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Colorful abstract art focus of new ASU Gammage exhibit


December 15, 2015

Colorful images of abstract and modern art by two Arizona artists will be featured in an exhibition at ASU Gammage Dec. 13-Feb. 9.

Melissa Schleuger’s dynamic art incorporates geometric shapes into an organic backdrop, creating work that blends the unexpected with sophistication and beauty. Specializing in abstract expressionism, she begins each painting without preconceived influence and follows the lead of brush strokes and paint. abstract painting "Plus One" by Arizona artist Melissa Schleuger Download Full Image

Schleuger recently was named one of the finest emerging artists in the Valley by the 2015 Chancellor Awards of Maricopa Community Colleges. A student at Scottsdale Community College, she has shown her work at local venues including the Herberger Theater and Art Intersection.

Geoff Gildner’s work reflects his experience in the architectural field, using color, form and the shapes of the natural environment as a foundation. Many of the vibrant pieces on exhibit at Gammage are created using found objects such as wood, glass, sheet metal and old canvas paintings.

A 1994 history graduate from ASU with an emphasis on architecture, Gilner is a self-trained artist who is influenced by the works of Mondrian, Rietveld, Kandinsky, Pollack and de Kooning, as well as the organic architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright. His work can be found in private art collections both in the United States and abroad.

abstract art

"Witnesses to the Actions of One" by Arizona artist Geoff Gildner

 

Exhibit hours at ASU Gammage are 1 to 4 p.m. Mondays, or by appointment. Due to rehearsals, event set-up, performances, special events and holidays, it is advisable to call (480) 965-6912 or (480) 965-0458 to ensure viewing hours, since they are subject to cancellation without notice.

The street address is 1200 S. Forest Ave., Tempe. Parking is available at meters around the perimeter of ASU Gammage. Entrance is through east lobby doors at the box office.

Media contact: Brad Myers, art exhibit coordinator, 480-965-6912

 
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December 9, 2015

ASU Biodesign Institute employees share their work through the power of visuals

They say a picture is worth a thousand words — something that can be especially handy when talking about science. ASU researchers used the power of high resolution photography to share their work through a photo contest called Seeing Science, presented by ASU’s Biodesign Institute. From the microscopic to the macroscopic, images of science’s wonders present a creative view of an analytical discipline.

Out of more than 170 entries, a winner was selected for six categories: Photomicroscopy, Science, Artistic Science, People at Work, Science and Nature, and Smartphone. Best of Show, People's Choice and Judges Choice (Honorable Mention) awards were also given.

Take a look at the winners below:

 
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ASU takes its theater program into the prison system.
No first-show jitters as this stage show debuts in prison.
December 1, 2015

ASU students and Eyman Prison inmates unite for performance

Rania Zeineddine peers through a wall of windows, watching the audience fill the seats in this makeshift theater.

She and her fellow actors start the show tapping on the glass to get the attention of her co-stars on the other side. One of them, Charles Thigpen, comes over and flattens his palms against the glass. She does the same before they start laughing and mimicking each other as if the window were a mirror.

This will be the closest thing to physical contact these actors will have in their performance. Once the seats are filled and the doors open, the actors will have one strict rule to follow: No touching.

This isn’t an avant-garde theater edict. This is a condition of staging a play inside the boundaries of Eyman State Prison.

Zeineddine is one of three Arizona State University undergrads who coordinated and crafted “Free Drama,” a 45-minute joint production between the students and Eyman inmates that stages the journal entries these prisoners and students exchanged during the course of a semester in the School of Film, Dance and Theatre’sThe School of Film, Dance and Theatre is part of ASU's Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts. Theatre Across Prison Walls class.

The doors finally open and the three students wearing ASU shirts walk inside, ready to join the prisoners wearing jumpsuits with “ADC” emblazoned on them.

There isn’t apprehension or fear. Rather, there are smiles and the joy coming from actors who get to perform their stories in front of an actual audience.

Prisoners performing a play.

Inmate Dusty Lewis plays the nagging
wife who beats "husband"
Gregory Fulton during a scene
written in "Free Drama."

Photos by Deanna Dent/ASU Now

 

An inspired design

Rivka Rocchio has spent the past two years teaching drama to inmates inside Arizona’s Eyman Prison. But it wasn’t until this semester that the ASU graduate student decided to incorporate undergrads into the process.

She liked the idea of teaching a class that involved an exchange of ideas between her students in prison and her undergraduate drama students. The idea was approved, but there was one problem: The two sides wouldn’t be able to regularly meet to create a production. So Rocchio, who is using this project as part of her graduate thesis, improvised.

“We asked them to create a master list of themes and motifs that they were interested in, so of those five themes they were interested in, I created a series of journal prompts,” Rocchio said.

