Righting the Wrongs
“I’m still in the process of finding the balance between respecting the rules and respecting my own creative intuition,” says Chandra Oh 15 GD, a senior in Graphic Design whose overarching goal as an artist is to call attention to social hierarchy and speak to society’s marginalized groups. She’s exploring these interests and “building confidence” in her own work and the stories she wants to share by pursuing a Liberal Arts concentration in Gender, Race and Sexuality, one of 10 tracks available in the History, Philosophy + the Social Sciences (HPSS) department.
Oh is especially interested in issues she has been exploring through classes such as Gender and the Media, taught by Associate Professor Jennifer Prewitt-Freilino, whose own research explores how memberships in social groups help to determine our core understanding of the self. “Her open-mindedness encourages students to be more aware of different perspectives and to feel comfortable sharing their own,” says Oh. “When Jennifer leads discussions in class regarding gender, she takes into account all possible biological, evolutionary and cultural factors.”
Oh has also been inspired by Associate Professor Bolaji Campbell, whose classes in the History of Art + Visual Culture (HAVC) department emphasize the relationship between artifacts and culture, viewing each work of art in the context of social history. “It’s fascinating to consider cultural and political issues through art and how things have changed or remained the same over time,” she notes.
Oh’s personal take on such issues is beginning to take shape in her studio work as well. Instead of wasting time “making pretty things” and being blinded by the frivolous, she says she’s attempting to use her talents to visually communicate a call to action about selected societal problems. A recent painting, for example, reflects upon her unhealthy obsession with body image and the general tendency for women to base their worth on physical appearance. “At the very least, I’m trying to create work that expresses some form of empathy or validation for women who face similar difficulties,” she explains.
Over the summer, Oh spent time in her hometown of Los Angeles, where she interned at the womenswear design firm Rodarte and also worked at the Los Angeles Contemporary Archive. Although she appreciates the opportunity to take a break from school and recharge her batteries, the senior is looking forward to the start of classes and reconnecting with the inspiring group of friends she’s made at RISD.
“I feel nothing but support from my peers at RISD,” Oh says. “RISD students are as intellectual as they are creative, and their ability to come up with brilliant and unique design solutions never ceases to motivate me.”
New graduate Robin Hilkey 15 GD feels well prepared for the fast-paced design and branding work she'll do at the anti-AIDS organization (RED).
Focused studies in Environmental Studies and Gender, Sexuality + Race helped Ali Blake 14 TX see her work in textiles—and the world around her—through a different lens.
As a double major, Yves-Olivier Mandereau 15 CR/GD is passionate about exploring language, culture and communication in his work.