Undergraduate Student Blog, Speaking of Princeton

Undergraduate Student Blog

Author: Aliisa Lee ’16

Honolulu • English View Profile

To Wake

and to make a Visual Arts thesis

Part 2 of senior year blog catch-up: the VIS (visual arts) thesis show! 

Studio

You might remember from a past blog, my senior independent work did not end with an English thesisTwo weeks after I submitted "In a Style Entirely New," I dove into the work needed to finish my VIS show that was scheduled to be up two weeks later.  

And what was the show, exactly? A story, made by placing sequential paintings around the gallery.

poster

I've been forever interested in exploring childhood, time, memory and what it means for my own life to be part of a larger narrative created by an artist. These themes (hopefully!) played out in the story of two people entering a subway. The daughter is separated from her mother, ages through the journey...

...really, the best way I can explain the art and storyline is to show it to you. I've dedicated a page on my portfolio site to a digital version of the show, so feel free to check it out! The online version is not the same experience as seeing it in person, but I hope you still enjoy. 

To Wake on my site

A quick rundown of how the actual show went down:

Planning and thumbnails

I knew pretty early on in the year the gist of the story I wanted to tell. Some of the earliest steps included sketching the panels of the story on paper, then cutting and pinning them onto foam core.

thumbnails

I had roughly drawn the architecture of the room on the boards, so I could move pieces and plan how the story would unfold. My ideas developed through sketching and revising, plus conversations with amazing faculty, including my primary adviser Eve Ascheim, and my secondary advisers Joe Scanlan and Kurt Kauper! 

Drawing

Most of the process boiled down to hours and hours of drawing during the year. Well, especially in the last few weeks before the show, but also during the year.

I used Photoshop to draw on my personal computer, but I also worked in Princeton's New Media Center, which has giant gorgeous monitors and super fast computers. Once I knew what I wanted to draw, it was a matter of blocking out the sketch then going back and refining:  

subway rough

subway

This went down for 90+ panels.

Printing, printing, printing

Major shout-out to Rick and Steve for their help and patience in ordering paper and suppling ink! 

printer

I used the 24" printer all the way on the top floor of the art building, and the 44" printer down in its dark bowels. Quality takes time, which means these quality printers are kind of slow! I spent some long nights drawing in the pockets of time between printings: jumping between the two printers and setting off jobs, correcting measurements I had messed up, trimming edges, and hoping that a printer wouldn't die on me in these precious days before set-up.

This is definitely a stage I'm happy is over, but there was also a lot of joy in seeing the work come out so beautifully!

Setting up

Have I mentioned that I have amazing, amazing people in my life? As in, the kind of people who smilingly give their time and energy to help you, asking for nothing back? The kind of people who climb up and down scaffolds (sometimes in ways of some questionable safety) to make sure your art--even the art placed inconveniently high--looks good?

Set up

Lizzy on a ladder

Who peel back countless little command strip papers and place them adhesive on your prints? And who take breaks only to work on their junior paper?

JP and cutting

Who you ask to paint the wall black, and who then proceed to carefully dab the corners with small brushes to make sure the job is beautiful? 

painting
Dan and Kat want to paint it black

Who will stay with you in that gallery for multiple days even when their own final presentations are due, who brings you tasty food snacks, who suggests where to place the work, who laughs and sings musicals along with you until the job is done?

Alissa cutting

The kind of people who spend hours with you, constructing a frame out of foam core, sweeping up the little white slips of paper that cover the floor like freshly fallen snow, measuring panels perfectly, dancing to the music we put on in the background, trying to make the sketchy ventilation room and spray-on adhesive work, holding up pieces of art to a wall and adjusting till they are straight, who buy lunch for the gang and laughingly wave off your thanks? Who make what should have been a very stressful set-up weekend some of the most joyful days you had at Princeton?

I know those kind of friends! 

The crew
R to L: Alissa, Dan, Kat, Kellyn, Lizzy, Adam, my big head
  And I know I can't thank them enough for the blessing that was their time and encouragement. They are the only reason the show exists!

Then the gallery opened

On April 21, 2016 the show opened in the Lucas Gallery! 

Welcome
I shared the gallery floor space with the super cool Amalya Megerman (whose poster for "Megerman Beach" is on the left).

This concept and show had been in my head for so long, so it was amazing to see it physically in a space. I took a very informal video walk-through, if you want more of a sense of the space. 

To wake
pan
​​

subway

panorama

The VIS program also sets you up with a show reception, buying delicious food spreads for you to offer your friends and admirers that come to look at the art that evening. So fancy! 

At the reception

Art show

I loved talking with people about how they followed the story, answer their questions about the blue swirl, or ask them what they saw in it. There were people that came up to me with real tears running down their face, and I had a friend who came to me with three different ways to read the story, including an interpretation that had you walk backwards! 

Lewis Center homepage

Do you know how crazy it is that just for being in the VIS program, you get incredible artists to advise you, a generous stipend for supplies, a studio space to call your own, access to amazing technical resources and staff, a gallery space for whatever type of show you want to put up, a communications office who creates posters, postcards, and promotes your work around the community, and a whole host of faculty who just want you to make the best show possible? I think about it and realize, "Whoa! That is not real life!

To wake

But it is something amazing, and something I am so grateful to have taken part in. 

How to say goodbye

After the week was over, it was time for the show to come down and make way for the next week's student!

Before: 

Before

Josh taking down
Bringing back the Lucas Gallery
After (almost done): 

After
​​
In some ways, it was painful to take down the show: after all, the panels represented many, many hours of work and so much joy in the installation and reception. 

And yet, sometimes it is good to let the time pass as it does. 

tired

And then move forward!