Graduate & Alumni Spotlight

(Re)branding: A voice to communicate

(Re)branding: A voice to communicate

Natasha Boddie/October 2017

Growing up in Lebanon during the civil war, School of Art alumna Nelly Sarkissian spent much of her time watching Steven Spielberg’s Empire of the Sun with a vivid image of James Graham Ballard’s iconic drained swimming pool fixed in her memory. “It was one of the Hollywood movies that was closest to depicting my own reality as a child. I also was fascinated by the idea of escapism through E.T. and Close Encounter with the Third Kind. I always wanted to be a part of that world,” says Sarkissian.

Nelly Sarkissian was recruited from Lebanon to work in the U.S. as a young artist who showed lots of promise and drive. Working at an Arabic speaking TV station in Washington D.C., Sarkissian did not feel integrated into the American culture and society until she began pursuing her MFA at George Mason University. She was quick to learn the ropes and in no time built close friendships and a wider professional network in Mason’s diverse cultural environment.

As a student, she collaborated with professors learning the creative process one assignment at a time, obtaining her MFA in Digital Art and Technologies in 2010. In the seven years that have ensued, Sarkissian has taken on many new and creative artistic challenges.

In her current role as a supervisor and hands-on art director at Tribune Broadcasting, a media company with the largest number of independent TV stations in the United States, Sarkissian’s profession has led her to a rewarding career in re-branding with local broadcasting stations, such as CBS, ABC, FOX, NBC the CW and My TV. Always with an eye to producing digital art that is meaningful and community oriented, Sarkissian has won three local Emmy awards in her hometown for graphic work done for Los Angeles’ KTLA 5.

Her most recent re-branding job with New York’s PIX11 News is the highlight of all her re-branding projects—a dream come true for a young artist that immigrated from Lebanon just ten years ago.

At the start of the project, Nelly sat down with her team to begin fleshing out the goals of their design, their internal spec sheet. “Every client is a unique experience, as every creative process takes on an identity of its own,” says Sarkissian. “Often times, clients don’t know what they are looking for. So our team aims to create something that is fresh to the identity of the local station.” To do this, the team researched the character of the city where the station broadcasts. Lots of images of the NYC and its relationship with the people and the surrounding spaces were gathered to inspire and inform the design. Also, the design team hired a drone operator to capture footage of the city from a new perspective—not as aerial as a helicopter, and not as close to the ground as an on-foot photographer.

The Tribune design team’s main goal was to create a graphics package that came as close as possible to the character of the city, to reflect the energy and its diversity. The challenge was to compose balanced visuals that intermixed 3-D renderings of the logo and other brand components with the acquired drone footage. Once the initial animation sequence was approved, Sarkissian, along with 3-D and 2-D animators, a compositor, an editor and a sound mixer on board, created an “open” (a six-second animated clip) that captured the very character of New York City.

As a unique added bonus at the end of the project, Sarkissian produced a high quality printed and bound style book with all the iterations of titles and transitions that the client can refer to for guidance in creating new designs—something that is rarely done in her industry.

Nelly loves what she does but still wants to feel creatively stimulated outside of her paid work. She regularly creates personal artwork and participates in group projects. Most recently, she spearheaded a very successful all-woman group show in Downtown Los Angeles with the art collective SheLoves, which she helped establish with a few other artists. Never one to shy away from exploring new media formats, she showed her first augmented reality video performance, MAD LO(VR), in collaboration with another Mason alumnus Peter Lee. Nelly’s future personal projects include a collaborative storytelling art piece, and she is going to find new inspiration with international travel. 


To learn more about Nelly Sarkissian and her work click here. Follow her on Instagram @achkhen.

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Organizers Behind Richmond’s Homegrown Current Art Fair

Organizers Behind Richmond’s Homegrown Current Art Fair Discuss Its Future

by Amanda Dalla Villa Adams/September 5, 2017

It finally happened. Seven Richmond galleries and a handful of art experts came together to launch Richmond’s first art fair, Current, in October 2016.

There was a large turnout with a steady stream of people from cross sections of the community, explains Adam Dorland, general manager of Quirk Gallery, a participant in the inaugural fair. “[It] was pretty incredible,” he says. “We got to meet a lot of new people we wouldn’t otherwise cross paths with.”

Now how to keep generating success in year two?

One solution is to bring in the new. This seems an obvious strategy for Current with a namesake that it says on its website is “a nod to the nearby James River, the idea of the new, and the notion of an electric spark.”

For 2017, Current has doubled the galleries, combining the original seven — 1708 Gallery, ADA Gallery, Candela Books and Gallery, Glave Kocen Gallery, Quirk Gallery, Page Bond Gallery, and Reynolds Gallery — with Walton Gallery, Iridian Gallery, Second Street Gallery, Shockoe Artspace, Sediment Arts and the Visual Arts Center of Richmond/Quirk Residency. While last year featured only one nonprofit, this year includes several that will be featured on the exterior booth walls or in project spaces. This is helpful for newly created galleries such as Shockoe Artspace, founded by a Virginia Commonwealth University instructor, Ryan Lauterio.

Leadership for Current has also changed, as self-professed “hybrid artist curator” Sarah Irvin took over in February.

“I moved back to Richmond in 2009 after being away, and I saw this real growth,” she says. “The fair is the next step in bolstering the art scene here. I wanted to be part of this growing scene. There was enthusiasm last year and people are really looking for continued growth. We want to keep doing Current each year but it needs to benefit the artistic community here in Richmond.”

The fair also moved from Scott’s Addition to the Main Street Station and its newly renovated train shed. Gordon Stettinius, director of Candela, says “We’re kind of like a mirage — we’ll go up in the basement of the train station before it’s made into retail spaces.” The art fair will be the second public event held in the space since its reopening.

In terms of art sales, Irvin says the fair doesn’t keep track of those numbers. She did note that last year it had 3,000 visitors over the weekend and an additional 300 to 400 guests at the preview party. Page Bond, owner of Page Bond Gallery, says the first fair was an unexpected success for her gallery. “We had new smart collectors from Richmond and out of town,” she says. “People were happy to take home works right on the spot, and we don’t usually see that sort of spontaneity. Overall, we had terrific sales.”

Caroline Wright, former fair coordinator and gallery liaison, is thrilled to see the new location and continued growth. “[The fair organizers] have been smart about creating a stepping-stone growth. This year brings a more high-profile location and expanded participants with galleries from Charlottesville and Petersburg. I think in the long run, Current is perfectly placed to grow significantly, especially if they can keep bringing in people from out of town.”

Add in programming, food and a bar so that people have a reason to stay rather than just a quick perusal. Talks featuring three to four artists will be offered each day at 1 p.m. Panel talks about art writing, curating and collecting contemporary art are scheduled for Friday and Saturday night.

Dorland is excited to see how the second year differs, especially with the new additions. “[Irvin] has worked really hard to create an environment for people to come and hang out,” he says. “There will be a bar area and a lounge area with exclusive food and cocktails. Studio Two Three will have their to-go mobile. There will be a lot going on.”

Some things will stay the same, such as no admission charge and a collaborative environment. “We have had collaborative meetings with all the galleries about once a month since the last fair,” Dorland says. “Everyone was quick to figure out how to maintain momentum. It takes year-round planning to do this event.”

Irvin agrees. “It’s great because everybody comes under one roof for the weekend to be neighbors,” she says. “It really forms a more cohesive art scene as people are coming together to create something unique.”

The second annual Current art fair will be held from Sept. 28 through Oct. 1 at Main Street Station. For information visit


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Alumnus Kelly Shepherd travels to Philippines

Alumnus Kelly Shepherd travels to Philippines

Natasha Boddie/May 2017

Alumnus Kelly Shepherd knew early on, he enjoyed taking photos. As a child, a camera was always in hand. Eventually he made his way to School of Art to pursue photography. It was here, nearing graduation, did he realize “hey, maybe I should pursue this as a career.” Everything fell into place when friends asked him to photograph weddings, events and family portraits.  

In 2012, Kelly received his BFA in Photography. He describes his experience at Mason’s School of Art as a great one. “I had many friends and lovely professors. Looking back, I get nostalgic for the great times I had. The work was intense at times but it forced me to be a better photographer and I do not regret a second of it,” says Kelly.

Post graduation Kelly recounts his most rewarding experience – a mission trip to the Philippines. His love for photography and travel led his sister-in-law to approach him about the mission trip. She felt he would be an asset to the team. Kelly didn’t immediately accept the invitation. It took him a few years to embark on the journey. “It is a big commitment as well as a financial one, I was lucky enough to have raised all the funds per donations by family and friends,” replies Kelly.

According to Uplift Internationale’s website, their mission, aims to give a life changing gift to children with facial deformities by mending faces… one child at a time. Every year Uplift conducts Operation Taghoy – an annual mission trip to the Philippines to provide reparative surgical care to poor, rural children born with facial deformities.

To be considered for the mission trip one must posses a combined set of skills and experiences. Being this was Shepherd’s first trip overseas. He remained open minded. No expectations other than to be transformed in a positive way. Travelling to Manila with an unpretentious mindset. Kelly reflected on all in which he was thankful for in life.

