Events
  • Viet Thanh Nguyen’s bestselling novel The Sympathizer won the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, the First Novel Prize from the Center for Fiction, and a Carnegie Medal from the American Library Association. It was also a finalist for the PEN/Faulkner Award and the PEN/Robert W. Bingham Prize for Debut Fiction. Nguyen is also the author of Race and Resistance: Literature and Politics in Asian America and Nothing Ever Dies: Vietnam and the Memory of War.

  • Tonya Foster

    Sep 21| Lectures
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    Poet Tonya Foster is the author of the collection A Swarm of Bees in High Court. Her work has appeared in nocturnes, Callaloo, Traffic, Gulf Coast, and other journals. Her essays have appeared in NY Arts Magazine, NYFA Quarterly and The Poetry Project Newsletter. A co-editor of Third Mind: Teaching Creative Writing Through Visual Art, Foster teaches at California College of the Arts and lives in the Bay Area.

  • Steven Ehrlich and Frederick Fisher will present their firms’ collaboration as EHRLICH | FISHER on Otis College’s new Goldsmith Campus Academic Building and Residence Hall. The campus-wide expansion and renovation project includes a new academic building, 300-seat Forum (the venue for this lecture), café and dining commons, Student Life Center, and residence hall.

     

  • Opening Reception

    Sep 24| Special Event
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    New York-based artist Polly Apfelbaum’s work has situated itself as a hybrid of painting, sculpture, and installation over a career spanning 30 plus years. Exploring the intricacies of color, Apfelbaum weaves her way, both literally and conceptually, through ideas of Minimalism, Pop aesthetics, and Color Field painting to blur the lines between two and three dimensional art making.

  • Artist Polly Apfelbaum in conversation with Connie Butler, within Apfelbaum's exhibition Face (Geometry) (Naked) Eyes.

     

  • John Keene

    Oct 05| Lectures
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    John Keene is the author of the novels Annotations and Counternarratives, as well as several other works, including the poetry collection Seismosis, with artist Christopher Stackhouse, and a translation of Brazilian author Hilda Hilst's novel Letters from a Seducer. The recipient of a Whiting Award, Keene has been a member of the Dark Room Writers Collective and a Cave Canem fellow. He has served as the managing editor of Callaloo and taught at Northwestern. He currently teaches at Rutgers University-Newark and lives in New York.

  • Artist Polly Apfelbaum in conversation with David Pagel, within Apfelbaum's exhibition Face (Geometry) (Naked) Eyes.

     

O-Tube

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.”

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