They settled on five themes: going home, joy or enjoyment inside of prison, emotions, animals, and stereotypes and layers. Each week Rocchio would ask the students to write journal entries relating to the prompts. After the entries were exchanged between classes, the students selected the pieces that best fulfilled the themes.

Rocchio then gave students in each classes prompts to delve into deeper stories that were developed into group scenes or monologues.

But the exercise become more intriguing when Rocchio decided to have the students and prisoners swap stories for the performance.

The results were varied ­— an inmate spoke about a first summer job interview at Starbucks, an ASU theater major performed a monologue documenting drug addiction and redemption through the Bible and religion.

“That really gave the students the opportunity to try on each others’ stories, to live in that identity for a little while and experience what it would be like, what it would feel like to say as a 23-year-old college student I’ve been a drug addict for 40 years and this is the impact that it’s had on my life,” Rocchio said.

Salome Chuma, an ASU theater major, was cast in an inmate’s tale of fighting with a doctor while his newborn child was in the NICU.

“That was the first time he had ever mentioned that story to anyone else, and he was like, ‘It was interesting that this is a story that’s personal to me and it’s in my memory and now it’s something that you have in your memory now. It’s weird that it’s living in two different people, and I’m seeing that lived out through you,’ ” Chuma said. “As actors you kind of never forget a monologue, or a show, so it’s now a part of you just how it’s a part of them too …  it’s crazy.”

 

 

Performing with passion

Back in the Cook Unit of Eyman Prison, Chuma sits in a chair on “stage” during the performance in front of inmates and prison administrators.

Her hands are empty, but she relays a monologue about a letter inmate T.J. Garrison had written to his mom, who died during his time in prison. The dialogue explained his attempts to better himself and to better understand his mother’s motivations.

Garrison is soft-spoken and contemplative. His fingers are tattooed with letters that spell out “beauty.” He was convicted in 1997 at the age of 20 and wrote his journal entry on a day he simply “felt open,” which many Cook Unit inmates say is rare.

“When she performed the “mamalogue” I cried, I sat on the side and I was like, ‘Man, these people are going to see me cry,’ and I didn’t care and I let it go,” Garrison said. “To see something that I had written, put down and is going to be acted by somebody else, it made my heart swell, it made my heart swell a lot.”

Afterward, he thanked Chuma for the performance. She thanked him for sharing his emotions and words.

“I didn’t think anything I could do could ever have that kind of effect on somebody, and that felt really powerful,” Chuma said.

Much of the show, which veered from poignant introspection to comedy, inspired the same sentiments between parties.

As the production closed, Rocchio gives thanks to the Arizona Department of Corrections, her graduate adviser and to her students before asking the entire group to paint a large white banner with their thoughts about the performance with markers or fingers. Inmate Garrison writes a large and colorful “Namaste” while B. Brewer, his tattoed hands covered in purple paint, makes hand stamp prints up and down the banner.

An appreciated understanding

Rocchio said the moment this unique experience “clicked” for her students was during the hourlong car ride back to ASU from the prison in Florence. Her students related their initial apprehension and how it gave way to an understanding that drama became a shared experience to better understand another person they had seen as so different from themselves.

“That’s what I want you to get out of it,” Rocchio said. “You are people and these are people and you connect through the passions that you have for theater and art.”

 

Story, photos and video by Deanna Dent/ASU Now

ASU grad student receives prestigious international award

Best Student Music Submission awarded for work on dinosaur sound


November 29, 2015

A panel at the 41st International Computer Music Conference has presented ASU School of Arts, Media and Engineering and School of Music graduate student Courtney Brown the award for 2015 Best Student Music Submission, its annual top student honor, for her original composition “How to Speak Dinosaur: Courtship.”

Brown’s dual background in music and computer science provided the foundation on which she fabricated the Corythosaurus skull she calls Rawr!, the central piece in her transdisciplinary project “Rawr! A Study in Sonic Skulls.” Corythosaurus skull ASU graduate student Courtney Brown and the Corythosaurus skull she calls Rawr!, the central piece in her transdisciplinary project “Rawr! A Study in Sonic Skulls.” Photo courtesy of Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts Download Full Image

Brown developed the mechanical larynx and dinosaur design with her Doctor of Musical Arts (DMA) adviser, Garth Paine, associate professor in interactive sound and digital media in the School of Art, Media and Engineering and professor of composition in the School of Music. In August, the Corythosaurus skull prototype was displayed as an interactive sound exhibit at the 2015 Ars Electronica festival in Linz, Austria. Brown’s project had been awarded a Prix Ars Electronica honorary mention, one of the most prestigious media arts honors in the world.

Brown noted that the composition was the start of the work she had done in developing a performance practice for Rawr!, “a lot of which is based on call and response, and, of course, on the narrative elements.” She also used extra mouthpieces (a bassoon reed and a tuba mouthpiece) to create different sounds.

