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Alumnx Spotlights

Alumnx Spotlights Spring 2021

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Kohshin Finley’s Recent Work Captures the Love Between His Subjects

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The L.A.-based artist often depicts close friends in his work.
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Marque and Tiffany (2021) by Kohshin Finley

Marque and Tiffany, 2021 (Oil on canvas, 70 by 56 inches)

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Kohshin Finley, ’12 BFA Communication Arts

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I was inspired by wanting to see love represented in a positive way in an artwork. Throughout the history of art, relationships between two people are often showcased in the midst of trial, conflict, and heartbreak. With this piece, I wanted to capture a moment where a relationship was captured in its brightness, subtlety, and warmth. In creating this work in this way, I am expanding the realities of what paintings can represent, and how people can be represented in them. When thinking about what this might look like, it was important to me to capture people I know and had a connection with. I captured my friends in a way that shows them as real people, and not as painted figures to simply convey a concept that didn’t resonate with them. Creating artworks in this way considers my friends’ humanity, and through doing so I acknowledge and carry the responsibility of immortalizing someone in a certain moment and respecting their presence within it. This work has been for me and my practice and I cannot wait to continue to dive deeper and explore the ways love can be seen.

Marque and Tiffany is part of the exhibition, Shattered Glass, on view at Jeffrey Deitch Gallery in Los Angeles through May 22. In September, Finley’s work will also be included in the group show, Feedback, at Jack Shainman: The School in Upstate New York. His L.A. Louver artist talk on L.A. Futurism, which included Otis alumnx Gajin Fujita (’97 BFA Fine Arts), can be viewed here. For more information, please visit KohshinFinley.com, and follow him on Instagram, @kohshinfinley.

Catherine Hernandez’s Latest Project Provides Affordable Housing in West Adams

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The housing advocate’s work is informed by her upbringing in a community in South L.A. that fought against environmental racism.
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Renderings of the Adams Terrace project by Abode Communities.

Renderings of the Adams Terrace project by Abode Communities.

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Catherine Hernandez, ’13 BFA Architecture/Landscape/Interiors

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I was born and raised in South Central Los Angeles in a community that has survived redlining, underdevelopment, poverty, disinvestment, policing, suppression, and environmental racism, and yet it continues to experience displacement at a higher rate than any other part of the county. A whole host of policies and practices from the mid-20th century segregated Los Angeles, sorting opportunities and resources—not just housing—along racial and economic lines. 

In practice, redlining, and the lending practices that followed, denied goods and services to entire neighborhoods and swaths of cities, predominantly those inhabited by African-Americans, Latinos, and other so-called “undesirable” people. A groundbreaking report by L.A. County’s Ad Hoc Committee on Black People Experiencing Homelessness found that, in 2017, Black people represented only nine percent of the general population in Los Angeles County, yet comprised 40 percent of the population experiencing homelessness. The committee concluded that the “impact of institutional and structural racism in education, criminal justice, housing, employment, healthcare, and access to opportunities cannot be denied: Homelessness is a by-product of racism in America.”

My mother, an active community organizer, reminded me and my sisters on the practice of collective community power through engagement and advocacy. As a practicing designer in an industry that is largely regulated by policy, I found it my responsibility to make a place for communities and the people I care about to cultivate conversations and bring the desired design into our built environment. Through a series of partnerships and workshops supporting existing nonprofits advocating for housing for all, I became invested in supporting the houseless community with resources and, eventually, in design and placemaking workshops that would lead to permanent supportive housing, transitional housing, and/or affordable housing.

About Adams Terrace: “Situated just blocks east of the intersection of Adams and Crenshaw Boulevard, within proximity to the Expo Crenshaw light rail station, Adams Terrace will offer to seniors at or below the 50 percent of the area’s median income, as well as formerly homeless/at-risk homeless seniors, 86 affordable/supportive homes with convenient access to a wide variety of community amenities. Sharp angles, clean lines, and storefront facades help inform the design of Adams Terrace, a new scattered-site, affordable housing development comprising two vacant urban infill sites in the West Adams neighborhood of Los Angeles.

