“Going to FIT took me deep into the woods. I’d wake up early to see the sunrise before catching the train. I started dragging in logs to play with in sculpture class. My professor, Suikang Zhao, never questioned it.” -BFA Fine Arts graduate Carly Fitzsimons from Commack, Long Island.
Carly Fitzsimons’ senior thesis “Ephemeral,” was constructed to be a meditative environment of logs and marble. As artist, she acted as “the shaman who turns ordinary life into a ritual process,” as stated by mythologist Joseph Campbell. Shamans, or “the first artists,” transform reality, in the sense that “daily life becomes a mystical ritual,” according to Fine Arts Professor Suikang Zhao. “Carly’s installation has that kind of humanity in it,” says Zhao.
“Carly’s generation thinks differently,” says Prof. Zhao. “They aren’t limited to one location. Their ideas jump around. It’s a fragmentation. They’re piecing things together. It’s not about country or urban; it’s about transforming their environment. They can walk down the street and think about nature. It’s not about the immediate reality.”
Of her technique Carly says, “It’s about revealing the continuity of energy. I chose to burn the wood to alter the color and to carve the wood to alter the form. I didn’t use any glue or paint. Everything is balanced by gravity.”
She “bypasses the present,” says Prof. Zhao. “It’s not just about ‘I love nature,’ but transforming the local immediacy to a bigger concept of where are we going.”
The installation will eventually go outdoors where it will eventually decompose.
For now “It reflects what I see when I look at a log. It’s a home of a bug, the foundation for a new flower. It’s not merely a dead log,” says Carly “In a culture that’s so throw-away, we forget that nothing disappears.”
“I see her work as going back to a very long past, to things that look like Stonehenge and prehistoric art. Those artists worked to personify an object,” says Prof. Zhao.
Dean Arbuckle is leaving us. Her title will be longer, but she’ll always be known simply and elegantly as the “dean” to us. By August 2016 she’ll be working with FIT’s President Joyce Brown. We know her heart will always be with the School of Art and Design and ours with her. Here is a sampling of parting words and snapshots of our love and adoration.
“Joanne was a dean with integrity who worked tirelessly to raise the level of education for our Art and Design students. She was a great listener, efficient, decisive, and always looking to improve and grow and advocate for all 17 departments. She will be missed and I’m personally grateful for her leadership.” Joel Werring, Chair, Fine Arts
“Dean Arbuckle has always been generous with her time and advice. She guided me through many projects over the years and helped me become a better teacher. I really appreciate what she has done for me and the School of Art and Design!”
Prof. CJ Yeh, Communication Design
“Her vision has been crystal clear. She’s always had an understanding of where the School of Art and Design should be headed and been relentless and tireless in achieving those goals. She’s been an absolute pleasure to work with in aligning the School with the college’s greater strategic goals.”
Eric Odin, Director of Human Resource Services
“Joanne has been so supportive in enabling us to grow as a department. She’s always been a colleagial and pleasant colleague.” Prof. Cynthia Gallagher, Fine Arts
“Joanne’s support of the Interior Design faculty and department is second to none! She’s been extremely enthusiastic of our initiatives, events and our commitment to service learning. We will miss her! Eric Daniels, Chair, Interior Design
“Having had Joanne, as a professor when I attended FIT, and as a dean over the past years, there are qualities that always hold true. She is dedicated to her work and more importantly to this school. She’s gone above and beyond to ensure that each program is the highest educationally for our students, and leads the education standards of each major. In the classroom, she encouraged every student to surpass his or her expectations. She’s been such an advocate for the arts and will be missed. Prof. Lauren Zodel, Fashion Design
“I’m glad you’re not going very far away so we may have ‘Joanne’ sightings! Have fun upstairs. Thanks for talking me down when I got crazy! You are wonderful!” Prof. John Goodwin, Computer Animation
So you ask “Who is Prince Powderpouffe and who is his seamstress?” The Prince, whose signature look includes high hair, costume couture and generous applications of mascara, comes from the imagination and sewing skills of Eric Strauss.
“I enjoy the 17th century man. It was a time when men were coiffed and dressed to the nines,” says Strauss. His creation has been a glorious undertaking. His sewing and design skills come from the FIT classroom, but his sourcing of fabric and trim (with emphasis on lace and feathers) is his own.