“This work was composed for the tubist David Earll, and his work on the piece was an integral part of it, especially his skill with extended techniques,” Brown said. “David was an ASU DMA tuba student at the time, and he now teaches low brass at the University of Wisconsin-Platteville.”

She added, “James DeMars was my composition professor at the time. It was he who suggested the tuba, and David (as a player) in particular. Originally, I was thinking of the trombone. Before I wrote this piece, I wasn’t aware of the tremendous flexibility and variety of timbres that the tuba could produce. It is very good at low dinosaur-like sounds.”

Before she could compose the piece, Brown had to first construct the skull prototype, engaging in hard science research in order to create an instrument that could emit an accurate sound. Discovering the Corythosaurus voice started with piecing together the skull itself.

“The skull is created from CT scans. The inside is a little more faithful than the outside,” Brown explained. “One side was crushed. It’s actually a mirror image of the two sides, so we have a whole Corythosaurus skull, a standing object that was created with 3-D printing. When you create something like this from digital fabrication, there are limitations. The skull is as faithful as it could be within the limitations that we had.”

The next set of design constraints involved the dinosaur’s vocalization mechanisms.

“The mechanical larynx is as scientifically accurate as it can be considering that after 77 million years, there are no soft-tissue remains. But through the research we did, I can tell you that in vocalizing creatures, your hearing range is tuned to your own voice; therefore, assuming that these dinosaurs were vocalizing creatures, I could look at their hearing,” Brown said.

Brown said she knows that the dinosaurs could hear because there are remains of the cochlea: “In archosaurs, which include birds and reptiles, the length of the cochlea corresponds to the range of best hearing ... you have the frequency of best hearing, and the limit of their hearing. The frequency of best hearing is 267 hertz.” The larynx Brown made was developed according to such specifications.

And what of the composition itself?

“That’s my compositional conceit,” Brown said. “I used crocodiles for inspiration, as crocodiles are the hadrosaurs’ closest living relatives. The challenge was that crocodiles actually originated their sounding larynx. Their ancestors had larynges, but they weren’t used for sound. The sounds they make are amazing. Just the idea of them responding to thunder amorously, I think, is very humorous. It kind of gave me a window to create this piece. This is kind of like a ‘Hello, world’ piece for the dinosaur.”

Brown doesn’t take for granted the accolades she has received for her work.

“The ICMC award was a surprise and an honor,” she said. “I'm thrilled to receive international recognition for my work, and grateful for the support of the School of Arts, Media and Engineering, the School of Music and ASU and their support via a Student Enrichment Grant to attend the conference.”

“How to Speak Dinosaur: Courtship” is an original music composition written by Courtney Brown for hadrosaur skull (Courtney Brown) and tuba (David Earll).

ASU grad student receives award for 2015 Best Student Music Submission at the International Computer Music Conference


November 29, 2015

A panel at the 41st International Computer Music Conference (ICMC) has presented ASU School of Arts, Media + Engineering and School of Music graduate student Courtney Brown the award for 2015 Best Student Music Submission, its annual top student honor, for her original composition “How to Speak Dinosaur: Courtship.”

Brown’s dual background in music and computer science provided the foundation on which she fabricated the Corythosaurus skull she calls Rawr!, the central piece in her transdisciplinary project “Rawr! A Study in Sonic Skulls.” ASU graduate student Courtney Brown and the Corythosaurus skull she calls Rawr!, the central piece in her transdisciplinary project “Rawr! A Study in Sonic Skulls.” Photo courtesy of Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts Download Full Image

Brown developed the mechanical larynx and dinosaur design with her DMA advisor, Dr. Garth Paine, associate professor in interactive sound and digital media in the School of Art, Media + Engineering and professor of composition in the School of Music. In August, the Corythosaurus skull prototype was displayed as an interactive sound exhibit at the 2015 Ars Electronica festival in Lintz, Austria. Brown’s project had been awarded a Prix Ars Electronica honorary mention, one of the most prestigious media arts honors in the world.

Brown noted that the composition was the start of the work she had done in developing a performance practice for Rawr!, “a lot of which is based on call and response, and, of course, on the narrative elements.” She also used extra mouthpieces (a bassoon reed and a tuba mouthpiece) to create different sounds.

“This work was composed for the tubist David Earll, and his work on the piece was an integral part of it, especially his skill with extended techniques,” Brown says. “David was an ASU DMA tuba student at the time, and he now teaches low brass at the University of Wisconsin-Platteville.”

She adds, “James DeMars was my composition professor at the time. It was he who suggested the tuba, and David (as a player) in particular. Originally, I was thinking of the trombone. Before I wrote this piece, I wasn’t aware of the tremendous flexibility and variety of timbres that the tuba could produce. It is very good at low dinosaur-like sounds.”

