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  • Otis Fine Arts hosts a Visiting Artist lecture series featuring John Houck, a Los Angeles-based artist. Read more about him here.
    Contact: Soo Kim, skim@otis.edu
  • Jesse Benson (b. 1978) is an artist based in Los Angeles. Benson's complex practice is driven by the perversion of roles and representation that characterize his generational moment. In obsessively "skillful" objects like the Bureau Paintings, Catalog Page Paintings, Future Sculptures, and Repaintings, Benson constantly questions the authenticity of the document, the function of style, and the value of both art and artist. Benson is equally committed to a curatorial/organizational practice that openly overlaps and inspires his object production.

  • The Architecture/Landscape/Interiors Department at OTIS College of Art and Design is pleased to announce a lecture by Nick SeierupPrincipal | Design Director of Perkins+Will, Los Angeles, on Thursday, December 3, 2015.


  • Marisa Silver is the author most recently of the New York Times bestselling novel Mary Coin. Her other books include the novels No Direction Home and The God of War (a finalist for a Los Angeles Times Book Prize), as well as two story collections, Babe in Paradise and Alone with You. Her work has appeared in The New Yorker and been included in many anthologies, including The Best American Short Stories and The O. Henry Prize Stories. Silver lives in Los Angeles.

  • Jesse Lerner is a filmmaker based in Los Angeles.  His short films Natives (1991, with Scott Sterling), T.S.H. (2004) and Magnavoz (2006) and the feature-length experimental documentaries Frontierland/Fronterilandia (1995, with Rubén Ortiz-Torres), Ruins (1999) The American Egypt (2001), Atomic Sublime (2010) and The Absent Stone (2013, with Sandra Rozental) have won numerous prizes at film festivals in the United States, Latin America and Japan.

  • Otis faculty member Dana Berman Duff will present a program of short 16mm and digital films in her "Catalogue" series.

  • Performing the Grid is an exhibition that brings together an intergenerational group of artists and cultural producers that utilize the grid as a performative strategy to examine, challenge and position philosophical, political, social, domestic, corporeal, and mythical perspectives. Rosalind Kraus famously wrote that the grid “functions to declare the modernity of modern art” in her 1979 essay, Grids.


Nourishing Craft

Aug 25, 2013
Tanya Aguiñiga, Product Design faculty member
Spotlight Category: Faculty
By Mimi Zeiger


Editor’s Note: 

Aguiñiga is one of five designers featured in the current PBS series “Craft in America: A Journey to the Artists, Origins, and Techniques of American Craft” 

Tanya Aguiñiga, Product Design faculty member, is an acclaimed textile artist, a craft activist, a sculptor, and a self-described “maker.” Her Atwater Village studio overflows with skeins of wool, yards of rope, and fabric remnants—the materials she uses to make her handcrafted accessories and furniture. Aguiñiga’s dyed rope necklaces are museum and design store staples, and the colorful, animal-like chairs and benches recently exhibited at JF Chen’s gallery charmed the crowds. She is not content to simply produce readily consumed objects, however; at the root of her work is a larger goal—the desire to build community and activism around craft. Her hope is to transform the perception of craft from a solo domestic art to a means of public engagement.

To do this, Aguiñiga weaves her own personal narrative into the history of craft. Born in Tijuana, she grew up taking a bus across the border every day to go to school in San Diego. As an undergraduate, she studied furniture design at San Diego State University, and received her MFA from Rhode Island School of Design. In 1997 she became a member of the Border Art Workshop/Taller de Arte Fronterizo (BAW/TAF), a binational collective dedicated to bringing attention to the U.S/Mexico border through arts-based programming. 

“My time with BAW/TAF was the foundation for who I am today as an artist,” says Aguiñiga, reflecting on the six years she spent actively involved with the organization. “It taught me how to use tools for the first time, how to work as a collaborative, how to engage with communities, how to create work that is both personal and political, and how to produce installation and performance art. As clichéd as it sounds, BAW/TAF changed my life.”

For Aguiñiga, BAW/TAF’s influence led her to work with marginalized communities and encouraged her to consider craft a radical practice. It taught her to be both an activist and a mentor, values she instills in her students at Otis. “It’s my job to preserve this history through making something personal,” says Aguiñiga. 

To illustrate her point, she selects a heavy leather strap from a basket brimming with colors and textures. The piece is a backstrap weaving belt, worn smooth in places from use—the kind of loom used by women artisans in Chiapas, Mexico. The leather belt wraps around the weaver’s waist and is used to create tension in the loom, which is then attached to a fixed object. 

Last summer, Aguiñiga used the belt to stage an outdoor weaving performance in Beverly Hills. Dressed in traditional Mexican garments, she attached the belt first to a parking meter and then, when asked by police to move, to a tree in front of the sign reading “Welcome to Beverly Hills.” Aguiñiga’s street performance of weaving brightly colored yarn was educational and political, publicly exposing the often unseen physical labor, artistry, and technique that is required to create textiles in one of the world’s richest zip codes. “Craft has been malnourished,” she says. “The origins of the materials need to be told.”