Graphic design BFAs bring fresh looks for fall traditions
Friday, September 23, 2022
What says fall on the Bloomington campus best? A pair of graphic designers in training at the Eskenazi School of Art, Architecture + Design came up with imagery to capture just that. Two of the season’s signature events – the College’s interdisciplinary Themester programming and the Art and Humanities Council’s First Thursdays festival – are getting a promotional boost from designs crafted by two B.F.A. students.
Julia Fegelman created this year’s Themester t-shirt design and Madison Waliewski, First Thursdays’ new look. The seniors are close. “Julia is my favorite design colleague and I really value her feedback,” said Waliewski. “We didn't collaborate specifically on either project, but we do work closely together. We sent updates back and forth as we were working on the projects. I critiqued her work, and she critiqued mine.”
Fun, lively, and weird
In addition to her studies, Waliewski works as a design intern for the IU Arts and Humanities Council. The council throws First Thursdays festivals on the IU Arts Plaza to showcase the diversity of the arts and humanities on campus and foster participants’ exploration of creative outlets. Among the performances and activities offered at the September 1 event, Eskenazi School faculty and students led participants in refashioning overstocked t-shirts and shaping vessels at a potter’s wheel mounted on a graffitied pick-up truck.
Waliewski was inspired by the artwork that occupies the plaza’s center for her festival design: longtime faculty member Robert Laurent’s bronze fountain sculpture “Birth of Venus” (1961). Showalter Fountain is a revered campus landmark, but the designer took liberties with its representation. A Chicago native, Waliewski often uses exaggerated illustrations to discuss body politics.
“My process for this design was bringing my more irreverent, youthful illustration style to our typical IU branding,” Waliewski said. “I researched the mythology Laurent’s sculpture references, which explains the fish and shells in my design. And I walked around, finding multiple angles, and purposely collaging illustration styles.”
Her illustration includes an inverted folding chair floating above Venus. Dripping beads of sweat, the chair is an homage to those who perform the labor of setting up the plaza and running the event. At the design’s left, a mask-like face at the center of a shield manages simultaneously to evoke pre-Columbian art, Zoltar the fortune teller, and a Byzantine icon.
"The face is actually a frontal view of the fountain,” Waliewski explained. The face is ensconced inside what looks like a dartboard or racetrack, and a loose hose loops all the elements together. “I wanted there to be commotion, seemingly vibrating with activity,” she continued. “Overall, I wanted to create something fun, lively, and weird that emulates the spirit of the festival.”
“Madison’s design truly captures the spirit of the festival in all its dynamism and creativity,” said council director Ed Dallis-Comentale. “To me, it reflects how the fountain, the arts plaza, and all of the area’s hidden riches come alive each month because of the activity of the fest and how the activities of our partners—painting, sculpture, dance, music, and so on—open the senses of our guests. First Thursdays can be epic, magical, and wondrous, and Madison’s work nails it.”
Like Waliewski, Fegelman often works at the intersection of art and the body; one of her primary mediums is tattoo (you can see Fegelman’s work at @pineneedle.pokes on Instagram). The graphic design B.F.A. minoring in art history is interested in researching memories and the innate connections among humans and with nature.
Each fall since 2009, the College of Arts and Sciences’ Themester has served to convene academic courses, performances, lectures, exhibitions, and other programming in a multi-faceted, campus-wide inquiry of a theme or issue. Themester 2022’s focus on “Identity and Identification” provided a design challenge for students in former Eskenazi faculty member Sarah Martin’s graphic design course (SOAD-S 452).
The theme prompted Fegelman, who was in Martin’s course, to consider what identities all humans share. “We all live on Earth, and we all coexist within nature,” said the Cincinnati native. “A classic visual of ‘identity’ is a fingerprint, and I realized how similar tree rings look to fingerprints. I used ink and a real tree stump to print these tree rings and create my Themester design, showing how nature and humans share the identity of living on the planet Earth.”
Members of the Themester advisory committee chose six designs by five graphic artists to be printed as the Themester poster series. In choosing the final poster designs, the committee members were interested in striking images that represented the theme in different ways and that would appeal to different people. You can see all six designs and read interviews with their creators at this link.
Fegelman’s design was adapted for the Themester 2022 T-shirt as well as a poster. “Julia’s designs were striking in their creative take on both identity and identification – the two pieces of the theme, which overlap but are not necessarily the same,” said Director of Academic Initiatives Tracy Bee. “The tree rings evoke a fingerprint -- a classic image in representing the idea of identity – which adds a layer of meaning that is unexpected. The committee also appreciated the use of scientific imagery and how tree rings are used in identification or a cataloging of not only the age of a tree but also as evidence of what the tree lived through.”
“Julia’s stark black, white, and red color palette also stood out,” said Bee. “Here was this amazing and intellectually interesting design that conveyed so much but fit the parameters and restrictions of mass T-shirt printing and our budget.”
The fall’s Themester programming includes “Identity: Identify,” currently on view at the Grunwald Gallery of Art. The exhibition comprises artworks by six artists from around the U.S. who are examining the vast territories of identity within today’s visual artistic practice. Spanning photography, digital art, fashion design, ceramics and other media, the exhibition illustrates the concept of identity from a variety of intersectional viewpoints and perspectives. “Identity: Identify” is on view Tuesday - Saturday, 12-4 p.m. through November 12. More information at https://events.iu.edu/soaadiub/event/662390.