The next day would begin his awe-inspiring journey as he took a five-hour van ride south to a port where he took a three-hour ferry ride to the island of Marinduque. Here he spent seven days to document over 35 surgeries with 200 people in/out of the hospital. Roadblocks posed a challenge to the team. This team, which included photographers, nurses, doctors and outreach personnel; overcame the challenges. Once surgeries were underway the team worked proficiently under time restraints. Kelly had the opportunity to enter the Operating Room (OR) to document these surgeries firsthand.  

After a week long of surgeries, post op processing and cleaning. The team concludes their trip with a visit to the governor’s private island. A white sandy beach surrounded a mind-blowing view. The team was rewarded with small boat tours around the island, snorkeling and drinks.

As Shepherd said goodbye, it was tough. An indescribable feeling of bittersweet memories as a weight was lifted. The hundreds of new best friends Kelly made along the way would remain on his mind as he travelled home. It was all over before he knew it. He had a feeling of guilt as he returned home so quickly. IF only he could have helped them all. For this they had to return to finish the work.  

No online publication, brochure or website presence can compare to all Kelly has achieved during his trip to the Philippines. Kelly notes, “the mission trip has been the most rewarding achievement so far … knowing that we were changing people’s lives for the better was the far more rewarding aspect for me; the opportunity to photograph all of it was a secondary reward.”

Moving forward, each year, Shepherd hopes to achieve/accomplish more than the last. He feels his best days still wait as he moves forward, “I am no where near done achieving, I believe my best times are ahead of me and that I’ll accomplish many things in my life.” Despite life complications in 2017, Kelly plans to return with Uplift in the years to come to the Philippines.

To view photos from Kelly’s mission trip click here.

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MFA Candidate studies abroad

Master of Fine Arts candidate Melvin Parada recounts his semester abroad at Hochshule für Gestaltung Offenbach am Main Art & Design in Frankfurt, Germany.


“This past month I finished my semester abroad at Hochshule für Gestaltung (Hfg) Offenbach am Main Art & Design located in Frankfurt, Germany. As part of my graduate studies in graphic design, I enrolled in two courses during their winter semester, conceptual design with a special topic on climate change and advanced typography with an emphasis on hand lettering through poster design. I was fortunate to study under Klaus Hesse (conceptual design) and Sascha Lobe (advance typography), both highly respected for their contributions to the graphic arts, professionally and academically. My tenure at Offenbach although brief (full year of study is recommended) allowed for a unique experience to learn within the German construct as well as collaborate with other students and professors. What marks Hfg Offenbach as an extraordinary experience for design students is its direct ties with the famed Bauhaus art school (1919-1933). Hfg Offenbach (1970-present) is two academies removed from Bauhaus, first having been founded by two professors of Hfg Ulm (1953-1968) a previously acclaimed art & design school which was founded by the first rector at Bauhaus, Max Bill. Many of the traditions and philosophies in the training and teaching of artists by these two previous institutions are at the core of Hfg Offenbach’s experience.

I prepared for my semester in Germany by taking 3 months of German language last summer. Although I only obtained a basic skill level, I was fortunate that almost all professors and students speak fluent english and many courses are often conducted in English. Hfg Offenbach, along with most other German institutions accept a good number of international students as part of the Erasmus program for international learning. This allowed for an easy transition with the ability to quickly assimilated and participate without fear of a language barrier. This is not to say that German isn’t the primary language, as most lecture courses are in German and native students primarily speak German in most instances. It did present an interesting perspective on the importance of being able to communicate ideas in a global setting, which the academy does a great job preparing its students through its exposure to international students who come to the academy to study and their dual use of English as a neutral language.

Alongside my studies at Hfg Offenbach, I’ve also taking advantage of Europe’s open borders visiting various other countries like Switzerland, France, Netherlands, Austria, Ireland, Italy, as well as other German cities. Throughout these visits I’ve sought out museums, libraries, art shows, and historic landmarks in the fields of design. These first hand visits of the places and people who have impacted the history and landscape of art & design has provided me with an enriched sense of understanding that classrooms often are unable to fully capture. This comprehensive learning experience, I am certain, will have great impact on my future endeavors as a designer and educator.

I return to DC this summer, beginning my thesis research and taking my final course requirements in the fall. I expect to graduate in the Spring 2018 with my MFA in graphic design.”


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Alumnus Nicholas Collier is Gettysburg’s new artist-in-residence

January 30, 2017

Herald-Mail Media

GETTYSBURG, Pa. — Gettysburg National Military Park’s artist-in-residence for January and February is Nicholas Collier, a U.S. Military veteran who will pursue photography, sculpture and filmmaking during his residency.

Collier received his Bachelor of Fine Arts in 2012 from George Mason University in Virginia and his Master of Fine Arts in 2016 from Florida State University.

He works as an interdisciplinary artist, employing photography, social practice and sculpture to explore the intersection of ideas revolving around place, history and contemporary culture. His work has been shown in galleries in Washington, D.C., Virginia and Florida.

He lives in St. Petersburg, Fla., where he splits his time between his studio practice, the development of his start-up, Aloft Aerial Imaging, and working as a residential remodeler.

“Art has helped me move on from things you do in war that aren’t permissible in society,” said Collier, who reflects on war, combat and military themes.

His residency will allow him to take inspiration from the historic battlefield of Gettysburg and how it reflects on the battlefields and soldier life today.

The artist is a veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps, with a combat action ribbon for his time in Afghanistan. His unit was in Afghanistan running missions like the one in the movie “Lone Survivor” starring Mark Wahlberg. His unit was the first in the Korengal Valley prior to the Army unit portrayed in the movie “Restrepo.”

Collier arrived Jan. 15, and will do a “meet-the-artist” event and display from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 11, at the Gettysburg National Military Park Museum and Visitor Center. The event is free and open to the public.

For more information, call 717-338-4469.


Stars and Stripes had the opportunity to follow Nick around as he photographed – check out the video here.

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DC Restaurant Commissions alumnus Nathan Loda

By Jessica Sidman on January 5, 2017

If George Washington was 25 years old today, he’d have a man bun, wear Wayfarer sunglasses, and drink whiskey from Founding Farmers.

At least that’s the fantasy envisioned by the team at the new Farmers & Distillers. The owners commissioned an oil painting of America’s Founding Father as a millennial from local artist Nathan Loda to hang in the Washington-themed dining room of their Chinatown restaurant, bar, and distillery.

“If George Washington was here today, if he was hipster, cool, and this was his place, and he was presiding over the dining room, what would he look like?” co-owner Dan Simons explains of the painting’s premise.

Simons says he tasked his employees with finding photos of “handsome, cool, hipster dudes with a good vibe.” They then narrowed down the pool to photos that reminded them of Washington. Simons gave those images to Loda to work off of. (Loda previously painted the horse body on the host stand at

Founding Farmers in Tysons Corner, which makes the hostesses look like centaurs if they stand just right.)

Loda modeled the young Washington portrait after the iconic one featured on the dollar bill. You can see the resemblance in the heavy eyelids and half-smile—but this Washington also wears a vest and leather monogrammed bracelet.

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Alumna Laila Jadallah to speak at Fotoweek DC 2016

In celebration of Fotoweek DC, join us for an evening of discussion with O. Louis Mazzatenta, Amalia Pizzardi, Christie Neptune and Laila Abdul-Hadi Jadalah. Our panelists will discuss how their own work with photography has influenced understanding of other cultures, both internationally and locally. Following the discussion there will be an audience q+a along with a reception.

Doors: 6:30pm
Panel: 7pm

About our Panelists

O. Louis Mazzatenta served as picture editor, director of layout and design, writer and photographer during his 42 year career with National Geographic Society. After retiring in 1994, he continued his photographic and editorial work. He took charge of National Geographic’s first foreign language venture in Japanese, the first of many foreign language editions. After the successful Japanese launch, Lou “retired” again and within months was off to China to photograph new excavations at the famous terra-cotta army in Xi’an. Since then, Lou photographed many stories for National Geographic and handled studio and other photographic assignments. His work has appeared in Time, Newsweek, U.S. News & World Report, books and other international publications. Exhibitions of his photographs have appeared in China, Japan, Spain, Italy, New York and Washington.