Before she could compose the piece, Brown had to first construct the skull prototype, engaging in hard science research in order to create an instrument that could emit an accurate sound. Discovering the Corythosaurus voice started with piecing together the skull itself.

“The skull is created from CT scans. The inside is a little more faithful than the outside,” Brown explains. “One side was crushed. It’s actually a mirror image of the two sides, so we have a whole Corythosaurus skull, a standing object that was created with 3D printing. When you create something like this from digital fabrication, there are limitations. The skull is as faithful as it could be within the limitations that we had.”

The next set of design constraints involved the dinosaur’s vocalization mechanisms.

“The mechanical larynx is as scientifically accurate as it can be considering that after 77 million years, there are no soft-tissue remains. But through the research we did, I can tell you that in vocalizing creatures, your hearing range is tuned to your own voice; therefore, assuming that these dinosaurs were vocalizing creatures, I could look at their hearing.” Brown says she knows that the dinosaurs could hear because there are remains of the cochlea. “In archosaurs, which include birds and reptiles, the length of the cochlea corresponds to the range of best hearing... you have the frequency of best hearing, and the limit of their hearing. The frequency of best hearing is 267 hertz.” The larynx Brown made was developed according to such specifications.

And what of the composition itself?

“That’s my compositional conceit,” Brown says. “I used crocodiles for inspiration, as crocodiles are the hadrosaurs’ closet living relatives. The challenge was that crocodiles actually originated their sounding larynx. Their ancestors had larynges, but they weren’t used for sound. The sounds they make are amazing. Just the idea of them responding to thunder amorously, I think, is very humorous. It kind of gave me a window to create this piece. This is kind of like a ‘Hello, world’ piece for the dinosaur.”

Brown doesn’t take for granted the accolades she’s received for her work.

“The ICMC award was a surprise and an honor,” she says. “I'm thrilled to receive international recognition for my work, and grateful for the support of the School of Arts, Media + Engineering, the School of Music and ASU and their support via a Student Enrichment Grant to attend the conference.”

“How to Speak Dinosaur: Courtship” is an original music composition written by Courtney Brown for hadrosaur skull (Courtney Brown) and tuba (David Earll).


Media Contact:
Kristi Garboushian
School of Arts, Media + Engineering
480.727.1161
kristi.garboushian@asu.edu

 
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Before his show at Gammage, Sanford Biggers schools some ASU art students.
Sanford Biggers: An artist who understands how to embrace the unexpected.
November 19, 2015

While visiting ASU, Sanford Biggers explains how to embrace unplanned creativity — and unintended reaction

Interdisciplinary artist Sanford Biggers is a hard guy to pin down for an answer.

It’s not because the New York artist, pictured above right, is evasive or shy; he just wants his work to have multiple meanings and outcomes.

Take, for example, the teaser he provided for “Moon Medicine,” his upcoming show at ASU Gammage:

“We’re an all-black boy band but it’s not all black men and the entire band might not necessarily show up,” Biggers said with a straight face and a slight glint in his eye. “There’s a lot of room for improvisation. I don’t even know what it will be like.”

Others have described "Moon Medicine" as a music and optical experiment that weaves funk, film noir, punk, sci-fi, traditional Samoan dance and Buddhism with original video content and improvised “turntableism Turntableism is using a record turntable as an instrument.” and “VeejayingA Veejay is a video tracker and editing tool that can also be a real-time video sequencer or effects generator..”

That’s a mouthful, but Biggers wouldn’t have it any other way.

“When I started to construct my creative language, I used to think that art was about delivering a specific message to a viewer. But one critique early in my career changed the way I viewed my work,” said Biggers, who is an assistant professor at Columbia University’s Visual Arts program and is in Tempe as part of a 10-day residency sponsored by ASU Gammage and the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts.

“There were people from Haiti, China, Mississippi and they all saw my work differently. I recall using some boat imagery and one person saw it as slavery while another person saw it as freedom. I then realized that maybe it wasn’t a bad thing if you unveil your art and ascribe different meanings from personal experiences.”

Biggers’ work and installations have been celebrated through exhibitions both nationally and internationally, including the Tate Modern in London; the Whitney Museum in Harlem, New York; the Yerba Blue Center for the Arts in San Francisco; and institutions in China, Germany, Hungary, Japan, Poland and Russia.

Woman vamping on stage.

ASU intermedia graduate student
Veronica Aponte stands center stage
during her class performance and
likens toys to audience members.

Photos by Deanna Dent/ASU Now

He said he intentionally complicates issues such as politics, religion, identity, race and art history to offer new perspectives to established symbols. This past Monday Biggers offered his perspective — as well as a critique — to an intermedia class taught by Angela Ellsworth in ASU's School of ArtThe School of Art is part of the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts..

