Category: faculty work

Reach for the sun with Professor V

By , February 18, 2014 5:05 pm

Arriving at the topsy-turvy carnival spin and colors for her “Solar Spin” photograph is part of a process Prof. Vanessa Velez DeGarcia has tested for years. “The technique is called digital solarization and I do it in Adobe Lightroom,” says the photography professor whose work was in the “New Views” Art & Design faculty exhibit.

Solar Spin by Vanessa Velez DeGarcia
“Solar Spin” by Vanessa Velez DeGarcia

Solarization was popularized by surrealist photographer Man Ray. According to Practical Photoshop Magazine, Ray’s “darkroom assistant Lee Miller accidentally turned the light on while a print was in the developer. The quirky results saw a partial reversal of the tones in the image.”

Professor V, as her students call her, now applies solarization digitally. What’s better, it’s incorporated into her Digital Darkroom course, offered in the Photography Certificate program. “I usually teach it when we begin to explore the tonal curves panel in the software,” she says.

Velez DeGarcia is a native New Yorker. “Solar Spin,” taken at Coney Island’s Luna Park, is part of a series.

“Yes, I was born in New York City. My mom and I lived in Washington Heights until I was nine years old. After graduating college I moved back and now live in Brooklyn. I love New York City. I just wish my parents were here too.”

Professor V has also taught Photography Basics and Saturday portrait photography and Photoshop courses.  To see her portrait photography go to:


Talking trash with Sass

By , October 2, 2013 3:36 pm

Recycling waste into a thing of high fashion embodies what couture has always stood for.  Couture design “pushes the envelope,” challenges concepts of beauty and the role of clothing. It’s been about rebellion, symbolism, a means of communication. Making trash beautiful, extravagant and risque is the domain of the eco fashion designers featured in Sass Brown’s new book “Refashioned.”  Just before her October 15th FIT book launch, the author and assistant dean sat down to discuss “recontexualizing” the discarded into a thing of lasting value and beauty. 

“Refashioned” by Sass Brown

Q. How is your current book “Refashioned” different from “ECO Fashion,” your previous book?

A. Markedly! My first book was about eco fashion writ large, a broad overview of different expressions of ecology and ethics in fashion design. This book is about designers working with recycled materials. It covers a broader range of fashion products, with more representation of accessories and jewelry designers.

Jacket made from vintage flour sacks by Mayer Peace Collection   Photo: Billy and Hells

Q. Why do eco designers need to be showcased in a book? Doesn’t it suggest that they’re a subset of fashion designers out there?

A. Eco design needs to be showcased, heralded and honored. There is cutting edge design being done, but there is not enough information about it.  Many of the designers featured in the book are emerging independent designers. One purpose of the book is to give their work a greater audience.

Made from discarded cow nipples by Rachel Freire   Photo: Kate Friend

There’s discussion about whether eco fashion should be separate from the mainstream industry. In truth, until the mainstream industry follows their lead on ethical and ecological business practices, they should shout about what they are doing, with the aim that these practices become so commonplace that they no longer require mentioning.

Vintage crystal necklace redesigned by 2ETN  Photo: 2ETN

Q. How do you go from “trash to couture?” Isn’t garbage by definition stuff we’re supposed to permanently discard?

A. Therein lies the creative challenge. How do you recontextualize waste instead as resource?  Orsola de Castro of From Somewhere tells a lovely story about visiting an Italian factory to pick up old stock sweaters to re-embellish and sell. She found instead all the wasted fabric offcuts from the cutting room floor, and so From Somewhere was born–a collection of almost entirely factory and mill wasted fabric.  It’s a real life example of how one man’s trash is another’s treasure.

Upcycled Speedo LZR racer suits by From Somewhere  Photo: Will Whipple

Q.   The book is divided into pre- and post-waste streams, or the “once loved and unloved.” Why are these terms useful?

There’s a major difference between how pre- and post-consumer waste is collected and used. Pre-consumer waste by definition is unused waste produced through the production of stuff, like fabric left over from cutting out a garment. By definition, some of that waste is luxury waste.

Eva Zingoni is one designer working with leftover fabrics from luxury and couture houses in Paris.  I’ve seen entire leather skins discarded with just a small piece cut out from the center, because that was the only part they wanted to use.

Post-consumer waste challenges are different. How do you go about collecting an individual’s waste?  There isn’t a stable resource. Then you have to clean those discards.  The greatest design challenge being how to redefine them into something entirely new! There are no single answers. That in part makes this area of design so rich, the multitude of responses to the design challenge.

