Forging Fine Arts Connections
At the start of the week, David Aipperspach MFA PT 14 got an invaluable opportunity that would excite any young painter attempting to break into the contemporary art scene. The graduate student spoke about his most recent body of work with Heather Darcy Bhandari, director of artist relations at Mixed Greens, a contemporary gallery in New York City. During the meeting, the experienced curator asked Aipperspach to explain the creative process behind his abstract acrylics – launching an inspiring exchange that led him to see his paintings in a whole new light.
“The conversation with Heather was highly critical,” Aipperspach says. “She asked questions that made me aware of issues in my own work. It was so helpful to talk with an experienced art reviewer.”
The painter was just one of 134 students who attended the Career Center’s Fine Arts Portfolio Review – a day of networking designed to connect juniors, seniors and graduate students with representatives from dozens of art galleries, residency programs and philanthropic organizations. Prior to the event, students rushed to reserve their spots to meet reviewers from New York Foundation for the Arts (NYFA), Booklyn Artists Alliance and Luhring Augustine, among other influential leaders who are making waves in metropolitan art circuits. Those who attended the on-campus event walked away with business cards in hand and – for many of RISD’s ambitious artists – the promise of future professional collaborations.
“This is a chance for our students to get feedback on their work. They also make helpful connections before graduation that often lead to professional opportunities,” notes Susan Andersen, assistant director of the Career Center. “And in turn, the reviewers are eager to get a peek at the work being produced by the next generation of artists. It’s truly a feast for the eyes.”
Daniel Lechner, gallery manager of Cheim & Read, was absolutely enchanted by whimsical illustrations by Sang Eun 14 IL. After digging her hands into a tightly sealed plastic bag, the artist presented a collection of handmade postcards decorated with watercolors of kissing moons, shooting meteorites and ominous black holes. “This is gorgeous work,” Lechner says as he carefully sifts through the paper goods. “Your imagination clearly has no limits or boundaries.”
The curator was also enamored of Missing Pluto, Eun’s interlocking pop-up book. The multi-layered publication chronicles the story of a small planet that goes on a dangerous journey to find a way home. “Every page is such a treat,” Lechner notes. “This is the kind of children's book you want to take to the publishing house immediately.”
Thor Owen 14 SC attended the portfolio review to hear constructive criticism on the layout of his portfolio and get feedback on his steel sculptures, which appear to skitter across the floor. After meeting with representatives from Chazan Gallery at Wheeler and Ironwood Gallery, he was pleased. “It was helpful to get their expert opinions on the subject,” he says. “These are the type of spaces I’ll want to pursue after graduating from RISD.”
Some of the feedback took students by surprise. For instance, Maija Elizabeth Ekey 13 PT brought a carefully curated collection of her printmaking work for representatives to review. But it was her satirical digital media clips that captivated gallery owners, who were especially drawn to Vacation, a music video that shows girls dancing to the Go-Go’s summertime anthem as planets explode in the background.
“I became really interested in the hype surrounding the Mayan apocalypse,” Ekey explains. “So, I decided to make a lighthearted dance video that celebrates its folly. I really didn't expect gallery owners to be interested in it. But I’m glad they are.”
At this spring’s Fine Arts Portfolio Review, students learn about opportunities in today’s rapidly changing art world.
Industrious first-year student Nina Gregg 20 ID has her own line of 3D-printed jewelry, which she recently presented at trade show NY NOW.
Four alumni are recognized in Forbes magazine’s 2018 30 Under 30 list of promising young artists and designers to watch.