Inside Marwen Lab: The Voice and Vision of Young Artists

A lovely article just came out about Marwen Lab on Sixty Inches From Center. It features a description of the program written by one of our students, Lauren. We were so impressed with her essay, we are using an excerpt as the wall text for our exhibition!
Here it is:

Inside Lab by Lauren Auyeung
While many high schoolers will spend their Friday nights relaxing at home or with friends, a few will spend them hard at work in the art studios of Marwen Lab. To put it simply, Marwen Lab is a space of artistic creativity and freedom. For three 8-week terms, highly motivated young artists in Chicago, who have applied and have been accepted, come to the studios of Marwen to work on their own continuous project that exhibits their personal and artistic character. Whether it is in the field of drawing and painting, photography, or mixed media, Lab offers a variety of opportunities for artistic self development and discovery.
Laurel Crown by Lab student Nathaniel Knize ( Image Credit: Sophia Nahli)
Although Lab has three outstanding instructors, the project is very much independent. The students begin Lab with nothing more than an idea, a vision, or maybe even just something they feel strongly about. And no matter how ambitious, ingenious, or insane that vision may be, the purpose of the entire year is to turn that vision into a reality.
The process in itself, however, may not be as clean as it appears. The purpose of the three term schedule is to give the student plenty of time to mess up and start again. The majority of the students end up changing the idea they started with at the beginning of the year, or maybe even switching mediums. Despite the bumps in the road, Lab students can always find a way to get excited and push forward in their project not only from just the instructors, but from the entire artistic community that is Marwen itself.

Chandelier by Lab student Zoe Prekop (Image Credit: Sophia Nahli)
The year is filled with peer critiques, feedback sessions, and general advice in order to inspire the student. This also gives students the chance to view their project in a different way than they originally had. However, there is never a need for a formalized critique session for feedback. Lab is a very close-knit community, and the students are more than just peer-artists, they are friends.  Just by stopping by the person next to them, they can ask “Hey, what do you think about this,” and a new inspiration can come as easily as the conversation. Lab students are encouraged to get out of their studio and learn about the projects of other students, help each other out, and ultimately learn more about themselves as individuals.

Travelwide 4x5 camera

I was so excited to see this new project started by some friends of friends, a portable 4x5 camera- yes! It's called a Travelwide and is currently on Kickstarter. The project has been funded but I encourage you to go check it out and secure a camera for yourself. There's really no comparison when it comes to the quality and beauty of large format photography. Ben Syverson anJustin Lundquist have created a lightweight, portable 4x5 camera that is easy to travel with. I am so excited to try this out! I also love being able to support my peers in their creative endeavors. Here's a little video about it. 

Shooting with the Travelwide from Ben Syverson on Vimeo.

p.s. this is my 200th post!

Paper love

I have an addiction to paper- notebooks, sketchbooks, journals, stationary, whatever you want to call it, I can't get enough. I have a Pinterest board dedicated to this sort of thing. I've had to live with this affliction since I was very young. I remember starting a "paper" collection when I was in 3rd grade, living in Mozambique. My friends and I would get together and trade treasures. I still have my collection intact and let me say, it is the best time machine. I especially love that I have stationary and party invitations in a slew of other languages since all of my friends were from other countries. Check these out:

teaching and learning

Have you heard of Dabble? It's a website where you can find all sorts of fun classes/workshops to take in the city. As a teacher, I love this sort of thing. Learning new things has always been my favorite part of teaching. The range of classes that are offered is huge- all types of visual art, cooking, music, writing, tech stuff, public speaking, design, dance, etc. You can also propose ideas for classes you want to take or propose to teach a class.
I'm looking forward to having free time to take advantage of this sort of thing!