Amalia Pizzardi was born in Italy, where she studied Art and Communication at the University of Bologna under Umberto Eco and received her PhD in Social Sciences. She organized the seventh and eighth editions of the Lyric and Cultural Festival “Valle d’Itria” presenting “Le jeu de l’amour et du hasard” by Marivaux and “Turandot” by F. Busoni, under the auspices of the Ministry of Culture and Ministry of Tourism and commissioned by the Paolo Grassi Foundation. While living in Mexico, she became convinced that Art can be a vehicle for social change and began to advance this cause by organizing artistic events within the framework of cultural interchanges with other countries, including Brazil, Colombia, Hungary, Finland, France, Guatemala, Italy, Spain, Sweden, Uruguay and the United States. She has participated for years as a juror in competitions and cultural events organized by CNN, the Red Cross Art Auction, Juannio, Latin American Masters’ Auction and private galleries. She is the founder and director of the art gallery “The Gallery Art & Design,” dedicated principally to Latin American art on the vanguard, which has had a presence in Mexico, Italy and the United States, participating in international art fairs such as ArtMiami and MiArt in Milan. She is also the founder and President of “Colors of Life,” a non-profit organization that has sponsored artistic and cultural events, notably an annual international photo contest, to create opportunities for world-wide talented artists while raising awareness and funds on issues that affect children and youth by implementing cross cultural understanding. Colors of Life is dedicated to collaborating with other organizations that strive to make children and youth a social priority.
Christie Neptune (b. 1986) is a Washington, DC based artist, raised in Brooklyn, NY. She received her B.A. in 2009 from Fordham University. In 2015 she participated in More Art’s Engaging Artists Residency. Neptune is currently a Hamiltonian Fellow. Recent shows include a solo exhibition at the Hamiltonian Gallery, Washington, DC (2016); and Five Myles Gallery, Brooklyn, NY (2015). She has been included in group exhibitions at the Queens Museum of Art, Queens NY (2016); A.I.R. Gallery, Brooklyn, NY (2016); Yeelen Gallery, Miami Fl (2015); The Hamiltonian Gallery, Washington, DC (2015); UnionDocs, Brooklyn, NY (2015); the Momentum Technology Film Fest at Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ (2014); and 440 Gallery, Brooklyn, NY (2011). Her work has been reviewed in Hysterical Feminisms, Psychology Today, JUXTAPOZ, AFROPUNK, The Washington Post and VICE.

Laila Abdul-Hadi Jadallah was born in Geneva, Switzerland and raised in the Washington, D.C area. She has lived, worked, and exhibited her photographs in Paris, Washington, and the Middle-East. Laila completed a B.A in Integrative Studies with a concentration in Arts & Culture & Photography from George Mason University in 2007. She worked as a photography and gallery assistant in Washington, before moving to Paris in 2009 to study at SPEOS Photographic Institute. Earning a Certificate in Studio Photography, she focused on portrait and fashion photography working with designers including, Sakina M’Sa, Isadora Ducasse and Dognin, before moving back to Washington in 2010. Since her return she has provided consultation services on photography, curating, art direction and exhibition development for galleries, arts-based organizations, creative groups, and artists. Laila has curated, co-curated and produced several photography exhibitions in Washington for various artists, galleries and citywide events, including: Nuit Blanche: Art All Night DC and FotoWeekDC; Adah Rose Gallery, The Middle East Institute’s Arts & Culture Program, The Smith Center for Healing and The Arts, Studio Gallery and The US Fund for UNICEF among others. Her work has been featured in The Washington Post, and on Al Hurrah TV, and is in the permanent collection of the Office of Arts in Embassies, U.S. Department of State. She is a Friend of Mark Landis, a member of ArtTable, serves on the Board of Directors of the Washington Studio School and is the Founder & Creative Director of Oui Curate.


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Alumna Rahshia Sawyer exhibits in Berlin

Berlin Foto Biennale

Some Things I Can’t Explain 428, will be on view at the 2016 Berlin Foto Biennale. 446 contemporary artists from 41 countries October 6th-30th 2016. Throughout October 2016 Berlin welcomes once again the largest German festival for photography, the 7th European Month of Photography. As a Associate Partner of the EMOP Berlin the first edition of the Berlin Foto Biennale – and 4th edition of the Biennial for Fine Art and Documentary Photography – will take place at elegant Palazzo Italia, situated in the historic heart of Berlin.

Curator and artistic director Julio Hirsch-Hardy says:
“Berlin was chosen due to the fact that it has become a cultural hub of the visual arts, as important of the other three cultural hubs of the world, New York, Paris and London.”

Emotions and Commotions Across Cultures will present 1230 photos by 446 contemporary artists from 41 countries of all continents – among them 65% women, who have received the Julia Margaret Cameron Award for Women Photographers. The works represent a wide spectrum of styles ranging from documentary and wild life, to portrait and experimental photography. Recognizing a wide array of artistic expression across diverse cultures, the Biennial presents a contemporary overview of the different schools of thought emerging from the United States to China, from Australia to Turkey and from Senegal to Mexico.

This Biennale also contains selected works by Steve McCurry. His solo exhibition ‘Retrospective’ forms part of the Biennial as special invitee. An essay by the young emerging talent Yusuke Suzuki about the refugee crisis on Lesbos and the chaos in Syria’s Aleppo is also included in this comprehensive photographic display.

The Biennial captures international trends in photography and presents us a kaleidoscope of sentiments and perceptions. In this way a photographic chronicle of our time emerges with all its emotions and commotions, visually expressed by hundreds of photographers across many cultures.

Part of the revenue from artwork sales will be donated to Save the Children. The Biennial is accompanied by a catalogue published by Kehrer Verlag.


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To learn more about alumna Rahshia Sawyer visit her website.

Alumnus Nick Collier selected as Inaugural Military Veteran Artist in Residence

CONGRATULATIONS alumnus Nick Collier for being selected to participate in such an amazing residency. Nick was selected as the National Parks Arts Foundation Inaugural Military Veteran Artist in Residence this coming November. As part of the National Parks Centennial celebration this year they have chosen to support Veterans with this amazing opportunity and Nick will kick the event off!!

He will be living in a remote part of Big Bend National Park on the Texas/Mexico border for the entire month of November along with singer/songwriter Russell James Pyle.

More to come!

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“Ice Harvest” debuts in online magazine iGNANT

iGNANT is an award-winning online magazine featuring the finest in art, design, photography, fashion and architecture. Alumna Thitipuk “Looksorn” Teeratrakul work is featured in issue 01 of the online magazine.

Ice Harvest By Looksorn

“I grew up surrounded by migrant workers since my family runs an ice factory in Thailand. All of them are legal workers with work permit from nearby countries, but majority of them are from Myanmar (or formerly Burma). December 2010, I moved to the United States. I have an opportunity to observe Thailand as an outsider with an insider’s perspective. Looking back to when my parents started the ice business, I noticed that Thailand has difficulty to control massive number of migrant workers: there were a lot and still large amount of migrant workers who don’t have the work permit. That leads to why police would go after every migrant and extort money from them and they threaten to send them back to their home countries. My parents have been unwillingly paying the local police to keep them away from the workers at the ice factory even though they have the valid work permits. Ice Harvest observes the discrimination of working class and bribe culture in Thailand.”

Olly Olly Presents Making Space

George Mason University School of Art is proud to highlight the achievements of our alumni. Olly Olly presents Making Space. An exhibition co-curated by School of Art alumna Anne Smith featuring work by alumna Margo Elsayd.

Opening Reception: Saturday, July 23 from 7pm – 10pm

On view: July 23 – August 20, 2016

Olly Olly, an alternative art space in Fairfax, VA, is pleased to present Making Space, co-curated by Anne Smith. Making Space is an exhibition of artists whose work investigates an awareness of built space, especially the unexpected peculiarities found in rigid structures of architecture and infrastructure. Built structures able to be measured and marked on a map or blueprint become more complex and open-ended in the work of these artists. A wall, a window, a road, or a curb are shown as more than a nameable quantity, but contain tension, uncertainty, humor, and wonder. The artists in Making Space call attention to these flexibilities of built space, inserting ambiguity into structure. On Saturday, July 23, 2016, from 7pm to 10pm, spend an evening with the artists:

Cynthia Connolly
Margo Elsayd
Anne Smith
Diane Szczepaniak
Elena Volkova

Olly Olly wants to nourish the body and the community as well. We will be collecting healthy non-perishable food items for the Food Bridge Program at Our Daily Bread, which provides short-term emergency food assistance to Fairfax County area residents who are in crisis. We encourage you to bring a healthy non-perishable food item to donate. The Food Bridge Program is most in need of cooking oil, brown rice, dried beans, canned fruit in its own juices, and pasta sauce.

Olly Olly, located at 10417 Main Street, 2nd Floor in Fairfax, VA, is open Tuesdays 6pm-9pm, as well as for special events and by appointment. Making Space will be on view at Olly Olly from July 23, 2016 through August 20, 2016. Please call 703-789-6144 for more information.


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Kathryn Markel Fine Arts presents “Atlas Uh-oh”

NEW YORK, NY—Kathryn Markel Fine Arts is pleased to present Atlas Uh-oh, Sarah Irvin’s first solo exhibition with the gallery.

Sarah Irvin creates dynamic, rich images that contain an activated freshness while ruminating on the strength and limitations of language and memory. Her process for her ink series reflects the shifting nature of memory, the evolution of language on an individual and societal level, and how the dependability of both can be lost over time. The series was initially inspired by her grandfather’s loss of language due to Alzheimer’s disease. Now, Irvin uses the limited language skills of her 18-month-old daughter as a starting point, shifting her focus from the end of our relationship with words to the beginning.

Irvin begins with ink and a non-absorbent Yupo paper, writing words and phrases thickly in expressive cursive. Once written, Irvin takes squeegees and destroys the words, allowing the ink to slip and spread across the paper, forming new marks. Remnants of the words sometimes remain visible, but their meaning can’t be deciphered.

