A Color Voyage Includes French Pastry & Oysters

“Even the pastries were intensely colorful,” says Prof. Jada Schumacher, “so were the window displays, stain glass lettering, cobblestones, oysters next to lemons and limes, the fabric and grosgrain ribbons, clothing in the Marais district, the flowers and leaf colors.”

They are just a few vibrant details from A Color Voyage study abroad class in Paris and the South of France, where students become immersed in color, its creative legacy, historical and contemporary applications.

Monet’s water lily gardens at Giverny.

“Students cross-pollinate and share ideas about color and light from different fields of study,”  says Communication Design Pathways professor Jada Schumacher who designed the course, which is open to students college-wide.

A visit to Monet’s water lily gardens at Giverny made for stunning vistas.

“Students love that they’ve seen these paintings so many times but hadn’t understood the cropping and scales. You see that it’s the only way possible to frame a painting in this space because it’s so full and lush and overgrown.”

Monet’s predilections make more sense. “He had the garden staff wipe off the leaves so that they reflected light well when he painted,” says Prof. Schumacher.

Touring the Gobelins Factory, the still functioning French national tapestry factory from 17th century.
Gobelins Factory

Students toured the Gobelins Factory, the still-functioning French national tapestry factory from 17th century.

“Michel Eugène Chevreul, a color theorist and chemist from the early 1800s worked at the Factory. He coined the term “simultaneous contrast,” a basic term in color theory. “It refers to how colors are perceived differently when they are next to each other, which create challenges for artists and designers, and merchandisers,” says Prof. Schumacher.

Students were “dazzled” inside the former limestone quarries, which are now light projection spaces at Carrières de Lumières (quarries of light).

Carrières de Lumières

“Motifs from 1960s pop and classical paintings provide a wrap-around experience to the space. Along with the power of music it provides an immersive experience,” says Prof. Schumacher.

The Museum at FIT has incorporated Prof. Schumacher’s students’ work into the current Museum’s current exhibition “Pink: The History of a Punk, Pretty, Powerful Color.”

Analyzing colors in St. Tropez

“In France students used images and online resources in researching topics related to the exhibition. Then they explored the cities, going on pink photography expeditions to hunt and capture images that reveal interesting, intentional, and notable uses of the color pink,” says Prof. Schumacher.

“It was an incredible color adventure!” she says.

For more information about upcoming study abroad programs, please go to Study Abroad FIT 

To see more of Prof. Jada Schumacher’s work visit her website: DesignOrange and Instagram account @design_orange.

Photos: Jada Schumacher

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Photography Prof. Curtis Willocks receives high honors in the presence of students and colleagues

Photography professor Curtis Willocks was honored by Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer on Friday, September 14 as a cultural innovator and for his role in the vibrant cultural life of Manhattan communities.  The event, part of the kick-off for the African American Parade 2018, took place at the Schomburg Center for Research in African American Culture. Many of his students and fellow faculty members, beaming with pride, were in attendance.

Curtis Willocks being honored by Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer. Athena Moore, Borough President’s Northern Manhattan Office Director stands to the left

“Curtis is extremely well respected. To have him on the list is an honor for all of us,” said the Manhattan Borough President. “He’s being honored for his art and teaching.”

“This recognition suits Curtis perfectly,” says Photography Prof. Max Hilaire “He’s an exemplary person. He creates sanctuaries to uplift his students. He is involved on so many fronts: FIT, FIT Photo Club, ICP, Photoville, Penumbra, Chinatown, Coney Island, Fashion Industries High School and more. He maintains strong industry contacts with many top  manufacturers and their representatives.

“Above all, the quality of his photography reveals a kind heart, modest and enriching.”

Curtis Willocks surrounded by students and faculty

A roar went out when Prof. Willocks was called to the podium.  

Said Eliani Corriette, (Fashion Design), “I am so happy to be surrounded by other friends of Curtis’ and FIT alumni at this event. We got to see our dear friend and professor be honored for his work for the years he has put into the community. I have to admit, we were all prepared to make a lot of noise when they called his name to receive his award in hand!” 

Curtis Willocks with Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer

“Curtis Willocks is truly a one-of-a-kind professor, friend, and human being,” says Photography alumna Erin Lefevre (’13). “He repeatedly goes above and beyond to broaden his students’ perspectives and positively fosters their love for photography and creativity as artists.”

