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Historical Perspective

10/15/2013

Vito Acconci’s work around public space and private time inspired Cait Cannon 14 GL to create The Window’s a Skin, The Window’s a Body (glass, blood, wax).

If rising senior Cait Cannon 14 GL had to point to one thing that has changed about her since coming to RISD, it would be her newfound sense of self-confidence. “I was very frightened when I started,” she recalls. “‘Am I artistic enough? Is art really my thing?’ You quickly find out that there’s a place for everything and everyone at RISD if you’re willing to work hard. You learn to make decisions and stick by them – to stop worrying about explaining yourself to others.”

One surprising decision Cannon made was to major in Glass. But once she got exposed to the medium during Wintersession her Foundation year, she was completely taken with it. “I like that the material talks back to you and has its own personality that you have to negotiate with,” she explains. “It’s a bit bratty, and I love that.”

Cannon also likes the small size of her department and the sense of community that comes naturally when working in the Hot Shop. “You have to work with a team to make something bigger, and that’s just right for me.”

When Cannon first arrived at RISD, she was worried about competition and the social aspects of college but was pleasantly surprised by the camaraderie and teamwork that sprung up in Foundation Studies right from the start. “It’s a really good environment for learning how to take criticism,” she explains, “which advances you as an artist and a thinker. Even if you stick with your original idea, it’s important to welcome criticism and realize that a point was brought up for a reason.”

And, Cannon adds, the skills she’s learning on the flip side – how to deliver constructive criticism – will be invaluable throughout her life. “It’s important to be able to deliver honest feedback in a way that doesn’t make people uncomfortable,” she points out – “to eloquently say ‘I don’t think that’s going to work and here’s why.’”

Cannon is complementing her studio work with a Liberal Arts concentration in the History of Art and Visual Culture (HAVC), a 27-credit addition that she says is providing her with perspective and helping to make her work in glass that much stronger. Committing to a concentration “encourages you to take off the blinders,” she says – “to see what’s going on in the art world and what references you can and should make with your own pieces.”

As an HAVC concentrator, Cannon is focusing on post-World War II art but is also interested in literature and looking at how various artistic disciplines connect. So far, she has been particularly inspired by Assistant Professor Ijlal Muzaffars art history course focused on modern architecture and Francesco Spampinatos course Contemporary Art and its Critics. Both classes have spurred an ongoing discourse in her mind that continues to grow over time.

Although she’s excited to be entering her senior year, Cannon has mixed feelings about how quickly her RISD experience is coming to a close. After graduation she’s thinking she would like to teach English in Spain for a year and perhaps apply for a Fulbright for the following academic year. “My ultimate dream is to become a professor,” she confesses. “My mom is a professor, and I grew up around Brown and RISD. So I just love the environment.”

Simone Solondz

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tags: Glass, History of Art + Visual Culture, students

English Foreground Image 6
Most liberal arts classes are held in RISD's College Building, a classic old multipurpose facility built in 1936.