27 February 2009

Otis' Essence Exemplified

As an Admissions person representing Otis out on the road, I make a lot of claims about the environment in which our students learn and the culture of the Otis community. While I believe that what I am saying is an accurate reflection, it is helpful to have it confirmed.

I had such a confirmation today when I was privileged to attend the “Ikebana” exhibition of our Interactive Product Design sophomores. The project centered around the Japanese flower arranging practice of the same name, the students were called upon to make use of the skills they learned in Foundation (such as color theory and form and space) as well as their Liberal Arts and Sciences knowledge (including cultural anthropology and Asian art history).

The results were amazing and while holding true to the design prompt, each solution was unique. Heather Joseph-Witham (our resident Folklorist) commented on the blending of traditional Japanese asthetic with Los Angeles car culture. Sammy Flores-Pena commended the students on not falling into the trap of having their results be simply “cultural tourism.” Listening to their evaluation of the work provided me with a much deeper understanding of what was at stake for the assignment but it was the comment of guest artist Yoshio Ikazaki that proved most helpful to me. He talked about the concept of “Ma” the notion of objects conveying the sense of time and space and suggested that the student’s work did just that.

Two things I say repeatedly about Otis are that we don’t have a house style and that we are trying to create “visual problem solvers” with the ability to transcend any one discipline of art or design. In my eight years here, this exhibition was among the most successful at proving both points.

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