Atlas Uh-oh, 2016, ink on yupo, 84 x 60 in


Atlas Uh-oh

The initial phrases are derived from personal family memories, Irvin’s daughter’s first words, and concerns about our culture’s use of language. By obscuring them, Irvin evokes both the power and shortcomings of language. She questions the ability of the individual to accurately make use of these words, and our society to interpret them correctly, subverting the very techniques used to record our language through writing and publishing. The immediacy of the finished image evokes an emotional sensibility, as if destroying the words has left only the feeling of the moment or concept they described.

Sarah Irvin holds a BA from University of Georgia and an MFA from George Mason University (2016). Her work has been exhibited with the Atlanta Botanical Gardens, Kennedy-Douglass Center for the Arts, and the San Angelo Public Arts Commission, among others. Her work is found in both private and corporate collections, including the University of Richmond, Quirk Hotel, and Try-Me Urban Restoration Project.

Kathryn Markel Fine Arts, Chelsea is located at 529 W. 20th St., Ste. 6W, New York, NY 10011 Gallery Hours are Tues.-Fri. 10:00am-6:00pm, Sat. 11:00am-6:00pm
Media Contact: Celeste Kaufman 212.366.5368


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Meet Art Director and School of Art alumnus Khoi B. Phan

Khoi B Phan graduated with a BFA in Graphic Design and a minor in Photography in 2009. His love for design and futbol helped shape his educational endeavors. After graduating from George Mason University’s School of Art he moved to New York City with a dream to make it as a professional designer with little professional experience and just a few internships. During his first stint in NYC he landed small jobs designing websites for musicians and photographers. After 4 months, Khoi found himself with nearly $50 in his bank account as he decided to return to his native hometown of Fairfax. With the mindset of giving it another try in the near future. Feeling inspired he continued to polish his design skills by re-branding his family’s professional soccer academy, HP Elite & Beyond. One of the biggest takeaways he received from spending time in NYC was the importance of creating work for yourself. Design is a reflection of you.

A few months later, Executive Creative Director Karen Zuckerman from HZDG contacted Khoi. She was browsing portfolios online and landed upon his site. Instantly he was offered a junior design position in DC, working with various high profile clients such as Brooks Brothers, Volkswagen and the Washington Redskins. After about a year, Khoi decided to break off and pursue an idea known as Vintage Futbol. A lifestyle clothing brand based around soccer culture.

A few pitch decks later he landed seed money and launch his vision into reality. Partnering with Survey Monkey and Brightest Young Things, Vintage Futbol launched in the DC market summer 2011.

Interestingly enough, by launching Vintage Futbol the digital Galaxy slugged and surfaced his work to a recruiter from the National Football League. Khoi was contacted within weeks of the launch of VF, about a Senior designer position with the NFL headquarters based in New York City.

He spent almost two years working on 360 designs for the league on major campaigns such as Super Bowl, NFL Honors, NFL Salute, and NFL Futbol Americano. To dive deeper into the work, he was in asked to design entire campaigns focused around branding, environmental graphics, in-stadium experiences, and conceptualizing the actual fan interaction experience. These campaigns are still being used today and can be seen each NFL season.

Khoi later decided to move into product, user experience and advertising design to improve his creative capabilities. We had worked with a series of small guerilla agencies creating integrated social campaigns for Spotify, Degree, Axe, and Kiehls. Spotify First Song has been featured at TEDx in New York with the CEO, Daniel Ek, sharing the platform as one of Spotify’s key initiatives in the CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) sector.

Currently, he is working as an Art Director at AKQA in New York. He specializes in product design, creative direction, user experience and brand identity. His focus as an art director is to help his clients re-imagine their business through the lens of current design trends and latest interactive technology. He currently works with major clients such as Nike, Verizon, and Converse.

For more information about Khoi Phan check out his website at

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Alumna Anne Smith selected for Post-Graduate Residency Program

By EastCity Editorial Team

About the Post-Graduate Residency Program

For the second year, the Torpedo Factory Art Center welcomes four emerging artists to participate in the Post-Graduate Residency Program. Among those selected is School of Art alumna Anne Smith. The four-month Residency is a competitive program that provides meaningful support to recent, promising graduates who have recently completed master’s of fine arts degrees. This program is conducted in partnership with accredited MFA programs in the region and the Torpedo Factory Artists’ Association. It is unique for addressing the critical post-graduate juncture in an emerging artist’s career, offering an opportunity for professional development, networking, and a chance to define their practice outside of the academic context.

The Post-Graduate Residency Studio is located on the first floor in Studio 12 at the Torpedo Factory. Therein, artists can create and sell work, interact with the public, and network with other artists. The program will culminate in a group exhibition in the Torpedo Factory’s contemporary exhibition space, the Target Gallery, on October 22- November 27, 2016. The reception will take place during Second Thursday Art Night, November 10, at 7pm.

“This program is about welcoming the next generation of artists into the Torpedo Factory community,” said Eric Wallner, CEO of the Torpedo Factory Art Center. “The program is a great example of working toward our mission of igniting the creative spirit by fostering connections among artists and the public. My hope is that we have a dynamic exchange of perspectives, techniques, and ideas throughout 2016.”

Meet Anne Smith – 2016 Post-Graduate Resident

Anne Smith’s interest in real and imagined spaces is evident in her drawing, printmaking, and sculpture. A line becomes a path, which can serve as an edge, boundary, and transitional marker.

During her time at the Torpedo Factory, she will focus on the Potomac River as it flows beyond the building walls and create regular screen prints based on her observations and research. Each print will be displayed on the walls of Studio 12 so that during the course of her residency, it becomes full of interpretations about this singular spot on the riverside. “I consider all of my work, no matter the medium, to be a sort of drawing, searching for the articulation of spaces both intimate and far away. This residency will allow me to learn more about the Potomac, which is itself a path, and continue experimenting with silkscreen printmaking.”

Anne Smith is an artist and teacher based in Washington, D.C. Smith received her MFA from George Mason University, where she was honored with the 2015 School of Art Graduate Award for Academic and Artistic Excellence. She received a BA in Studio Art from Williams College, Williamstown, MA, in 2007. Smith has also studied woodworking at the Penland School of Crafts in Bakersville, NC. She is currently a teaching artist with the National Gallery of Art.

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What Goes Up Must Come Down

Dustin Rogers earned a MFA in Painting at Kendall College of Art and Design in 2015 and BFA in Art and Visual Technology with a concentration in Painting from George Mason University’s School of Art in 2011. A Virginia native, who relocated and is now living in Grand Rapids, Michigan Dustin has exhibited not only regionally but nationally as well.

In 2015, Ferris State University Fine Art Gallery announced Dustin as winner of the 2015 Kendall MFA Graduate Purchase Award. Dustin’s oil and charcoal painting on canvas titled “Plane to Sea, Plain to See” became part of the Ferris State University’s Permanent collection in Big Rapids, Michigan. Recently in 2016, his work was featured in the National Wet Paint MFA Biennial Exhibition at Zhou B Art Center in Chicago, Illinois.

Through his paintings Rogers is able to work out questions about life. “Paintings are places where I can work out questions I have about life, paint, and images. The process does not always answer my questions but sometimes it raises more and often complicates things. Thus the process is rarely dull. My subject matter is often biographical. Images, plasticity of paint, and objects can be wielded to serve or undermine narratives. Spontaneous decisions with unpredictability of materials favors chance and outcomes must be managed. This mirrors life. There is chaos, order, loss and redemption. Contradictions and perceived negative circumstances can often be turned into opportunities for examining potential and effecting change.”

Currently, he is working on an upcoming exhibition at Ferris State University in September 2016.

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M.A.T. Alumna recognized at Virginia Art Education Association Conference

PappasThe MAT Art Education program made a noteworthy presence during last year’s annual Virginia Art Education Association (VAEA) Conference. On November 14th in Roanoke, Virginia art teachers gathered to celebrate excellence within their field at the annual awards ceremony. It is here that Brent Tharp (left), Middle School Chair for the VAEA Board, spoke about he exemplary work of middle school teachers nominated for Virginia Middle School Teacher of the Year. There were many outstanding candidates this year nominated from regions throughout the state of Virginia. Tharp said, “These [nominees] are the people who are literally out on the streets knocking from door to door to show student artwork! These are the people getting great work done.”

He was speaking of MAT Alum, Marisa Pappas (right), who is a Warrenton Middle School Art Teacher and Blue Ridge Region Nominee and awardPappas2 recipient. Some of her accomplishments have been to help organize and run the Fauquier (FCPS) County Youth Art Month (YAM) Art Walk on Main Street in Warrenton, VA. She also began the National Junior Art Honor Society (NJAHS) at her school in which her students volunteer to teach art lesson to Pre-K students. Jess Beach, says of her colleague “Marisa is always there to support Fauquier County’s Art Program. She volunteers her time to come to elementary school curriculum meetings to share the work she has done with the VAEA Committees.” Marisa traveled to Richmond to work on the new Correlations for K-8 Visual Arts Instructional Strategies as they related to the visual art SOL’s. Christina Smith, Kettle Run HS Art Teacher and Lead Art Teacher in Fauquier Co., writes “She is always involved in our meetings as well as supporting our new teachers as a mentor.”

