“In these two paintings, I explore the concept of duality, the contrast between two concepts or two aspects of something,” says recent Fine Arts grad Jennifer Lopez. The “something” in this dual canvas work created for her final thesis, is herself.
“I chose to showcase myself as how I believe others perceive me. The canvases, (which make up the diptych “Dualidad,”) are adorned with symbols that represent me,” she says. “I drew my inspiration from Frida Khalo with her flat busts of detailed facial features and nature and animals.”
School of Art and Design Dean Joseph Seipel, whose background is in fine arts and sculpture, noted without suggestion, the comparison of Lopez’s work to that of Frida Khalo’s.
“‘I paint self-portraits because I am so often alone, because I am the person I know best'” Dean Seipel quotes from Frida Khalo as it relates to Lopez’s work.
Contrasted in her work, says Lopez “is a portrait of myself as a demonic entity, as Witchchrist, which I embody as a my artistic self.” There are hints of influences of other artists as well in Lopez’s work, such as Michael Hussar, David E. Rankore, and Blake Neubert.
“How courageous it is to look deep and find that inner-self that at times can be contradictory–sometimes scary and other times comforting” says Art and Design Dean Joseph Seipel. “Confronting and expressing that contradiction is difficult but empowering. Lopez’s paintings live in that world.”
As she prepared her thesis project, Lopez paid a visit to Anthony Santuoso‘s home and studio. “His conceptual art shows him as a character in his own rather surreal depictions of life. This was a huge inspiration,” she says.
Lopez found “there are multiple ways I can show who I am and where my style takes me. I have the ability to show people quite literally what I’m about or be a tad creepy and cryptic.”
Lopez’s work, says Fine Arts Professor Jean Fienberg, shows the range of students’ artistic expression. Their senior thesis project, “is an opportunity for each student to seek to express a very personal approach.”
Whether the result of a New York Times assignment or a class assignment, “legions of professional and amateur artists are trying their hand at political art right now,” says Illustration Prof. Anthony Freda. The impetus: the turbulent presidency of Donald Trump.
“The goal was to use Trump as a symbol of the age,” says Freda who doesn’t discuss politics with his students. “That’s not my job,” he says. Instead he shows examples of work with historic context of political art. Their tools: irony, parody, homage or satire.
For “Trump Marilyn,” Gina Ienopoli drew on a parody of the Hope Obama poster showing Trump with fly-away hair. “It sparked the idea of using a recognizable image. I didn’t want it to be political. He’s a celebrity. So Marilyn popped into my head.”
Says Illustration Chair Ed Soyka “The visual communicator often applies an established historic icon, as Gina has done, and alters it to make a new statement and meaning.”
Freda showed students the work of editorial cartoonist, Thomas Nast, whose critiques of the New York politician Boss Tweed helped expose corruption in New York.
“I want students to see illustration as one way we look back to understand a time and place. We can’t simply be anti everything!” says Freda.
Ienopoli says that Freda’s NYT’s illustration was “absolutely a good reference point. He had taken an iconic image and replaced it with a modern topic. He showed that you don’t need Trump’s face in order to be on the topic of Trump. That’s why I added the wig flying off bit, to relate to a memorable past event.”
Ariane Zhang says that “with the havoc Trump has brought, her work [above] is the future that I visualize.” Zhang used watercolor and gouache for a dreary and faded effect, and outlined the two survivors in white gel pen. She agrees that Freda’s NYT’s piece was “a good starting ground for the assignment with the idea of fear and terror.”
“I knew some students were sharing the emotions of fear and loathing that have permeated the zeitgeist,” says Freda. “My hope was that in creating a compelling illustration, the process would help to purge negative emotions.”
Catherine Choon was stumped until she remembered the first time she saw Trump on television. “I was irked at his skin color. Why is he orange? Who is he? I related that to Cheetos. I think it’s funny.” Choon says she’s not very political but “concerned about the President’s decisions.”
Ienopoli says she hopes that viewers of her work will see Trump as a businessman and celebrity. “His background will effect the way he does his job as president.”
In the NYT’s article that features Freda’s illustration (above), novelist Teddy Wayne says “Trumpian turmoil” makes people “feel as though they are part of something bigger than themselves.”
For Freda, that part of “something bigger” comes from interpreting momentous events. “I knew these talented students would come up with some powerful imagery, and they did.”
Not many clients these days “live above the store,” so to speak. It takes a sharply inquisitive imagination and some fancy skills to know how to deck out a full-floor apartment at the Met Life Tower, complete with a spacious wrap-around porch overlooking Madison Square Park.
