Otis College of Art and Design logo
Events
  • Rendering female models and celebrities on large-scale canvases and with quick, expressive brushstrokes, painter Katherine Bernhardt examines representations of beauty in mainstream media and fashion photography. She paints her subjects with severe, exaggerated features and emaciated limbs that sometimes morph into abstraction, recalling the works of Pablo Picasso. “Some people ask if I hate the models I paint,” she says. “I say no, I don't hate them.

  • UpCycle Day 2014!

    Sep 03| Special Event
    More

    Join us for the 3rd Annual UpCycle Day!

    Learn about the Resource Exchange

    Bring your excess supplies and materials to share and trade. 

    Stock up for the school year with Free supplies and materials. 

    Help divert our collective waste from ending up in landfills.

     

  • Forrest Gander

    Sep 03| Lectures
    More

    Otis Books/Seismicity Editions is pleased to publish Panic Cure: Poetry from Spain for the 21st Century, an anthology of poems from eleven contemporary Spanish poets, active from the 1960s through the present. Selected and translated by Forrest Gander, Panic Cure is notable for its impressive range of poetic voices.

  • Jan Brandt

    Sep 04| Lectures
    More
  • Joel Kyack

    Sep 09| Lectures
    More
    JOEL KYACK Lives and works in Los Angeles.

    ghebaly.com/artists/joel-kyack

  • A dynamic portrait of the life of computer prodigy Aaron Swartz who championed free speech and data sharing, this must-see documentary premiered at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah and was the opening night film at the 2014 Hot Docs International Film Festival in Toronto, Canada. 

    We're excited the film’s director Brian Knappenberger will be our special guest speaker for the Q & A moderated by Movies that Matter series producers Judy Arthur and Perri Chasin after the screening. 

  • Koenraad Dedobbeleer lives and works in Brussels.

     

O-Tube

Alex Donis ‘94 MFA, Sri Lanka

Dec 16, 2013
Spotlight Category: Alumni
Although my sister and I hadn’t traveled together since 1996, when we trekked through Nepal and India, we had heard great things about Sri Lanka, and had always wanted to travel to this primarily Buddhist country. Ever since the 2004 tsunami devastated  much of this country’s coastal region, we knew we wanted to help out through some kind of volunteer work. This led us to contact the long-standing organization Volunteers for Peace that helped organize and place us with a local school near the town of Hatton.
 
After soaking up the sun on the powdery beaches of Unawatuna, and  leopard-spotting at Yala National Wildlife Reserve, we arrived in the heart of Sri Lanka’s hill country, known for its moun tainous terrain and manicured tea estates. Getting past several unanswered cell-phone calls and missed pick-up points, we arrived haphazardly at the town of Bogawantalawa. The K-12 government Tientsin Tamil School perches high above the tea plantations amidst low-flying clouds. My sister’s plan was to teach English, and I intended to teach drawing and painting.
 
The day we arrived, we met our team leader Victor, who enthusiastically greeted us with a warm embrace. He was originally  from the region but had moved to India as a boy. A group of South Korean high school and college students had arrived a week earlier to do various volunteer projects around the school. We met them in the principal’s office as they painted it a paler shade of lavender. We exchanged many a vanucam, which means hello and/or welcome in the Tamil language.
 
Later that evening, we hiked down the hill and met the local family hosts:  Kala, her husband, and their three beautiful daughters, along with grandma (whom I fell in love with) and the mischievous servant boy, Tambie. They were a gracious Tamil family who ran a local shop named ‘Sathiyas.’ Although the  accommodations weren’t exactly five-star, the early morning cold- bucket showers were warmed by Kala’s sweet smile, milk tea and delicious curries.
 
My first day of teaching was a bit of a shocker. To my surprise,  the students all stood when I entered the class and did not sit until I told them that they were allowed to do so. I’d like to try this on a particular group of Westside 9th-graders (ha!). At Crossroads School, where I teach in Santa Monica, I whine when I get 15 students in a class. Here, I faced 40 students, plus all the onlookers at the windows who wanted in on the class as soon as they saw me passing out watercolor sets. I began with my staple self-portrait lesson and had a sweet exchange with the students, translating facial parts and colors into the Tamil language. After the class was over, I was ushered to the science lab, past a group of Korean students who were doing a an outdoor mural featuring hand-holding  students in front of a globe with a ‘We love Sri Lanka banner.’ “Poor kids,” I mused. “Murals are such a pain.” 
 
I was introduced to the science teacher, a sweet lady in a bright yellow sari, and she asked me if I was a “professional artist.”  I assured her that I was, and thought to say, “Lady, please.I went to Otis!”  but I figured that wouldn’t get too far in these parts. She gestured toward the large wall at the back of the science lab,  and said she needed a mural that the students could learn from. “How ‘bout a Tamil Tiger and a Sri Lankan soldier doing a Bollywood dance together?” I thought. Probably not, Sri Lanka doesn’t need another civil war. After looking at  several science books, we agreed on the cycle of life of a tadpole turning into a frog, and the metamorphosis of a caterpillar becoming a butterfly. 
 
Never having done a mural, I pulled up my knickers, tied a pencil to a long stick and thought to myself, “What would Gronkdo?  Does Kent Twitchell ask for a contract? Would Judy Chicago hold out for a press release?” Time to leave my ego at the bottom of the hill and just do the work. Besides, there was a butterfly in the making and possibly a lotus. I’d try to make Roy (Dowell, Chair of Graduate Fine Arts) and Lari (Pittman, his partner)  proud.
 
Since the Korean students had used almost all the supplies for their mural, there was very little paint left. Also, the lacquer paint and the thinner had been left out in the rain, so I had to find kerosene  and diesel fuel in order to salvage the remaining supplies. They had forgotten to leave the brushes soaking overnight in paint thinner, so I had to use some of the preschool brushes that I had brought to donate.
 
I blocked in the mural using ground-up watercolor sets mixed with the white latex paint that was used to whitewash the classrooms. We soon got the supplies straightened out, and I was off and running, with many of the students poking their heads in through the windows, sharing smiles and helping out with a few brushstrokes. Later in the week, on their last day, the Korean students gave a performance, complete with music, dance and fashion show. The Tamil students also sang and performed traditional dances. My sister and I were honored with flowered wreathes and I was repeatedly called “the greatest artist ever.” Later that  evening, we all gathered in the science lab, and the Korean students passed out many bottles of ginseng sake. 
 
During our last few days, my sister helped me with the mural, and the school  brought in in a local temple painter named Desh, who was very patient. On our last day, I completed the giant butterfly that loomed over the pond. We returned to the science lab to share our last goodbyes, hear my sister sing a few Spanish songs to the faculty, and watch “the greatest artist ever” dedicate his first mural “To the Children of Tientsen Tamil School.”