Shredded decommissioned parachute dress by Kondakis   Photo: Terje Andre Ringen

Q. What type of designer’s work catches your eye? Is it the clever use of materials, or is purely based on aesthetics? 

A. First and foremost sophisticated design.  Whatever the materials being used, the end result must be beautiful.  I don’t believe that there is any need for any more ugly and boring clothes in the world. It’s irrelevant how sustainable or organic they might be, if they have already been produced.

Bag made from four sacks by Tamara Fogle  Photo: Tamara Fogle

Q.  Are there trends and styles to eco fashion, or is it all about imagination and design skills?

A. There will always be trends in fashion whether it’s expressed through ecological criteria or not. That said, there is a revaluing of good, timeless design as a matter of ethics–as opposed to fast-fashion trends.

Jacket from upcycled domestic textiles by MAYER Peace Collection   Photo by: Billy and Hells

Q. How do the restrictions to adhering to eco design standards enhance or challenge a designer’s creativity?

A. Working with waste materials constitutes a major design challenge. The designers I feature produce creative, sophisticated, intelligent designs because of the challenges that were posed.  Imagine designing a collection where the color, texture and pattern of your materials are constantly changing, and so are their shape and size!

Q. Is eco fashion out to make more than a fashion statement?

A. Yes, we’re out to change the world! The impetus behind all ecological design is to make a difference to our world, in what we produce and how we produce it. All of which ultimately comes from an ecological concern for our planet.

Traditional ribbon art from discarded materials by Michelle Lowe-Holder   Photo: Polly Penrose

Q. What are a couple examples of the surprising materials that are used in eco fashion? And when are even you surprised?

A. Steinwidder, an Austrian brand that produces a cool, rebellious collection of separates from used socks. Talk about a challenge in recontextualizing your materials!  Mayer Peace Collection in Berlin fashions a military inspired collection from turn-of-the-century used flour sacks, and km/a, another Viennese label that produces a line of men’s and women’s coats and jackets from retired prison blankets. 

Sweater made from discarded socks by Steinwidder    Photo: Klaus Fritsch

These are materials with a story, heritage and authenticity that cannot be replicated. In a time when most people have lost all material connection to their clothing, the stories that come with these clothes are beyond value.

Refashioned Edwardian styling from fabric scraps by Raggedy  Photo: Thom

RSVP to attend the Sass Brown’s first book talk and signing in the Katie Murphy Amphitheater on October 15, 2013

White Wolf at Brooklyn Waterfront

By , September 18, 2013 2:53 pm

A hauntingly stark, beautiful lone White Wolf will be on exhibit at the Brooklyn Waterfront Artists’ Coalition from September 21 to October 20.  Sue Willis, who created White Wolf, teaches advanced sculpture and 3D design classes in the Fine Arts Department. The wolf is part of a series by the sculptor and painter that expresses her compassion for the natural world.  In addition to her involvement in the arts industry, Willis cares for wounded birds and cats gone astray.

“White Wolf” by Sue Willis

The exhibit includes both figurative and abstract works of regional artists working in ceramic clay. It was curated by Chief Curator for the Museum of Arts & Design David Revere McFadden.  

 “Although they struggle to survive as any creature would, wolves have been demonized and mythologized to the extent that any attempt at compromise on their behalf is met with extreme resistance.” – Sue Willis

The 20-inch Lone Wolf is unique in it’s scale as a hand-built porcelain object. “Constructing out of porcelain is like trying to sculpt from bread dough. It’s elastic and likes to slump,” says Willis.  “Porcelain can shrink from 20 to 30 percent. Lone Wolf was much larger before it was fired.”

“Harbinger” by Sue Willis

The owl or “Harbinger” is also part of Willis’ series on the natural world.

Willis’ creation was inspired by the acute decline in the country’s wolf population, which she says occurs even with wolves living in or near Yellowstone Park. “Their habitats have been developed as farmland, and with elk and deer being over-hunted, it leaves them little to eat aside from cattle.”

From Sue Willis’ Lover Series

The artist’s other works are often expressed in color. Her paintings in particular are often intensely chromatic.

The Art in Clay opening takes place September 21, from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. at the Brooklyn Waterfront Artists Coalition, located at: 499 Van Brunt Street in  Brooklyn, (718) 596-2507. (Meet artist Sue Willis from 3 pm to 5 pm). For gallery hours go to BWAC.