Adams Terrace integrates the needs of the community in a vibrant residential community that prioritizes both form and function to deliver high-quality living and deepened community connectivity. Each residential structure is characterized by large storefront windows that provide ample light and offer seniors physical and visual connections to the street front. Additionally, balconies and large terraces with secure outdoor gathering areas extend livable space, while reducing the building’s visual mass within the neighborhood-at-large. One residential structure features a cantilevered section at the fourth floor to create a dynamic visual element that serves as a local landmark and anchors this culturally rich community. The development, hailed as a model for the future of affordable housing in Los Angeles, is expected to complete construction in Summer 2022.” —From Abode Communities

Catherine Hernandez is a Designer and Job Captain with Abode Communities, a nonprofit developer of affordable housing based in Los Angeles. She's a housing advocate and currently co-organizes with Design As Protest to hold design professionals accountable in reversing the violence and injustice that architecture, design, and urban planning practices have inflicted upon Black people and communities.

Lanise Howard’s Recent Works for a Solo Show Are About Connecting with Nature and the Past

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The lotus plant, representing renewal and transformation, is a recurring motif in Howard’s new paintings.
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From left: Sesen Moon and Alignment by Lanise Howard

Left: Sesen Moon, 2021 (Oil on canvas,  20 by 16 inches). Right: Alignment, 2021 (Oil on canvas,  40 by 30 inches).

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Lanise Howard, ’20 BFA Fine Arts

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My recent solo show with OOF Books, Eutierria, was inspired by my desire to connect with the past. I felt as though there has been a recent reinvestment into the ways of our indigenous past. I want to explore this in a series of several works that investigate the act of “eutierria,” or becoming one with nature. I wanted to place Black bodies in scenes that were rooted in ways of ritual. I thought about the times before slavery, when my ancestors worshipped the sun, the planets, and the stars. I wanted to show their connection with flora, and the reconnection with the earth. 

With Sessen Moon, I wanted to further explore the lotus motif. I’ve been using the lotus in recent works to talk about transformation of the self, which was originally inspired by a reoccurring dream. I then began to connect the dream with an ancient kemetic belief of the role of the lotus with the soul and the spirit. “Sesen” is the name for lotus in the ancient kemetic language. I came across this story of the lotus that blooms in the moon, and how it was seen as a time of renewal. I wanted to showcase that idea of change in the painting—the sky, mysterious, charged with movement and kinetic energy, the lotus in motion. 

Alignment is meant to explore this idea of aligning yourself with others and with the earth. I wanted there to be this aloofness in the painting. I wanted there to be no ground visible. I wanted to create a sense of the sphere of the earth. The figures are seen paired with the two lotus leaves on each side, continuing the lotus motif, and nodding to this idea of change. I wanted their expressions to be strong yet venerable, human.

Before graduating with her BFA last spring, Howard was the recipient of a Group Scholarship Award, an Academic Excellence Award, a Women Painters West scholarship, and was a finalist for an AXA Art Prize. She was recently included in the book, Tomorrow’s Talent Book Vol. II by Booooooom, and her work was recently included in the group show, Taking Up Space, at the Brea Gallery. Utierriera will be shown at Oof Books by appointment-only through May 9, 2021. In June, Howard will have a solo exhibition at Monti 8 gallery in Latina, Italy. For more information, please visit LaniseHoward.com and follow her on Instagram, @lanise_howard_studio.