Curtis Willocks with fellow honorees and Mayor David Dinkins and Borough President Gale Brewer

The honorees assembled for a photograph after the ceremony. Former Mayor David Dinkins was in attendance.

Willocks was among other bright lights honored from institutions as diverse as New York Philharmonic, Juilliard, Apollo Theater, Harlem Shakespeare Festival, Chamber Orchestra of New York Romare Bearden Foundation, and others.

Part of the FIT contingent in front of the Schomberg Center

“His selflessness, dedication, his passion as an educator is unlike anyone else I have ever encountered” says Lefevre. “It was so fulfilling to watch him be publicly recognized for all of the wonderful work he contributes to his communities.”

Says Prof. Hilaire, “Curtis has been a steadfast friend, honest, generous, humble, comforting with a magnetic approach.”

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Hendel Futerfas Reminds Us Of The Garment Industry During Labor Day Week

A recent work by Hendel Futerfas (’12) highlights one of the themes of Labor Day, which had much to do with the development of garment manufacturing. “It evokes feelings of nostalgia for an older and simpler time,” says the Fine Arts alum of his oil on canvas.

Painting by Hendel Futerfas

“I like the idea of infusing a flare of modern color. I see it in a way as bridging the then and now,” says Futerfas.

To read more about Hendel Futerfas check out: “Crown Heights Artist Hendel Futerfas”

Photo used with permission

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Illustrator Angela Rizza: Old-school storybook, folk, geometric, carefree, ink and calm

Angela Rizza has long been obsessed by detail, “starting with ballpoint pen drawings in high school where I’d render each illustration with pens using them like graphite, to FIT where I’d zoom in at 200 percent on the computer and go to town on some animal scales.” Rizza’s early work was influenced by the realistic style of her grandfather, John Leone, an oil painter of American West scenery.

“The Golden Compass,” by Angela Rizza

For Rizza, art is life… and the bigger the audience and the better her drawings’ detail, the better. Her career’s fast rise, and the fact that she does art that she loves, holds many lessons.

“I’ve been told ‘less is more’ and to only render focal points. But there’s something about capturing each line in a row of feathers or creating embroidery patterns in a dress.  I find a calm that I love, hence all of the detail in my artwork,” says Rizza.

“The King Who Lost the North Small,” by Angela Rizza

Throughout college Rizza experimented with traditional mediums, mostly in black and white. While she had an eye for color, she says she had trouble applying it while protecting her drawings. She experimented with gouache, watercolor, acrylic, pigmented inks, and oils.

By senior year, she honed a technique for creating tightly rendered graphic drawings, to which she applied layers of oil paint glazes.  “It created this great old-school storybook effect, but is was less practical when it came to real life jobs; I didn’t have a month to let the oils dry, and they were difficult to scan and photograph.”

Angela’s development as a professional, what empowers her to create great work, emanates from both traditional skills and  problem-solving abilities. It’s what empowers her to create great work. What is outstanding is how she is able to apply her imagination. she has a unique vision of what might be.” – Ed Soyka, Chair, Illustration

“Wilder Things II” by Angela Rizza

Her first year after graduating in 2011 was spent experimenting.  In order to color a piece and not smudge or undermine the meticulous line work, she transitioned to Photoshop to create graphite-like drawings that were colored digitally. She also started using ink for a crisper look to her work. “The end result was a finished, print-ready illustration in two or three days, and I could get really elaborate with coloring my drawing,” she says.

To illustrate children’s books, she began creating illustrations based on favorite stories like Tolkien’s work and Game of Thrones. She also created fan art to build a larger audience on social media.

“Garden Wall,” by Angela Rizza

“Draw what you love and the work you want will find you,” was the advice from other artists that she took to heart.  It worked. By her second year out, Rizza’s Tolkien art was featured in a book about his stories. She was invited by HBO to attend the Game of Thrones season premiere in New York City. She stood on the red carpet and got to watch the first episode of the season.

“Cosmic Egg” by Angela Rizza

Her next turn was creating geometric, carefree work with a folk art twist. She reinterpreted animals and plants as clusters of patterns within a shape. “I’d begin with a basic silhouette of, say, a chicken and draw the shape of the wings, then shapes within the shape and shapes within those. I would had a colorful piece filled with details I love, that were less serious and more lighthearted.”