For the redesign of the massive floor-through apartment Erica Ventura drew up some winning plans! The fifth-semester Interior Design student received the very first Centennial Design award from the prestigious Decorators Club.
The space was to accommodate the tastes of a senior arts curator of the Madison Park Conservatory, her documentary film producer husband, and two children. It would also have to impress a large posse of art world professionals.
“It was perfect for me!” says Ventura who is also a painter and muralist. “I can relate to building a space for someone passionate about art like I am. As soon as I looked at the art work available for the project, I was excited. Art was an option for each of the dramatic spaces.”
Some of the specifics that the judges noted were her exterior space, window treatments, textures, wall treatments and covering.
The formal living room was designed around the sculpture that was applied to the ceiling. It’s made of paper plates cut and slotted together. The piece by Tara Donovan, mimics the ways of nature, cellular growth, and molecular density.
Winning the Centennial Design award in its inaugural year was a tremendous high. “I was so excited. Everyone had such a different approach and all are really creative and beautiful,” said Ventura of the finalists.
“It is a huge honor for us to award our first Centennial Design Competition prize to a student as talented as Erica. Her design showed an excellent understanding and use of scale, skillfully incorporated the required furnishings and artwork, and most importantly, she carefully considered not just how the spaces would feel and look, but exactly how they would be used.” – Courtney Coleman, Co-chair, Decorators Club Scholarship Committee
Ventura, who says she “loves looking at floor plans,” gives some advise to the novice:
“To best read look first at the point of entry. In my case it’s the elevator bank [above] that leads to the foyer where a circular wall guides you to a living space.
Symmetrical pocket doors lead to a library that functions as a home office for conducting business meetings. Included is a built-in taupe lacquered bookcase where the husband’s 23 vintage atomic models and a vast book collection are showcased. The ceiling has a brass textured wallcovering that merges with the brass from Ron Arad’s Thumbprint sculpture.
“Her love came through for the client and the project. Erica understands the project and the art and interpreted it very, very well. It’s calm and sophisticated. Her strengths were her attention to detail, choice of furnishings and design of the wrap-around, outdoor space. – Carmita Sanchez Fong, Chair, Interior Design
The dining room has a custom glass-top table that seats 10 and can expand to 20 for events. The contemporary “octopus” chandelier by Achille Salvagni and blue wave console are accented with silver metallic window treatments and geometric color study paintings by artist Josef Albers.
“I wanted a series of lighting coves to give a wash of light down the walls,” she says.”The way I use the art is to highlight the space and build the floor plan around the art pieces.”
The bedroom walls are upholstered in a Scalamadre tweed gray fabric with a pair of industrial black sconces to flank the king-sized bed. Above the bed in a recessed space is “Charmed,” Atticus Adams’ aluminum relief sculpture. A pair of black Knoll Platner lounge chairs offer a space to spend a moment gazing upon the cityscape through French doors.”
“Every design is inspired by different things,” says Ventura who transitioned into the Interior Design BFA program after taking courses in 3D construction model making, foundation art that focused on design, and plaster perspective drawing.
From butterflies, evergreens in the frigid tundra to high school uniforms and 18th century chantilly lace, senior design students reveal the under layers of their inspiration.
RUNWAY ALERT!:Selected work from graduating fashion design students will be presented at the Future of Fashion 2017 runway show. Specializations include sportswear, special occasion, knitwear, intimate apparel, and children’s wear. The runway show will be streamed live on FIT’s website here: #FITFashionShow
“I always wanted to create this work. I think human bodies look best when in motion,” says Illustrator Jianrong Lin, (’16), of “Momentum,” his series of athletes in the heat of competition. Lin’s exquisite work evokes images depicted on ancient Greek urns. “What men or gods are these?” one might be inspired to ask, as the poet John Keats did of the “mad pursuit” of gods and maidens.
“I used different body forms to convey power, speed, and flexibility. I made this composition [above] in an arc form to emphasize the speed and momentum of the athletes. Perhaps this is the moment right after the runners take off,” says Lin.
Since graduating Lin has created posters and medical illustrations for the pharmaceutical company Merck, a storyboard for an AT&T campaign and a restaurant mural. And more good news: one of his illustrations was accepted into this year’s Society of Illustrator’s Annual Student Show.
“The foundation of Jianrong’s fantastic work starts with his observation of things as they are, then translated into unique images. He has a sense of color that’s his own that comes from hard work and a love for what he does.” – Ed Soyka, Chair, Illustration
“These swimmers [above] would have just plunged into the water. To charge forward, they turn their bodies into waves,” says Lin.