It is for all these reasons and so much more that Marisa Pappas was awarded the Virginia State Art Educator Award Middle School Division!

This isn’t the first time Marisa has been recognized as an outstanding art educator. On behalf of the MAT program she presented at both the NAEA national and VAEA state art conferences sharing her knowledge and expertise to educators and fellow art colleagues.

In 2014 Marisa along with MAT Alum Tisha Burke (right) were recipients of the YAM Award of Excellence for the Art program in Fauquier County. Pappas3As graduate students, both Marisa and Tisha were former NAEA GMU Student Chapter Presidents and advocated for the arts. George Mason University, the School of Art and the MAT family have much to be proud of.

Congratulations to Marisa and Tisha for the recognition of their leadership and contribution to the field of art education.

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Born in Geneva, Switzerland and raised in the Washington, D.C area, Laila Abdul-Hadi Jadallah has lived, worked and exhibited her photographs in Paris, Washington, and the Middle-East.

Laila completed a B.A in Arts & Culture with a concentration in Photography and Art as Social Action from George Mason University in 2007. She worked as a photography and gallery assistant in Washington, before moving to Paris in 2009 to study at SPEOS Photographic Institute. Earning a Masters in Studio Photography, she focused on portrait and fashion photography working with designers including, Sakina M’Sa, Isadora Ducasse and Dognin, before moving back to Washington in 2010.

Since her return she has providing consultation services on photography and styling; curating, art direction and exhibition development for magazines, arts based organizations, creative groups, and artists. She has curated and co-curated several photography exhibitions in Washington for various artists, galleries and citywide events, including Nuit Blance: All Art All Night DC, Adah Rose Gallery, The Smith Center for Healing and The Arts, and Studio Gallery among others.

Her work has been featured in the Washington Post, and on Al Hurrah TV. Recently, two of her works from Adrift have been acquired for the Permanent Collection of the Office of Art in Embassies U.S Department of State. She curated an exhibition, Through Their Eyes: Photographs by Syrian Children for the U.S Fund for UNICEF that was exhibited here in Washington during FotoWeekDC and then in New York City. Photos of the event are available here.

She is a Friend of Mark Landis, a Creative Director at PMDC and board member of the Washington Studio School.

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Meet Christin Boggs Peyper

Christin Boggs Peyper is an international artist, photographer, educator, and sustainable food advocate from the suburbs of Washington DC. She holds a MFA in Imaging Arts from Rochester Institute of Technology and a BFA in Art and Visual Technology from George Mason University.

While studying as an undergraduate at GMU, Christin began to explore the politics of food in her artwork. Later through her MFA thesis project at RIT, she became involved in the locavore movement and spent a year documenting community gardens, farms and farmers markets in Rochester, New York. The project, titled Slow & Steady, was displayed at the Rochester Regional Community Design Center, with an opening reception that incorporated participation from the local farmers market vendors. Christin later spent the summer of 2011 as a Visiting Artist at Cow House Studios in Wexford, Ireland, where she assisted with photography instruction for high school art students. At this time she created the project Ag fás [grow], which documented quiet moments in the Irish landscape, relating to food sustainability.

Christin has taught photography courses in the United States at George Mason University, George Washington University and Northern Virginia Community College. While at GWU, she developed curriculum for a new course titled Slow Food Photography, through which students created artwork that explored the process of growing and producing artisan food. The course culminated in an exhibition on campus at Gallery 102.

Christin currently resides in Vereeniging, South Africa, where she taught photography courses as a visiting instructor for a semester at Vaal University of Technology. She runs a commercial photography business, while currently exploring two fine art projects. Pap en Vleis documents her day-to-day observations and interactions as an American married to an Afrikaner in post-apartheid South Africa. Supermarket Separation explores some of the ways in which modern-day eaters can regain food independence through individual resourcefulness as well as community engagement.

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Photographer, Filmaker, Educator, and Curator

Lisa McCarty is a photographer, filmmaker, curator, and educator based in Durham North Carolina. She holds a BFA from George Mason University and a MFA in Experimental and Documentary Arts from Duke University.

Lisa has participated in over 50 exhibitions at venues such as The Ogden Museum of Southern Art, Chicago Photography Center, Houston Center for Photography, Griffin Museum of Photography, Asheville Art Museum, and the American University Museum. Lisa’s photographs have also been shown internationally in Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands, Denmark, and Argentina. Additionally her moving images have been screened at the New York Film Festival, Chicago Underground Film Festival, Cairo Video Festival in Egypt, and Alchemy Film & Moving Image Festival in Scotland.

Lisa is currently Curator of the Archive of Documentary Arts at Duke University’s Rubenstein Rare Book and Manuscript Library as well as an instructor at the Center for Documentary Studies. Lisa has held curatorial positions in archives, libraries, galleries, and private collections including the Smithsonian American Art Museum Library, the Peace Corps Archive, George Mason University Art Galleries, the Cassilhaus Collection, The Nasher Museum of Art, and The Center for Documentary Studies.

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Morgan Ashcom is an artist and educator living in New York City. Although he lives in a major metropolitan area his work is influenced by the Virginia landscape around the farm where he grew up. His first photobook, Leviathan, emerged from his experience at a remote community in southeast Ohio. While the photographs were made in the rolling hills of Appalachia, Morgan followed themes of escape and confrontation on the sea suggesting a narrative where these worlds have converged. Since the completion and publication of Leviathan, Morgan has been photographing an ongoing project titled What the Living Carry. Through a fictional and subjective photographic account, What the Living Carry draws on the motif of the forest as a canvas for collective subconscious projections rooted in the literature and archetypes of rural America.

After graduating from George Mason University’s School of Art in 2006 he went on to the International Limited Residency MFA Photography program at the Hartford Art School graduating in 2013. In the summer of 2014, the Phoenix Museum of Art included a book moquette for Leviathan in INFOCUS, an exhibition on contemporary artist books. The Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University later shortlisted Leviathan for the Honickman First Book Prize in Photography. This year, he began an exciting collaboration with Peperoni Books in Berlin, who published Leviathan in 2015. After many months of dedicated hard work, we have produced a trade edition which is available now. The first edition is 700 copies and the book is selling for $55.00. Leviathan will be distributed internationally through Idea Books and will begin shipping to bookstores later this week. It is already available online from 25Books in Berlin. ashcom

Last month The Center for Photography at Woodstock held their annual juried show Photography Now. Guest juror David Bram of Fraction Magazine selected prints from Leviathan for inclusion in this show and CPW director, Ariel Shanberg chose the photograph to the left for the Purchase Prize. It is a 24″x30″ archival pigment print in an edition of eight. This photograph is going into the public CPW collection at the Dorsky Museum in New York.

Photographs from his ongoing project What the Living Carry have won first place in Center’s Choice Awards in 2014 and have been included in exhibitions in Santa Fe at the Center for Contemporary Art and at the Houston Center for Photography.

This Fall Morgan will be teaching full-time as Assistant Professor appointment at Ithaca College, where he will be teaching two digital Introduction to Photography courses and a course on The Photographic Book. He has also joined the faculty at Cornell University as a Visiting Lecturer, where he will be in the darkroom teaching Introduction to Photography.

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Alumni Marian McLaughlin’s “Spirit House”

Based in Washington, DC, Marian McLaughlin is a guitarist, vocalist, and songwriter specializing in progressively inclined indie/chamber folk; well-versed in string technique and keen on boundary-pushing collaboration, her music is a multifaceted pleasure. Possessing a slim discography detailing a growing relationship with double bassist-arranger Ethan Foote, McLaughlin’s second full-length Spirit House arrives on CD September 23rd. Due to the frustrations of mobility certain to occur during this week’s papal visit to the Nation’s Capital, her record release show at the Logan Fringe Arts Space has been moved to November 21st.

Marian McLaughlin’s acumen on guitar is considerable. One need only listen to understand, but her background of master classes with Larry Snitzler, a pupil and friend to cornerstone of the classical axe Andrés Segovia, is worthy of note. Additionally, McLaughlin was one of six chosen by the Bethesda, MD arts center Strathmore for their 2014-15 Artist in Residence program.

Live performance figures prominently in her approach; running the gamut from house shows to events in larger venues, she’s warmed up the room for Ryley Walker, Daniel Bachman, Marissa Nadler, Arborea, Six Organs of Admittance, and others, but her largest audience surely came via NPR’s online shindig Tiny Desk Concert in June of 2014.

In his introduction to the 3-song set, Tiny Desk producer/host Bob Boilen praises her as a unique musician, though he does provide context by citing similarities to Joanna Newsom and Diane Cluck. These are apt comparisons; as said, McLaughlin impacts the ear as a direct descendant/exponent of last decade’s blossoming of indie folk, and with special emphasis on the side of the scene promoted by periodicals such as Arthur and Galactic Zoo Dossier.

To elaborate, fans of the ‘60s-‘70s artists awarded the distinction of “Astral Folk Goddesses” (by Galactic Zoo Dossier) and’04’s The Golden Apples of the Sun compilation (issued through Arthur Mag’s Bastet imprint) are quite likely to find McLaughlin to their liking. She debuted last year with Dérive, an 8-song effort (still available on LP) that combined solo pieces with tandem excursions utilizing a tight-knit handful of collaborators.

