LSU art students’ work is on display at the Louisiana Art & Science Museum (LASM) Iridescence exhibition, on view through July 2022.
The exhibition celebrates iridescence, the natural phenomenon of certain surfaces that appear to gradually change color as the angle of view or the angle of illumination changes. The exhibition seeks to showcase both the natural phenomenon and the artistic applications of iridescence. Students in graphic design instructor Meghan Saas’ ART 2552 class studied how iridescence occurs, and drew inspiration from it to create a series pieces that, together, span the visible color spectrum. The students’ work is included in the exhibition now on view at the LASM in downtown Baton Rouge!
“Iridescence is found throughout the natural world, on butterfly wings, fish scales, bird features, and also in man-made materials such as paint, fabric, and plastic. A captivating sight, iridescence is still being studied by scientists today who seek to further understand the interaction between light, movement, and microscopic structures that is responsible for iridescence. Similarly, artists are exploring iridescence to discover new ways to incorporate the rainbow-like phenomenon into their work,” according to the LASM.
Artists from all over the world submitted works to the juried competition, inspired or created using iridescent materials. Juror Bradley Sumrall, Curator of the Collection for the Ogden Museum of Southern Art, curated Iridescence: Juried Competition from over 300 works of art, thoughtfully considering the materials, influences, and artistic merit of each submission.
Saas worked with Dr. Nathan Lord, professor entomology, and graduate student Sierra Weir, whose research on Emerald Ash Borers (“Jewel Beetles”) is featured in the Iridescence exhibition, to better understand the science behind iridescence in nature.
“Nature does have this profound beauty,” Lord said. The lab researchers see the exhibition as an opportunity to raise awareness of this convergence of the arts and sciences, and help people see the world through a new lens. Read more.
The art/graphic design students worked to create pieces that go beyond aesthetic purposes, and explore the color spectrum. “I encouraged them to experiment to get interesting and unexpected results, and then we refined from there to get a good balance of saturation and value, contrast, etc. Then they had to consider how to ensure all six pieces looked like a cohesive set—there was a lot to consider!” Saas said.
“The students took the assignment very seriously, and shared info with one another on the best printers in town for getting good vivid colors, and they were SO careful with mounting perfectly [for the museum.] Several said they’d really gained confidence in Photoshop from the project, and it was so great hearing them really dig in and analyze small details of color application during critique.”
For the graphic design students, the artistic process was collaborative experience. “They cheered each other on a lot along the way and they’re all so excited to bring their family and friends to see their work up on the wall at a museum! I’m just goofy proud of them—they worked really hard and it paid off,” Saas said.
“My experience working on the Iridescence project was both new and exciting,” said Ilai Wright, a junior majoring in studio art with a concentration in graphic design. “The process gave me a new perspective on how I viewed colors and color pairings in nature as well.”
“This was my first time having my art as part of a public exhibit in a museum!” Wright said. “I feel fortunate and grateful to have taken this class this semester because it is the first time the ART 2552 class has done something like this. I am also honored to have my work along with my classmates’ work on display for so many people to see!”
Iridescence features works from a variety of LSU research fields. In addition to images of insects provided by Lord, the exhibition also features a custom built, period specific, Victorian dress adorned with Jewel Beetle wings by Casey Stannard, associate professor of human ecology in the Department of Textiles, Apparel and Merchandising.
Peggy Davis Coates, executive director of the LSU Hilltop Arboretum, has retired from her position after over 14 years in the role.
Located on Historic Highland Road, the LSU Hilltop Arboretum is under the joint management of the Robert Reich School of Landscape Architecture and the Friends of Hilltop Arboretum. Together they are responsible for the strategic direction of the LSU Hilltop Arboretum and ensure a united vision, mission, stewardship and accountability.
Coates is a native of South Louisiana and joined the LSU Hilltop Arboretum as executive director in June 2007. Prior to that she was with Baton Rouge Green as their program director for 12 years. Coates received her Master of Landscape Architecture from Louisiana State University and her Master of Science in urban forestry from Southern University. In her years of service at the LSU Hilltop Arboretum, she worked in concert with the Friends of Hilltop Arboretum (responsible for $3.9 million in private donations for facility and site development projects), LSU’s Robert Reich School of Landscape Architecture, and a core of amazing volunteers to develop the arboretum into a regional environmental destination.