To see more of Sue Willis’ work go to

Photos by Rodolfo Martinez

Driftwood inspires DeManuelle’s new works

By , September 17, 2013 3:18 pm

Fine Arts chair Stephanie DeManuelle is branching out. New works, inspired by a multi-twigged piece of driftwood, were on display last month at the Corscaden Arts & Barn Gallery in Keene Valley, NY.  Three were oil paintings and another was an oil and charcoal on panel. The Essex County town of Keene Valley is also the origin of the driftwood that DeManuelle welcomed into her studio.

by Stephanie DeManuelle

The paintings “look like they can be landscape-derived. They are all … sort of variations on a theme,” DeManuelle told Robin Caudell of the Press-Republican, an upstate newspaper.  “I do a lot of texture in my work and lots of viscosity with the paint.”

DeManuelle’s studio table:

photo:  Melissa Starke

“I’m referencing what I’m looking at,” said DeManuelle of her driftwood. “I was going back and forth with charcoal and oil paint and leaving some bits uncovered so everything isn’t thick.”

And the inspirational driftwood:

Photo: Melissa Starke

“The driftwood is the star now,” says DeManuelle with a big smile.

Check out previous posts about Stephanie DeManuelle’s work:

Watch it here! The fine art of Stephanie DeManuelle

Fine Art as Book Art


Ellenbogen films what the eye can’t see

By , August 20, 2013 2:05 pm

There was a lot of talk about “swimming with the fishes” in Boston this summer as the trial of famed mobster “Whitey” Bulger got underway. But underwater photographer Keith Ellenbogen really was swimming with marine animals of an amazing sort.

For  New England Aquarium‘s 2013 ad campaign. Ellenbogen’s  high-speed images of a lionfish, blacknose shark and a ballonfish were so riveting, Aquarium officials decided to broaden the campaign from print and web to include television. Ellenbogen is an incoming assistant professor in FIT’s photography department.

Ellenbogen made his name by filming not only what the eye sees but what it doesn’t. Using special cameras, he can slow down motion or speed it up. He can also provide lighting, shadow and contrast that the human eye would not normally be able to adapt to.

“Many of the most beautiful and awe-inspiring behaviors of the ocean’s creatures are simply too fast and too rare for the human eye to directly observe,” says Ellenbogen. He partnered with an MIT physicist and used a camera that’s employed to slow down the motion of Olympic athletes. “We realized that these awe-inspiring but nearly-invisible moments could be revealed through the lens of an ultra-high-speed camera.”

Tony LaCasse, director of media relations for the New England Aquarium, says that Ellenbogen’s  work helps to “present the mysterious world of the oceans and its creatures to a mass audience.”

On dry land this fall, Ellenbogen will be teaching introduction to photography,  research for senior design projects , and photography basics for non-majors.  It’s different terrain from the New England Aquarium’s Giant Ocean Tank,  home to the blacknose shark he filmed, as well as to 2,000 other animals including rays, eels, sea turtles and fishes.

Among the videos not used for the campaign, but available on the Aquarium website, shows a cuttlefish catching its prey.

Ellenbogen says his work and teaching “explores how we can use photography and videography to address environmental and social issues.  I believe in empowering students to explore their own creativity and point of view.”

To top things off, Ellenbogen gave a presentation at the Aquarium’s IMAX theater, showing the creatures and their behaviors as they were captured in  slow motion (at 1,200 frames per second) for the ad campaign. Stills from the campaign are featured throughout Boston’s Park Street subway or “T” station.

MIT professor Allan Adams (l) and incoming FIT professor Keith Ellenbogen


All media used with permission

We’re telling on Roberto Vasi

By , May 20, 2013 4:42 pm

There’s a new men’s shoe line being advertised as the “Don’t ask– Don’t tell” of military style shoes.  But tell we must!  

Roberto Vasi collection

The Roberto Vasi line began as  a business partnership formed in a class taught by Accessories Design Professor Vasilios Christofilakos 20+ years ago.

“My God we had fun!” Vasilios recalls of the sketching accessories class (LD261) that Robert Mingione attended. “He had left Bally’s footwear and was seeking more know-how. He was putting together a portfolio for a position at Kenneth Cole. I asked him to develop a men’s line. It was fun and passionate. He got the job. He comes from the business end of the spectrum. He was business-MBA with a creative edge.”


The Vasilios–Mingione partnership  has yielded the “military-meets-luxury” line of 75 styles. “We’re honing in, replicating some of the sharp tailoring military uniforms offer,” says Vasilios. Styles include casual, dress, athletic and fusion, and a “fabulous boot collection.”  