Why we love beautiful things

GREAT design, the management expert Gary Hamel once said, is like Justice Potter Stewart’s famous definition of pornography — you know it when you see it. You want it, too: brain scan studies reveal that the sight of an attractive product can trigger the part of the motor cerebellum that governs hand movement. Instinctively, we reach out for attractive things; beauty literally moves us.
Yet, while we are drawn to good design, as Mr. Hamel points out, we’re not quite sure why.
This is starting to change. A revolution in the science of design is already under way, and most people, including designers, aren’t even aware of it.
Take color. Last year, German researchers found that just glancing at shades of green can boost creativity and motivation. It’s not hard to guess why: we associate verdant colors with food-bearing vegetation — hues that promise nourishment.
This could partly explain why window views of landscapes, research shows, can speed patient recovery in hospitals, aid learning in classrooms and spur productivity in the workplace. In studies of call centers, for example, workers who could see the outdoorscompleted tasks 6 to 7 percent more efficiently than those who couldn’t, generating an annual savings of nearly $3,000 per employee.
In some cases the same effect can happen with a photographic or even painted mural, whether or not it looks like an actual view of the outdoors. Corporations invest heavily to understand what incentivizes employees, and it turns out that a little color and a mural could do the trick.
Simple geometry is leading to similar revelations. For more than 2,000 years, philosophers, mathematicians and artists have marveled at the unique properties of the “golden rectangle”: subtract a square from a golden rectangle, and what remains is another golden rectangle, and so on and so on — an infinite spiral. These so-called magical proportions (about 5 by 8) are common in the shapes of books, television sets and credit cards, and they provide the underlying structure for some of the most beloved designs in history: the facades of the Parthenon and Notre Dame, the face of the “Mona Lisa,” the Stradivarius violin and the original iPod.
Experiments going back to the 19th century repeatedly show that people invariably prefer images in these proportions, but no one has known why.
Then, in 2009, a Duke University professor demonstrated that our eyes can scan an image fastest when its shape is a golden rectangle. For instance, it’s the ideal layout of a paragraph of text, the one most conducive to reading and retention. This simple shape speeds up our ability to perceive the world, and without realizing it, we employ it wherever we can.
Certain patterns also have universal appeal. Natural fractals — irregular, self-similar geometry — occur virtually everywhere in nature: in coastlines and riverways, in snowflakes and leaf veins, even in our own lungs. In recent years, physicists have found that people invariably prefer a certain mathematical density of fractals — not too thick, not too sparse. The theory is that this particular pattern echoes the shapes of trees, specifically the acacia, on the African savanna, the place stored in our genetic memory from the cradle of the human race. To paraphrase one biologist, beauty is in the genes of the beholder — home is where the genome is.
LIFE magazine named Jackson Pollock “the greatest living painter in the United States” in 1949, when he was creating canvases now known to conform to the optimal fractal density (about 1.3 on a scale of 1 to 2 from void to solid). Could Pollock’s late paintings result from his lifelong effort to excavate an image buried in all of our brains?
We respond so dramatically to this pattern that it can reduce stress levels by as much as 60 percent — just by being in our field of vision. One researcher has calculated that since Americans spend $300 billion a year dealing with stress-related illness, the economic benefits of these shapes, widely applied, could be in the billions.
It should come as no surprise that good design, often in very subtle ways, can have such dramatic effects. After all, bad design works the other way: poorly designed computers can injure your wrists, awkward chairs can strain your back and over-bright lighting and computer screens can fatigue your eyes.
We think of great design as art, not science, a mysterious gift from the gods, not something that results just from diligent and informed study. But if every designer understood more about the mathematics of attraction, the mechanics of affection, all design — from houses to cellphones to offices and cars — could both look good and be good for you.
Lance Hosey, the chief sustainability officer at the architecture firm RTKL, is the author of “The Shape of Green: Aesthetics, Ecology, and Design.”

Travel photos pt.1

I'm getting caught up with scanning and editing film from last year. I took this film to get processed in the fall and then had a baby and totally forgot about it-oops! Luckily it was still there when I went to pick it up. Here are some photos from our trip to California!

These are from the Calavaras Big Trees state park we went to. I wish I could import the smell of the air there to Chicago!

Here are a couple from Chinatown in San Francisco where we had one of our "babymoons"

Enjoying the sunshine on the rooftop terrace at SFMOMA

Part of my ongoing series of window portraits

So where's home? A film about third culture kid identity.

I've talked a lot about how my childhood has been a constant source of inspiration in my art work. I was exposed to many different cultures growing up and lived abroad from 3rd grade through 8th grade.  I thought this video was an interesting take on young people growing up in similar circumstances, something that is more and more common these days.

So Where's Home? A Film About Third Culture Kid Identity from Adrian Bautista on Vimeo.

Edson Oda Animation

This animation by Brazilian artist Edson Oda blew my mind. The way he combines a variety of media is fascinating and more interesting to me than the story itself. And of course I love getting to hear some Portuguese!

According to the Vimeo page:
"MALARIA tells the story of Fabiano, a young Mercenary who is hired to kill Death.
This short film combines Origami, Kirigami, Time lapse, napkin illustration, Comic Books and Western Cinema."

I'm excited to show this to my Lab students!

Malaria from Edson Oda on Vimeo.

Centro Cultural de Belem lightbulb landscape

One of my favorite places to visit in Portugal is the Cultural Center in Belem, just outside of Lisbon. It's a beautiful building that houses tons of cultural events, including the Berardo Museum Collection which shows tons of modern and contemporary art. I just read about this cool installation that's in the walkway to the building, one more reason I'm dying to go back!

As part of a promotional effort to promote a new line of lighting solutions, IKEA Portugal partnered with LIKE Architects to create this fun illuminated walkway in the Belém Cultural Centre in Portugal. The lamps are programmed to have oscillating intensities, with each light possessing a unique pattern that results in a sort of shimmering maze of bare lightbulbs. See much more over on Domus. (via Colossal)

Tiffany Chung

24 X 24 IN. (61 X 61 CM)

I recently came across the work of Tiffany Chung, a Vietnamese American artist. There are a lot of similarities in terms of the materials and aesthetic I use in my work. She also does a lot of 3D work which is really interesting. You can see more here.

Animal behavior

I've been interested in ideas related to home/habitat for awhile now. This probably started a few years ago when my own domestication occurred:) Now that I'm expecting a baby, I'm always intrigued by the ways other animals attract mates. I saw this story not too long ago and it reminded me of the male bower bird, known for making a swanky abode in order to attract a lady.

Checking his work

Finished product
This latest story is about a Japanese puffer fish who creates an intricate design on the sandy floor of the ocean in order to attract a lady and protect her eggs. The underwater photographer who first found this thought it was the work of an artist, since this was an unknown phenomenon.

Hard at work

Apparently the area in the middle is where the eggs go and the shapes around it are designed to protect the eggs from waves and currents. So smart!

Fall in Hayward

We were lucky enough to head up to northern Wisconsin about a month ago for our last road trip of the year. This summer was so hectic it felt wonderful to get out of the city and be surrounded by beautiful scenery and fresh air. We were at a house on a lake and we got to go out on a boat a few times which was so fun! We saw a bunch of eagles, cranes, and other fun wildlife. Here are a few digital images, still waiting for my film to be processed.