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Alumnx Spotlights

Five Artists Share New Work and What Inspired Them

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The pandemic and recent social unrest have made a profound impact on these five Otis College alumnx.
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Darel Carey Explores a New Breakthrough in Digital Art

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Known more for his tape installations and murals, Carey shares new animated work.
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Ripple - Natural Currents

Ripple, 2020

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Darel Carey, ’16 BFA Fine Arts

I created this piece, Ripple, and two others in a series called Natural Currents. It’s actually an animation, this is just a still. The series was inspired by the forces of nature, the currents that flow in nature. These pieces are digital artworks that I sold on a crypto art platform, Nifty Gateway, where digital art can be minted as non-fungible tokens (NFTs), enabling them to hold their value and authenticity, which is a real breakthrough in digital art, giving digital artists an ability that only traditional artists have had for centuries. 

Most of the art I’ve been creating for the last several years has been physical in nature: tape installations, murals, drawings, and paintings. For the past few years, in particular, I was very busy, on the go all the time. Once the pandemic hit, the type of work I had been doing, which involved a lot of travel, slowed down quite a bit. I found myself with more time to explore other avenues, and the continued need to keep creating. I’ve always dabbled in digital elements, but haven’t delved deep into it until recently. Once I discovered the crypto art world, and the verifiability of NFTs, I thought it was the perfect time to get more serious about creating my art digitally. 

As far as the piece, Ripple, a lot of what inspires my work is related to how nature works. How simple processes repeat and scale and more complexity emerges. The process of my practice is natural and organic. The way that I build a piece is cumulative, whereby the placement of each line is dependent on where the previous line was placed, and so on. I follow the process, guiding the lines along the way, but also being guided by the lines along the way, a sort of back-and-forth balance, a conversation.

What emerges as a result is something more complex than the sum of its parts. Each individual line is only there in relation to the lines next to it, none of them aware of the role they play in creating curvature and perceived depth. The piece as a whole is an illusion of three-dimensional forms, formed by two-dimensional lines arranged in a particular way. I say my work is organic because I don’t plan out exactly how a piece will look, or where each line will be. I can’t, really. I can only plan it out in a general way by deciding on the rules I will follow. I look at the big picture and pay attention to the details, everything in between works itself out. And my process translates well into the digital realm, where I’m able to use the same principles. 

Ripple is referring to ripples in water in a loose, abstract way. By starting at a central point and expanding outwards, following the organically made lines, a visual ripple effect is achieved, crudely mimicking the movements we see in nature.

Darel Carey installed the mural, Dimensions in Time, at Otis College—now downloadable as a virtual background here—for its centennial in 2018. For more information, please visit DarelCarey.com and follow Carey on Instagram, @darelcarey

Teresa Flores Explores Her Chicanx Roots Through Dance

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Her recent work came out of rearranging her living space during the pandemic’s stay-at-home orders.
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Got It From My Mama, 2020 (Video)

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Teresa Flores, ’13 MFA Public Practice

Since quarantine began I’ve rearranged my living room to open up space for making art, making money, educating myself, and building up my health. My small space shifts between art studio, yoga studio, video production house, educational space, napping place, and dance floor. Having the ability to practice and produce in my home leaves me with only my internal resistance. 

On a solid day, I examine the source of my own resistance and challenge myself to use the physical space to break through. Very often I have connected the dots leading back to colonization and assimilation within myself and my family’s culture, and I am compelled to examine them in my work. 

Got It From My Mama is a day in the life of a Chicana practicing the Latin dances she was never taught. My focus drifts between the screen and my body. It’s an exercise in teaching the body to remember without mirrors to reflect and build a muscular memory. It’s a reflection of the diasporic relationship we all carry within us.

Flores LR Print

Flores working in her apartment, which is at the center of her video piece, Got It From My Mama, 2020

Flores LR Set

Flores’s apartment while work is in progress 

Flores LR Studio

A glimpse into Flores’s multi-purpose work space

Flores LR Wide

“Since quarantine began I’ve rearranged my living room to open up space for making art, making money, educating myself, and building up my health,” Flores writes.

Flores LR Couch

The artist in her apartment

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Flores’s works, Tortilla Burning and Rose Smith Gaytan, were featured in “Centennial: 100 Years of Otis College Alumni,” last year. Earlier this year she designed “TamaYoga: An Experiential Art” as part of LACMA’s exhibition, “Rufino Tamayo: Experimentation and Innovation.” For more information, please visit TeresaFloresStudio.com and follow Flores on Instagram, @TereesaFloores.

Nikkolos Mohammed Created Pandemic-Era Cheerleader Skirts

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The artist typically uses sports analogies to comment on the times.
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Admit You Lost, 2020 (Charcoal, graphite, and flashe on paper; drawing on sports card, 41 by 22.5 inches)

Admit You Lost, 2020 (Charcoal, graphite, and flashe on paper; drawing on sports card, 41 by 22.5 inches)

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Nikkolas Mohammed, ’13 BFA Fine Arts

Produced during the COVID-19 quarantine, the concept for these works stemmed from the temperament of the times we were in. My art practice conceptually uses sports analogies to describe social ideas, and technically has a three-dimensional quality to historically two-dimensional mediums. In the vein of sports, the cheerleader has an athletic, yet specific role: to be the bridge of the athletes to the audience, and vice versa. All media, from television to social media platforms, rally people and recruit fans for their cause—becoming the era of the “cheerleader.” 