The line’s rugged masculinity is enhanced by daring combinations of materials and design techniques. “There are leathers with suede and nylons, hardware and decorative stitching, embossed patterns, men’s suiting fabrics, herring bone and hounds-tooth patterns, as well as stripes and plaids for the linings.”

The line debuted at the FN Platform shoe show in Las Vegas in February and will be on shelves at DSW and at this fall.


After studying with Vasilios, Mingione often took on FIT students as interns. “Many  became successful footwear designers,” said Mingione. “I love the creativity and passion that comes from FIT students. Young designers benefit by getting to see their work come to life. “

Roberto-Vasi collection

Now Vasilios and Mingione have to contend with the “other side of the business.” says Vasilios. “The logistists, all the little things you deal with regarding the business of shoes. Shipping — What happens when it lands in port? How do you get it to the corporate office or warehouse and how do they get it to the retailers? There’s the independent retailers. You’ve got 90 days to pay the bills. You make cold calls to buyers and hope they show up: ‘We just made it to Vegas. Hope to see you soon.’ Then you hope they meet with you once you’re back in New York.” 


Says Vasilios “It’s all about the relationships you make and nurture.”


eco beauty trophies to behold

By , May 9, 2013 5:35 pm

Raising of eco-consciousness has long been taking place in the perfume and cosmetics industry. Now there are awards for how well that raised awareness manifests into a meaningful response. Jewelry Design Professor Wendy Yothers recently designed four trophies, in two different styles, for the Cosmetic Executive Women (CEW)  and the Educational Foundation for the Fashion Industries.

CEW is mum about the recipient of a bowl-shaped trophy made of precious koa wood, to be awarded this summer, which gives us time to linger over Yothers’ creations.

Eco award by Wendy Yothers

Three of the awards are tapering obelisks made of crystal. “They wanted something to reflect a sense of our great city,” says Yothers. “It takes water and patience and a study of the refraction to create the visual affect you want in crystal.”

CEW eco award by Wendy Yothers

Yothers used koa, considered the “royal wood of Hawaii,” for a bowl-shaped award. Koa can only be “harvested by windfall” says Yothers, meaning only felled branches or trees can be exploited. But like royalty it has a linage. “You can’t cross its grain. You must respect its character or you’re done.” Yothers worked from the side of the koa so the bark could remain as a design element along the bowl’s rim. “You need good control of your craft and you need to know where you want to go,” she said.

Yothers chooses to retire to the sidelines when her work is done. She says she wants the receiver “to look at it and say ‘I’m worth it!’ They don’t need to know about me. When the art is good, it goes straight through; It becomes yours,” she says of the receivers-to-be. 

Romans, goddesses & cats–Vincent Arcilesi’s mix of modern life & myth

comments Comments Off
By , April 23, 2013 6:05 pm

Immersion in Ancient Rome happened easily for Fine Arts professor Vincent Arcilesi while on sabbatical in Rome in 2009.  His paintings of contemporary Romans wandering about the empire, seem to suggest a total accessibility to the ancient world.  His series “Arcilesi in Rome,” work he did while on sabbatical, will be on display at the   from May 2 to May 30.  The opening reception will be held on May 2nd from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.

“I stayed in the historic center. The parliament was a block away,” says Arcilesi. “Lawyers and politicians were walking around, conducting business in these ancient buildings.  It’s not just a tourist place, contemporary life goes on. But there’s a new Rome as well that’s built outside the historic center.” 

“Bernini in the Roman Forum I” 20″ x 16″. Oil, 2013 by Vincent Archilesi

“Bernini in the Roman Forum I” is one of Arcilesi’s seven new paintings, many which show a commingling of ancient and contemporary figures.  They will be on display along with eleven drawings named for Roman goddesses.

Playful, anachronistic elements provide scale and humor in Arcilesi’s paintings. There are women on horseback appearing less like conquerors than tourists. In another there’s a tiny Dachshund facing the opposite direction of an imposing  Roman emperor on horseback in Piazza del Campidoglio. In another, four lazy cats appear nonplussed beside ancient nudes and a distressed goddess.

“Dreamer and Her Dream,” by Vincent Arcilesi

Vincent Arcilesi’s daughter, Francesca Arcilesi, runs the Arcilesi-Homberg Fine Art with Norma Homberg. The two recently made the transition from running a pop-up gallery to their current gallery, located at 111 Front Street in Brooklyn.  Hours are: Wednesday through Sunday 12 noon to 6 p.m. 

