The Visual Effect

    The equation “”Imperialism = Evil”” is etched on the surface of a studio door. Another door is yellow with a black circle and is labeled with a “”Dump Bush”” sticker. Rows of doors painted with vivid lime and olive green stripes line the two floors.

    Jessica Horton/Guardian
    Second home: Students like Davina Semo, a first-year grad student, make their studios ideal work spaces by building lofts, decorating walls and filling the space with art works in progress. Some display their finished products like a gallery for visitors.

    “”The first thing you do is paint the door; it’s the first mark of identity, or how you mark your space,”” said Corrie Colbert, a second-year graduate student in the visual arts program. “”The door represents you because that’s the first thing people see when they visit.””

    Visual Arts Facility is alive with art. Up one set of stairs, the blue wall of a structure is massively splattered with maroon and cream paint as if someone had catapulted it on in a fit of artistic vision or frustration. A derelict piano sits outside a studio on the upper level, its shabbiness connoting art in and of itself. After peering inside the open door of a studio, a uniform display of kitchen knives is visible and appears to be adhered to the wall as a substitute for a canvas.

    The facility, located on Russell Lane near Gilman Parking Structure, consists of a shop, a media center and 50 separate art studios to accommodate faculty and graduate students.

    “”Our studio is one of the best in the nation,”” Visual Arts Graduate Program Coordinator B.J. Barclay said. “”It is number one in how it houses students and faculty and the nature of collaborative work that comes out of this facility.””

    Designed by NDA Architects in collaboration with R.L. Binder, the facility’s design is unique in its form. Metal and wooden sides near the back remind one of a boat-like structure. Construction officially began in 1991 and, by 1994, the facility was completed and ready for graduate students striving for their master of fine arts degrees.

    The tenants of the facility are as varied as their colorful doors would suggest. Visual arts of every type are practiced here, from painting and sculpting to photography and mixed media.

    Since students spend long hours in their studios, there is an aim to create a comfortable environment within the studio. Despite the studio’s primary function as a space for students to work on their art projects, it is also used as an office space, among other things. Some studios have built-in loft areas for storage, shelves for food and even mattresses for sleeping.

    “”I think that making a few trips to Ikea made it a lot more user-friendly,”” said Tim Jaeger, a first-year graduate student. “”I painted the wall blue because the walls being too white looked too institutional. I got a futon for if I want to take a nap.””

    Although everyone creates their own comfortable studio, they are not intended to be too much of a home.

    “”Decorating is a hard word, and everything I put in here is something that I use,”” said Katie Herzog, a first-year graduate student. “”It’s not the same as decorating a home area.””

    Having returned from purchasing cans of beige paint to create a warmer tone for the walls of her studio, Herzog opens the door, which is black and has the word “”eat”” written in vivid red capital letters near the bottom. She noted that the artwork on the door often gives a sense of the artist behind it.

    “”I look at [this door] in multiple ways and it’s more mysterious than specific,”” Herzog said. “”It’s almost even a reminder to eat. Or it can have a sexual connotation. But I know that I love to eat and that I’m into the culture that food can bring.””

    Neil Stuber, a second-year graduate student who resides in San Diego, and when circumstances allow it, Brooklyn, N.Y., works mainly on motion graphics and “”street art.”” A sample of his and graduate student Randall Christopher’s work is displayed on the wooden boards of the construction site next to Sixth College.

    Completed during the summer in two weeks and using $300 worth of paint, the mural’s splashes of color are remarkable in their intensity, but will only be temporary. The boards will remain standing only as long as the structure is under construction.

    Inside the shop of the facility, there is a representation of a phonograph, both monumental in size and sheen. Matt Hope, a third-year graduate student, created it for its practical sense as well as its artistic form.

    “”It’s just a giant DJ booth and speaker at the same time,”” Hope said. “”It’s almost like an industrial piece or a public tool because you can play music through it.””

    Hope conceived of the phonograph concept, titled “”Horn Massive,”” as his final project last September. He has been constructing it ever since and hopes to have it completed by Christmas.

    Originally from London, Hope was attracted to UCSD’s graduate art program because the program covers all tuition expenses for visual arts graduate students aiming for an MFA.

    Christine Foerster, a third-year graduate student, always knew she wanted to study art. After receiving her master’s in Latin American Studies, she applied to UCSD’s visual arts graduate program without having a previous degree or background in art. Foerster noted that one of the program’s strengths is that it does not require students to have classical training in the arts and allows a diverse crowd to attend the facility.

    “”It really encourages students to explore different forms of art and allows more diversity and collaboration,”” Foerster said.

    With a focus on mixed media, Foerster specializes in “”wearable shelters”” which she said could reflect the struggle between the individual and the collective.

    Foerster worked on a project titled “”Snaps,”” which is based on modular pieces of square- and rectangle-shaped fabrics and is an example of “”wearable shelters.”” Each square of fabric is lined with a series of metal snaps, allowing a number of different ways for the fabrics to be incorporated. For instance, snapping together the fabric can create a tent, skirt or a pair of pants.

    “”It is being able to create a space with what you wear,”” Foerster said. “”With one square, you can see all the possibilities you can make.””

    Foerster also noted that such different possibilities do not have the same ideas as gender-based clothes or clothes designed for a certain body shape. After reading the play “”Hedda Gabler”” by Henrik Ibsen, Foerster created a project made of chicken wire and burgundy cloth, which reflects the confining aspect of women’s clothes during the Victorian Era.

    Joseph Winter, a first-year graduate student also striving for his MFA, specializes in what is called sound performance. Using what he terms “”recycled components,”” he creates sound sculptures that incorporate noise and technology.

    “”There are elements of music in what I do,”” Winter said. “”I would say I do performance, but not performance art.””

    Besides participating in gallery shows like the one titled “”The Conditional Cake Show,”” which was compiled by several fellow graduate students, Winter has booked shows that have a performance art basis, such as one that was themed “”technologically enhanced performance art.””

    According to Barclay, the performance art program in UCSD’s visual arts department is ranked third in the nation by Newsweek magazine and was derived from the “”Happenings”” movement in New York City. Different from performing arts (theatre and dance), performance art is a separate mode of what Barclay called “”a new wave of art.””

    “”Performance art was founded in the 1960s, and UCSD was among the first, foremost programs in performance art,”” Barclay said. “”We were on the cutting edge, and still are.””

    Instead of art displayed in the typical media of canvas, clay, film or photo paper, performance art is art in its active form; art as it happens in everyday life.

    “”It consists of imagery and poetry,”” Barclay said. “”It’s a kind of art that deals with a lot of social issues and is a new way of expressing ideas.””

    Aside from the studio that is designated for each graduate student, there is also an area for performance art called the “”Performance Space.””

    Those who actively create performance art will not use an area that resembles a stage too closely but will instead use a space that has a more natural or realistic setting.

    “”Performance art as a medium isn’t particularly routed for a specific space,”” Winter said.

    In general, the students express their appreciation for their studio space. Each individual door reflects the vitality that emanates from the facility and all of the creative work that is born within the studios.

    “”I love it, it’s the best. I feel real fortunate to have this space,”” Foerster said.

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