RAC Takes on New York
This year the RISD Art Circle (RAC) journeyed together to New York City, an 18-hour adventure filled with incredible experiences.
We began our journey early on a cold Monday morning by boarding a bus at Kennedy Plaza bound for New York City. After three hours we stepped off the bus and began our journey by walking down the Highline, a path which rises above the city, until we reached the Whitney Museum.
Most of us had never visited the Whitney, so as we made our way to the top floor, we didn’t know what to expect. The first exhibition we saw, Laura Poitras’, Astro Noise surprised and shocked us with its modern, intense, and interactive features. We first visited a large, dark, and crowded yet quiet room with a giant screen in the center that immediately grabbed our attention. One side of the screen displayed footage of Americans’ reactions to the 9/11 plane crashes, while the other side showed footage of a man being interrogated for his suspected affiliation with a terrorist group. These videos recreated the confusion that surrounded the 9/11 attacks, and it took us a while to put the visuals on the two screens into context. Once we realized what we were watching and the connection between the two videos, we became uncomfortable due to the feelings of fear and uncertainty that were felt during that time and that still affect society today. Entering another large, dark area, we came to a raised surface in the middle of the room, where we laid down on our backs to view videos of the sky at night, projected on the ceiling. We were confused as to how this related to the theme of Astro Noise, but then walked out of the room to find that the our body heats were being monitored on a TV screen when we laid on the platform. This aspect of the piece symbolized the mass monitoring society and governments have over the people.
Moving onto a lower level, we got to view the 20th century collection, which included works by Andy Warhol, Alexander Calder, and Georgia O’Keefe. We then stepped out onto the Whitney’s outdoor balcony, and braved the cold weather to see the New York skyline, where we took a lot of pictures. When we began to get tired and cranky from all the walking we’d done, we headed out of the museum to get lunch.
TODD OLDHAM’S STUDIO
When we arrived at the building where Todd’s studio is located, we walked through an intimidating hallway lined with lawyer offices, to be greeted at the end by Todd’s brightly colored door decorated with welcoming designs. Stepping inside, we saw that the patterned carpet and colorful furniture reflected the liveliness of the outside. Tony Longoria, Todd’s studio manager and partner, welcomed us inside, followed quickly by Todd himself and their dog Eve.
Todd began with a tour of the studio, presenting to us his most recent project, Kid Made Modern, a line of quality and eco-friendly books and art supplies. Through this project, Todd hopes to provide accessible art materials to the next generation of young artists. Next, Todd continued to walk us through the studio, pointing out several books he produced about different artists such as Alexander Girard, Charley Harper, and Ed Emberley. It was fascinating to see that Todd explores different mediums, wanting to be an artist of many trades.
Then came what everyone was waiting for, THE CLOTHES! First up was a big roll of printed fabric that Todd had collaborated with RISD textile students on in the Spring of 2015. He explained the process of printing on the fabric, which he would be using to make a dress for the All of Everything exhibition. Then, catching us by surprise, Todd started to retrieve bins of his original runway pieces, clothes upon clothes! We were stunned by the amazing opportunity to be up close and personal with such iconic outfits, such as a beaded rainbow top that was worn by Queen Latifah. Todd explained how the details of each piece were made, and the inspiration behind the varying elements and collections. Much of his work was created using nontraditional techniques that he felt were extremely important to his craftsmanship as a designer and artist. He shared that when he didn’t know how to execute a certain process or technique on his own, he turned to the most skilled manufacturers around the world to teach him the unconventional or maybe overlooked crafts.
It was exciting to see creativity and passion for the arts thriving in Todd’s studio. Hearing his inspiring words on creativity, work ethic, and determination made us realize we had to work hard to reach our goals and take our endeavours seriously. His genuine joy for his work was infectious, and something we hope to replicate in our own projects. Todd was very open to sharing his experiences with us, telling us about how he made his way into the fashion world, and how that opportunity did not come through wishing and hoping, but through incredible effort and belief in his art. He shared a childhood story about being ill at home for a long period of time, and his decision to make use of that time by learning to sew. Todd’s drive to always be learning and reinventing, whether through teaching himself to sew by taking apart clothes from the thrift store, or by making a coat out of fabric from a mattress factory, allowed him to be unique and successful in a very exclusive industry. One point that Todd stressed, when not discussing his design process, was the importance of collaboration in his work as an artist, and the essentiality of being surrounded by individuals who could provide productive input on his work. Through this type of attitude, he has been able to lead a career guided by his design vision, rather than tradition and society’s standards.
As we ended our time together, we could not leave without taking a group photo, joined by Todd’s dog, Eve, who fell in love with our own Elvis. Throughout our visit, Todd welcomed us with open arms and kind words of advice, and gave us a glimpse into his mind, collection, and journey as a fashion designer and artist. The conversations we had truly left a lasting impression and motivated us to go out into the world and create.