Senior Jessy Lu 15 TX finds fodder for her studio practice in the liberal arts classes she takes as a Literary Arts + Studies concentrator.
To create CHILDPROOF OBJECTS, Jessy Lu 15 TX wrapped an assortment of sharp tools in colorful yarn, making them safe but useless.
You never know when an idea or an experience will get you going down a new path of discovery. Senior Jessy Lu 15 TX remembers how a discussion about the 2008 film WALL-E in Nathaniel Walker’s Architecture of Utopia class got her thinking about overprotectiveness in modern society—a notion she has since been exploring in her studio work in Textiles and may pursue through her senior thesis.
“The people live in a controlled environment on a utopian space craft,” she says of the movie, “and they’ve all become obese, disconnected and apathetic. That kind of overprotectiveness strips you of character-building experiences. It’s an idea I continue to stew over in my head.”
Lu took Walker’s class as part of her concentration in Literary Arts + Studies (LAS), which she was initially reluctant to take on in addition to her studio work. But she soon discovered that the ideas emerging from readings and liberal arts classroom discussions directly and indirectly inform her studio practice.
“I used to think that my major and my concentration were totally different,” Lu explains, “but now I see that they’re very much related. I’ve extracted elements from lots of different liberal arts classes that I’m interested in investigating in my work and I’ve ended up somewhere I couldn’t have imagined!”
Another influence is the 20th-century Bauhaus school in Germany, which Lu first explored in a class taught by Assistant Professor Eric Anderson in the History of Art + Visual Culture (HAVC) department. “The Bauhaus movement was aesthetically stark and based on a socialist or utopian vision,” she says. “Those stripped-down ideals have caused me to be a little less decadent with my own use of color.”
Thanks to the flexibility of LAS concentration requirements, Lu has enjoyed taking a wide range of classes, including a course on Shakespeare in the department itself and a class on 20th-century Japanese literature at Brown. “I’m interested in so many things,” she says. “I’m just trying to build multiple skill sets and absorb as much as I can while I’m here.”
An avid reader and budding writer, Lu jots down notes and ideas in a sketchbook that she carries with her at all times. She meets with Concentration Coordinator Mairéad Byrne on a regular basis to review her notes, along with her transcript in order to determine how the courses she’s taking fit together. “Sometimes a studio class – like one I took on making artist’s books—is relevant as well,” she adds.
“It’s so important to reflect on your work and figure out how to move forward,” Lu points out. “I learned from Lane Myer [a senior critic in Sculpture] to constantly ask myself questions about what I’ve just made and what I intend to make next. It’s easy to become afraid of making things, because you want everything to be perfect. But you need to keep working—to persevere—even if there’s a potential for failure. That’s how you grow as an artist.”
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Interested in how textile design can empower rural communities, Maharam Fellows Lyza Baum 16 TX and Emilie Jehng 16 TX researched natural dye practices on the remote Filipino island of Bohol.
Photographer and filmmaker RaMell Ross—a self-described “liberated documentarian”—is now also a 2020 United States Artists Fellow.