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Shifting Our Collective Consciousness

Shifting Our Collective Consciousness

Both when teaching and working in her studio, new Sculpture Department Head Lisi Raskin strives to create the kind of world she wants for everyone.

Sea Walrus Sits Wild Play Soon East (Sunrise)…

The last time newly hired Associate Professor of Sculpture Lisi Raskin was as disturbed by the political landscape as she is now was when she was a kid growing up during the Reagan/Cold War era. Her work has been focused on fears of war and terrorism since the World Trade Towers collapsed under attack on 9/11—soon after she moved to New York—and she continues to turn to her artistic practice to “figure out a creative way through,” noting that “performance and objects are good outlets.”

For 10 years Raskin created large-scale architectural installations referencing the Cold War-era fallout shelters, bunkers and missile silos she visited “on a magic carpet ride” starting in 2003. “That Cold War militarized palette is everywhere,” she says. But once she began questioning the purpose of this work several years ago, she “lost the desire to create things [she] didn’t want to see in the world.”

When she visited Afghanistan in 2013 as part of a Creative Time Global Residency, Raskin took a more ethnographic approach to her research, interviewing people who work at these locations and studying “the embedded hierarchies” at play. “As I began thinking of war as a condition that we’re living in, I began taking a more loving approach to the work,” she explains. “I’m trying to shift consciousness rather than just recreating existing conditions.”

The work Raskin is creating for a solo exhibition slated to open in Milan in September takes an abstract, almost improvisational approach. A collection of tiny wooden “love tokens,” 2–4 inches in scale, will greet visitors at the gallery entryway, and a comfortable lounge area will invite them to watch a video program she curated. The work selected draws from a wide range of artists who are “using video to create the loving world they want to see. It’s a really good stew full of bodies and sex and animation,” Raskin says with delight—“the love potion I think about when I make abstract compositions.”

As an educator, Raskin takes a democratic approach, asking lots of questions and helping students to articulate their own goals. “When I was an art student,” she recalls, “you had to read a lot of critical theory, and it just stopped you in your tracks.”

“I think of the sculpture studio as a laboratory. You learn a tremendous amount from experimentation and failure.” sculpture department head lisi raskin

In contrast, Raskin encourages students to think about making in an open-ended way. “I think of the sculpture studio as a laboratory,” she says. “You learn a tremendous amount from experimentation and failure.”

Before joining the faculty at RISD—where she now heads the Sculpture department—Raskin taught at Tyler School of Art, Columbia University and Virginia Commonwealth University. She’s especially excited to lead the department now as the major is attracting unprecedented interest and the field of sculpture as a whole is going through something of a metamorphosis.

“This is an incredible and experimental moment for sculpture,” says Raskin. “Our charge as educators is to show students a very broad approach to the medium—to give them roadmaps that will help them get where they want to go. My colleagues are open, engaged and generous, and I’m looking forward to working with them to co-create a departmental vision that rises to the occasion.”

Simone Solondz

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