Photo by: Steven Tucker

Suikang Zhao fires up the art in Tacony, PA

By , April 5, 2013 10:11 am

Prof. Suikang Zhao’s latest art installation, “Taokonick,” captures the grittiness and romance of firefighting and manufacturing. It’s a series of bronze and stainless steel pieces at the new Engine 38 firehouse in Tacony, PA. Prof. Zhao’s work was chosen for its permanence, historical detail, and reverence to the community.  Funded by Philadelphia’s Percent for Art Program, the installation is also, frankly, fun.

A laser cutout of an old Philadelphia fire truck. “They put water in it and a team pumps it and water comes out. In the old days everyone came out to help,” says Zhao. “Otherwise next time no one helps you.”

Zhao’s intent was to help knit the newly built firehouse and adjacent community center together and to connect the entire site more closely to the neighborhood.

“I can’t put up an isolated sculpture and walk away. I have to research the history, talk to firefighters and people in the neighborhood,” said Zhao. His site-specific installation includes elements of historical relevance like Disston saws (originally made nearby), images of old fire engines and an apparatus used to receive fire alarms from call-in boxes before telephones were common.  

“It really challenges the function and communication of art. Constructing permanent public art is a stricter process. Every nut and bolt has to be chosen with care, because it’s going to be up for 50 to 100 years, exposed to the weather.”

The Disston saw was manufactured by Philadelphia industrialist and saw maker Henry Disston. The small blade with disproportionately large teeth on the upper left of the right-hand panel is from a fireman’s saw that was used for demolition. Zhao’s re-creation is made of stainless steel.

“This way of art making – researching and respecting the community and the history that it’s a part of — is a way of integrating art into a sphere that is not necessarily art-savvy outside the universe of galleries and museums,” says Fine Arts Chair Stephanie DeManuelle. “It’s an excellent example for students and artists who are ready to go out into the world.”

“I bring art inside people’s lives,” said Zhao who teaches in the fine arts department. “It has to do with the context of this particular  site — the history of the neighborhood and Philadelphia, and the Disston saw.”

The Disston saw in this photo was from a collectible that Zhao borrowed and made a cast of. “Local kids didn’t know how to use it, or what it was used for,” Zhao said.

“I don’t believe art should superimpose any reality. It’s a part of the texture of reality. That’s why my work has a lot of overlapping, interweaving, texture in form and context.  To me it’s no longer about artifacts. The issue is, artifacts only work within a context in the surrounding environment.”

A fire alarm receiver. “When you pulled the handle on an alarm box — they were on many telephone poles and inside buildings — it sent an electrical signal to this machine, which typed out the alarm-box number indicating where the fire was.”


Hydrant and water gun from 50 years ago arranged as permanent art, sturdy enough for children to play on.

Most people think of public art as beautification, says Zhao. “They even have this term ‘the beautification of the site.’ But I’m ‘challenging’ the site, bringing my thinking process into this reality. Time is not linear but rather treads through different forms of social structures of past, present and future—overlapping simultaneously.”


Hurricane Sandy photography to benefit artists’ relief

By , February 15, 2013 4:44 pm

Two FIT photographer professors, Allison Wermager and Tim Soter, are participants in The New York Photo Festival presentation SANDY: Devastation, Document, Drive, a “visual document” of  Hurricane Sandy at the Powerhouse Arena in Brooklyn.  All proceeds from the exhibit benefit artists who have had their work spaces, homes and lives upturned by Hurricane Sandy.

photo by Allison Wermager

“I was on (a photography) assignment for the Daily Mail covering Hurricane Sandy’s affects just days after the storm hit Staten Island,” says Prof. Soter. “It was obviously a human interest piece as the writer talked to a mother who had just returned from the funeral of her husband and son. ”

photo by Tim Soter

Soter says he prefered to photograph the environments without people. “The viewers can place themselves in the situation a little easier and I think the devastation is so clear, that most viewers would connect with it immediately.”

photos by Tim Soter

Soter’s assignment put him in direct contact with fellow New Yorkers. “It’s really much different than watching coverage on the television or through the internet.”

The exhibit runs through March 1, 2013.  The Powerhouse Arena is located at 37 Main Street in Brooklyn. The gallery, boutique, bookstore, performance and events space is open weekdays from: 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. on weekends 11 a.m.  - 7 p.m. 


Panorama Theme by Themocracy

%d bloggers like this: