Senior studio art majors prepare for future: The Pioneer spotlights the work of five studio art majors


Iris Alden

“I have a really hard time seeing waste and not thinking of something I could do with it, and that definitely contributes a lot to what I make,” said senior Iris Alden, as she casually surveyed the broken and dismantled computer parts that litter the floor of her studio.

Credit: Krahn
Credit: Krahn

This is an idea that has she has been formulating for quite some time.   When taking Art 110, the introductory visual arts class that is a requirement for majoring in studio arts, Alden created a sculpture out of discarded film and test strips salvaged from the darkroom trashcans, a piece she identified as one of her favorite creations.

“It stretched from where the darkroom used to be which was in Olin to the Reid side lawn pointing towards the construction site of the art building. It was like this strip of waste of film strips and test strips and all the paper that comes out of the dark room. It was the project I put the most work into and it was really exciting to finally see it done,” said Alden.

For her thesis, Alden is focusing on sculpture that re-uses found or discarded objects, as well as dabbling in computer art and animation. “As an artist, it’s an interesting thing to think about bringing more objects into our world that’s already so full of objects, and I think I want to approach my thesis ideologically fighting against that, by using found objects and by doing digital stuff,” Alden said.

Joanna Swan

“I’ve always been really interested in observing people, and I think travel is really important and has affected my work,” said senior Joanna Swan, a studio arts major.  “Being a child of the internet age and having that as a presence in my life is inspiring. It’s mind-boggling how much the Internet affects everything I do, especially my artwork.” The Internet is helping her to draw inspiration from a wide range of areas and topics as she begins to narrow down the topic for her thesis.

Credit: Krahn
Credit: Krahn

“Last semester we did a painting that we were encouraged to look at from different angles. It came out way differently than I expected, and I think that rethinking things is so valuable, and so is throwing out your expectations. ‘What can you get rid of in order to progress?’ I suppose,” said Swan.

That painting helps to explain Swan’s process as she starts her senior thesis. “In terms of my thesis, I don’t really have a clear idea. But that’s what this semester is about: exploration and developing ideas,” said Swan. Her ideas and influences are, at this point, diverse: she is inspired by the Internet, animals, popular culture, vintage photography as well as old-fashioned styles and mindsets. Her paintings promise to be a unique mix of varied points of view.

Andrew Witherspoon

Senior studio art major Andrew Witherspoon’s studio space is bare. “I’m pretty different than most of the other people here in that I can’t sculpt or draw or paint at all. What makes what I’m doing different is that I’m not going to do any paintings; I’m not going to do any sculpture or anything like that,” said Witherspoon. “All my work is completely digital.”

Credit: Krahn
Credit: Krahn

Witherspoon is a graphic designer, and his focus is making complex causes or concerns accessible through his designs. “I’m not really into making stuff that’s really obtuse and hard to understand. That doesn’t interest me at all. I want to make either motion-graphic installations or prints that try to explain current environmental or economic problems,” said Witherspoon.

Witherspoon’s work has already achieved that goal. Last semester, he studied at the Academy of Arts in San Francisco in their graphic design program. As part of his studies, he worked with a local nonprofit organization called Project Porchlight. “They do really cool stuff with trying to replace incandescent bulbs with CFL bulbs, trying to get every household to switch one out; that’s their entire project. I did a rebranding project, an entire identity system, including new logo, new stationary, and motion graphics trailer to introduce their cause,” said Witherspoon. If his project last year is any indication, his thesis project has real potential to make a difference.

Lauren Hisada

“I’m really attracted to representing the body in sculpture. Illusion, too. I like creating things that are large enough that they are experiences: so that you can walk around them, and look at it from different angles,” said senior studio art major Lauren Hisada, who can’t decide between sculpture and photography as her concentration.

Credit: Krahn
Credit: Krahn

“Last year, I made this huge, life-sized, concrete door. I actually cast it from this really old-fashioned, antique-y door in my house. We wanted to move it around campus to provoke people to think about what you might not see that could potentially be in a space. For example, we might have leaned it up against a wall, or installed it on the ground. It turned out to be too heavy, so that was disappointing, but it was a cool idea.”

Hisada’s interest in photography is mostly digital. In a series she did last year, she used her expertise with Photoshop to emulate appropriation artists like Yasumasa Morimura. “He inserts himself into famous images, but I took it a step further by inserting myself into his images. So it’s like appropriating an already appropriated image,” said Hisada.

Having worked as a photo editor at a number of magazines the past few summers, Hisada sees career potential in photography, but remains committed to sculpture as well. Her satisfaction with the work she’s produced in both mediums seems to indicate that she could be happy either way.

Katie Higgins

Senior Katie Higgins focuses mostly on printmaking and book arts. “But,” she says, “I also like to incorporate things that aren’t often thought of as art: sewing, knitting and collages. They’re super accessible for people or kids who might not have access to a printing press and other materials.

Credit: Krahn
Credit: Krahn

“I’ve also been thinking a lot about books lately,” said Higgins. “They’re often thought of in very different ways: either as something very positive, something that begins the process of learning, but then there’s also the tradition of books as a taboo, something that shouldn’t be accessible. I’ve taken a lot of classes on witchcraft and the witch scares, and there are really negative attitudes toward books there.”

After taking a course on children’s books and beginning book arts her freshman year, Higgins was enchanted. “I had always thought the idea of making your own books was really cool, but then taking book arts and working with Mare Blocker, the book arts professor, was just a really cool experience and really eye-opening.”

“There are really just so many things you can do with books,” said Higgins. One of her favorite things to do, and one that’s yielded some of her favorite works, is pop-up. For one project, she made an accordion book that folds out to reveal a three-dimensional, pop-out tree. “I like that one a lot,” she said.