Hilltop’s executive director has the overall responsibility for all business and educational functions including development, volunteer recruitment, financial support, personnel management, and program development. In addition, she works in concert with the Robert Reich School of Landscape Architecture to integrate the arboretum in the school’s core curriculum. Hilltop’s Imogene Newsom Education Facility is available to the faculty for classroom instruction, and the grounds are available for outdoor applications including plant materials and design, construction, and collaborative research initiatives.
After over a year of restrictions and precautions taken during the COVID-19 pandemic, LSU Art & Design classes are returning to (almost) normalcy – including going on long-awaited field trips.
“Travel is an integral part of the educational experience for LSU Art & Design students,” said Alkis Tsolakis, dean of the LSU College of Art & Design. “There is so much to learn in this world. Visiting works of art and architecture, exploring public landscapes, or meeting experts and other students in the field opens the doors to other cultures and enriches our lives forever.”
This semester, trips have ranged from the international Design Paris study abroad program, led by Robert Holton, associate professor of architecture, to field trips around Louisiana, such as Kathleen Bogaski’s landscape architecture studio that visited Louis Armstrong Park in New Orleans, and met with the city of NOLA director to learn more about city planning efforts.
One such field trip experience was the recent excursion of upper level seminar “Sites of Contemporary Art” to visit Prospect New Orleans. Taught by Allison Young, assistant professor of art history, the class explores topics such as public art, site-specific art, and social practice.
“In other words, art that takes place outside of traditional institutional or commercial contexts, and which engages with real places and various kinds of publics and communities within and beyond the art world,” Young explained.
Prospect New Orleans is a triennial art event – a recurring, temporary exhibition of international contemporary art that takes place every three years, (although it was postponed in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.) Rather than taking place within a single museum or gallery, Prospect typically sprawls across the city; in past iterations, artists have used spaces ranging from restaurants and hotels to abandoned lots, public parks, the facades of historic buildings, and the sound environment of neighborhoods like the French Quarter.
Young organized a day-long tour for the art students to visit of some Prospect venues, including the Newcomb Art Museum, the Ogden Museum of Southern art, the Contemporary Art Center, Capdeville Park, the New Orleans African American Museum and a few small venues throughout the Bywater neighborhood (in theaters, restaurants, etc.).
Seeing the works in person is key to the educational experience. “The course was conceptualized, in part, to coincide with Prospect New Orleans, since recurring exhibitions like biennials and triennials are often ideal platforms for the kind of work that we have been discussing,” she said.
At each stop, the group heard from exhibiting artists and/or curators involved with Prospect: Ron Bechet (a New Orleans based artist who is showing at Newcomb); Lucia Momoh (a Curatorial Associate for Prospect.5 who met us at the Ogden and NOAAM); Phoebe Boswell (a London-based artist who is installing at the CAC, and showed her work in progress); and Anastasia Pelias, a New Orleans based sculptor who has installed an ‘anti-monument’ at a park in Mid-City.
“There were truly so many great things about the trip from visiting many of the Prospect.5 sites to getting to meet and hear the artist talk about their work,” said Cecelia Moseley, MFA sculpture candidate. “However, if I must pick the most meaningful part to take away from the trip it would be getting to meet Phoebe Boswell at the Contemporary Arts Center, NOLA and seeing her process in her drawing installation. Her installation is on the first floor in an oval shaped room where the walls feel like an endless panoramic view of people she has drawn on the wall in charcoal. The public is able to see her working. It was an amazing experience to see and hear her talk about the process and inspiration behind the scenes.”
“As a graduate student in sculpture it is a great opportunity to see a successful artist and learn about her studio practice in person,” she shared. “One of the most inspiring parts of the installation is that it is site specific and can never be transported somewhere else and only experienced in the space it was created in. Since this piece is drawn on the walls and site specific she will be working on her installation until the end of December – I highly suggest if you have the chance to go by and see her work in person. You will be amazed!”
“Touring Prospect in New Orleans was amazing,” said Chris Toombs, President’s Millennial Scholar. “The culture and spirit were intoxicating as well as informational. Tulane’s Art Museum featured pieces that were brilliantly done and put a strong emphasis on color and placement. Professors Young and Ariaz were great hosts and I learned so much about the art culture in New Orleans.”