“I know exceptionalism when I see it and it was obvious from the first class with Jianrong that he was in that category. – Bil Donovan, FIT Illustration professor and Society of Illustrators board member
“When I think of football, what comes to mind are strength, physical contacts, and how the players can be piled up in weird ways,” says Lin.
“What I learned from the illustration program is a combination of so many things. It can be a technique I learned in a life drawing class, or ways to observe the object I want to draw. It’s even some words a professor said to me that stuck in my head,” he says.
“Volleyball players will do everything to save the ball. I’m always fascinated by how they’re willing to get on the floor,” says Lin.
Meanwhile, “Yoga is all about flexibility and mindfulness, so I tried to keep the figures simple and soft, almost feather-like. The composition [below] was inspired by cabbages — You know when you cut those purple cabbages in half and discover the wonderful patterns!” says Lin.
“For sure, without what I learned in FIT’s illustration program, I wouldn’t be able to create this series. I’m very grateful for it.”
Says Ed Soyka, Chair of Illustration, “He took what he learned and translated it into a personal, creative and fantastic artistic vision of his own.”
“It’s culturally and visually so stimulating, the smells and sounds are all overwhelming in an incredible and good way,” says Photography Professor Jessica Wynne. She was mingling with the nine students she led through India as part of the International Photographic Study and Practice course this winter intersession. Upon viewing each others’ photographs at a reception outside the Great Hall, they talked in exuberant detail about their study abroad experience.
“We took a boat ride on the Ganges at dawn. Just nine of us on the boat. It was magical,” says David Western, a Fashion Merchandising Management major. “There are men who ride around with bird feed trying to get you to buy it to feed the birds. There are people washing clothes and bathing” he says.
“We were going non-stop from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. everyday,” says Prof. Wynne. “We started in Delhi, then went to Agra to the Taj Mahal. We flew to Varanasi, famous for the sacred pilgrimages to the Ganges.”
“The Ganges is a sacred river for Hindus. It’s the highest honor to be cremated there,” says Wynne. “Hindus believe if they are cremated on the banks of the Ganges River their soul will be free from the cycle of death and rebirth. It’s all happening at once; they bathe, wash their clothes, let children play, and at the same time they are burning bodies.”
Western, a rock climber and skier interested in travel and sports photography, said “It was an opportunity to learn more about myself as a photographer. I’ve photographed climbers in extreme conditions. This pushed me to work on different styles.” A theme he focused on was images captured through car windows.
“I wanted to explore how people react to the camera in the East versus the West,” said photography major Sophia Pavlatos, who decided to make the trip “because it was unconventional…It was incredible to see how open they were to my camera,” she said.
For the photo of the man on the outdoor bed (above) Pavlatos said “I let myself into his backyard in rural Delhi and he welcomed me with a natural pose.
“‘Namaste’ and a smile got me far enough,” she says.
“Before photographing them we spoke, a mixture of facial expressions and light English. I met their families and asked to take their photos. It’s not posed. Their lifestyle allows for genuine photographs. They don’t have the media giving them an aesthetic–they give 100 percent of themselves,” says Pavlatos.
“I took a series of abstract photos, about 20 of just color and shapes of objects,” says Fine Arts major Pamela Stoicev. “I’m interested in the things people overlook. In my painting class we’re doing a culture painting, referencing lore and culture. So it worked out perfectly. I’m very happy that the two classes merged,” she says.
Some mischievous monkeys captured the attention of Karina Demirciyan, a Communications Design major. “We went to a yoga studio and these monkeys were jumping up and down going from the roof to the ground and then to the next group of buildings,” she said.
“It was like Wak-a-mole. I stayed there with my camera and took the shot. It was perfect timing. Then there was a tarp they were poking in and out of,” hence another capture.
Ziara Rosario, a Fashion Business Merchandising major was struck by shapes and passageways. “I focused on architecture because architecture carries the same weight as other forms of expression of the culture,” she said.
“I had a lot of fun looking at the in-between-stuff as you walk. This was leaving the Taj Mahal. There are alleyways, but you might not think to catch these places.”
Seems simple enough. Talented BFA senior from Accessories Design sees contest opportunity. Submits a nice entry. Wins the top prize last fall for his beautiful sandal design, in a contest sponsored by Pikolinos.
Spain-based Pikolinos, one of Europe’s top brands, offers affordable luxury in the $150-$200 range. The company is known for its solid craftsmanship with shoes for men and women. It has a long history in Europe and is starting to get a devoted American following.
