Karissa Willhite’s senior art project will do more than just keep her warm. She’s sewn four years’ worth of college memories — signed Husky sports jerseys, well-worn Dawg T-shirts and hand-painted images of her closest friends — into a quilt, which she will show along with other seniors’ artwork at the Interdisciplinary Visual Arts (IVA) Senior Studio Exhibition opening Friday, Feb. 27.
The show’s opening is the climax of IVA Senior Studio, a 400-level capstone class for IVA majors led by Art Professor Curt Labitzke. IVA includes all kinds of visual art, such as painting, drawing, photography, ceramics and printmaking. Throughout the quarter, students conceive and create original works of art and coordinate all components of the show, including advertising, installation logistics and food and music for the opening night festivities.
“The class is very much designed after a real-world experience for the students,” said Labitzke, who modeled it after a studio art program he teaches every few years in Rome. “This is what it takes from the point of having the concept of an exhibition to actually making it happen.”
Most everything is left up to the students, save some task management by Labitzke. Each student creates his or her own piece of art using any medium, and the show has no central theme. The class isn’t even a requirement for IVA majors; Labitzke said it’s designed for students who are demanding of themselves and looking for an intense experience.
“They like the challenge and the opportunity to just focus on their own work as opposed to being given assignments,” he explained. “They’re being asked to find something in their work that has meaning for them personally, and then explore it and develop it. And that’s what they do.”
Anna Pougatcheva, a Russian-born painting and drawing major, was inspired by visits to her hometown of Moscow for her project. She created two 19 by 26-inch screen prints of a fictional Russian street, one showing an idealized setting in the 1960s, influenced by her parents’ photos and memories, and the other showing her humorous take on its modernization.
“I chose to show the 1960s because it strikes me as the ‘golden age of Soviet Russia,’ Pougatcheva said. “Other depictions of that time make me feel a fondness for this seemingly idyllic period, similar to images of 1950s and 60s Americana.”
Since she left Russia 13 years ago, Pougatcheva has seen how much it has changed and represented those changes in her modern-day version of the street. “Drawing Russia is always inspiring to me because it keeps me sort of connected to where I came from,” she said.
Ashley Tiedeman, a double major in IVA and American Indian Studies, also created a very personal project. She drew portraits of 13 of her “family members” — brothers and sisters, cousins, very close friends and even a friend’s dog — on mono-printed paper backgrounds and used embroidery floss to sew cupcakes where alcoholic drinks, cigarettes or tattoos had been in the original photos on which they were based. The concept is that people are not always what they seem, she said.
And the meaning of the cupcakes? “It’s an inside joke,” Tiedeman said. “My friend got a tattoo that said, ‘Family over everything,’ and I made fun of it and said, ‘Cupcakes over everything!’ My work is driven by humor.” The project is titled Strictly For My Cupcakes: The Baker’s Dozen.
As for Willhite, her interest in quilting began in high school when she had a lot of downtime due to serious leg injuries from dancing. Always a sports lover, she sought donations of T-shirts and jerseys — some signed — from Seattle’s major sports teams to make her very first quilt.
Willhite made the quilt as she prepared for and recovered from extensive leg surgery at Children’s Hospital. It was then sold for about $5,000 at an auction to benefit the hospital’s uncompensated care fund. “Rumor has it that a Seahawk bought it for his son,” Willhite said. “I wanted it for myself, obviously, but I was glad that a kid got it; it was made to snuggle up with and watch TV.”
Willhite’s quilt for the IVA show is a more personal version of her first one. It includes hand-painted portraits of her roommates, her best friend and two of her friends on the Husky basketball and football teams. The many T-shirts and jerseys she collected over her four years as a season ticket-holder for both sports reflect her love of athletics. And although it will be hung at the show for all to admire, in the end, the quilt is coming home with her.
“This one is mine,” Willhite said. “I’m not letting it go this time.”
The IVA Senior Studio Exhibition opens Friday, Feb. 27 with a reception from 6 – 8 p.m. at the School of Art’s Sandpoint Gallery, 7527 63rd Ave NE, Building 5, Bay C, Second Floor. It is also open Saturday, Feb. 28 and March 7 from 11 a.m. – 7 p.m., Friday, March 6 from 5 – 8 p.m., and Sunday, March 1 and 8 from 12 – 5 p.m.