60 AR of State College, PA on 3.19.20

Antony Spengler 74 IL* of Brooklyn, NY on 10.19.19

Sara (Shaw) Dubois 46 ID of Waltham, MA on 2.11.20

Frederic Vega 60 IA of Fort Lauderdale, FL on 3.19.20

Ricardo Viera MFA 74 PR of Miami Beach, FL on 4.1.20

Mildred A. Woodrow 46 AE of Albuquerque, NM on 8.6.18

Brenda Minisci 61 CR of North Hatfield, MA on 3.2.20

Elmer Burger BArch 76 of Pittsburgh, PA on 12.22.19

Jacqueline (Meyer) Stetson

William R. Rich 62 AR* of Burlington, CT on 4.17.20

Roger Gordy 76 FAV of Boston, MA on 4.2.20

Barbara Begg 63 PT of New York, NY on 12.17.19

Robert Risman 77 PT of Diamond Point, NY on 1.16.19

Paul Ducharme 63 ID of Falls Church, VA on 4.4.20

Elizabeth Evans 78 GD* of Andover, MA on 11.11.19

Diana (Rantoul) Harrison 64 SC of Newport, RI on 2.29.20

William Crozier BID 80 of Providence, RI on 10.22.19

Sydney (Giffin) Wiley 64 IL of Waldoboro, ME on 11.2.19

Bruce Gourley 81 CR of Providence, RI on 10.28.19

Jane (Kempf) Langmuir 66 IA of Providence, RI on 1.11.20

David Katz BLA 81 of Woodbridge, VA on 11.27.19

Mark Rogovin 68 PT of Forest Park, IL on 9.30.19

Teri Weidner 85 IL of Portsmouth, NH on 12.20.19

Alex Urbanetti 68 PT of Manchester, CT on 2.8.20

Katie Pell 87 PT of San Antonio, TX on 12.21.19

William Lysko 70 AR* of Norton, MA on 12.7.19

Judy Gelles MFA 91 PH of Philadelphia, PA on 3.14.20

Amanda (Humphrey) Cheau

Marc Jon Crisafulli 94 IL of Gaithersburg, MD on 12.10.19

Veronica (Kenny) Farrell 39 AE of Providence, RI on 4.21.20

48 AP of West Palm Beach, FL

on 3.24.20 Eleanore Hadley 49 AP of Pittsford, NY on 12.12.19 Arthur Pendleton 51 TX* of Belmont, NC on 2.21.20 Paul Harvey 52 GD of Westport, CT on 10.13.19 Alfred F. Murray 52 GD* of Bolton, MA on 12.3.19 Barbara (Booth) Hazard 53 GD of Boston, MA on 10.25.19 John Stanley Marozik 53 TX of Weston, CT on 4.4.20 Lillian (Machado) Dickson 54 PT of Orinda, CA on 12.8.19 Clifford Wiens 54 AR of Vancouver, Canada on 1.25.20

Email story ideas to risdxyz@risd.edu and post your own news at alumni.risd.edu.

John V. Colan 55 PT of Warwick, RI on 1.27.20


Lawrence Charity 57 IA of South Kent, CT on 6.2.19

Warren Daniel 72 AR* of Wayland, MA on 10.27.19


Robert Demers 57 MD of Cranbury, NJ on 10.29.19

Robert Saunders 72 IL of Natick, MA on 4.27.20

Daniel Militello 05 PT of Sherrill, NY on 12.4.19

71 AE of Staten Island, NY on


Paul Joseph Lewis Root

01 PT* of Hampden, MA on

spring/summer 2020


moving forward

// graduate class notes

Robert Rustermier

MFA 93 CR right: Space, place and time were the core themes of Praxis: Abstraction, an exhibition Robert curated earlier this year at Bristol [RI] Art Museum. The show featured his own oil-pigmented wax on panel pieces like this, along with work by Ron Ehrlich, Lloyd Martin 80 PT and Michael Rich 91 IL.