Bao Tranchi’s Recent Collection Honors the Women Who Have Supported Her

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“This collection was a celebration of our customers,” the fashion designer says of what prompted her to return to her most iconic designs.
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Left to right: Images from the Spring 2021 collection by Bao Tranchi

Left to right: Images from the Spring 2021 collection by Bao Tranchi

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Bao Tranchi, ’99 BFA Fashion Design

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Last March 2020 the whole world came to a screeching halt. I looked over at my husband and was just shocked, my whole being filled with anxiety and worry. Not only was I 33-weeks pregnant, we had a six-year-old daughter who was going to be home schooled full-time now. We had a fashion business to carry on to keep supporting our girls. But how do you sell dresses and bodysuits to go out in when the whole world is shutting down? All I kept thinking was, “Please just let us make it to the end of the year.” Being at the end of my pregnancy, I was already physically encumbered. I couldn’t work non-stop to do whatever it takes like I would normally have. Added to this was a tumultuous election year. 

My husband and I took a deep breath and dived headfirst into 2020, taking on every single wave that was pummeling towards us. Fast forward a year later and I am so proud to say that we are on the other side of the tunnel now, and going stronger than ever. If there’s anything that Otis College teaches you, it is to stay true to who you are and keep on persevering especially during the most difficult of times. Adversity is what makes you look within to who you really are, as an artist, what your voice is, what your vision is, and what you want to be remembered for. 

Through this year our loyal customers kept us going, they kept us breathing. I went back to the roots of how the brand started—making unique, timeless investment pieces that become heirlooms, the highest-quality made pieces I would pass on to my own daughters. This collection was a celebration of our customers. These were the iconic styles that our brand became known for, the pieces that our customers kept purchasing, that they wore and everyone knew it was a Bao Tranchi. For this collection, I selected the most requested custom gowns and dresses that had been made exclusively for celebrities, and made them available in a ready-to-wear version for our customers. 

I wanted to design a collection that wasn’t based on forecast trends and what was happening. What can be the trend when the world shuts down? The truth is, trends don’t matter. What is most important above all is a women’s personal style that she has honed and curated for herself. This is forever the most important trend. I create a piece of art from which my customers then create their own art. I love that philosophy so much. Our core customer and their personal style was the inspiration. The collection is an ode to the women who wear and make the brand. It is women celebrating women, and celebrating them to always “own their sexy.”

Tranchi was a 2018-2019 mentor to Otis College Fashion Design program junior and senior students, whose work was featured in the Fashion Show and Benefit Dinner on May 4, 2019. To see more of Tranchi’s collections, as well as a gallery of celebrities like Jennifer Lopez, Gigi Hadid, and Brittney Spears wearing her designs, and to purchase from her collection, please visit BaoTranchi.com, and follow her on Instagram, @BaoTranchi.

Alexandria Wallace Creates Large Works Documenting Shadow Forms Observed over the Past Year

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Leaning on her work in both photography and painting, Wallace treats her canvas and a stencil as photo paper and negative.
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Shape Shifter Exterior (2021) by Alexandria Wallace

Shape Shifter Exterior, 2021 (Ink, spray paint, cut canvas, vellum, wood support; 168 by 96 inches)

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Alexandria Wallace, ’20 MFA Fine Arts

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This work is currently on view in a two-person exhibition, Soft Architectures, at the Irvine Fine Arts Center. It is one of two hanging canvas and vellum pieces titled Shape Shifter Exterior. Constructed of three sections of canvas, long sheets of semi-transparent vellum, ink, and acrylic paint, the work stretches 14 feet down from its 8-foot wide wooden support. It sits on the floor, dictating the viewer’s proximity to its facade. The piece is an index of shadow forms I have documented over the past year and compressed together through the use of stencils created from the original images. The result is a surface that appears as if it could separate into several planes of information. I am heavily influenced by my hybrid background as both a painter and photographer. I think of the canvas as photographic paper and the stencil like a negative. As I work, I am layering up multiple exposures of the same forms, which creates a record alluding to the passage of time and the rhythm of the sun.

Soft Architectures is on view at the Irvine Fine Arts Center through May 8, 2021. For more information, please visit AlexandriaWallace.com, and follow her on Instagram, @allywallace.