Annicia Streete is an assistant professor in the LSU School of Architecture. Annicia was born in Trinidad and Tobago, located in the southern Caribbean, and immigrated to the United States to pursue her education and career in the architecture profession. Her academic and professional background is multi-disciplinary, earning her Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering with an emphasis in Structures at the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology and a Master of Architecture at the University of Colorado Denver. This background has afforded her the opportunity to teach and practice across the architecture, construction, and engineering fields over the past fourteen years.
Q: What do you love about teaching architecture?
A: I love that teaching architecture gives an opportunity for both student and teacher, and I will add practitioner (as they continue to teach our students in practice), to think about the future of our built environment. Not as in becoming inundated with the issues of the built environment that the discipline must address, but it is an opportunity to carefully consider, imagine, act and realize the hopes of many as we consider making space for people to dwell, work, play etc. It is a wonderful challenge.
Q: What do you hope the students will learn?
A: Before learning anything specific in regarding theory of architecture, I hope students would first recognize the agency of architecture. The ability architecture has in affecting the daily lives of everyone on this planet. It is not just about designing “pretty” and “glamorous” buildings. Architecture is capable of so much more when done thoughtfully and responsibly. When we think of how we interact with the built environment, it is capable of improving the lives of many socially, historically and culturally to preface a few ways.
Q: Why are you interested in conducting research in Louisiana?
A: I am from Trinidad and Tobago, a twin island republic in the Southern Caribbean. As I have been learning about Louisiana over the last few years and more with my recent move, the overlaps I have been discovering between both places have been tremendous. From coastal environmental issues to historical issues of the built environment that have manifested and continue to manifest themselves to present day. Architecture is also a discipline that thrives on collaboration, it is in most cases better because of collaboration, so the opportunity to research, work and collaborate within the overlaps of both regions, and with academic entities within the university that are engaging in related studies is paramount and very exciting.
Q: Anything else you’d like to add?
A: I am passionate about architecture, my students, and the work that I do in this field. My contribution to architecture as an academic and previous practitioner is dear to me and I carry it with great commission. I am honored and thankful for this opportunity.
Courtney Klee, master of architecture student, was selected as one of the top three winners in the Louisiana Sea Grant Coastal Connections Infographic Challenge, which took place on October 29, 2021 at the LSU Energy, Coast and Environment Building. Klee’s entry visualized the health impacts of chemical plants along River Road parishes. She was advised by Annicia Streete, assistant professor of architecture.
Klee’s infographic titled “Visualization of the Health Impacts of Chemical Plants Along River Road Parishes” works to map the locations of petrochemical plants along an 85-mile stretch along the banks of the Mississippi between Baton Rouge and New Orleans referred to as “Cancer Alley.” This stretch, historically home to Louisiana’s plantations, consists of the highest concentration of the release of toxic and carcinogenic chemicals, resulting in this area having seven of the ten census tracts with the highest detected cancer risk in the nation.
“The first map shows the petrochemical plants with known carcinogenic chemical emissions,” Klee explained. “The second map shows ‘Majority Race Data,’ as well as supplemental income information revealing that the concentration of carcinogenic emissions is in predominately Black and low-income communities. Many communities, like St. Gabriel which is two-thirds Black, have ancestors who were brought as slaves and worked on plantations where chemical companies are now located. The last map, on the bottom, reveals Cancer Risk as detected by the Environmental Protection Agency. “
“This representation works to expose the environmental racism that persists due to plant placement in predominately Black and low-income communities along River Road. Louisiana is approving new chemical plants in areas that already have the state’s and the nation’s worst air quality. Sharing of this information is in hope for increased advocacy for stricter regulation of toxic air emissions, protection of communities for new development, and increased accountability for the damage upon pivotal Louisiana communities.”
Students from multiple university disciplines displayed their coastal research during the competition. The top three infographics received $500 in travel awards.
Monique Bassey is the 2021 Marie M. Bickham Chair in the Robert Reich School of Landscape Architecture. A driven and talented landscape designer, Bassey’s education and work experience has taken her to Hong Kong, and Palestine. She is enthusiastic about bringing diverse perspectives to her project teams, contributing to more innovative and creative design solutions. Her versatile project skills include master planning, conceptual design, rendering and modeling, and construction documents.