The album’s title is inspired by Situationist Guy Debord’s concept of “dérive,” whereupon a person undertakes an unplanned course that’s subconsciously shaped by the environment of the journey, “with the ultimate goal of encountering an entirely new and authentic experience.” Dérives also play a part in McLaughlin’s working method; she writes intuitively, relying on stream of consciousness and the guidance of instrument and idea.

It’s a system extending to her follow-up Spirit House, though she enlarges the number of contributors to eleven including violinists Nicholas Montopoli and Zachariah Matteson, violist Karl Mitze and cellist Geoff Manyin, collectively known as the Invoke String Quartet. In the process Ethan Foote’s role as instrumentalist, producer, and arranger is enriched considerably.

While this broadening of the aural landscape is a major component in opener “Even Magic Falters,” the initial moments feature just McLaughlin’s guitar and a light accent of cymbal. Her voice soon enters, intoning confidently with a dark undercurrent and getting highlighted by percussion and mood-enhancing strings, though the most striking aspect of the seven minute piece is the brief upticks in tempo augmented by the regality of horns and the added heft of electric guitar.

Individuals plying their trade in the indie folk field can easily fall victim to employing smallness of scale as a crutch, but it’s quickly apparent this isn’t McLaughlin’s bugaboo. In fact, some might assess the scenery as a tad too ornate. Ultimately Spirit House isn’t highfalutin but rather mystical as referenced in the song’s title; the lyrics mention both Merlin (“from Arthurian legend”) and Gandalf (from the many, many chapters of Tolkien), so those allergic to fantasy lit-themed psych-folk have been given fair warning.

Having purchased and shelved a platter by the ‘60s band Gandalf, this writer is frankly in no position to complain. Helping matters greatly is diversity; there’s the pleasing triangle of voice, nylon guitar, and string section constituting “Your Bower,” the atmosphere assuredly uniting the chamber and the meadow, but radiating a markedly different temperament is “Kapunkah,” a jaunty (indeed, downright danceable) number drawing upon McLaughlin’s trip to Thailand.

With about a minute left, “Kapunkah” slyly incorporates a sorta ‘50s pop vibe that’s mighty appealing, while the trad-Brit-folk trappings of “Ocean” are widened substantially by Foote’s arrangement of strings and brass. And as the milieu crescendos it takes on a medieval air, McLaughlin’s picking and vocalizing shining throughout.

“Calm Canary of the Arctic Sea” delivers another turn, clarinet and trombone emerging at the outset. The effect is carnival-like but restrained, and its art-pop tendencies proceed into a baroque zone that fleetingly tangles with the celestial before taking a bold culminating plunge into the symphonic. That’s a lot of traveling; “Fourth Son” is positively scaled back by association, but Spirit House loses nothing in the transition, instead gaining an exemplary specimen of pure chamber-folk.

Impressively, the more structurally ambitious cuts attain their stature naturally, lacking in any superficial dolling-up. Clearly comfortable in these situations, McLaughlin continues to excel in trimmer scenarios a la standout “Alexander,” which pairs her with the warmth of Foote’s double bass. Spirit House’s progression is a bit less psych-tinged than its predecessor, though said quality does creep into “Will-o-the-wisp,” the track gravitating nearer the vicinity of Dérive’s tougher entries.

However, where the prior outing’s “Heavier-than-air” brought Cat Power to mind, “Will-o-the-wisp” seems descended from ‘70s folk-rock, again of a decidedly Brit hue. And the uptempo slice of local biography, “Legend of the Neighborhood” detours yet again, exploring an angle somewhat reminiscent of mainstream pop-rock, the aura significantly accentuated by a smoldering sax break straight from the heart of the ‘80s.

It’s a risky but successful proposition, offering contrast to the general indie folk climes anchoring the disc; the wonderful solo showcase “Paint-chipped Windowsill” lends the CD its finale. Whether she’s singing about wizards or letting Foote integrate a smidge of Yacht Rock into the equation, Marian McLaughlin is plainly disinclined toward calculated moderation. Fortified by superb vocals and playing, Spirit House dabbles in extremes and basks on the fringes while being consistently accessible.

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KO Distilling unveils painting, marks Feast at Manassas Junction

Manassas’ first distillery, KO Distilling, recently unveiled a commissioned work by local artist Nathan Loda during a private reception in its tasting room.

Historic Manassas Inc. assisted with the event, which was held Aug. 27, the 153rd anniversary of the Feast at Manassas Junction. The unveiling drew local dignitaries, historians and representatives from George Mason University, where Loda earned his master’s in fine arts.

KO Distilling co-owner Bill Karlson also earned his graduate degree from Mason. To foster a strong relationship between his alma mater and the distillery, Karlson approached Jim Wolfe, professor of entrepreneurship and business at Mason, with having artwork created for KO’s tasting room. Wolfe suggested hosting a student art contest for the distillery. Wolfe put Karlson in touch with William Reeder, then-dean of the College of Visual and Performing Arts. However, Reeder said no contest was necessary: “There’s only one person for the job: Nathan Loda.”

Loda met with Karlson and distillery co-owner John O’Mara to discuss concepts for the painting and the trio agreed that it should commemorate the historical location of the distillery. After three months of research and execution, Loda’s work was complete. Titled “KO at Manassas Junction,” the painting is a non-historical representation of the Feast at Manassas Junction that took place on Aug. 27, 1862, just days before the Battle of Second Manassas.
After having circled to the rear of Gen. John Pope’s Union forces, Stonewall Jackson’s “foot cavalry” ransacked the huge Union supply depot at Manassas Junction. Confederate soldiers then gorged themselves on the vast bounty they found, the release stated.

Much to the dismay of his troops, Jackson ordered barrels of whiskey poured to the ground. Some soldiers were seen on their hands and knees trying to save the spirits. After the feast, the Confederates burned the supply trains and the depot. From there, Jackson and his men marched to Bull Run, where they faced Pope’s forces Aug. 28-30 in the Battle of Second Manassas.

Loda used “artistic license to create a sense of factual ambiguity in the painting,” according to the release. There is no distinction between Confederate and Union soldiers, which creates a sense of unity instead of conflict. The painting has a celebratory feel, which aligns with the distillery and its spirits. “KO obviously wasn’t around in 1862, but there were soldiers drinking whiskey. Part of the beauty of painting is that you can recreate your own version of history,” Loda said. “By painting in KO whiskey barrels and their Virginia Moon whiskey bottle, I was able to create a new narrative and put KO on the map.”

The 7-foot by 4-foot oil on panel painting now hangs in the tasting room of the distillery. Karlson could not be happier with the end result. “Nathan greatly exceeded our expectations. His talent as an artist is matched by his personality and humor. We are honored to have his work hanging on our walls,” he said. KO Distilling, 10381 Central Park Drive, Manassas, will host its grand opening noon to 7 p.m. Sept. 12 with distillery tours; tastings of their Battle Standard 142 Gin and Virginia Moon White Whiskey; live rock, country, and bluegrass music; children’s activities; Cured Food Truck; and local beer and wine for purchase.

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Stoop without a home

Margo Elsayd, an artist based in Washington D.C. and School of Art alumni, has been rolling her mobile stoop around the DC area and waiting for people to ask her what she’s doing. It started September 2 as part of E12: Social Practice, the 12th iteration of a yearly program for emerging DC artists started by Transformer gallery. The Mobile Community Stoop Project emerged as simply a sculpture according to Elsayd.  She never intended for her work to be political, but most of the conversations that have occurred on her stoop have related to the city’s changing fabric.”People absolutely need a public platform to come out,” Elsayd said.  “I don’t think (some of them) would have met each other otherwise.  With the stoop, people gained curiosity, and then they took it from there.”

While stoops are a passing trend in DC Elsayd hopes it will live on through The Mobile Community Stoop Project. “Stoop culture’s a really big thing out (in northeast DC),” Elsayd told Hyperallergic.  “I live in a really cool neighborhood where we all sit on our stoops, but there’s a lot of development going on in DC so there’s always apartment buildings going up. So we’re losing the sense of community because they’re a social device: we sit outside, talk to our neighbors.”

As the city only continues to grow quickly skyward, residents and businesses are not only being displaced but are also increasingly losing traditional sources for community bonding mentioned in an article on the stoop by Hyperallergic.  The Mobile Community Stoop Project is a simple tribute to a humble architectural feature, but it stands as a site for people to come together, share their concerns, and perhaps rally to make a change.

Interactivity is key in Elsayd’s work.  Her work bridges performance and activism. Four times a week since the start, Elsayd has pushed her stoop to some new place in DC. Most people recognize the what, if not the why.  The stoop is a vital symbol in DC and other cities on the East Coast. Everyone knows what to do with a stoop. “How do they form communities in apartment buildings? Stoops were created as a social device, for people to connect with one another and hang out and talk,” says Elsayd.