“I got to draw dinosaurs!…It was a dream job to create something that my childhood self would have begged for!” Angela Rizza

“Eowyn vs Nazgul” by Angela Rizza

Her love of line and detail work was ideal for activity books. In 2016 her first coloring book was published. “The Book of Beasts” is filled with monsters of myth and fantasy. Her sequel, “The Book of Prehistoric Beasts,” came out last year.  “I got to draw dinosaurs. I was obsessed with dinosaurs throughout elementary school. It was a dream job to create something that my childhood self would have begged for!” Two Scratch Pad activity books on nature and mythology followed. She is currently working on two more.

Her work next appeared in shows hosted by Light Grey Art Lab run by young illustrators. One themed-exhibit, “Skate or Die,” featured her work on skate decks for Halloween, and her work was part of a tarot deck for another such collaborative show.

Angela’s work and craftsmanship has soared since she graduated.  Her composition has grown more complex. The maturity of her work is really phenomenal. Part of her evolution comes from adding new ways of working, which she continually does in new work..She is always creating! – Illustration Prof.  Kam Mak

“Knave of Stripes,” by Angela Rizza, 2012

Once she had “a decent portfolio” and audience, Rizza started indulging in her love of birds and nature. While her first pieces were in simple settings, Audubon-like, she began finding parallels between flora and fauna, such as a flower sharing the same accent color as a specific type of bird, or the patterns on an owl looking similar to a piece of bark. In some pieces she found parallels between animals–like the eyes of an owl and the markings of a moth.

Angela Rizza at her desk

Rizza’s work now alternates between pen and ink (for books) and folk style (for greeting cards and merchandise).  Since graduating from the School of Art and Design she has created work for Sterling Publishing, Blizzard Publishing, Papyrus, Boom! Studios, Bioware video game developer, Buster Books, and Capstone. She is represented by the agency Astound.

To see more of the artist’s work go to: AngelaRizzaIllustrations

Images used with permission.


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Chelsea Exploration for Textile Inspiration

Fabric Styling BFA students come from a variety of majors and not all have the painting experience that Professor Sara Petitt finds important for creating original fabric designs.

Students painting from inspiration cards before translating to Bristol paper and digital scanning

“I want students to be able to scan painted and drawn images into the computer and continue to work on them digitally. This way they expand their design options and add something to the mix that’s exciting,” she says.

To find inspiration from sources they might not otherwise use, Prof. Petitt brought her sixth-semester Color Combinations and Repeats class to Chelsea art galleries where the students viewed contemporary art and collected invitational postcards of work they admired.

“The goal is not to copy artists’ work but to appreciate the beauty of the brush strokes and the nuanced lines, which is quite different than beginning with computer imagery,” she said.

Fabric Styling student Niambi Moore incorporated her favorite lyrics into her design

Upon return from some 20 galleries, students hand-painted their chosen images on copies of newsprint in order to experiment freely.

“Students shouldn’t overlook the beauty of the painted line, which has a vitality that escapes even the best digital paint brush tool. There’s something different about holding a brush or a pen or a pencil and drawing or painting,” she says.

CAMELLIA AULD has mapped her design to be printed on bedding fabric

“I encourage them to take elements of the postcards and to paint with gouaches, water-based tempera paints,” says Prof. Petitt. “I want them to combine the spontaneity of drawing. To keep the feeling of freedom I’m having them work on newspaper.”

After exploring the design they then paint on Bristol paper, to later be scanned and mapped as product samples. Students chose to create their final output for either home fashions or apparel.


“Working this way makes our designs more personal, versus working directly with computers, which tends be straight lines, clean squares and shapes.”- Fabric Styling student Chaerhin Kim 

“I want them to do all-over, tossed designs,” says Petitt. “They should have a sense of where the pattern repeats on printed cloth.  We spend time doing tracing layouts.  It’s different doing a hands-on repeat as opposed to a digital repeat,” says Petitt.

“When the students go back and do their work digitally they will be aware of additional possible design layouts, ones that reflect their inner aesthetic and personality.” she says.

Fabric Styling student Lauren Phillips created a textile design for the apparel industry

“This is the first time I used gouache. I can mix a lot of colors and make a lot of variations. It’s freehand, so we can get what we want easier than with the computers. If we make mistakes we can still overlap and change into a new design.” – Fabric Design student Soyeon Kim

“Textile designers should enjoy creating their designs. Your soul shows though in your work! They need to understand good design because many fashion fields deal with print and pattern,” says Prof. Petitt.