Her experience spans a variety of project types, including neighborhood plans, university campus plans, community engagement, site design, streetscape design and outreach initiatives. Regardless of the type projects, from plaza design to district framework plans, Bassey brings valuable and unique insights, strong technical skills, and a passionate effort. In addition, she has also received national recognition as the winner of the high-profile “Give a Park, Get a Park” Design Competition for the City of Detroit. In 2018, she was selected to be a participant of the UNESCO World Heritage Young Professionals Forum in Manama, Bahrain. In 2019, she was selected to be a participant of the UNESCO Biennale of Luanda, Pan-African Culture of Peace Forum in Luanda, Angola.
Bassey is an active member of the Black Landscape Architects Network and also serves as the United States diaspora lead on the UNESCO Pan-African Youth Ad-Hoc Committee; and a passionate member of ASLA. She serves on the ASLA Northern California Chapter Executive Committee as the vice president and chair of the Emerging Professionals and Student Chapter committee. Nationally, she serves on the ASLA Committee on Education, collectively working to increase student chapter and faculty support, advocate for landscape architecture to become a STEM discipline and address the gaps of structural racism that occur within university programs and curriculum.
She is “hopeful that these necessary changes in academia will empower the next generation to build a legacy of activism, advocacy and leadership that speaks to a diverse and unified voice of the future.”
Bassey is a Los Angeles native and has been a landscape designer at MIG in Berkeley. She holds both a Bachelor of Architecture and a Master of Landscape Architecture from the University of Arizona.
Chris Marin is an assistant professor of practice, artist-in-residence at the LSU School of Art. He received his BFA from Texas Tech University and his MFA from California College of the Arts. His sculptural paintings have been exhibited nationally.
What is your background prior to teaching at LSU?
I spent two years at Charles Adams Studio Project as an artist-in-residence in Lubbock, Texas. During my time in Lubbock, I taught as a life drawing instructor for Texas Tech University and as an elementary art teacher for Lubbock Arts Alliance and Condra School. Working collaboratively with East Lubbock Art House and BLNKA, I remained close to nonprofits working to promote the arts and surrounding communities.
How would you describe your artistic practice?
My work continually has a realistic depiction of people, either in sewn thread, fabric collage, paintings, or drawings. The content becomes the person… the body… and questions, “Where does the individual end and the community begin?” By breaking down identity through culture, clothing, family and other personable concepts, I observe living in America today.
Now, I want my work to establish an emotional connection to the audience and expand the definition of public art in referencing the scale, materials, access, and audience. Art teaches us to see–– and see differently. Paralleling the cycle of making artwork and stepping back, art allows me to critically self-examine my behaviors formed from culture and a lower social class. Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs is crucial to the thought process behind my art practice.
People fail to thrive if their basic needs are suppressed or never met and do not have the time to address mental or emotional maturity. For these reasons, I use my skill set as a large scale portrait painter to experiment with fabrics, found materials, paints, woodworking, and video projections, to realistically depict people. With easy access to visual and performing artists and cultural icons, phones expand the definition of public art. This virtual and non-site specific art allows people to stay attuned with ideas kin to popular culture.
What themes feature in your artwork?
I am taking a snapshot of jumping thoughts that naturally take place in my head, and that is why my work is overlapping with imagery. This performance/praxis authorizes alternative realities for the audience to unsettle their conventional perceptions of what it means to live. This is why my work is about race, but not all about race. It is about love, but not all about love. My work is even about sculptural painting, but not only about expanding the definition of painting.
How is hip hop connected to your artmaking?
Hip hop is my culture. Art enables me to unveil complexities and incongruities of everyday people, with the lens of thinkers like Dr. Cornel West and Dave Chappelle. It’s hard to live in the moment unless times are hard. This reflects the incongruities of humanity at the highest level and is the definition of deep comedy.
Like hip hop, I sample different time signatures to create nonlinear narratives. I am investigating the unexpected imagery in the expected place. Fabric as a material has been a recurrence in my work because clothing is an identifier that crosses cultures and generations. The utility of the material gives a built-in history into the artwork along with certain techniques applied, it can be something beyond what is traditionally thought of as an artist’s medium. Clothing reflects the wearer, attaching ideas to images, which then reflects all of our biases. It not only has the capacity for great interconnection with people, but the judgment of another person’s belongings (clothing) will fall short.
Marin teaches painting + drawing foundations courses in the LSU School of Art.
View more of his work at www.thechrismarin.com.