Force of Nature
“The architecture of RISD and Providence’s East Side sparked a direct communication with history and place that I hadn’t experienced in LA,” says multifaceted designer David Wiseman 03 FD, who still lives and works in Los Angeles. “That’s part of the reason I was so honored to create a Collage Chandelier installation for the President’s House – to be part of such a distinguished historical space.”
Wiseman designed the chandelier – which is on loan to RISD for three years – for the dining room in the President’s House, combining several concepts he had been experimenting with when interim President Rosanne Somerson 76 ID contacted him about creating a piece. “I was working on crystal pendant lights, porcelain bird cages and bronze chandeliers,” Wiseman recalls, “and the projects all came together as a kind of installation in my studio space that inspired the sketches I sent to Rosanne.”
The thread that ties this and all of Wiseman’s work together is his gift for seeing patterns in the natural world and creating abstract designs that weave them together. Whether he’s working on large-scale public art, furniture, wall and ceiling reliefs, chandeliers, vases, candlesticks, mirrors, objects or jewelry, his attention to detail and craftsmanship in mirroring nature are unparalleled. His current porcelain work, for example, incorporates detailed magnolia blossoms, and live oak branches native to southern California appear regularly in his bronze castings. “The goal,” he says, “is to bring nature indoors in a modern, sensitive way. I’m engaging with natural materials to articulate a specific quality I want to highlight.”
It all started when Wiseman chose his major at RISD. “The Furniture Design department gives students the tools to make really cool, functional works of art and the freedom to explore,” he says. “My senior year was all about creating a 3D Wall Forest out of white resin castings that would become the inspiration for several commissions I received while I was still at RISD.”
Having also spent a lot of time at the RISD Museum investigating how other cultures interpret nature through art, Wiseman is thrilled that two of his Facet Vases were recently acquired for the museum’s permanent collection. “RISD was like an incredible incubator where I could think about how I wanted to contribute to the art world,” he explains. And its impact continues, influencing how he thinks and works today. “I’ve tried to re-create RISD’s open, creative environment in my studio,” he says, noting that most of his staff and interns are RISD grads or students. “I feel privileged to be able to bounce ideas off such talented people,” he adds.
Working primarily with bronze, porcelain, glass, crystal and plaster, Wiseman still has hands-on involvement with every piece that comes out of his 10-person studio. He shows work at R & Company, the NYC gallery that represents him, and loves creating custom pieces and installations on commission.
Today Wiseman’s kinetic lighting fixtures, metal screens and furniture designs can be seen around the world, and his custom installations adorn the homes of US-based clients from coast to coast. “I love to engage with a client’s taste, collection and history – their narrative – in order to make them a custom piece,” says Wiseman. “It’s all about collaboration. The people I work with tend to be kindred spirits drawn to the same natural elements that inspire me.”
Furniture Design and Textiles students in a research studio called Textile into Furniture paired off to design unique pieces of furniture incorporating advanced fabrics and techniques.
During a visit to campus in mid April, poet and indigenous rights activist Allison Adelle Hedge Coke inspired students to address urgent social and environmental issues.
Artist Cai Guo-Qiang, photographer Annie Leibovitz and robotics pioneer David Hanson 96 FAV are being recognized at this year's ceremony.