The imagery used in the skirts juxtapose Eastern religious head garbs in comparison to Western athletes using towels on their heads at resting times during a sports game. The repetitive form of the skirts compare the emotions of these two different cultural experiences through the same symbol.

Consolidated Power

Consolidated Power, 2020 (Urethane and flashe on paper; drawings on sports cards, 34 by 42 inches)

Consolidated Power

Consolidated Power, 2020 (Urethane and flashe on paper; drawings on sports cards, 34 by 42 inches)

Admit You Lost

Consolidated Power, 2020 (Urethane and flashe on paper; drawings on sports cards, 34 by 42 inches)

Matador Fail

Matador Fail, 2020 (Oil and urethane on canvas; urethane on lace, urethane on paper; drawings on sports cards, 68 by 68 inches)

Matador Fail

Matador Fail, 2020 (Oil and urethane on canvas; urethane on lace, urethane on paper; drawings on sports cards, 68 by 68 inches)

Admit You Lost

Admit You Lost, 2020 (Charcoal, graphite, and flashe on paper; drawing on sports card, 41 W by 22.5 inches)

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In addition to the cheerleading skirts, throughout the composition are added drawings on actual sports cards. Removal of areas within the sports cards reveal new narratives dealing with social consciousness.

Nikkolos Mohammed cofounded Dreamhaus, a nonprofit art collective based in South Central Los Angeles, with fellow Otis alumnx Mike Reesé (’13 BFA Communication Arts). Most recently, Mohammed’s work was shown in the exhibition, “Public Access,” at HVW8 (an online tour of which can be viewed here). For more information, please visit NikkolosMohammed.com and follow Mohammed on Instagram, @honorablemohammed.

Hayley Quentin Works on Small, Internal Pieces after a Brief Hiatus

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Among the Treasures and Dark Star represent some of the artist’s smallest works to date.
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Among the Treasures, Dark Star

Left: Among The Treasures, 2020 (Oil on canvas, 8 by 6 inches)
Right: Dark Star, 2020 (Oil on canvas, 8 by 6 inches)

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Hayley Quentin, ’08 BFA Fine Arts 

I hadn’t painted in six months, from March through to August. These were the first pieces made after said hiatus. I felt small and drawn inwards. Still do. These paintings are so tiny, the smallest I’ve ever worked. I have always felt like my paintings capture a frozen moment in time, one drawn out into infinite possibility. Now it seems those possibilities are shrinking, smaller and smaller. These paintings are twin senses, like longing and desire.

These pieces were recently shown in “Exhibition 2020” at Ro2 Art in Dallas, TX. I continued to work on this small series of paintings in my studio.

Hayley Quentin recently cofounded LUCTA-LA, an online art school that counts among its teaching artists Ally Wallace (’20 MFA Fine Arts). For more information, please visit HayleyQuentin.com and follow her on Instagram, @its_hayleyquentin.

Alison Saar Finds Inspiration in the History of Song as Protest

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One of her latest works, Torch Song, pays homage to blues singers like Nina Simone, as well as Mexican revolutionaries.
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Torch Song, 2020, Alison Saar

Torch Song, 2020 (Wood, ceiling tin, copper, found belt and piano keys, 72 by 24 by 24 inches)

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Alison Saar, ’81 MFA Fine Arts

As a response to all the vitriol in our nation, I looked for solace in the history of song as protest. Traditionally, a torch song is a lament of lost love, but in the legacy of the blues, songs of protest were often presented under the guise of a love song. Nina Simone, Bessie Smith, Billie Holiday, and Sister Rosetta Thorpe, just to name a few, were all fierce in their resistance to racism and bigotry. Angry times called for angry songs. Today, as we yet again find ourselves in turmoil, in my piece, Torch Song, the chanteuse is righteous and passionate. In her hand the “torch” has been transformed from the smoldering embers of a jilted lover to a fistful of flame, a beacon, a call to rise and fight. Music is her weapon, and piano keys are worn as bandoliers across her chest, paying tribute to the Mexican revolutionaries Emiliano Zapata, Petra “Pedro” Herrera, and other soldaderas in their struggle for equity and human rights.

Alison Saar currently is featured in the exhibitions, “45 at 45: L.A. Louver Celebrates 45 Years with 45 Artists” at L.A. Louver through January 16, 2021, as well as  “Of Aether and Earthe,” through December 19, 2020 at The Armory Center for the Arts in Pasadena and the Benton Museum of Art at Pomona College. Her work, Grow’d, also was featured as part of Otis College’s show, “Centennial: 100 Years of Otis College Alumni.” She is represented by L.A. Louver. For more information, please visit Saar’s page on the L.A. Louver website here.

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If you are an Otis alumnx who would like to be featured in a future spotlight, please let us know here.