The class presented a 10-minute interactive piece called, “Omni Optic,” which touched on themes of surveillance, technology and privacy. Part of the presentation included setting up Biggers by recording a brief presentation he gave of his work, and playing it back minutes later on a large screen.

Biggers acted neither surprised nor outraged by the intrusion, but embraced the concept. In fact, he liked it so much that he invited the class to participate in his Saturday performance.

“What you just saw right now shows there’s room for improvisation in any performance, even on the fly,” Biggers said. “My boy band just got bigger.”

“Moon Medicine” starts at 7 p.m. Saturday at ASU Gammage in Tempe. Tickets are $20, $15 for ASU faculty and staff and $10 for students and members of the military.

For more information visit ASU Gammage.

 
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ASU student-run laptop orchestra combines computer programming, performance art.
November 4, 2015

Laptop computers have become such an essential part of our lives that it’s almost become odd to consider doing things like paying bills or buying a book without one.

But conducting an orchestra?

That’s the premise behind LORKAS, a student-run experimental “laptop orchestra” at Arizona State University that’s bridging the gap between the worlds of computer programming and performance art.

“We come from a wide swath of people. While I wouldn’t use the word ‘misfit-y,’ I definitely can say we’re a weird bunch,” said Althea Pergakis, a digital culture major in the School of Arts, Media and EngineeringThe School of Arts, Media and Engineering is a collaborative initiative between the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts and the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering., who is also the co-director of LORKAS.

The ensemble, which is comprised of 10 core members, includes instrumentalists, programmers, composers, audio engineers, designers, singers and fabrication specialists. As a whole, it’s encouraging creative expression with technology and the arts.

“Half the people are into digital media while the other half are coming from the School of MusicThe School of Music is part of the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts.. We are all looking for something new, weird and different,” Pergakis said. “Essentially, LORKAS is a sandbox that allows us to go to a special place and explore.”

People sitting under lights with computers

LORKAS, ASU's student-run laptop orchestra,
performs by coding music both before and during performances.

Photo by Garrett Mitchell
(Top photo by Matthew Briggs)

The group will participate in the annual School of Music Prisms Contemporary Music Festival, which runs Nov. 4-7 on ASU’s Tempe campus. This year the festival will honor renowned French composer Pierre Boulez, celebrating his 90th birthday.

As part of the festival, LORKAS is hosting a Nov. 4 workshop featuring Diemo Schwarz, an artist and executive with Paris-based Ircam, considered one of the more cutting-edge, non-profit research centers in the field of music technology and the media arts. 

Founded in 2010, LORKAS was inspired by other laptop orchestras that began popping up after Stanford University debuted the concept a decade ago. The orchestra uses specialty-software equipped laptops to create original compositions in an improvisational manner, enhanced by gestural controls, eyesight cameras and wireless DMX lighting to create a one-of-a-kind sonic and aesthetic experience.

“We are generating live sounds and a lot of the music is improvisational,” Pergakis said. “We really do try to add a little zing to our set by immersing people in the sound.”

Each “instrument” consists of a laptop, an individual speaker, and a variety of control devices such as keyboards, graphic tablets and sensors which are run by ChucK, a music programming language that allows participants to code both in preparation for and during an actual performance.

“I find the interactivity between human beings and technology to be fascinating,” said co-director Justin Leo Kennedy, who is working on his Doctor of Musical Arts in composition in the School of Music. “There’s a stigma that the millennials have ruined a generation of music because of technology. And if I hear that one more time, I’ll probably throw up.”

LORKAS is also adding a little zing to its professional resume. December will see the release of their first album, “Nodes,” which includes 60 minutes of original compositions.

“People should come to LORKAS and see that both technology and music are what we decide to make of it,” Kennedy said.

 
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Peer into the rabbit hole with these many visions of "Wonderland."
ASU home to the many interpretations of Alice and her "Wonderland."
November 3, 2015

Special collections, symposium at ASU celebrate 150th anniversary of Lewis Carroll’s classic children’s story

“And what is the use of a book,” asked Lewis Carroll’s Alice, moments before tumbling down the rabbit hole, “without pictures or conversations?”
— from “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland”

Since its publication in 1865, more than 300 artists have created their own versions of the images and words in Alice’s eponymous adventure.

Many of those interpretations — including visions by painter Salvador Dali, printmaker Barry Moser, costume designer Irene Corey, Broadway composer Charles Strouse, pop-up book maker Robert Sabuda and the story’s original illustrator, John Tenniel — comprise Arizona State University Libraries’ assemblage of dozens of eclectic materials related to “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” and its sequel, “Through the Looking-Glass.”

