Discussing Identity + Inspiration
Students invited this year’s Martin Luther King, Jr. Series honoree Emory Douglas to lead an open critique in the Metcalf Auditorium on Thursday, January 19.
The visiting artist selected 10 student works from the –ISMS exhibition on view in various locations around campus and joined Assistant Professor of Architecture Emanuel Admassu and Associate Professor of Glass Jocelyne Prince MFA 94 GL in thoughtfully assessing each piece.
“The work is focused on the intersectionality of identity,” explained Global Initiatives leader and –ISMS organizer Lucy Crelli 17 AP in introducing the panel discussion. “We hope to create new discourse about identity within the RISD community.”
Students took to the stage one by one to introduce their work and describe the intensely personal experiences that inspired it. Grad student Jay Simple MFA 17 PH noted that making work about being black is central to his artistic practice in part because “every morning I wake up a man, but by noon, after hearing a few news stories, I’m feeling as black as ever.”
Sophomore Kate Reed BRDD 19 AP explained that Invisible, a laser-cut acrylic sculpture selected for the –ISMS exhibition, was inspired by the seeming invisibility of homeless people she meets on the street. “The concept of invisibility is fascinating,” noted Admassu. “Your work can make the invisible visible.”
A one-of-a-kind book project by Haitian immigrant Ingrid Nelson 17 GD (who was unable to attend the critique) explores the way strangers define blackness and make assumptions based on a photograph. Describing it as a “courageous project,” Prince noted that it was “shocking to see how people assigned meaning to images.”
Sophomore Emilee Chun 19 PT spoke about the complex feelings of living as a Korean woman in America and the intention behind a moving painting she made to convey the pain shared by many Asian women weary of being stereotyped.
The members of the RISD community who gathered to hear the open critique appreciated the discussion of a wide range of powerful, intimate work: poetry, illustrations, video and a crown of bronze, brass and gold-plated leaves by Jewelry + Metalsmithing major Anthony Anderson 18 JM (below), who inscribed the leaves with some of the cutting comments he’d endured while growing up gay and Filipino in rural RI.
A comment by Prince captured the mood of the evening beautifully. “That juxtaposition between the hateful words and the love that went into making this piece,” she said, “is ultimately what makes it so strong.”
photos by David O’Connor
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