Laura Onuska’s patterns go into many product areas. “She has a very edgy fashion sense,” says Prof. Petitt.

Students in Prof. Petitt’s class learn the hand fundamentals before they go into the digital world. “They’ll take that with them and it will only serve them well,” she says.

Soyeon Kim’s dress pattern “The handpainted gradations of color in these designs convey a free spirited textile design,” says Prof. Petitt

“I enjoyed the Chelsea art galleries as a source of inspiration. I hadn’t been there before. It was good to get that experience in a class like this to see different color forms and artistic ways.” Fabric Design student Laura Onuska

“We’re so lucky to be in New York City, the art, cultural and fashion capital of the world. I want them to experience as much as they can of what the city has to offer and use it as inspiration for their work.”

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Michaela Lawson deconstructs Kendrick Lamar Grammy album

Photography student Michaela Lawson was struck last August by inspiration so strong for Kendrick Lamar’s Grammy album Damn that she was compelled to “speak her truth” about it.  Unintimidated by the album’s stature, she became part of an informal community of artists independently responding to it.

DNA: “I got loyalty, got royalty inside my DNA…” Photo: Michaela Lawson

“My photography is not only inspired by the visual arts of different periods, but by other mediums, especially music,” says Lawson. The overarching theme of Lamar’s lyrics is “’You decide the choices you make. How do you want to see the outcome of things?’” she says. “It brought me to ask myself how I might approach my photography and express myself the best way I can.  I had to start thinking what I wanted to show the viewer.” Planning it all on her own was a personal challenge, she says.

Fear: “I’ll prolly die walkin’ back from the candy house, I’ll prolly die ‘cause these colors are standing out…” Photo: Michaela Lawson

Lawson says she listened intently to “every beat, and lyric-by-lyric, to deconstruct and decipher it until I understood each individual theme of the 14 tracks.” The multiple interpretations and complexity of the album didn’t escape her.  By October 26, she had a set of photos responding to each song. “I chose a line from each of the 14 songs that stood out for me. I made it a priority to visually explain how this could connect to me,” says Lawson.

God: “Flex on swole” Photo: Michaela Lawson

“I am impressed by Michaela’s work.  Her use of color and the striking compositions of these photos are powerful. While being attuned to the times and current culture, she clearly has a personal vision that is evident in every one of these photos.”  Troy Richards, Dean, School of Art and Design 

“Songs like ‘XXX’ made me look at my world, my feelings toward America and how it has treated my people and anyone less fortunate,” says Lawson. “ I found lines like: “’America please take my hand, can you help me under’– it  cut off at ‘under’ — which is intriguing to me.” She says she used her visuals to amplify the consequences of the country’s current gun laws and interpretations of Second Amendment rights.

XXX: “America, please take my hand can you help me under…” Photo: Michaela Lawson

“I created a handmade physical notebook for the project and printed miniature pictures for references. I made a calendar with a final deadline before Thanksgiving break. Almost every October weekend I shot. “I used lighting equipment and gels that complimented Black complexions. I used red and blue, big and small depending how much red and how much blue. I also wanted to light black skin in a visually pleasing way. It coincided with the theme of Wickedness vs. Weakness,” she said.

Loyality: “Tell me who you’re loyal to…” Photo: Michaela Lawson

“Michaela is someone to watch. She’s influenced by movies, books, words, definitely music–not only visual things but her experiences. She’s quiet but assimilating things around her. It allows her to produce. She’s a self-motivator. Yes, there are outside things that motivate her. I’d classify it as being an artist.  An artist should always be producing and she always is.” – Prof. Curtis Willocks 

“The models I used brought their own postures, their own style–we all connected as one. I enjoyed working with so many different Black people. We talked about each song,” she said. “It was a coincidence that we were learning to use strobes in class [Photo 3: Advance Photographic Solutions] and that was what I needed the most to help me with the project,” she said.