Richard Fleischner 66 SC/MFA 68 Untitled Construction (2016, wood, cardboard, earthen plaster, catalpa pods, 25½ x 20¼ x 5⅞") is among the “metaphorically rich and formally inventive” work in Witness Mark, a solo exhibition on view through June 30 at Helwaser Gallery in NYC. Based in Providence, Richard is represented by Helwaser and also Del Deo & Barzune in NYC.


Emmet Gowin MFA PH (see page 16)

was on view last winter at Susan Inglett Gallery in NYC. (see also page 16)



Providence-based photographer Kathie Florsheim MFA PH participated in 5th Decade, a winter group exhibition celebrating 45 years of creative collaboration at Hera Gallery, an artist cooperative in Wakefield, RI.


Installation artist Jenny Holzer MFA PT showed work in By/Buy Me, a group exhibition exploring the artist as self-publisher that

Arlene Shechet MFA CR (see page 14)


Reliquary, a constructed piece by MJ Viano Crowe MFA PH, is included in All the Marvelous Surfaces: Photography Since Karl Blossfeldt, a group retrospective on view through September 1 at the DeCordova Museum in Lincoln, MA. MJ is based in Belfast, ME.

Artist/curator Brad Buckley MFA SC—a professorial fellow at the University of Melbourne, Australia—coedited the new, definitive reference book A Companion to Curation (Wiley), which covers diverse, contemporary methods of curation, current and emerging approaches within the profession and more.

Anne Sherwood Pundyk MFA PT recently created Zombie Sisters, a haunting collection of short stories and stitched paintings, in the process of working through the trauma of a sibling’s grave injury. An excerpt from the book recently appeared in fine art magazine The Hoosac Institute, and the NYC-based painter is hoping that a planned launch party can take place this summer at the Cutchogue [NY] New Suffolk Library.


Interdisciplinary artist Linda DiFrenna MAE showed photo-

graphy and mixed-media work in the Newport Annual at the Newport [RI] Art Museum from January–April and in the winter exhibition Remembrance/Memorial/Monument at Bristol Community College in Fall River, MA.


Artichoke (fluid acrylic on yupo), a recent painting by Jim Kociuba MAE, was included in the Cambridge [MA] Art Association’s 2020 Members Prize Show, on view in February and March.


Boston-based artist Linda Leslie Brown MAE showed

Kim Beck MFA 99 PT/PR Pavements, Potholes & Repairs (2019, Mab Books) presents Kim’s documentation of the everyday landscape beneath her feet. “With 498 photographs, it’s a chunk of a thing thick enough to fill a small pothole,” says the Philadelphia-based artist.

Tom Lamb MFA 80 PH below: In January the Orange County Center for Contemporary Art in Santa Ana, CA hosted Marks on Land & Mind, highlighting the aesthetic similarities of Tom’s aerial photography (see detail below) to the paintings of fellow exhibitor Soheila Siadate.

left: For almost two decades Roy has been photographing abandoned and repurposed US military facilities—from 19th-century forts to WWIIera ammunition bunkers. This spring he showed recent photos from this series in Obsolete Military Structures, a solo exhibition at 6 Bridges Gallery in Maynard, MA. “I try to photograph objectively and without bias,” he says. “The camera provides me with a method to explore and celebrate this crazy trip of life.” 90

PLEASE NOTE Many exhibitions and events mentioned in this section have been postponed, cancelled or moved online due to the pandemic.

top left: photo by Mark Johnston, courtesy of the artist

Roy DiTosti MFA 71 PH

Stephan Brigidi

MFA 76 PH right: Stephan Brigidi: ROME 1970s was on view in January at Robert Klein Gallery in Boston, shortly after Daylight Books published a monograph by the same name. Thanks to a Fulbright-Hays Fellowship, Stephan spent the year after graduating from RISD in Italy making remarkable photos like this one and subsequently earning a Photographer’s Fellowship from the NEA.