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AxonXylophone Bridge

George Mason University School of Art alumni Alex Braden and Zaki Ghul, who worked with Professor Thomas Stanley, believe sound does matter.  The two artists along with Amy Hughes Braden and Yassine El Mansouri contributed to an amazing public art installation in Arlington, Virginia.  The skywalk installation over Ninth Street, just east of Welburn Square, has transformed the space into an artistic interpretation of a nerve signal traveling along the axon of a neuron.

The interior of the walkway is illuminated with bands of LED lights. When a person walks through the skywalk he or she will trigger a sensor causing a band to light up. As the person moves along the walkway the band will turn off and on in a cascading pattern, with only one band lit per person at any given time. In addition, a soft bell sound will be triggered and reverberate for a few seconds each time a person passes through the walkway. The notes played will change with every additional person in the walkway thus creating a symphony of color and sound.

This interactive art piece will encourage each of us to imagine ourselves as part of a larger neural network — the network of ideas and innovation that Ballston is known for — and will engage everyone who walks through the skywalk in a playful and scientific way.

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“American Beauty” according to Carey Fruth

George Mason University’s School of Art alumni Carey Fruth wants to empower women of all shapes, sizes, ages and colors. Fruth graduated from School of Art in 2010 with her BFA in Photography. She is currently featured in the Huffington Post and Cosmopolitan for her recent work sending a message to inspire women. Fruth is out to prove that beauty far exceeds that of the male sexual fantasy. “Almost every image you see in mainstream media is of one type of woman, thin white women to be specific,” Fruth told Huffington Post.

She believes this leaves the majority of women in America unrepresented: “America is made up of all types of women. Women who are hungry to see themselves represented in a beautiful way. And why shouldn’t they?” Her photo series features 14 diverse women of all shapes, sizes, ages and color in a bed of lilacs. Her message – beauty isn’t limited to the single look women have been exposed to all their lives. “When women come into my studio, I want to prove to them that they ARE as beautiful as they always feared they weren’t, then maybe they can let go of that fear,” she said. “By stepping into a fantasy dream girl world and by letting go of that fear, they free themselves up to direct that energy that they once wasted on telling themselves that they weren’t good enough to elsewhere in their life.”

Fruth told Huffington Post her inspiration derived from the iconic rose petal fantasy scene in the 1999 film “American Beauty” where a middle-aged man has a sexual dream about his teenage daughter’s best friend (who is attractive, thin, blonde and white). But this is not what every woman in America looks like.  America is a diverse melting pot of beauty. Ultimately, through her work Fruth hopes to empower women to feel beautiful, confident and sexy just the way are.

Visit Fruth’s website to see more of her work.

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58th Chautauqua Annual Exhibition of Contemporary Art


Photo credit Becca Kallem

The Chautauqua Annual Exhibition of Contemporary Art is the oldest continuously running juried shows in the country.  For their 58th year, 26 works from contemporary artists have been chosen for the prestigious exhibition.  Among those chosen School of Art alumni Jay Hendrick. Hendrick received a Bachelors of Applied Studies in 2011 and a Bachelors of Fine Arts in 2012.  He recently graduated with his MFA from George Mason University in spring 2015.  He describes his work by saying,   “I make work that asks questions about the value of value. To ask those questions I make paintings. Those paintings are then put through different methods to analyze their value. I look at painting through microscopy, digital processes, performance, and erasure. Each of these methods investigate different ways of thinking and seeing. This allows for a sustained inquiry.”

This year’s exhibition was selected by nationally renowned critic/curator Hrag Vartanian, co-founder and editor-in-chief of Hperallergic, the award-winning art blogazine.  Patrons can view the exhibition June 28 – July 20 featuring Hendrick’s “100 Paintings.”


Hendrick’s other exhibitions include:

Ephemeral, Fairfax, VA (June 6, 2015 – July 18, 2015)

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Graduate Student’s New Motherhood Inspires Art

By Jamie Rogers

As her newborn baby sleeps soundly in her bassinet, visual art student Sarah Irvin works quietly and quickly with her paintbrush, gently making vertical watercolor strokes across white paper.  “The little tally marks [are] a way to count the time while she’s napping.  It’s therapeutic,” said Irvin, who is working toward a master’s degree from the School of Art at George Mason University.

Her finished piece, “Sleep Series,” now hangs in the Fenwick Gallery, which celebrates its first anniversary this year.  The work is dated and installed in chronological order in the taller.  It was created in sets, with each set completed within the time of a single nap, so the sections appear to be “words in an unreadable sentence,” she said.

The length of the nap dictates the volume of work created, she said.

Though inspired by her new daughter’s sleeping, Irvin said the artwork is really about her and her work at Mason.  With the help of supportive faculty and fellow graduate students at Mason, Irvin said she was able to take extra classes while pregnant and continue her independent study, despite giving birth in the middle of the fall semester.  She also continued to meet with her faculty advisers weekly.

“Somebody would walk the baby around the Art and Design Building while we met,” Irvin said.  “They aren’t just my professors, they are really my mentors.”

Paula Crawford, Irvin’s adviser in the Master of Fine Arts program, said Irvin began to make work about her pregnancy, even building an entire piece of around a 26 pound kettle bell.  The piece represented Irvin’s obstetrician’s orders to not lift more than 25 pounds, Crawford said.

“She saw the changes in her body as an opportunity instead of limitation,” Crawford said.  “She didn’t skip a beat.  She worked all the way through [her pregnancy and beyond].”

The school allows students to post images of their work online an use virtual could storage for work, in addition to attending class and working in campus art studios.  The MFA program trains students to be professional artists, Crawford said, but sometimes students o on to do other things in the field, such as work in museums.

Irvin installed “Sleep Series” on May 8.  It will remain in Fenwick Gallery through Friday.  In the fall, she will work as the gallery’s graduate professional assistant.

To view more Graduate and Alumni Spotlights click here.

School of Art Alumni takes up residency at Transformer


Social Change Art Action Lab at American University’s Katzen Center announces its 2nd exhibition in Transformer’s four-part Do You Know Where Your Art Comes From? Series September 24 – October 24, 2015.

E12: Social Practice marked the 12th season of Transfomer’s Exercises For Emerging Artists program.  Launched in March 2004, this highly successful mentorship program supports DC area emerging artists through a rigorous critique process with peers and mentors as they create a new work or new body of work.  Artists are invited to participate in the Exercises via nominations by Transformer staff, Advisory Council, area arts educators and curators.

Focusing on a different artistic discipline each year, E12: Social Practice highlights artists who are interested in pursuing social change and social engagement through their work.  This year’s Exercises artists include School of Art alumni Margo Elsayd graduating class of 2013 with her BFA in Sculpture.  Expanding the scope of the Exercises this year, Transformer will collaborate with Boston based Design Studio for Social Intervention life.  Situated at the intersections of design thinking and practice, social justice and activism, public art and social practice and civic/popular engagement, DS4SI designs and tests social intentions with and on behalf of marginalized populations, controversies and ways of life.

Beginning in late May and spanning through mid August, the Exercises artists will work with DS4SI’s Kenneth Bailey, E12 DC Lead Mentor artist Patrick McDonough, Transformer staff, and citywide social service groups and social entrepreneurs, to expand their understanding of cultural tactics uses in social interventions, learn methodologies for exploring cultural contexts, develop relevant cultural symbols, and generate ideas that build on these symbols to create powerful social interventions.

E12 artists will then share their ideas for new cultural tactics through their own methodologies in a culminating Social Change Art Action Lab at American University’s Katzen Center September 24 – October 24, 2015.

To view more Graduate and Alumni Spotlights click here.

Mason Alumni Selected for Residency Program at Torpedo Factory

By Jamie Rogers

Three George Mason University alumni have an opportunity to create, develop and sell their artwork through a new residency program offered by an Alexandria, Va., art center.

Stephanie Booth, Justin Raphael Roykovich and Steven Skowron have snagged three of the four spots in the brand-new Post-Graduate Residency Program for fine arts graduates at the Torpedo Factory Art Center in Alexandria.  Housed in a building along the Potomac once used to make weapons of war, the Torpedo Factory is now where artists make masterpieces.  It opened 41 years ago and has 81 studios – the largest number of publicly accessible working artist studios in the United States.  The center’s new residency program makes one of these studios available for three months at a time to each of the four graduates selected, says Benjamen Douglas, a spokesperson for the Torpedo Factory.  The residents use the studio for creating and selling their work, and as a place where they can interact with the public and other artists.

Embroidering the Past

TorpedoFactorybooth2-300x223Booth earned a master of fine arts in 2013 from George Mason.  She also taught arts at Mason, Fairfax County Public Schools and several other places.  She is now a visiting assistant professor of art at West Virginia Wesleyan College.  She’s making waves in the art world through the use of human hair in her embroidery work.  Through her research, she’s discovered ancestors who were on the Mayflower and others who played roles in different areas of American history.  “The use of the hair is actually a physical connection hair and DNA to the past and my own ancestry,” says Booth, who uses her own hair as well as that of family members in her work.  She’s now experimenting with embroidery on photography printing paper.  Working on those projects would be a good use of the Torpedo Factory space, Booth noted.