The collection will be on display at the 10th annual Emeritus College Symposium on Nov. 7 in ASU’s Old Main building, which will celebrate the sesquicentennial of “Alice in Wonderland” by featuring a range of experts presenting on the breadth of Carroll’s influence. The event is open to the public.

Speakers include faculty associate Lou-ellen Finter’s photography of the American Southwest “through the Looking Glass”; astronomy and physics professor emeritus Per Aannestad on the connection between black holes and the Cheshire Cat’s grin; ASU Foundation CEO Rick Shangraw on “The Wonderland of ASU”; professor of supply chain management Craig Kirkwood on the digitization of the Alice books; and English professors emeriti Alleen Nilsen and Don Nilsen, who are compiling lists of the ways “Alice in Wonderland” was a zeitgeist in the 1960s and 1970s and continues to persist in popular culture.

Womand and man looking at book of art.

Hayden Library's Katherine Krzys and ASU professor Dan Bivona
look at Salvador Dali's vision of Lewis Carroll's "Alice's Adventures
in Wonderland" and its sequel "Through the Looking-Glass."

Charlie Leight/ASU News

“These books are so rich they offer so many opportunities for generating a wide variety of meanings,” said associate professor of EnglishThe Department of English at ASU is part of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. Dan Bivona, who taught Carroll’s books in his classes and is researching Alice’s relationship to Wonderland’s creatures in connection with the Turing test, which determines a machine’s ability to exhibit human behavior.

The mutability of the Alice stories is in part because of Carroll’s sparse text, which allows for creative interpretation. “If you don’t know what a Gryphon is, look at the picture,” he wrote in chapter nine, relying on the book’s illustrations to fill gaps in its text.

Each redesign has an effect on how the work is received, said art professor emeritus John RisseeuwJohn Risseeuw is printmaking faculty emeritus in the School of Art in the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts..

Risseeuw spent 35 years teaching ASU students printmaking and the history of the book. He showed his classes the library’s different editions of “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” to demonstrate varying approaches to illustrating the text or creating images to complement it.

An example he used was Carroll’s “Mouse’s Tale,” one of the first instances of concrete poetry, in which the visual nature of the text represents the concept that is written within — in this case, a long tale told by a mouse and printed in a winding, tail-like pattern. “The interesting thing is that in every edition of ‘Alice’ this has to be done by the typesetter, and it’s always done differently,” Risseeuw said.

 

books with odd text patterns

Two versions of "Alice in Wonderland’s" long tale include a 1907 edition illustrated by Arthur Rackham and Barry Moser’s 1982 interpretation.

 

Nearly every edition of Alice in Wonderland — including many theatrical scripts — contains the tail tale.

Another commonality in many of the publications is their pictures’ resemblance to Tenniel’s originals.

“Tenniel is so good,” said Don Nilsen. “He did it so well. He captured the tone, and it was a very effective tone.”

Tenniel, the principal artist at the British weekly satire magazine Punch, spent more than a year perfecting his drawings for the book. His subtle inclusion of political allusions is often cited as a reason for Alice’s instant and enduring popularity among adult readers. 

“What Tenniel did, in one way, is to make it so that people can never think about, say, the Mad Hatter, without imagining this guy without that big top hat,” Risseeuw said. “Whereas if you read the text without seeing that, your imagination makes up an image for the Mad Hatter. … So an illustrator actually takes something away from the reader — prevents their imagination from taking the story where they would imagine it and expand upon it, perhaps.”

Katherine Krzys, curator of the Child Drama Collection and archivist at ASU, recurrently found copies of Tenniel’s illustrations alongside directors’ designs for dramaturgical productions. “I was surprised at how much carryover there was between the different versions,” she said. “There’s a lot of Tenniel, but different interpretations of it.”

According to Risseeuw, part of the challenge for visual artists commissioned to portray Alice in a new way is to “put their own thing into it.” He points to Dali’s suggestive, semi-abstract visuals as a departure from the more traditionally definitive illustrations of Arthur Rackham, Peter Newell, Moser and others.

A Punch illustrationIllustration of wild characters published shortly after Carroll’s death proposes that those attempts fall short. The image, titled “Tenniel’s ‘Alice’ Reigns Supreme,” depicts newer versions of the White Rabbit and Alice paying homage to the original.

Undeterred, new copies are continuously issued, and a handful of 150th anniversary editions are being released this year.

“It’s all comparative,” Risseeuw said. “It isn’t that there’s one that stands out or that is better than the others. They’re all good by comparison to each other. They enrich each other.”

 

Registration to attend ASU in Wonderland: The Tenth Annual Emeritus College Symposium, is available at http://asura.wildapricot.org/Resources/Events/TemplatesForms/2015EmeritusCollegeSymposiumRegistration.pdf. The program runs from 8:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 7, and will be followed with a free Mad Hatter’s Tea Party from 2:30 to 3:30 p.m. in Old Main’s Carson Ballroom. Both events are open to the public.

ASU’s special collections, including its editions of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, can be viewed in the Luhrs Reading Room during the school year from 9 to 6 p.m. on weekdays and by appointment on Saturdays. The reading room is located on the fourth floor of the Hayden Library, and a staff member is always available to help locate materials. ASU Libraries invites classroom visits and scholarly research. To learn more, contact 480-965-4932. Aspects of the exhibit can also be viewed here.

 
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This year marks the 30th anniversary of ASU's MFA program in creative writing.
The ASU program's focus on nurturing "artist-citizens" sets it apart.
Students in the ASU Creative Writing MFA Program work one-on-one with faculty.
November 2, 2015

This year marks the 30th anniversary of ASU's distinguished MFA program in creative writing

Some of us are Type A people; we plan our days down to the minute and make decisions based on a practical system of weighing pros and cons.

And some of us are daydreamers.

Alberto Rios falls into the latter category.

“I got busted for daydreaming in elementary school. The egregious second-grader crime,” he said of the moment he knew he wanted to be a writer.

“I retreated to my imagination, and that was the beginning of my writing.”

Alberto Rios speaking at podium

Regents’ Professor and Katherine C. Turner Endowed Chair in English at ASU Alberto RiosAlberto Rios is a Regents’ Professor and the Katherine C. Turner Endowed Chair in English at ASU. speaks at an event celebrating the Creative Writing MFA Program. Photo by Bruce Matsunaga.

 

Fitting, then, that he should one day help found the Creative Writing MFA Program at Arizona State University. The program, which is part of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, celebrates its 30th anniversary this year.

“It’s a mark of some distinction,” said Rios, who in 2013 was named Arizona’s first poet laureate.

He began teaching at ASU in 1982, shortly after winning the Walt Whitman poetry award and being subsequently recruited to the university by ASU Regents’ Professor Norman Dubie, whose own poetry has appeared in The New Yorker and “The Norton Anthology of Modern Poetry.”

Around that time, a crop of fresh, hungry English faculty was beginning to materialize on campus.

Current director of the program Cynthia HogueCynthia Hogue is a professor of poetry and the Maxine and Jonathan Marshall Chair in Modern and Contemporary Poetry at ASU. called their serendipitous congregation a “critical mass of talent” that soon attracted a wave of students — Hogue herself had come to ASU to study under Dubie in 1978.

man writing

ASU Regents’ Professor Norman Dubie. This photo (© Rebecca Ross)
is part of the "Write Now: Celebrating 30 Years of Creative Writing at ASU"
exhibit on display at Hayden Library through Nov. 14.

Other members of that faculty group included the poet Rita Dove and the artist and former program manager Karla Elling.

Recognizing the need to meet student demand and eager to foster the growing community of serious writers at ASU, they determined it was time to establish a bona fide MFA program in creative writing.

In the 30 years since, the program has stood witness to a faculty that has received national and international recognition, garnering Guggenheim fellowships, NEA fellowships and several Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award nominations. As well, its students have gone on to win multiple prizes, Guggenheim and Fulbright fellowships; publish books; and secure university teaching positions.

What sets it apart from other creative writing MFA programs, said Hogue, is “the element of the artist-citizen.”

“To be an artist is to be involved in the world in various ways. And we do that really consistently, and we also model a mentoring relationship,” she said, noting how each student in the program has the opportunity to work one-on-one with members of the faculty on their work.

Jennifer Irish, assistant director of the program, reiterated what she sees as the extraordinary nature of the program.

“I have the experience of having been part of several other programs and I have never been in a program or worked with a program that has such a true dedication to its students — at all levels," she said. “We have an amazingly committed faculty here who care about their students’ growth as artists and as people.

“And again, it goes back to that idea of the artist-citizen, that we are training artists who are going to go out and do good things in the world.”

One example of that intention realized is Poesía del Sol (Poetry of the Sun), an ASU Project Humanities partnership with the Mayo Clinic Center for Humanities in Medicine and the Creative Writing Program, led by Ríos.

Poesía del Sol pairs ASU MFA students with palliative-care patients at Mayo Clinic Hospital in Phoenix. The students interview the patients and their families, then create poems based on that interview. The poems are printed, framed and presented to the patients and their families as a gift and a celebration of life.

portrait of a woman

Cynthia Hogue, professor of poetry and Maxine and Jonathan Marshall Chair in Modern and Contemporary Poetry at ASU. Photo © Rebecca Ross

 

Another example of being involved in the world is ASU’s Prison English Program, which allows students to not only edit the writing of inmates but also to teach in person at prisons in Arizona, helping educate those members of society who might otherwise not have such an opportunity.

