Embracing the Eccentric
When Mariah Robinson 17 FS discovers a hole in her sweater, she doesn’t see a fashion faux pas. Instead, the first-year student envisions the punctured fabric as a splendidly strange monster ravenous for fibrous materials. “It’s a habit of mine to create fictional characters inspired by whatever ordinary objects surround me,” she says while flipping through a worn sketchbook. “And when I draw these fantastical beings, they inevitably evolve into emotional creatures with an elaborate backstory. I tend to grow personally attached to them.”
In addition to the “sweater monster,” Robinson is working on The Square Boy of No Communication, a comic book chronicling the adventures of a mute character who falls in love with a warmhearted quadriplegic. “Though the outside world doesn’t understand, it’s a perfect match. This weird, little couple helps each other navigate the world,” she explains, running a hand through her candy apple red hair. “In essence, they complete each other.”
Ever since high school, the native of Los Fresnos, TX has been dreaming up designs that would befit a Tim Burton film. While attending The Science Academy of South Texas, a charter school that focuses on math and science, Robinson developed architectural blueprints of habitable homes built into grassy hillsides. “The structures sort of look like hobbit homes,” she says. “The building’s interior structures – including the doors and windows – are circular. The walls would be painted with colors commonly found in lava lamps. Absolutely nothing is status quo.”
Over Wintersession Robinson built on this eccentric spirit by making eye-catching puppets in Creature-Creation, an interdisciplinary Film/Animation/Video (FAV) studio. She made a breathable helmet sporting foam tentacles and used similar materials to create a birdlike hand puppet that sprouts a wispy peacock feather on top of its head. “The creatures each have their own story to tell,” she notes, sitting on a floor covered with spray cans and felt scraps. “You'll have to chat with them to find out what they are.”
And this spring Robinson is continuing to fine-tune her skills and process through the three intensive studios all Foundation Studies students take both semesters. In her section of Design, adjunct faculty member David Scanavino 91 PT is challenging students to make ceramic sculptures that assume oddly angular forms. They’re also exploring the historical dazzle camouflage collection at the Fleet Library at RISD and will coat their 3D objects with similar “razzle dazzle” effects. “We’re distorting the appearance of our sculptures with cubist patterns,” she notes. “It’s an exercise in manipulating perception through color and shape.”
Not surprisingly, Robinson is shooting to major in FAV, where she hopes to continue developing her quirky animation techniques. She also anticipates that new artistic passions will bubble to the surface through stimulating studio courses still to come. “I always knew I wanted to be an artist,” Robinson says. “So it’s a privilege to be able to explore my creative interests at such a culturally progressive school. I can’t wait to find new interests that are just waiting to be discovered.”
Alumni Katherine Gray MFA 91 GL and Alexander Rosenberg 06 GL are both central to the cast of the glassblowing competition show Blown Away on Netflix.
Textiles students design custom jacquards for the RISD library’s collection of classic Knoll chairs.
Designer Karla López Rivera 04 FD returned to San Juan to launch Isleñas, a socially responsible footwear company.