Outside the Canvas

Photography, painting, and drawing. They were the extent of my artistic practice before attending Arcadia. Keep this in mind as you imagine me, an anxious freshman, going to her first college art class.

Foundations is a mandatory course for all art majors. Instead of trying to teach technique, the professors focus on instilling conductive thought processes. For example, beginning artists can sometimes be held back through their use of clichés; in Foundations, we learned why we should avoid such imagery and how to work around these ideas.

Our first project was to create wearable sculptures, which we would go on to present runway-style in front of hundreds of students. My anxiety was palpable, but it slowly gave way to determination. If I was going to present my work in front of my classmates, I would make something worth remembering.

Fast-forward through the brainstorming process and you have my very conceptual idea. I wanted to make a statement about society’s beauty standards and our obsession with the media. To do this, I created a gown made entirely out of magazines that swirls around the wearer.

Armed with an unstable mannequin, a cheap maxi dress, pipe insulation, and a plethora of “borrowed” magazines, I went to work. Using the rather unsophisticated tools of a college student, I stapled, glued, and taped strips of magazine pages to the dress. The insulation formed a tornado-like spiral around the skirt, ensuring the dress would consume the person inside of it.

There were some factors I hadn’t planned for, such as the dress being so tight it ripped around the bodice (shout out to masking tape for fixing that mini-disaster). There was also a slight problem with walking in the dress—I couldn’t. My noisy shuffle led to an agonizingly slow runway “strut.” But I did it.

I did not suddenly become enthralled with sculpture and all of its offshoots after this one project. I took a few more courses after Foundations, ranging from ceramics to metals and jewelry, before I began to think about art multi-dimensionally. Additionally, in my spare time I began exploring the work of modern artists through Google, Pinterest, and good old-fashioned books. These sources sparked new ideas, leading me to experiment with different methods and techniques.

I used to believe that making art didn’t require education, and in some cases there are brilliant unschooled artists. I’ve found, however, that I’m not one of those people who can create inspiring works of art without schooling and practical experience, and I doubt I could reach my full potential without first exploring the various art forms that I have.

A peek into my notebook now has all range of concepts, from jewelry to doodles to human form. Some of these ideas may never become reality, but I feel more inspired when I am able to exercise the entirety of my brain.

Photos by Kara Wright ’14

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