Art through Interaction

jrroykovich_burning_bridges-228x300Roykovich is the first to set up shop in the studio.  He earned a bachelor of fine arts from Mason in 2011, and since then, his art has been showcased in exhibitions in New York City, New Orleans, Washington, D.C., and Minnesota.  He’s currently teaching digital photography and new media at Mason.  Roykovich says he hasn’t had a studio since he finished his master’s degree in May at Rutgers University, so he’s grateful for the space.  “I call myself a researched-based conceptual artist,” he says.  “Some of my practice doesn’t necessary result in a physical object; some of it can result in performance or documentation of interactions within spaces.  A studio space allows me to collect my thoughts and try to put together these puzzles that I create for myself.”  While an undergraduate at Mason, he encountered professors who were extremely transformative, especially Lynne Constantine and Suzanne Carbonneau, he says.  “I kind of came of age as an artist at Mason,” Roykovich says.

Choosing the Right Medium

awethesitesofnyc-230x300Skowron, now an adjunct faculty member in Mason’s School of Art, earned a master of fine arts from Mason in 2014.  He is also the recipient of the School of Art Graduate Award of Merit.  His primary art medium is printmaking, but within the practice is photo-based work, Skowron says.  He also does sculptural work and is trying to decide how and for what art medium he’ll use the Torpedo Factory studio space.  “It’s challenging me – how can I stretch as an artist and how can I engage the public within my own art form?”  he says.  “I’m also thinking about ways to create work that allows me to interact with the public that comes into Torpedo Factory.”  Skowron says he learned about the residency through Mason’s School of Art.  “I wouldn’t be where I am today if it weren’t for the outstanding leadership and the level of artists who currently teach at George Mason,” he says.

The Torpedo Factory’s Post-Graduate Residency program addresses the critical postgraduate juncture in an emerging artist’s career by offering each a chance to define their crafts outside of the academic context, according to Torpedo Factory staff.  “This program will deepen the Torpedo Factory’s connection to the region’s institutions of higher education, while providing opportunities for new graduates to develop their professional skills, learn from our master artists, and market their work,” Torpedo Factory chief executive officer Eric Wallner wrote in a release.

Artists will be supported in their residencies through a partnership between the Torpedo Factory, the Torpedo Factory Artists’ Association and accredited master of fine arts programs in the Washington, D.C., area, including Mason, Douglas says.

At the conclusion of the residency program, a group exhibition featuring the work of the four artists will be held at the Torpedo Factory’s Target Gallery from October 24 – November 29, 2015.

To view more Graduate and Alumni Spotlights click here.

Second Place Winner @ EMULSION 2015

Congratulations to School of Art alumni Rahshia Sawyer Some Things I Can’t Explain 323 for winning second place in the 2015 edition of EMULSION!


“My work contrasts this daedalean journey with figurative floating silk photographs, the subject disconnected from the ground signifying their transforming reality.  The photographs dwarf the viewer, recreating a singular struggle with our emotions – an experience we all share.”

2015 Kendall MFA Graduate Purchase Award

The Ferris State University Fine Art Gallery announced Dustin Rogers, School of Art alumni, as the winner of the 2015 Kendall MFA Graduate Purchase Award. Selected by Art Martin, Assistant Curator & Collections Manager, Muskegon Museum of Art. Dustin’s oil & charcoal painting on canvas titled “Plane to Sea, Plain to See” will become part of Ferris State University’s permanent art collection in Big Rapids, Michigan. He will also have a solo exhibition at the Ferris State University Fine Art Gallery.

Anne Smith, Curator of Fenwick Gallery

SmithAnneAnne Smith, MFA candidate in the School of Art, currently serves as the Graduate Professional Assistant (GPA) at Fenwick Gallery. This new position, reserved for an MFA student from the School of Art, offers students the opportunity to gain professional experience and display some of the great work being produced in and around the School of Art. Smith’s role includes curating and installing all shows in the space over the 2014-15 academic year. She was recommended by a faculty member in the School of Art, following Ceci Cole-McInturff, who kicked off the gallery’s inaugural year as GPA in 2013-14.

Fenwick Gallery’s mission is to function as a “space for inquiry”. Located on the first floor of Fenwick Library, the gallery was founded as a hybrid visual arts exhibit space and research library for visitors to learn, discover, ask questions, and research. Exhibits in the gallery bring together work by Mason students, faculty/staff, and alumni, as well as work from the library’s Special Collections & Archives and circulating collection.


During exhibitions, there is a bookshelf in the space that is always stocked with library books related to the current exhibit’s themes. According to Anne, one of her most exciting roles within her position is “getting to browse through the stacks to pull books related to the exhibit. This is a great way to stumble upon new books and topics. I go through the stacks with the attitude of a backyard explorer, thinking, ‘I wonder what this one is about…’ and pulling anything that catches my interest. I go looking for one book and inevitably find a handful of other great finds that sometimes even open new doors for me.” In addition to the stack of books that relate to the exhibit, Anne also blogs about other artists whose work is related to the current show. “This is a great way for me to learn more about other artists and their work and to share their work with the Mason community,” says Anne.


The exhibits held at Fenwick Gallery to date, include: “Women’s Voices/Women’s Visions” and “Call + Response”, which presented collaborations between Mason visual artists and writers. “The Artists’ Map”, which features artists who use and interpret maps in their work, is currently in the gallery through Februrary 6th. Upcoming exhibitions in the spring include an exhibit of this year’s graduating MFA artists, alongside the books that have informed their practice.

For more information about the gallery, visit:
To learn more about Anne Smith and her practice as an artist, visit:

On the Edge of a Fading Light

On the Edge of a Fading Light by MFA Candidate, Melissa Hill,explores the waning night sky as light pollution from cities grows. The gradation of color, from black and navy blue to a hazy gray and gray blue, is meant to simulate the change from an isolated rural expanse to a highly populated urban zone. In light of numerous other environmental issues, the loss of the stars from the night sky may seem somewhat insignificant, but they have been one of humanity’s primary inspirational forces throughout history. Hill wonders what will become of us if they were to all fade away, consumed by our own manufactured light. Will we lose our connection to something greater than us; will we lose a part of ourselves?

Melissa Hill, originally from Chesapeake, Virginia, is an award-winning artist who received both her Bachelor of Fine Arts in 3D Media (2011) and her Bachelor of Arts in Art History (2012) at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Virginia. She is currently working on her Master of Fine Arts in Sculpture.  Hill thinks of her work as an evolutionary companion to her own self-discovery. What began as a interest in family, loss, and the importance of the past has developed into both an internal and external narrative that have gone far afield but which remain shaped by her experiences. Her thirst for understanding isn’t slaked by considering who we are. She hungers to know why we are;  from the smallest atom to the widest expanses.  Her evolution as an artist has tracked with her evolution as a person.  Her hope is that her work has enough longevity and nuance for people to look at it and take something from it and for those same people to walk through life, changed themselves, and then reflect upon it in a different light. Hill believes that the act of creating and recreating is at the very heart of being human.   Hill’s MFA Thesis Exhibition will be on display in the Fine Arts Gallery March 30th through April 3rd.

On the Edge of a Fading Light was on display at the Workhouse Arts Center in Lorton, Virginia at the Mason Art Lab in building W-16, September 15th to October 19th.

Rahshia Sawyer Accepts Prestigious International Award

MFA alumna, Rahshia Sawyer, was honored on October 3, 2014, at the Opening Reception for the Contemporary Talent Show at The François Schneider Foundation Centre for Contemporary Art in Wattwiller, France.  Sawyer was one of 7 winners for the 2012 Contemporary Talent award from The François Schneider Foundation . The Contemporary Talent Show 2012 brings together all of the award winner’s pieces and was curated by Viktoria von der Brüggen. “The show was breath taking and it was an honor to be included with such masterful talent!” recounts Rahshia in her blog.

Each year, The François Schneider Foundation awards $380,000 to emerging artists who’s focus is on water. Sawyer uses water as an environment in her all of her photographic series. She has been working with water in her photography since Undergraduate school, where she attended the Corcoran College of Art & Design in Washington, DC.

Rahshia received her MFA from George Mason University in Spring 2014, where she concentrated in Photography. Her photographs consider the uncertainty and ambiguity of the human condition. A photographer and installation artist, she is primarily interested in examining the interruption of “reality”. This disruption creates an abstract space for the identity: it is disconnected from reality, and the individual is then compelled to distinguish who they are and what they know to be real.

Rahshia has been selected for numerous other awards and achievements including: the 2012 Inaugural Dublin Biennial and the Academic and Artistic Excellence award from George Mason University. She has exhibited in group and solo shows across the US and in Canada, Ireland, London and France. She is a California native, who grew up in Thailand, and currently lives and teaches in the Washington D.C. metro area.

For more news from Rahshia, visit her blog at

(Images from the Opening Reception for the Contemporary Talent Show 2012 and a collection of Rahshia’s work.)

Jessie Brennan, The Cut: Drawing.
Hicham Berrada, Arch Miller-Urey: Installation
Claire Chesnier, CCIX-diptych CCVIII: Painting
Rahshia Linendoll-Sawyer, We Are Not Made of Wood: Photography
Valere Costes, Dark Rain: Sculpture
Nour Awada, its implement the streaming: Video
Mehdi Medacci, Walls: Talent Water 2012