“Everything they do is very sustainable and with thoughts about the environment,” says Den Ly, 37. “That appealed to me because when you look at their stuff it looks like products of a tannery. You would think that must be toxic but Pikolinos uses mostly vegetable-based chemicals.”
The competition was to make a summer/fall sandal. But the story is not just about stitching and lacing. Den Ly’s win includes uncommon business acumen and an unmatched life history marked by triumph over tragedy.
Pikolinos is Den Ly’s latest award. Others he’s won include a Two Ten footwear scholarship, an award from the Accessories Council for his AAS exhibit, plus two second-place awards for footwear and belts. “I enter as many footwear competitions as I can to pay for school supplies and expenses,” he says.
“I do all types of footwear but mostly menswear and hybrids. This was different because it was for women and meant to be a luxury sandal,” he said. There were 13 who entered for three cash prizes with the top winner getting a two week internship.
Thus, said Den Ly, it was like going on a job interview. So Den Ly, a Cambodian who came to the US as a child refugee, tried to learn a paragraph in Spanish. He said the Pikolinos representatives responded by saying “I’m glad you respected our culture.”
Pikolinos, he noted, wants to build on its heritage but bring a new atmosphere. To prepare for his contest presentation, Den Ly looked at pictures of Pikolino’s model on Google and judged her supposed lifestyle – “a luxury vibe,” he says, “but approachable.”
“Den Ly’s design displayed a modern take, and yet kept the brand’s artistic vision making it a perfect addition to our SS2018 collection,” said Pikolinos Group President Juanma Perán.
Den Ly says he wants to be a creative director of footwear. He hopes to direct a brand and eventually to create one of his own.
That’s quite a life change, and the change involves quite a story.
Not long ago, Den Ly was living in Cambodia teaching mixed martial arts for a living after an injury in Florida cut short his promising MMA career (11 wins, 2 losses and 6 KOs).
He credits his pet monkey, Gizmo (from the popular 80s movie Gremlins) for the career change. “I had him strapped on my back so he wasn’t scared riding on my moped. I had unstrapped him to get a bite to eat and get something for him. He ran off into a coffee shop.”
When Den Ly found him, he had latched onto the hand of a beautiful barista, a young woman whose background was French and Vietnamese. “She was the most beautiful girl I’d ever seen.”
Her response? “You have to watch your pet. You have to take him outside.”
Den Ly says he believes Gizmo had knowingly played matchmaker. “He had a smirk.” Den Ly had grown up in a Cambodian refugee camp, but after years in Florida, boxing and working in construction, he was no longer fluent in Cambodian. “I spent months going to the coffee shop before I asked her out. She would not date me until I met her grandparents got their approval.”
Finally an introduction was arranged. “We go into this shop that was full of bespoke shoes. Her grandmother hands me a broom. ‘If you’re going to follow my grand daughter around like a puppy, make yourself useful,’ she said.”
“They started helping me learn to make shoes. I would come every other day. I quit teaching martial arts. Cambodia is an inexpensive place to live. It’s a landlocked Hawaii. Hawaii with landmines.”
Den Ly was there for two years but left after a tragic accident. “She gave me a bigger reason to do shoes,” he says about the woman he had grown close to.
Den Ly had barely graduated high school. In Florida he had focused on surfing and music. “I picked up odd jobs doing construction. I was good at it because I was always good at math and had brute strength.”
What he didn’t have was the academic history to prove he could handle FIT. So the first step was to spend two years at SUNY’s Hudson Valley Community College to get his grades up and get core classes out of the way. With his perfect 4.0 GPA, FIT beckoned.
Den Ly is still couch-surfing, saving as much as he can. Excuse the pun, but it does indeed look like the shoe FITs. “That’s perfect. I’m a lovable, practical joker, a helpless romantic, corny guy at heart,” says Den Ly.
“Den has such a courageous and inspiring story,” says Juanma Peran, President of Pikolinos. “We’re so happy to be part of his journey.”
The lions, wolves, lemurs, monkeys and birds from the “Upper Worlds” installation are gone now. For six months they beckoned passersby from the Fifth Avenue display window of the Mid Manhattan Library. Their purpose was a different one from the famed lions, Patience and Fortitude, seated diagonally across the street at the entrance way of the 42nd Street NYPL. They are an expression of reverence for Earth’s creatures on the brink of extinction. The creator of the Upper Worlds, artist and sculptress Professor Sue Willis, talks here with Fine Arts Chair Joel Werring about the installation:
“One of the most exciting things about the creative process is to find out where you’re going and what you end up with. You’re not always led where you think you’re going to be led. It’s the magical feeling of discovering something you weren’t expecting to happen.” – Sue Willis
“For me, Sue’s installation at the NY public library was a heartfelt and compassionate statement on the vulnerability and diversity of life on this marvelous planet and that we as humans so often take for granted,” says Prof. Werring.