Love: “ Just love me..” Photo: Michaela Lawson

“David Joseph who works in the cage [where photographic equipment is stored] gave me advice about equipment. Professor Willocks gave me help in the studio. Being able to try the strobes and decide on effects these expensive things make possible was terrific. Now I carry that knowledge wherever I go. “Professor Willocks would always say ‘You have these resources –the equipment and lighting, lenses, cameras — Use it!’ His class made me a better photographer.  If I wasn’t at the school I probably would not have done this project. The resources–there is so much you can do.”

Element: “They won’t take me out my element..” Photo: Michaela Lawson

“The models I chose reflect how I see myself. Not extravagant, but people who dress like me and express me in my culture as a Black woman in America. I wanted to show Black love, Black friendships, Black fear, Black pain, and of course pride.”

To see more of Michaela Lawson’s project go to What Happens on Earth Stays on Earth. To visit her website go to: TiltedLivingVisuals

Photos used with permission.

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From Jacquard to Pointcarre: Back to the Looming Future

There’s a great story behind the groupings of textile samples now on display in the Feldman Center fifth floor hallway. The swatches, with their 3D texture, have themes, style and color suitable for upholstery or apparel. Woven samples like these are used for student portfolios and as selling tools by the industry.

Textile Surface Design students use computer-aided hand looms to develop the weaving and software skills used in industry production.  “Developing the technical and creative skills that are in keeping with the inherent limitations of the looms and software,” says Professor Nomi Kleinman, “requires critical thinking as well as artistic sense.”

Textile designs by: Mia Nazzaro

The collections were created in Complex Dobby Wovens (TD 334) class, which focuses on industry practices for designing woven fabrics using the computer-aided design program Pointcarre.  Part of the assignment, says Prof. Kleinman, was to develop collections coordinated through color and one of three trend options.

Prof. Kleinman pointed to various student work that stretches the limits of design using the technology.

“Mia’s work [above] is successful because of the stylized shapes and minimalist look. She responded creatively to a trend that was assigned, by drawing her own shapes and then adapting those using the software,” said Prof. Kleinman.

Fabric designs by: Stephanie Stickle

“Stephanie [above] did a beautiful job interpreting her sketches from idea to fabric. The software allowed for highly detailed adaptation of original sketches,” said Prof. Kleinman.

“The use of Pointcarre has allowed students access to industry-wide textile software to produce real world fabrics. Their knowledge of weaving, coupled with Pointcarre’s advanced tools and functions, enables students to design within the constraints and rules they would apply when going to production. We can easily see from the examples the students have woven that understanding those parameters has  enabled them to be ready for anything that is asked of them.” – Steve Greenberg, President, Pointcarre USA. 

Fabric designs by: Alexa West

The students used a construction technique called Pique, which means “to prick” in French. The name comes from the quilted quality of the construction, which can be seen in all the student work.

“Alexa accomplished beautiful dimension in her fabrics [above]. They have an almost carved out quality. She’s walking this line between organic and geometric shapes,” says Prof. Kleinman.

Fabric Design by: Donna Schneiderman

Donna Schneiderman’s work, above, is a unique theme, says Prof. Kleinman. “She did alternative camouflage. She developed this brightly sun-kissed colored look. The shapes are reinterpretations of standard camouflage. She worked within the parameters of the loom to develop sophisticated patterns.”

Fabric designs by: Miriam Ortega

Says Prof. Kleinman “Miriam Ortega drew on her family’s Central American heritage as inspiration and redrew traditional motifs.  The yarns she chose give it a water-color-painted effect and bring something very unexpected to the surface.”

Fabric Designs by: Keira Wiggins

“One of the fabulous things about these fabrics [of Keira Wiggin’s above] is the scale,” said Prof. Kleinman. “In weaving we’re limited by width, but not height. She used that to her advantage to develop designs that appear very large scale. She reinterpreted the diamond in several different ways to bring something new to the familiar motif.”

If you’re thinking you can buy a yard of fabric from a student you may be out of luck. These take up to an hour an inch to weave.

“Industry employers would be motivated to hire students based on seeing structure like these,” says Kleinman “It shows how they understand the building blocks of woven designs, their color abilities and sense of style.”


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“She sits beside me like a silhouette”

As told to by fourth semester photography student Haleigh Foray: 

It’s my job as a photographer to make my subject feel comfortable and real in front of the camera. Yet I wasn’t able to feel that way myself as a subject. So how could I ask someone to do that for me? During a six-week project I became more myself and free.