Vaughn Sills MFA 82 PH Queen Anne’s Lace, Bedeque (2016, archival pigment print, 21 x 14" over 30 x 20") was among the photographs on view in Inside Outside, a winter solo exhibition at Kingston Gallery in Boston. Vaughn lives and works in Cambridge, MA and Prince Edward Island, Canada. recent sculptural work reflecting on Darwinian notions of genetic mutation in Survival Mode, a solo exhibition on view from December 4–29 at Kingston Gallery in the city’s South End.

“After 40 years of living in the Colorado Rockies, I know winter,” says the artist, who also gave a painting demo during the opening reception.

Last winter fine art photographer Mary Kocol MFA PH showed her work in A Welcomed Enigma, a solo exhibition at Gallery NAGA in Boston.

Providence-based photographer, graphic designer and educator Thomas Ladd MFA GD contributed photos from his Plain Sense and Sheep Pasture Gardens series to Thicket, a three-person exhibition on view last winter at the Chazan Gallery in Providence. It also included abstract drawings and paintings by multidisciplinary artist Milisa Galazzi MAE 96.


The American Society of Interior Designers recently recognized the contributions of UMass Dartmouth faculty member Rose Mary BottiSalitsky MAE with a fellowship—its highest honor.


From February–March Jocelyne Prince MFA GL, who heads RISD’s Glass department, showed work in Intercalary Event 2020, a group show at the Chazan Gallery in Providence that also included work by fellow alums and RISD faculty members Sean

right: photo courtesy of Anne Spalter Studios | far right: photo by Fredrik Nilsen

Winter Advisory, a solo show of paintings by Virginia Unseld MAE, was on view in December and January at Washington Hall Gallery in Central City, CO.


Salstrom MFA 06 GL and Katie Bullock MFA 16 GL.

Award-winning artist Kara Walker MFA PT/PR continues to make an impact around the world. Drawings, a spring solo exhibition at Sikkema Jenkins & Co. in NYC, spotlighted works on paper from her personal archive and offered a sneak peek at an upcoming major exhibition slated to travel to Switzerland, Denmark and the Netherlands.


A major retrospective exhibition of work by MacArthur Awardwinning painter Julie Mehretu MFA PT/PR is moving from the Los Angeles Museum of Art to the Whitney in NYC, where it’s slated to be on view from June 26–September 20.

Katherine Gray MFA 91 GL below: Based on 25+ years as an influential glass artist and educator, Katherine is being inducted into the American Craft Council’s College of Fellows at the ACC’s awards ceremony in Minneapolis in October. Radiant Mirage, her late spring solo show at Heller Gallery in NYC, will be rescheduled once the gallery reopens. Katherine’s recent piece As Clear As The Experience, Redux (2019, blown glass, steel, 36 x 16 x 60") is shown here.


Jen Boyle-Hebda MFA GD, a branding expert based in Newport, RI, contributed to the “design-a-message” challenge organized by KNOWN UNKNOWN founder James Sommerville to help get COVID-19-related messages out via social media.

Anne (Morgan) Spalter

MFA 92 PT left: Vacation Planet, Anne’s digital mixed-media installation, transformed an 8,300-sf space in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn from January 11–February 23. Blending immersive sound and algorithmically generated imagery with real palm trees and tropical greenery, she sought to mix “the semiotics of the tropical beach vacation with the mystery, wonder and loneliness of outer space.”

Email story ideas to risdxyz@risd.edu and post your own news at alumni.risd.edu.


spring/summer 2020


Center for Maine Contemporary Art in Rockland. Rural Japanese social innovation enterprise Taketombo Corporation—founded and managed by Mikki Tam MIA— earned a 2019 Good Design Award from the Japan Institute of Design Promotion.


Elaine Frei MLA (see page 11)

Los Angeles-based artist Paul Roustan MAT published a second volume of his body painting and photography work featuring projects from the past five years as well as a foreword by NYC art aficionado Patti Astor.

