I arrived in Providence, Rhode Island in 1989. I remember thinking how lucky I felt to be at RISD and how equally lucky that I was surrounded by such immense talent. I never felt intimidated by all the other artists but rather inspired and competitive. I loved every minute of my classes and often tell people if given the chance, I would go back to RISD and major in something other than painting. I’m still happy I chose the path of a fine artist, most days, but the idea is that RISD had too many amazing majors to choose from, and all aspects of art and design are interesting to me. At first I was a sculpture major (see this blog post for more on that) because I thought I could meld all my interests into one idea.
I took classes outside the fine art department to explore switching majors, including pattern making and fashion illustration as well as a class in the Light Metals department. I tried for four years to get into a glass blowing class, but even with my preferred status as senior, it was always full. I even made a short film for an Italian language class I was taking at Brown University.
This year marks my RISD 20th reunion and as I reflect on my own life of art, I also can’t help but think about friends and schoolmates and their accomplishments.
One classmate and still good friend, Omar T. Pasha, is an illustrator, graphic designer and a painter who started his own graphic design company and works and lives in Amsterdam. Omar was one of my very first friends and was widely admired for his many talents including, like many other students, his musical abilities. One of my favorite recent paintings of Omar’s is this portrait below. I love the gritty juxtaposition of the men in the foreground with the beautiful landscape behind:
Another close friend, Nina Katan, lives and works in New York City and just recently exhibited her amazing drawings in Brooklyn. I met Nina in the sculpture department and often envied her effortless talent and otherworldly creatures crafted from stockings, stuffing, and thread. Nina and I were some of the only students who could master the figure modeling class. Her recent drawings (perhaps inspired by her husband’s real life adventures when he was a tight rope artist in the Cirque Du Soleil) are a take on old-timey circus performers like this piece below:
Lecia Dole-Recio became a classmate and friend of mine when I switched into the painting department. Her technique of cutting or stenciling shapes and images has stayed the same all these years but has evolved from bunnies and more pop-like imagery to abstract shapes and dizzying aerial views of non-existent cities. Work similar to this below was exhibited at MOCA Los Angeles several years back. I always enjoyed chatting with her in the RISD Whatcheer studios.
Another artist I met and admired in the Whatcheer studios was Do Ho Suh. Although now his career mostly focuses on sculpture, he was a painter at RISD. Do Ho was a transfer student and a few years older than the rest of us but he was instantly popular with all the other painters. His work was beautiful and mature beyond any of us but his modesty kept him hugely popular. I knew the minute I met him and saw his work that he was special. I think we all hoped his genius would rub off on us. Later he appeared in a PBS documentary and I was not a bit surprised at all to see his beautiful work and his well deserved fame. Below is one of Do Ho’s jacket sculptures inspired by traditional Korean dress and constructed entirely out of military dog tags:
One of the most famous alumnae of RISD who was actually a year ahead of me was Shepard Fairey. We had tables across from each other during a student art sale. I remember him being shy, introverted, and ambitious. I was selling jewelry and I traded him a piece for a poster. He was known even back then for plastering his Andre the Giant poster with the word Obey all over Providence. The one he plastered on a billboard over the face of then mayor “Buddy” Cianci did not make him popular with that administration but a legend among the students. When I moved back to L.A. after graduation, I began to see his Obey stickers everywhere. I admired his ambition to get his work shown outside the guise of a gallery. Certainly his Obama Hope poster sealed his fame but he was no different from any of us just trying to make it.
One classmate of mine, Michael Tashji, recently posted and image of a logo he designed and labeled it, “new work (not chosen)”. I thought the logo was really well designed but what struck me more was his labeling of it and how I immediately related to the sentiment. There are so many of us talented working artists who have graduated from RISD and it helps to know that despite the great work we make, sometimes it is not chosen. But we soldier on and plug away in hopes that next time it will be. Below is one of the many amazing designs by Michael that was “chosen”:
Music of the month: Still listening to Atoms For Peace and Valencia talk radio 100.4…