18 August 2009

Otis Alum Featured in Stages 09

When Lance Armstrong returned to France last month for the Tour de France he talked a lot about using the occasion to continue to raise awareness about the fight against cancer. To help re-enforce that message, his Livestrong Foundation, along with Nike presented an art exhibition- Stages 09.

Twenty artists including Raymond Pettibone, Ed Ruscha and Shepard Fairey created pieces "to raise funds and awareness for the fight against cancer." Fairey's work was mounted right next to the title wall so it really set the tone for the entire exhibition. The subject of his work- a young woman, staring back at you with an expression that is at once pensive and impatient (my interpretation)- is where Otis alum Jessica Ikenberry ('02) comes in (full disclosure Jessica is also my boss' step-daughter).

Two years after graduating from Otis Jessica was diagnosed with breast cancer- an especially aggressive form. She had to undergo in her words "massive surgery" followed by 12 rounds of chemotherapy in six months. Thankfully that treatment was successful and she is now, five years later, making art, designing and living happily in Los Angeles.

The photograph (a portrait by Dina Douglass/Andrena Photography) that served as the source image for Fairey's piece was taken early on in Jessica's recovery process. He described his intention for the piece as wanting it to be intense but also reflective of the fact that she was on the other side of her surgery and chemo and was healing. I definitely think that he accomplished that.

Stages 09 is still available to view online here. I have embedded a video that includes interviews with both Jessica and Shepard Fairey and you can learn more about her work and her life by visiting her blog.