Mark Pack MFA 04 PT Fibonacci (2016) and other mixed-media works were featured in Unanswerable Questions, a late winter solo exhibition at Houska Gallery in St. Louis, MO, where Mark lives. In his painting, sculpture and installations, he explores oppositions “between chaos and control” through a process that he describes as one of “cultivation rather than manufacture.”


Christina Seely MFA PH, an assistant professor at Dartmouth College, showed work bearing witness to the impacts of global warming on the Arctic and the tropics in Perdita, In Finding(s), a solo exhibition on view from November 16– January 11 at Euqinom Gallery in San Francisco.

Gunnar Norquist

MFA 06 SC In most of the work in his Moments series, Gunnar translates iconic news images into small-scale drawings that explore intersections of individual and collective memory. The Providence-based artist had planned to show a wide range of these works in Step in Time, a three-person exhibition slated to run in April at Coastal Contemporary Gallery in Newport, RI.


Colby Bird MFA PH (see page 15)

The ICA Boston is organizing a solo retrospective of work by Brooklyn-based photographer Deana Lawson MFA PH, which will be on view from November 2020–March 2021 before traveling to MoMA PS1 in NYC. “I operate on the belief that my own being is found in union with those I take pictures of,” Deana says.


Tanya Aguiñiga MFA FD (see page 34 + cover)

Working from her studio in Austin, Melissa Borrell MFA JM has shifted her focus to support healthcare workers during the COVID-19 crisis, using her design, fabrication, project management and creative problem-solving skills in conjunction with the nonprofit collaborative Masks for Docs. She has also been teaching online art classes to kids stuck at home and looking for a creative outlet. Entertaining Illusion and Always Never, two provocative installations by Robin Mandel MFA SC overlaying video images onto objects, were on view from November–February in Temporality/The Process of Time, a group exhibition at the


// graduate class notes

Last winter photographer Thad Russell MFA PH presented Portrait/Landscape: Revisiting the Lurie House, a solo exhibition documenting the reconstruction of an iconic mid-century modern house designed by architect Kaneji Domoto. The images were on view at Pinkcomma Gallery in Boston. Thad is based in Providence and teaches at RISD.


Design duo Chelsea Green Minola MID and James Minola 07 ID, partners in the sustainably produced home goods company Grain, are building a new studio at their home base on Bainbridge Island, WA featuring state-of-the-art technology. As they put their business on hold this spring like most others, they made sure “to get outside each day, rain or shine” and tried to let their “children be the guide as their creativity and ability to find joy in the everyday seems limitless.”

Anna Plesset MFA 11 PT Based on WWII film footage her grandfather shot while serving as a psychiatrist in the US Army, Anna’s Various Records series combines drawing, video, trompe l’oeil painting and sculpture. In early March works from the series were on view in The Armory Show, the annual exhibition at Pier 94 in midtown Manhattan. Just as this oil on Dibond painting appears to be a photograph, today Normandy’s D-Day landing beaches are popular tourist attractions that mask the past. Ghanaian roots via Yenkassa, an organization he founded based on his RISD thesis about sub-Saharan African storytelling traditions. After a video of Akan proverbs he produced went viral, he and linguist Frimpong Manso released the book Selected Akan Proverbs and Their Meaning. Last winter multimedia artist Stephanie Williams MFA SC contributed to Merkin Dream, a group show at Maryland Art Place in Baltimore, and Seamless, another group show at Rutgers University in Camden, NJ. She also participated in a panel discussion at the Smithsonian American Art Museum focused on women filmmakers working outside of Hollywood.


In February Mark Cetilia MFA DM presented an evening of

multichannel sound productions at MIT’s Dissolve Music Festival in Boston. The sound/ media artist holds a PhD in Computer Music and Multimedia from Brown and teaches in the Digital + Media department at RISD.


In January bestselling author Nell Painter MFA PT was appointed chair of the board at the MacDowell Colony, a rural artists’ cooperative in Peterborough, NH.

Rose B. Simpson MFA CR (see page 18)

While working as a UX/UI designer at Oracle in the LA area, Matey K. Odonkor MFA DM continues to explore his Ashanti/

David Getty MArch 10 + Stephanie Getty MArch 10 In February the design studio/ workshop Surrounding Objects was invited to show in the Greenhouse section at the 2020 Stockholm Furniture Fair. Based in Jakarta, Indonesia since 2014, David and Stephanie oversee design and production at the woodworking shop her father established 40 years ago.

PLEASE NOTE Many exhibitions and events mentioned in this section have been postponed, cancelled or moved online due to the pandemic.

Whitney Oldenburg

MFA 15 PT left: Shoe Lace, an organic, 31-foot-long sculpture, was among the works on view in Loose Ends, a winter solo show at Materials for the Arts (MFTA) gallery in Long Island City, NY. The exhibition celebrated the beauty of mundane things and the very human desire to keep the chaos of everyday life under control. former director for David Krut Projects New York, are now among the eight artists who run Transmitter, a collaborative gallery in Brooklyn.


Doreen Garner MFA 14 GL Sculptures like After Her Flag “attract, repel and also menace with the power of flesh that is barely contained and full of heretofore unknown riches,” notes a Brooklyn Rail review of The Remains, Doreen’s winter solo exhibition at JTT in Manhattan. The artist lives and works in NYC.


Artist/curator Hilary Doyle MFA PT, former co-director of Projekt722, and printmaker Genevieve Lowe MFA 13 PR,

Gerardo Gandy MArch, an associate at Gensler, is included in this year’s Austin Under 40 Finalists in the Architecture, Engineering and Construction category. “It is an honor to be recognized [among] such an impressive list of Austinites representing 16 industries doing impactful work in our community,” he says.

Photographer Julie GautierDownes MFA PH recently showed work in several group exhibitions in Spokane, WA: Illuminate at La Resistance, Too Frozen to Bury at Richmond Gallery and the RAC Group Exhibition at Spokane International Airport, which remains on view through June. Known for her elaborate embroidered canvases

Rachel Klinghoffer MFA 12 PT Rachel exhibited ecocative sculptures like The world was moving, she was right there in the winter solo show Suspended in My Masquerade at Ortega y Gasset Projects in Brooklyn and in Stilleven, a group exhibition at Morgan Lehman in Chelsea.

exploring identity, NYC-based artist Sophia Narrett MFA PT is preparing for a September solo exhibition at Kohn Gallery in Los Angeles, which now represents her.


In February ceramist Lauren Skelly Bailey MFA CR spoke at the Heckscher Museum of Art in Huntington, NY as part of its Emerging Artists Series 2020. Work by Marybeth Rothman 81 IL was also included in the exhibition. Living Distance, an outer space performance, two-channel video installation and VR experience by Xin Liu MFA DM, premiered at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival in January and was also an official selection for SXSW in Austin, which was canceled due to the pandemic. A review of the piece appears in the March issue of ArtForum. With support from the MIT Media Lab Space Exploration Initiative, Xin designed, built and launched the first international open call for artworks at the International Space Station and is continuing to develop new projects as an artist in residence at the SETI Institute.

Adam E. Anderson

MLA 12 right: Last fall the Providence Preservation Society recognized Adam and his landscape architecture firm Design Under Sky for two exemplary projects: Living Edge and 10,000 Suns, both located along South Water Street in Providence (near RISD’s campus). Living Edge also won DownCity Design’s Imagine Us Here design challenge and earned a merit award from the RI chapter of American Society of Landscape Architects, as did The SHACK Garden at Dune Brothers Seafood in Providence. Email story ideas to risdxyz@risd.edu and post your own news at alumni.risd.edu.