Haleigh Foray

At the start of the winter break, Professor Curtis Willocks gave an assignment to our Traditional Photography (PH253) class that would be due at the start of the semester. We were to assume the role of a LIFE magazine photographer of the 1950s. Any topic was fair game, even if it had a contemporary relevance. In deciding what to capture, I kept coming back to self-portraiture.

I came across a project “Self-Untitled” by photographer Samantha Geballe. Her work explores body image through self portraits, which she states “envisions the feeling that false interpretation provokes.” She put herself forward for everyone to see, with nothing to hide — something I’ve struggled with doing.  The focus of my project proposal was to be comfortable and confident in front of the camera, whether I or another photographer was taking the photographs.

Haleigh Foray

“Haleigh’s work is just beautiful. Her composition, her use of light, her style. She’s very sensitive to people, always helping and assisting others, and now she’s applying that sensitivity to herself. This project gave her the chance to express herself–who she is as a young woman” – Professor Curtis Willocks

There was a musical component that set the tone of the project: “She sits beside me like a silhouette sings Harry Styles in a song from a recent solo album. Those words took on a special meaning for me–Silhouettes show your body.

Women are still expected to act and look a certain way in projecting their confidence and beauty that’s limiting in scope. I wanted to show that you just need to own your body for what it is now, in the present.

 Photos provided by Haleigh Foray

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“Another level of reality” in Andrew Williams-Leazer’s thesis work

The whole world is an assemblage when you think about it. Things drop off, get picked up and reused.  In Andrew Williams-Leazer’s Fine Arts thesis work, you can often tell where he’s been, and what he’s picked up and contemplated along the way.

Williams-Leazer’s assembleges, as he calls them, go beyond the borders of his canvases to portray cartoon figures gone psycho, pop culture figures gone awry, and the punishment of a prize-fighter’s power punch.

“Death’s Birthday,” by Andrew Williams-Leazer

“It got to where if I didn’t add anything to the canvas’ surface I wasn’t impressed with my work,” says Williams-Leazer who is entering his eighth semester. His work includes a hybrid of painting, 3D elements and collage techniques.

Materials he uses are often hyper local: notes he took in Spanish and biology classes, found Monopoly money, reassembled magazine lettering, and wooden limbs and numbers made from scrap wood.

Detail of “Death’s Birthday,” by Andrew Williams-Leazer

The streets, the curbs, landing areas, recycling bins, all serve as Williams-Leazer’s art supply store. He browses, lingers, considers the shapes and materials of each item.

“I wasn’t doing great financially in my Abstraction class,” he says. “For my last project I asked Professor Jeff Way if  I could build something instead of using a traditional canvas. I built it entirely with scraps of wood from the sculpture room and elsewhere. I was very particular; I only chose interesting shapes.”

Detail of “Death’s Birthday,” by Andrew Williams-Leazer

“Andrew’s work is raucous, colorful and layered with multiple meanings. With connections to recent art grappling with race and identity it is clear that Andrew is very self-aware and committed to a serious project. I look forward to following his work and career.” – Troy Richards, Dean, School of Art and Design

Says the young artist who grew up on Long Island, “When I stick to an idea, but listen to feedback, the work improves. There’s nothing better than critical critique,” he says. “The feedback from professors is great. I’ve been able to produce my vision. The best professors are great guides,” he says.

Detail, “Death’s Birthday,” by Andrew Williams-Leazer

“The next semester, in Abstract and Figuration, we were to use a technique from the previous semester. I started applying wood to canvas.” By his last semester, in Painting and Development of Thesis class, Williams-Leazer says “I kinda owned it in terms of a technique for developing a body of work. I would stretch the boundaries of the guidelines but meet the requirements.”

“Andrew’s work deals with the modern, crowded, urban world we live in. It’s full of engaging imagery, both serious and humorous. He’s using materials in a way that gives his work another level of reality.” – Fine Arts Professor Susan Daykin

Andrew Williams-Leazer with his work

His work “Death’s Birthday,” has “painterly aspects like the Playboy figure, and more gestured ones like Marilyn Monroe.” he says “While the Batman is sketched loosely as a figure drawing. It was an interesting relationship when I applied class notes and sketches juxtaposed with the largely drawn figures,” he says.