Strauss had long adored “Halloween-ing”–the parading of his creations of fanciful couture, character costumes. But the magical nights were too infrequent. “I had to figure out a way to dress up more often.” Enter Prince Powderpouffe.
Such a penchant for couture flamboyance isn’t without technique, and it starts with the basics: “In FD131 Sewing Techniques with Professor Joan Endres I learned that different fabrics react differently in the sewing machine, so it’s important to test the fabric first. If it puckers or jams, you adjust the tension. It’s important to fit the fabric in grain, especially when the pattern is so prominent with a definitive pattern repeat. It ensures the pattern is flowing in the same direction,” says Strauss.
Special care was taken with interfacing, and acquiring trimming and fabric. “I used interfacing in the collar and cuffs for a strong hard line. The eight yards of fabric came from fabric.com. They have great pricing, whereas purchasing in New York City the price jumps. The trims came from a variety of stores in the Garment District. My personal favorites are M&J Trimming and Joyce Button and Trim.”
“The epaulets are my signature specialty. They’re made from wooden discs covered in fabric, adorned with tassel trim then screwed into the shoulders. It’s my favorite part of the look. It gives the garment a grand, royal, elegant feel.”
Eric purchased an industrial machine, a Juki, which he says spoiled him. “After class, I would go home to my regular machine and felt as if I was sewing on a child’s toy–a flimsy piece of plastic. It constantly tripped, jammed and broke down. With my new one I can sew through the layers of fabric and never worry about it getting caught up.”
Eric likes to say that Prince Powderpouffe “is a Royal Visionary whose look would command the Queen’s attention,” but the Prince appears to have many other admirers.
Prince Powderpouffe finally emerged after an enchanted evening. “On June 5, 2014, I was invited to a show called ‘Queen of the Night.'” Attendees were instructed to dress to impress the queen, yet tuxedos and cocktail dresses were the common attire. “I wore a look that resembled a Royal Prince,” says Strauss.
Yet he was “still simply a boy in wig and lashes,” he says. Nonetheless, the night out was magical. “People were running up to me, taking pictures, asking about my costume. They wanted to know all about me.”
A few weeks later Strauss was invited to a costumed masquerade ball, and put together another look. He stepped out as Prince Powderpouffe.
“I always say that drag happened to me by accident. It was on that night out to impress the Queen that Prince Powderpouffe was born.”
Accessories Design instructor Iris Feldman is known for saying that belts are the “ugly step child of the accessories world.”
But for Mara Holmgren, it’s the all-important detail that has you by the waist.
“What brought me to Accessories Design was this idea of pulling together an outfit with an accessory, with an interesting detail, and making a focus or statement with that accessory instead of the outfit itself,” says Holmgren who is completing her AAS in Accessories Design.
“We tend to think of handbags and shoes as the dominate accessories,” says Holmgren. “Or as being what’s instantly thought of as accessories.”
Accessories Design Prof. Vasilios agrees with Feldman. “The students don’t realize the significance of belts in accessories design until they take Belt Design or the Accessories Sketching class where belts are introduced. Then they have a brainstorm: ‘Oh, I have them in my closet! They must be part of the accessories industry!'”
Homgren got a head start by taking Vasilios’ evening Accessories Sketching class and seeing the connection of belts to the rest of the accessories family.
“It’s line drawing, proportion, marker rendering techniques, the same as shoes and bags and all accessories, says Vasilios who is the creative director of RobertoVasi, a contemporary men’s shoe business.
Belts were never an afterthought for Holmgren, but neither is their construction since making her first jean belt in Feldman’s class.
“The creative aspect of product design accessories began to really appeal to me,” says Holmgren who has worked for eight years as an executive in product development for Perry Ellis and Ralph Lauren.
And she has ideas to express: “I found the market to be generic and safe in terms of design aesthetic. There’s a lot of room for creativity and more intricate designs for what’s offered.
The challenges to crafting her stunning but subdued looking belt (“My style is Parisian chic”) were many:
“The number one hardest thing in making a belt is cutting a straight long pattern,” she says.
Then come the crown jewels:
“Second is placement of your design details such as rivets, connectors, or applique on the belt itself.”
“It’s about getting the right consistency and feel and stuffiness. It needs to hug the contours of the body,” she says.
Correct says Vasilios “It requires a lot of fit testing. Compared to the shoe to the foot, a belt is to the waist.”
The assignment was to create an illustration that promotes peace. “What is the iconography of war and peace? Prof. Anthony Freda asked his students “How can the icons be juxtaposed to convey an original anti-war message? How can peace be branded in a way that is effective and beautiful?”
The work was to align with the efforts of IH8War, an online gallery of protest art. His freshmen, Principals of Illustration II students, “more than met the challenge. They created visually and conceptually sophisticated work,” says Freda. Here are eight of the illustrations with the professor’s comments.
Above, “Marissa Mahabir’s elegant brush work and line define a dynamic composition and powerful, symbolic portrayal of the war on peace,” says Prof. Freda.
Jessica Garcia “designed a striking and stark anti-war visual. Her image (below, of a boot crushing a civilian) is cleverly informed by classic 20th century poster graphics.”
“The goal of the assignment,” says Freda “was to use the same branding techniques favored by propagandists to promote war and turn them on their head to sell peace.”
Turning iconography “on it’s head” is what Illustration Department Chair Ed Soyka says is at work in many of the most visually compelling images. “The artist presents visual elements you know and puts them into a context you wouldn’t expect. It creates impact and suspense. ”
Aaron Medina’s piece, above, says Freda, “uses dark humor and a playful visual juxtaposition (of a flame thrower emitting doves) to effectively depict the absurdity of war.”
Charles Hively, publisher of 3×3 Magazine, together with Sarah Munt, founded IH8War. “We look for interesting approaches that first tell a story. Second (is to) compel the viewer to stop and pay attention, so he or she will hopefully embrace the idea that war goes against everything a civilized world wants, or needs.”
“The students were to create an illustration that promotes peace,” says Freda. “The goal was to make a work of anti-war art that is both compelling and meaningful.”
Joseph Wagner’s parody above of Porky Pig’s sign-off “is a pop culture standard that gives the famous tag line an apocalyptic context.”
Says Soyka “Prof. Freda’s students are learning ‘purposeful image making.’ It’s about using the principals of visual communication to create images that are memorable but believable as a reality.”
Ariane Zhang’s work above, “gives us a fresh look at iconic Japanese motifs,” says Freda. “A red, rising sun makes a bold backdrop to comment on the country’s war-torn history.”
“Danielle Mercado’s original and expertly rendered image,” (above) says Freda “illustrates the overlooked plight of the animal victims of war’s insanity and destruction.”
Below “Meghan Pin Yuan Huang’s hauntingly beautiful drawing reminds us of the fragility of life and the human cost of war.”
“The priority,” says Soyka” isn’t just to do an elegant drawing or rendering for its own sake, but to use these abilities to express ideas and information.
“And they’re learning from Freda, one of the country’s most outstanding conceptional illustrators, known for his powerful ability to express information and depict social issues.” They will apply this learning to ever “more advanced creative developments and professional assignments,” says Soyka.
“Zhoudi Ye’s illustration merges icons of war and peace,” says Freda. “It’s a sophisticated and compelling advertisement for peace.”
“The ‘Bears’ come from all of the five boroughs,” says Gates. “Swimming is their version of church. They love to run into the freezing cold harbor waters in weather that would be unbearable to most of us.” Gates captured them in devout contemplation.
“After breakfast we would go to the Polar Bear clubhouse near the Cyclone,” said class Professor Curtis Willocks. “We mingled, interviewed the ‘Bears’ and made our way down to the beach and into the water.”
Says Gates “One woman I spoke to about becoming a Polar Bear told me it helped her overcome addiction and the loss of her father.”
“The quiet intensity of Kristin’s photographs is a reflection of the Polar Bears themselves, said Farwell.
“The act of plunging into the frigid water requires mental rather than physical strength, and these portraits convey that beautifully.”
“They seemed to pray to the sun gods to overcome their personal demons,” says Gates.
“This wall (above) is where everyone goes after their swim,” says Prof. Willocks. “It faces the sun in the morning and at the end of the swim the club gathers there. None of Kirstin’s images are staged; she was just there at the right time.”
Another swimmer told Gates that the cold water helps his body by decreasing inflammation.
“For all the various reasons they come, they swim with friends and family, enjoying every moment wading into the cold harbor,” says Gates.
“After you leave the ocean,” says Prof. Willocks, “the members pause for a moment and take in the warmth of the sun, sometimes it reminds me of meditation.”
“I swam once myself and within seconds I couldn’t feel my feet or legs. But afterwards, my body and mind felt deeply relaxed,” said Gates.
When Gates graduates from FIT she hopes to become an environmental portrait photographer. “I find beauty in capturing people in their environment.”
“Here I was, a new student at a prestigious art school, reluctant to take my first photo. I had this idea that a photographer should only take pictures of things that are grand or important.”
CJ Colligan has forged a picture-taking style of her own. One that comes from the developing eye of a fourth semester Visual Presentation and Exhibition Design (VEPD) student. Politely she zooms in on the fashion evident on campus. Her work is hyper-local but with her large following on social media, her photos reach far beyond 27 Street.
“The first time on campus the visual impact–the blending of styles and the colorfulness of expression–well, I just wanted to capture it,” says Colligan. “It’s a form of presentation that we emulate in VPED. In exhibition you have to design, to visually show something or present information in a particular way.”
Colligan, who holds a BA in English from SUNY Binghamton, says she was hesitant about picture-taking until her required Intro to Photography class with Professor Curtis Willocks.
“Here I was, a student at a prestigious design school, and I was reluctant to take my first photo. I had this idea that a photographer should only take pictures of things that are grand or important. It seemed at first that nothing around was important enough to capture in a photo,” she said.
“Professor Willocks would say ‘Stop. Focus. And take the picture.’ It seems like simple advice. I took it and ran with it. Often the right photo is the view in front of you.”
Around this time Colligan became interested in the work of Brandon Stanton, known for founding Humans of New York, which combines short bio segments with photos of seemingly ordinary New Yorkers.
“His view of all people being important, no matter who they are, inspired me to change my views of photography,” says Colligan.
“I’ve found it best to be polite and ask for permission to take someone’s picture. People are generally flattered. Sometimes people think that they aren’t important enough to have their picture taken.”
“I’ve found that at FIT, mostly everyone has something interesting to say about his or her style. For instance, I’ve found many students interested in the sustainability of fashion. They aren’t just into prestigious labels, but new designers and all kinds of personal customization.”
Colligan keeps her subjects anonymous. “It allows me to focus on their fashion and generally allows them to feel more comfortable. It can be difficult to approach strangers, even fellow students no matter how they look,” says Colligan.
“I want to capture the range of styles on campus. FIT is not only a fashion school, but a school for critical thinkers,” says Colligan
Babies of wire confetti, a crowned rabbit, little girls watering topiary, a vet mechanic, and skeletal love, are among the themes of the eight FIT student illustrations selected by the Society of Illustrators Student Scholarship Competition. The field was narrowed from 8,700 entries. According to the Society, the judges made their choices based on “quality of technique, concept and skill of medium.”
“The work was enormously diverse–pen and ink, egg tempera, oil, gouache, digital, traditional. And what great individuality of themes with strong fundamentals!” said Illustration Assistant Chair Kam Mak who has organized the competition for 16 years.
Our Illustration professors offer their comments on the work:
“Babyshambles!” is from Naya’s series of Surreal album cover illustrations inspired by a literal interpretation of the band’s name, says Professor Nickle. “Naya first painted in acrylic and gouache then scanned the painting and completed the illustration digitally.”
Title: A Black Man’s World Artist: Alejandro Bonilla Jr. Medium: Pen and Ink/water color on board Instructor:Richard Elmer
“Alejandro Bonilla is a creative, young gentleman who has an artistic sensibility balanced with curiosity,” says Professor Richard Elmer who had Bonilla in his Mentor class. “He had a pretty good idea of the direction he wanted to explore, conveying conflict as he himself experienced it through contrasting color and medium. I am very glad his work was recognized.”
Title: Year of the Rabbit Artist: Jennifer Vasquez Medium: Oil Painting Instructor:John Nickle
“’Year of the Rabbit’ was part of Jenifer’s series of Chinese New Year images,” says Professor Nickle. “In this piece, Jennifer balances humor and tradition. She used a classic painting method with a lot of finely rendered detail, and decoration.”
“Jennifer has a delicate traditional pen and ink style and is interested in creating patterns,” says Professor Shefelman. “For this assignment she chose to work in pen and ink, then scan into the computer to change and add color. It’s worth a zoom in on her images to see the meticulous detail lovingly drawn on the topiaries.”
Title: Vet Mechanic Artist: Nicolette Pasumbal Medium: Digital Instructor: John Nickle
“‘Vet Mechanic’ is part of Nicolette’s series of curiously offbeat, imagined characters in their environments,” says Professor Nickle. “She first rendered ‘Vet Mechanic’ using an additive and subtractive method with ink on scratchboard. She then finished the piece by digitally adding colors and textures.”
“I have to give all the credit to Danny on this one,” said Prof. Gardener. “We discussed the project and I gave a little direction and told Danny to look at the recent paintings by Greg Manchess who was working with a similar theme. Danny came to class with the project fully worked out; I could only be impressed.”
“Meagan Meli was in my Book Illustration class last year. She has a keen interest in medical illustration specifically medical oddities. She wrote the text and illustrated the images with beautifully rendered drawings for her book project ‘Atlas Obscura: Medical Oddities.’ In Book Illustration II she painted 11 of the interiors including ‘Sisters’ (above). The interior illustrations are meticulously painted using egg tempera. I feel very fortunate to have had such a talented and ambitious student like Meagan. Her dedication set the tone for the rest of the class.”
“Waiting For the One” was done for the Aliens Underground show that was in the Pomerantz Center lobby here at FIT. “Eduardo plays on a double entendre meaning of the word ”aliens” as he depicts space aliens waiting for the 1 train at the 28th St. subway station,” says Professor Nickles. “Eduardo manages to capture the urban grit and grime of the subway.”
Freshman Illustration major Jake Morse received accolades for a thought-provoking take on what happened at Ford’s Theatre. It was an assignment he worked on over President’s Day.
“I did this piece for my Principles of Illustration class taught by Professor Anthony Freda. The assignment was to combine either a cartoon or video game character with a real life figure. I changed a few characters. (Cont. below)
“For the composition, I combined the characters Rick and Morty from the TV show (of the same name) with Abraham Lincoln and John Wilkes Booth at Ford’s Theatre. I referenced an early print depicting the assassination and inserted the cartoon characters in place of historical figures. I used Copic markers for most of the color with a little bit of watercolor for the background. The piece actually got a little attention when I posted it on Twitter. Justin Roiland, the co-creator of “Rick and Morty” (and the voices of both Rick and Morty), retweeted it so it got quite a few likes and retweets, which was pretty cool. I had a really fun time doing this piece.”
Says Professor Freda, “Jake’s piece is a clever and humorous solution. By introducing cartoon characters into this historic setting, he has created an effective parody of a vintage illustration.”
For fans of “Rick and Morty” here’s more: The lower left figure is a of character who gets shot in one of the episodes. The guy with the blue jacket, Jerry (upper left), is portrayed as a useless charter in the TV show, which he appears to be here as well. Says Jake: “The assignment was to use irony. So I thought it would be funny, in a dark kind of way, to show a character (who in the TV show gets shot) as a witness to the Lincoln assassination.”
Fashion, accessories, interior design, business and film students and enthusiasts–Get out your date books! The Faces & Places in Fashion lecture series is all the straight talk, practical advice, forecasting (with some dish on the side) that you could want from formidable industry innovators. “From design and business to digital media and editorial, there’s such a diversity of speakers—something for everyone and every major” says Sass Brown, Acting Associate Dean of Art and Design. The lectures are free and open to the public.“Each semester I have the opportunity to bring individuals to FIT who are making conversation in the fashion industry. Students often get very focused on their area of interest or expertise. This is an opportunity to see the bigger picture, to consider issues related to retailing, supply chain, social media, sustainability and so much more,” says Faces & Places Prof. Joshua Williams.