Justin Sorensen MFA 13 PR The flags that make up On Exactitude in Science mark the ironically inexact impact of 500 paper airplanes on a wall inside Schnormeier Gallery at Mount Vernon [OH] Nazarene University, where Justin’s solo show Familiar Shapes was on view from January 9–February 14. Michael Menchaca MFA PR (see page 15) Alyson Ogasian MFA DM (see page 17)

On January 21 RI-based printmaker Julia Samuels MFA PR joined fellow artist and RISD professor Andrew Raftery at the WaterFire Arts Center in Providence for a discussion of their practices and her recent exhibition Landscape in Relief. The new series brings emerging and established local artists together for public conversations.


Industrial designer Katherine P. Brandy MID recently launched a new neck pillow called Harbor Hood, which provides users with a cozy and comfortable personal space when traveling or waiting to be seen at the doctor’s office. She’s based in Cincinnati.

Padma Rajendran

MFA 15 PR right: Padma’s work was on view in Making the Cut, a winter group show at Transmitter in Brooklyn. “Textiles are essential to our lives,” she says. “They protect our bodies, demarcate identity and social hierarchy, create spaces of rest and provide emblematic comfort.”


spring/summer 2020



Shterna Goldbloom MFA 19 PH

For the first 16 years of my life, I was taught to stay away from everything unholy, all the deepest, darkest profanities of the world, the “other side.” Sitra Achra is the term used to describe all the things on the “other side” of holiness, like queers, and women who don’t fit traditional definitions of femininity—women who go to college and want to have babies outside of marriage and without husbands. Sitra Achra is me. Now, as I sit on the other side, I try to find a way to see the two sides of myself together—to create a conversation between tradition and heresy. This conversation takes the form of self-portraits, photographs of myself intended to represent individuals who have historically been excluded from representation: Jews, queers, women. Sitra Achra shows day-to-day life, mundane spaces, doubled images, good and bad. I want to show people the way they see themselves, nuanced, complicated. I look to history with regards to clothing, situation and placement. I also think about ideas that are important to me and the larger community now: How am I—as a queer Jewish woman—going to create a family? How have Jewish women historically created families? How might this have been discussed in the traditional texts? How can I harness modern technology to address ancient inequalities? // graduate class notes

In Ich Bin Di Sitra Achra (I Am the Other), the title of her ongoing series and a solo show at Brandeis University in Waltham, MA, Shterna shows work that she continued to develop at RISD. Sponsored by the Hadassah-Brandeis Institute and the Women’s Studies Research Center, the exhibition closed to foot traffic shortly after opening in March, but remains on view online through July 3. Part of the programming around it shifted to a Zoom workshop Shterna led and another inviting people to engage critically with her work. shternagoldbloom.com

Ewa Podgórska MIA 19

Biniam Kebede MID 18 When he got married to Mahaletwork Nina Assefa on May 26, 2019, Bini went full out in celebrating at a ceremony in Addis Ababa, where he was born and spent the first 15 years of his life. To prepare for the big event, he made the invitations, jewelry, traditional formalwear and a ring case that he fabricated at RISD’s Co-Works space. The UX designer and entrepreneur is based in Cambridge, MA.

2017 continued

Anina Major MFA CR completed an artist residency in Provincetown, MA last winter and showed a stoneware piece called Hybrid Gourd in a spring exhibition at Ferrin Contemporary in North Adams, MA. Titled Nature/Nurture, the show featured work by female artists exploring the impact of gender on their practice. Anina also

taught in RISD’s Ceramics department last fall. Art Jewelry Forum named New Jersey-based artist MJ Tyson MFA JM the winner of its prestigious 2020 Young Artist Award recognizing jewelry makers under the age of 35. Artist/educator Mallory Weston MFA 13 JM of Philadelphia was one of four finalists in the competition.

Julia Betts MFA 17 SC Julia’s sculptural work was on view in Ruptured Holding, a winter solo exhibition at GRIDSPACE in Brooklyn. She also participated in the group exhibition This Sacred Thing at Space Gallery in Pittsburgh, where she lives. “My projects are unified by their intentional unpredictability and use of unstable materials,” the artist says.


Building on bacteria-centered design work she began at RISD, Megan Valanidas MID is developing bioplastics that break down over time. Her work is included in Plastic, an exhibition that opened at Trinity College Dublin last fall and is due to travel throughout Ireland this year. Another of her concept models was on view last winter in Design + Science, which opened at Eastern Michigan University before traveling to the Science Center Philadelphia in Pennsylvania.


Drawn to the Work, a threeperson exhibition last winter at the Houston [TX] Center for Contemporary Craft, featured sculpture, works on paper and digital illustrations by Chenlu Hou MFA CR.

Aiming “to create a peaceful oasis in the heart of a bustling city,” Luna House is an inviting interior concept by Sova Studio, Ewa’s new NYC-based design firm. Her studio’s approach to interior design is founded on a commitment to bringing nature into built environments in a way that is “not only beautiful but also good for our health.” the city’s annual design festivities in January. Multimedia artist Alyce Santoro CEC 94/MA 19 NCSS—a longtime challenger of the notion of objectivity— successfully defended her graduate thesis in December, making her one of the first recipients of RISD’s new master’s degree in NatureCulture-Sustainability Studies.


Camille Chew MFA PR (see page 13)

Though it has been postponed due to the pandemic, Eunhyung Chung MFA 20 SC has earned a coveted summer residency at Oxbow School of Art in Saugatuck, MI.

Aisha Jandosova MA AE and Kevin Hubbard MFA DM are among this year’s graduates who have won RISD/Maharam Fellowships to bring art and design thinking to socially engaged nonprofits through summer internships.

New grad Jarrett Key MFA PT was included in Forbes’ 2020 list of 30 Under 30 promising young art and design entrepreneurs. Jarrett cofounded the Brooklyn-based collective Codify Art, which highlights the work of artists of color, with an emphasis on women, queer and trans artists. This spring they also spearheaded a RISD student initiative to make PPE for local healthcare workers. Irina V. Wang MID (see page 6)

Kit Howland MFA FD was among five Furniture Design alumni who showed work in Themselves, an exhibition at Stackt Market in Toronto that ran as part of DesignTO,

Stephanie E. Hanes

MFA 17 CR right: The National Council on Education for the Ceramic Arts (NCECA) has named Stephanie and fellow Seattlebased ceramist Ling Chun MFA 16 CR two of its six 2020 Emerging Artists. Since the organization’s conference was canceled due to COVID, both will present their work at the 2021 gathering. Email story ideas to risdxyz@risd.edu and post your own news at alumni.risd.edu.


spring/summer 2020



// sketches, doodles, ideas in progress


Gracey Zhang 16 IL


A freelance illustrator and animator, G, Grace, Gracey Zhang 16 IL had barely gotten settled in Lisbon—where she planned to do a spring residency—when the Portuguese government issued stay-at-home orders. “The residency is called Hangar Lisboa,” she explains. “I had been hoping to connect and engage more with the artist community there, but COVID-19 deterred those plans.”

By early April, Zhang couldn’t get a flight back to New York, so she did the next best thing: she flew home to Vancouver to be with family. “Since they were stopping all flights from Portugal to Canada until late June, it’s been a bit of an adventure,” she says. “But it’s good to be with family during this time.” And fortunately, she has very portable work lined up, with her first picture book for Scholastic due out in 2021 and others set to follow in 2022.

This op-art commentary appeared in The New York Times on 3.26.20. See more of Gracey’s work at instagram.com/graceyyz.

Rhode Island School of Design Two College Street Providence, RI 02903 USA

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For decades Tanya Aguiùiga MFA 05 FD has focused on issues at the US/Mexico border. Now she’s worried that the pandemic is making a stressful situation worse. Read about her work inside, starting on page 34.

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