“Forgetful Father Fight!,” by Andrew Williams-Leazer

Wood pieces used to create a gun, knife, pipe, fist and little dog are used in his “Forgetful Father Fight!” The “ahhhh” and “woof” in this “comic book rumble,” as he calls it, are borrowed from cartoons. The piece represents a dispute between a father and son.

“THE BIG DISPUTE,” by Andrew Williams-Leazer

“All of my works came about from overall ideas I had,” says Williams-Leazer. “For ‘THE BIG DISPUTE,’ a large ominous arm comes from outside the canvas to connect with the main figure. It’s a dispute, a boxing match. I wanted the main figure to look disoriented, so that’s a central part, a collage-like element. The figure is the starving artist. I put him in several pieces. It’s a hidden figure, a character. Maybe I’m referencing myself.”

Andrew Williams-Leazer with his works that combine assemblage, collage and painting techniques.

Photos provided by Andrew Williams-Leazer, Sue Willis & Rachel Ellner

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Ron Amato Captures Artist Portraits in Provincetown

Great images are captured in an instant, but providing history and context is the product of years of research and observation. Professor Ron Amato combines a sense of Provincetown history along with an understanding of newly destabilizing demographic trends there. He used the latest in photographic lighting technology to, well, make more history.

“Anne Packard,” by Ron Amato

Amato’s work reached near completion during his recent sabbatical, two years after his initial efforts to capture Provincetown artists in their work spaces. He has been photographing in crowded, often creatively chaotic artists’ studios since 2015 and now has assembled enough for an upcoming exhibit at Provincetown Art Association and Museum.

“With this body of work Ron Amato demonstrates his abilities as a photographer to truly capture a place and its people.” -Troy Richards, Dean, School of Art and Design

“I began the project because I was intrigued by Provincetown’s robust artists’ community,” says Amato. “There is a bustling but insular art economy that drives part of the town. It seemed closed to outsiders. I had a deep desire to break that surface and find what it was all about.”

“Robert Henry,” by Ron Amato

The photos highlight the salient issue in Provincetown’s current debacle — the artist population is aging. New young talent is mostly frozen out of permanent residence by high real estate costs. They are the victims of Provincetown’s cachet.

“I had numerous conversations with the artists about the difficulties faced by younger artists living and working here the way they have done,” says Amato. “Three artists I photographed are part of a group that secured an old community center to create Provincetown Commons, a space for supporting young talent. This is artists rising up to help other artists. It’s greatly inspiring.”

“Pasquale Natale,” by Ron Amato

Amato was originally drawn to Provincetown by the fellowship of the artist community. But the history began to intrigue him: the Pilgrim landing in 1620, the rich traditions of the Portuguese fishing community, the response to the AIDS crisis, and now the changing demographics. “It’s what makes for a delicate balance that keeps drawing people back,” says Amato.

“Jo Hay,” by Ron Amato

Longtime residents are quick to point out (400 years later) that the Pilgrims landed in Provincetown before they sailed across the bay to a beach they called Plymouth Plantation.  Since at least 1899, when Charles Hawthorne opened the Cape Cod School of Art, artists have been prominent in Provincetown. But the artist colony was in decline by midcentury. It wasn’t until long after World War II that a new and diverse generation of artists saved Provincetown from kitsch and economic decline.

“The unique artist community that has developed around Provincetown is beautifully and humanely brought to life and the work represents a remarkable achievement for Prof. Amato,” says Dean Richards

“Mira Schor,” by Ron Amato

The technology Amato used for this project helped. “In recent years there have been advances in battery-operated studio strobes that allowed portability and nimbleness while shooting.  This was key to capturing the images I have,” he says.

Amato often worked in tight, cluttered spaces or outdoors. The lightweight, portable but powerful units, allowed him to work without a wall plug or an assistant.

“Pete Hocking,” by Ron Amato

The units are controlled by an attachment to Amato’s camera. “I never had to put down my camera to change the lighting ratios. I could do it all from the controller. I could create multiple outcomes from the same setup and choose the one I liked the best in post production.” says Amato.

“John Dowd,” by Ron Amato

Amato’s first visit to Provincetown was in the summer of 1999. “The town cast a spell on me,” he says. “It was the first time I felt free, of judgment, commitment, of my own limitations.” He brought with him rolls of expired film as an afterthought.  “I ended up shooting every roll I brought with me. In a way this project started that summer 18 years ago.”

All photos used with permission


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