What happens when you expect scenes of joy, and fate provides pathos instead?
“I thought I would be photographing a celebration,” says Alex Golshani (photography ’16), about the evening of the presidential election. “I expected to be making images of mothers and daughters witnessing an historic event and tearfully jubilant voters relieved after a close call with a nightmare scenario.”
Here are several of Golshani’s photos and comments about election night and the protests that followed. The photos are part of his “11/9” series that was recently published as a book.
“I was in the crowd outside of Javits Center and as the votes were being reported. This woman (above) was the first person I saw tearing up. I took it as a sign of what was coming,” says Golshani.
“His portraits illustrate the face of the country at this moment of time,” says Professor Curtis Willocks of his former student. “Alex is a thinker. He’s cerebral. He’s always looking. He’s always thinking. He is so observant of people and light. His work has always stood out.”
Outside the Javits Center, Khizr Kahn (above) and other prominent Clinton supporters gave speeches. “Mr. Kahn was of particular interest to me because of his role in the campaign and his bold opposition to discrimination and bullying,” says Golshani.
“Alex Golshani’s stark and moving black and white images of election night and the protests that followed poignantly and sensitively capture the mood of despair, disbelief and brewing anger of the moment.
When the crowd cleared, Golshani walked to Times Square where he found a mix of supporters from each side. “People were arguing and yelling. That man (above) in the suit just looked stunned, like he couldn’t believe what was happening,” says Golshani.
“His portraits illustrate the face of the country at this moment of time…Alex is a thinker. He’s cerebral…His work has always stood out.”
– Prof. Curtis Willocks
“I was feeling distressed and wanting to call it quits and go home, but I didn’t. This was history happening all around me and it didn’t matter if I was scared I had to document it,” he says.
We stand at a crossroads and never in my lifetime have I felt the critical need of the media and visual storytellers to portray our nation with calm, dignity and truthfulness. Alex’s work represents an approach that I hope we see more of.” – Ed Kashi
The following night Golshani went to the protest rally that started in Union Square and marched to Trump Tower.
“There were thousands of people on Fifth Avenue. Many had signs and were chanting. People wanted their opposition to be heard. Many were climbing scaffolding and lamp posts.”
Golshani says that at FIT he explored many “applications” of photography. “My work evolved a lot in four years. I had the benefit of some great professors who informed my many interests.”
“I admired him from Day One,” says Prof. Willocks. “He’d go out and experiment on his own with different cameras, with different film. We’d take the train to 42nd Street. Even on that short trip he’d be photographing. When I think of Alex Golshani I think of a Leica camera. He always had one around his neck. He knows his stuff.”
Golshani says he has been photographing protests since Occupy Wall Street in 2011. “The protests I have documented have been about issues like the economy, police brutality, women’s rights and even protests for food purity. Making pictures has been my way of contributing,” he says.
“I think this series is a time capsule of how people were feeling about certain issues. Today they mean one thing, in 40 years they may have a different meaning”says Golshani, who plans to do related works on the upcoming inauguration and the Women’s March on Washington.
The associate dean (and for five months our interim dean) of the School of Art and Design has left after 17 years at FIT for a warmer… much warmer…clime, in a city with really tall buildings and great high-fashion shopping malls and 24-hour air conditioning…Dubai.
Goodbye words: “No, I didn’t get fired!”
Days between arrival and work: “I fly on (Jan) the 6th, arrive on (Jan) the 7th and start work on (Jan) the 8th.”
First experience at FIT: “I was brought in to teach American Couture. I used to laugh that they brought in a European for this.”
Favorite memory at FIT: Georgianna Appignani (director of International Programs) sent me to a conference in Rio on textiles. I’d never had any public speaking experience. It was attended by the president or VP of Brazil. It was another experience of leaping and hoping a net would be there. It opened my eyes to the opportunities in education. I’ve written two books since then, lots of papers and taught workshops and spoken all over the world.
Advice to self in re-locating to a new country: “You have to find the things that bring you joy very quickly. It’s a way of establishing your own supports. Whenever you move, especially where you don’t know anyone, you lose all the familiarities that make life comfortable. You’re going to have many lonely and stressful times.”
First one new thing of joy in Dubai: “A Lebanese restaurant I discovered.”
Other things of comfort: “My broom(stick), my crystals, things that I’ve picked up from places I’ve been, chairs from Ivory Coast, ornaments from Brazil.