I’m sure you all know me somewhat by now – My name is Jackson. I am a 19 year-old, gap-year admit student following the business administration program here at Parsons. I hope to pursue a specialization in Fashion Communications. I was born in Paris, but grew up in Berkeley, California. At 13, I moved to Concord, Massachusetts to attend boarding school. While at boarding school, I spent spring semester of my junior year in New York City (this semester inspired me to apply to Parsons)! Outside of school, I live primarily in Los Angeles. I fly to LA every other weekend to visit my boyfriend, Sam, and our puppy, Baby.
The first year program at Parsons has presented an amazing opportunity for me, specifically as a business student. In our mandatory first year courses I have been able to engage with the arts programs available at Parsons in a regular way that I will likely not be able to in coming years. Initially, classes like Drawing & Imaging were a source of stress for me. I was worried I would not be able to produce work of the same quality as my classmates. I saw myself struggling with the majority of my projects and dreaded live figure drawing sessions. However, I found myself pleasantly surprised by my ability in these visual art-based classes once I was able to let go of my hesitance to dive in. This same hesitance is something I have struggled with in my Seminar classes. When I cannot envision a final product, be it an essay or an art piece, it is hard for me to allow myself to dive into any assignment. Looking back, I have noticed a theme between the methods that have allowed me to move past these states of ‘mind block’. Without any conscious attempt on my part, I took to similar practices of ‘free creation’ in both my literary and artistic courses.
In Seminar 1, we were often asked to do mandatory in-class writing. Each student was presented with the same prompt which often did not seem to have any relation to our bridge projects or readings. At first, these writings seemed almost pointless. I did not see how writing a story without using the letter ‘e’, or reflecting on realms of the unreal, or imagining a Thanksgiving nightmare using two distinct writing styles (all links) would help me write my upcoming research paper. However, these ‘free writes’ soon became a great way for me to open my mind to new ideas and clear any mental road blocks. I still often find myself free writing if I feel stuck when writing an essay.
In Drawing & Imaging, I found myself making the same use of a similar method. At the beginning of the semester, were asked to submit regular “diary”/sketchbook entries. Similarly to my free writes in Seminar, these assignments were also given a loose prompt and little restriction in terms of medium and content. For our third diary entry, we were asked to make collages without planning out their assembly beforehand. Instead, the goal was to pick one image, without considering any others, glue down the piece that we liked, and then use another image to respond. My professor explained that the idea behind this assignment was to create something without considering the final product. At the time, the running theme between these ‘free collages’ and my ‘free writes’ in Seminar was not apparent, but each of them helped me in the same ways. This method of ‘free creating’ to overcome stagnancy is one of the most important skills I learned over this past year. I have been able to employ it in all of my classes. Below are three free collages I recently chose to make outside of class when I was unable to brainstorm for my Drawing and Imaging final.
Following Parsons’ first year courses has also given me opportunities to learn about subjects which I would not have taken on my own, such as Sustainable Systems. I would like to highlight our lesson on sustainable dying practices. It is easy to discount having to learn about dying wool with natural fruits and spices as learning a process that will never apply in ‘real life’. However, I found this process really engaging and so, after our lesson, I chose to return to the dye lab and re-dye some old white clothes with the leftover turmeric-based dye I had made for homework. Below I’ve attached photos from our original in-class experimentation with natural dye and of a turmeric-dyed set I made, worn by my boyfriend.
I’d also like to highlight two other projects, one from Studio 1 and one from Seminar 2. It’s hard not to see the connections between Studio and Seminar in a curriculum that forces them between projects. That being said, having these tandem projects between Studio and Seminar has been very enjoyable and has helped me see how, more generally, connections can form between daily tasks and the creation of art (and vice versa). The reason why I have chosen to highlight the two projects below is because, despite being from Seminar and Studio courses no enforced similarities they share an important connection: both of these projects were based on my personal life.
I. In Studio 1, my final bridge project was based on my maternal grandparents. My focus for this project was to capture their dynamic through a sound portrait with some sort of visual aid. When developing a refined plan for my final project, I was initially inspired by the idea of objects as history. On my mother’s side of the family there is a plethora of preserved written documentation of family history in various forms, this was the base for my tandem research paper in Seminar 1. My grandparents house is also host to an extensive collection of well maintained physical heirlooms, which I chose to serve as a visual representation of my well-preserved family history that was imperative to my Seminar 1 final paper.
I had initially intended to photograph the details of a selection of these items, intermix these photos with abstracted portraits of my grandparent’s features, and present them as a series. In a second drafting stage, I decided to combine my two subject-matters by staging my grandparents in an extravagant portrait with their belongings. Keeping inspiration from my original idea to focus on detail, my final portrait consisted many individual photos of my staging, which I then collaged to create a larger portrait. I One of the most exciting parts of this project was being able to frame the final collage, measuring 30×40, and gift it to my grandparents. This piece is now hung in their dining room. It is pictured below prior to framing (left) and in my grandparents dining room (right).
Each of the objects in this portrait represents an important part of my family history. I shared many of these details when I presented my portrait in class (ex: the books under my grandmother’s chair represent the Valette-Valette textbook empire they built), but left some as easter eggs to be potentially discovered (ex: the bottle of Château d’Yquem beside my grandfather’s feet is from 1937, his birth year).
II. In Seminar 2, my third bridge project focused on the efforts of the company I currently work for: Los Angeles Apparel. In this assignment, we were prompted to write an argumentative article focusing on sustainability in fashion. I chose to make the argument that the reason why textile recycling is not a feasible process is because most of our clothes are made of blended materials. I continued by offering the use of pure materials, specifically 100% cotton, as a suggested solution to this fashion recycling dilemma. I found it was both easy and exciting to make an argument when arguing for a cause I had personal attachment to.
For Studio 2, I chose to represent this argument visually by taking factory damages – imperfect garments which typically would be sent to recycling and turned into new ones – and repurposing them. I used old 100% cotton t-shirts and cut them into strips. I then used a damaged cotton body suit as a base over which I draped and weaved my fabric strips to create a new bodice. (right)
Similarly to my Studio 1 final, I went into this project with foundational knowledge prior to begin ing my research. In Studio, my knowledge base came from a lifetime of getting to know and understand my grandparents – of observing their dynamic and listening to their stories about our well researched and documented genealogy. In Seminar, my knowledge base came from working at the very company that I chose to write about – from hands on learning about how Los Angeles Apparel works towards implementing sustainable production practices. Another similarity between these two projects was my care for both subjects. I love my grandparents and I have passion and pride for my work. I think this is the most important similarity that arises between these two projects because I not only did well on these projects, I had the most fun doing these projects.
This similarity is important to note because it will be a good guide when choosing the topics I will explore, both artistically and otherwise. Using my personal life, family and work, as inspiration for future projects is something I now find very exciting. Additionally, I see these personal projects as opportunities for expansion. One project may inspire another, or even a series. The projects I have found success with may also inform techniques for new projects down the road.
One regret I have from this year is not being able to find time to take advantage of the extensive facilities available at Parsons, specifically fist-year orientations for equipment. I certainly intend to make better use of our school’s unique resources in the future. As far as which skills and techniques I am seeking to learn, the possibilities are limitless !