News
April 22, 2021

First Person: Annual Hartell Graduate Award Recipients Talk About Their Creative and Critical Practice

Seeing the earth from space, idyllic landscapes void of cruelty, and misshapen vegetables caught between form and deformity are some of the concepts and inspirations for Joe Ferdinando (M.Arch. '22), Grace Sachi Troxell (M.F.A. '21), and Paloma Vianey (M.F.A. '21).

by Patti Witten

Paloma Vianey (M.F.A. '21)


two colorful irregular artworks in a side by side diptych
Paloma Vianey, from left: Rebozo (2020), oil on canvas; Piñata Study no. 5 (2021) ceramic, 10" x 10" x 8". photos / provided
 

Growing up in Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, I was confined at home for protection against the atrocities happening in my beloved home city. I was forced to mentally place myself in a violence-free, utopic world; in my paintings, I reference ambiguous, idyllic landscapes void of cruelty. Yet, I also represent the violent realities of the world where I grew up.

 

In the process of contextualizing my thesis show, I adapted Mexican traditions into paintings using the emblematic rebozo (a typical Mexican shawl) to both abstractly and graphically establish a language of fortitude and feminism.

 

I began the M.F.A. program creating work about the U.S.-Mexico border with the urgency to pictorially narrate my perspective of the borderlands — a paradoxically separated yet united community filled with contradictions.

In the process of contextualizing my thesis show, I adapted Mexican traditions into paintings using the emblematic rebozo (a typical Mexican shawl) to both abstractly and graphically establish a language of fortitude and feminism.

Feeling supported by such a prestigious award inspires me to work harder and create better work. Despite the pandemic, Cornell has granted art graduate students 24/7 access to our studios. I am exceedingly thankful for how this has allowed me to stay productive.

 

Joe Ferdinando (M.Arch. '22)


Joe Ferdinando (2020) Where We Live and Where We Fish, digital work for Architecture of the Food System, a studio taught by architecture faculty member Caitlin Taylor. 
 

In my work, I try to explore the overview effect, or the effect of seeing the earth from space, by bringing common GIS techniques to the world of architecture to depict sites. In particular, I'm interested in exploring the relationship between geology, the oceans, and the effects of planetary urbanization. I enjoy finding beauty in complex real-world data to tell stories about place while keeping in mind the way sensors mediate the way we see and understand the world.

 

I find it very compelling how politics, geomorphology, and the built environment all influence one another and leave signals in big data that can be turned into art.

 

For example, Where We Live and Where We Fish is digital work I created for Architecture of the Food System, taught by Caitlin Taylor, fall 2020. Contours of ocean ecosystems are revealed by the cumulative hours spent there by fishing vessels, expanding the boundaries of human presence on the planet beyond cities. The Finger Lakes in Context was created for the spring 2021 Integrative Design Studio taught by Luben Dimcheff and Dasha Khapalova. Cayuga and Seneca lakes are massive freshwater reserves perched on the edge of the Lake Ontario and Chesapeake watersheds; under slightly different geological circumstances, they would provide fresh water to New York City and other settlements along the eastern seaboard. Instead, they drain north toward Lake Ontario and the Atlantic Ocean via the St. Lawrence.

The John Hartell award has supported my exploration of new data and techniques to depict how climate change and food security are challenges intertwined with architecture, landscape, and urban design.

After graduation, I hope to further advocate for the role of our ocean and atmosphere in the way we establish global systems and urbanize.

 

Grace Sachi Troxell (M.F.A. '21)

 

Grace Sachi Troxell (M.F.A. '21), No More Chicken Nuggets, Mommy (2021), installation view, Neighbors, Ithaca, N.Y. photo / provided

 

Clay is often forced into strict forms — a bowl, a mug, a toilet — but I am drawn to its capacity to stretch and explore its physical limits.

Last summer, I manually constructed a catenary arch brick kiln, and the sculptures from my current project — composed of welded salvaged steel and heavy layers of clay — are the inaugural pieces fired in that kiln. During firing, the steel sometimes droops or collapses, and the sculptures establish their individual presences in that tension, between form and deformity.

 

By bringing these slipcast vegetables into my work, I am seeking to harness the aspects of vegetables that are typically discouraged: their misshapenness, their personality, and their sense of playful improvisation, which is also a sense of creative survival.

 

The other primary collaborators in this project are vegetables, who themselves are caught between form and deformity. In Aesthetics of the Familiar: Everyday Life and World-Making, Yuriko Saito proposes embracing misshapen or ugly vegetables, noting that approximately 1/3 of vegetables are discarded for aesthetic rather than nutritional reasons before they reach markets. I began growing my own vegetables in the Ithaca Community Garden, slipcasting them, and including their cast forms in my sculptures. By bringing these slipcast vegetables into my work, I am seeking to embrace the aspects of vegetables that are typically discouraged: their misshapenness, which is also their personality, and their acts of seemingly playful improvisation, which are also acts of creative survival.

The Hartell Award has helped me work on a larger scale, and with a greater volume of slipcast vegetables, while creating my thesis exhibition, Potato Séance.

After graduation, I look forward to a residency at Sculpture Space in Utica, NY in 2022.

 

The 2020–21 John Hartell Graduate Award for Art and Architecture was also given to Carlos Blanco (M.Arch. '22). The award was established in memory of John Hartell by members of his family, friends, and former students after his death in October 1995. Hartell joined the architecture faculty in 1930 and the art faculty in 1940 and served as chair of the art department from 1940 until 1959. A monetary prize is part of the award.

 

Contact
AAP Communications
aapcommunications@cornell.edu

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