Third-year creative writing master’s student Jacqueline Balderrama is one of the students who has done so. Her focus is poetry because, she said, “It belongs to the moment and to the image. It is concise, purposeful, and having an eye for poetry, I think, allows writers to perceive the world with an openness that invites meaning into the ordinary.”

Balderrama also serves as a poetry editor for Hayden’s Ferry Review, a semiannual international literary journal that showcases emerging talents in the literary community.

A small portion of the publication is solicited from established authors, but the majority of contributors are chosen from the thousands of manuscripts received each year. Each issue includes poetry, prose, translations and visual art.

Hayden’s Ferry Review editor-in-chief Chelsea Hickok, who will graduate from the Creative Writing MFA Program in May 2016, relishes the position it has afforded her.

“I’m coming out of this program with three years' teaching experience, two years editing a literary journal, connections in the industry, publications and a confidence in my writing I didn’t have before,” she said.

Balderrama agreed about the importance of creative writing, saying, “Fine arts are critical to our humanity.”

Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Jane Smiley delivered a Marshall Lecture on Oct. 7 at ASU in which she spoke on the importance of art in teaching us empathy and helping us to understand what it is to be human.

Reflecting that is a favorite mantra of Rios’: “Say it, and I will understand it. Say it well, and I will feel it.”

ASU’s Creative Writing MFA Program 30th-anniversary celebration continues next with professor of English Melissa Pritchard’s telling of the story of the Afghan Women's Writing Project and the Ashton Goodman Fund from noon to 1:15 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 4, in the Memorial Union Gold Room on the Tempe campus.

For a full list of anniversary celebration events, visit http://english.clas.asu.edu/cwp-30th-anniversary.

 
image title

Viewing photography through a prism of change

Photographer Nadia Sablin shares view of her two Russian aunts.
How did Nadia Sablin become a photographer acclaimed by the New Yorker? ASU.
October 30, 2015

ASU alumna Nadia Sablin uses her camera to share small, personal stories

Editor's note: Leading up to Homecoming, we'll be running several stories a week on ASU alumni. Find more alumni stories here.

Nadia SablinPhotographer Nadia Sablin calls her time at Arizona State Univeristy “one of the most productive periods” of her career.

Sablin says the support she received from the faculty and her colleagues in the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts allowed her to try new approaches to her craft without worry.

Today, she’s putting her Master of Fine Arts in PhotographyNadia Sablin received her master's from the School of Art in the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts. to good use, having recently been featured in The New Yorker for her photo series “Aunties,” which includes the photo above and details the day-to-day activities of her father’s two unmarried sisters at their home in Alekhovshchina, Russia.

Sablin herself was born in Leningrad and moved to the United States as a child. She currently resides in Brooklyn and will be releasing a book based on the photo series this November.

She recently took time to talk with ASU Now about her favorite aspect of being a photographer and how she thinks the power of photography can influence society.

Question: Why did you choose to pursue a career in photography?

Answer: When I was in high school, I found out I could take community college classes for free. I took a bunch of photo classes on a whim and really got into it. I was spending more time in the darkroom than my official classes, so I thought I wanted to do more of that.

Q: You were recently featured in The New Yorker for your photo series “Aunties.” How does it feel to have such high profile acknowledgement?

A: I’m so glad that such high caliber publications are interested in small personal stories, such as “Aunties.” It’s a different way of understanding the world, through individual lives rather than big political movements. That’s what I’ve always been most drawn to, and I’m happy to see that acknowledged and many years of my work validated in this way.

Q: How does photography have the power to impact society?

A: I think we’re already used to understanding history through images. Can you imagine the Great Depression without seeing “Migrant Mother” by Dorothea Lange? Or D-Day without Robert Capa’s images? More recently, however, photography is how we experience the present, often initiating an activity in order to record it, not just for its own sake. With everyone always having access to a camera on their phone, we’ve become voracious consumers and indiscriminate producers of photographs. This is certainly changing our perception of individual pictures, and I’m curious to see what we’ll do with that change.

Q: What is your favorite part of the work you do today?

A: I photograph people primarily, and I meet a wide variety of strangers, forming relationships with them and learning about their lives. I hear all kinds of stories and see people’s faces change as they begin to open up to me. I love the moment when we connect — it’s a very powerful experience to receive the gift of someone’s trust.

Q: What advice would you give to someone looking to pursue a career in the arts?

A: Read a lot and work really hard on your art. Be happy about the process, and don’t expect validation. 

Q: Anything else you’d like to add?

A: I have a book coming out in November with Duke University Press. I would love for you to buy it. Or look at it at the library once they receive a copy. The title is “Aunties: Seven Summers with Alevtina and Ludmila.”

Emma Greguska

Reporter , ASU Now

(480) 965-9657

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