January 28th, 2016
Last Thursday, January 26th, I visited Alfred University’s Turner Gallery which hosted Figuring Shit Out, an art exhibition produced by Hannah Alvaro and Adrianna Enoch. Its premise lies partly in the title – figuring out how two things interact to create a cohesive space. This showcase consisted entirely of oil paintings, and depicted scenes of intimacy between men and women. However, the artists chose to swap the subjects’ gender roles. In contrast to the Renaissance and Baroque historical periods, Alvaro and Enoch decided to paint men as elongated and distorted figures while portraying women in more dominant roles. This aesthetic was further achieved through obscuring the male faces in an attempt to keep them objectified.
Above are just some of the works where we can see the implementation of these inverted roles, both labelled Untitled. Conceptually, it is in opposition with Early Modern Periods of art that stretched the feminine figure, keeping men as solid representations of strength. Whether it’s sharing the couch or taking up differing positions in the living room, couples have varying ways of expressing their intimacy. Perhaps, I should take from this and approach my work in accordance with my demographic. In graphic design, I’ll need to tailor my assignments for my clients and adapt to their wants while also utilizing my own creative intuition. As the above examples show us, inverting gender roles doesn’t need to be done in a way that is blatant – a slim man being backpacked strenuously up a steep hill by his feminine counterpart. The answer could root in something as simple, and subtle, as posture. There is always a less obvious solution and I encourage myself to make them more often. If I was designing a logo for a motor corporation per se, I may want to work through the creative process of playing with figures instead of instantly centering my icon around cars.
Reverting back to the exhibition’s theme, I must also work to “figure shit out” if you will. For this class in particular, there are a number of web-based assignments (creating an image browser, developing appealing website layouts, etc.) where I’ll need to make use of my space in a way that cleanly compensates for the amount of features the site will attribute. In the painting on the left above titled Electoral Hangover, Alvaro and Enoch conceptualize how two friends would interact with their back-alley environment if situated there. Similarly on the right, in Poppies, we see a owner-and-pet relationship where the artists once again need to sort out their ideas in regard to what they do or do not want to comprise an area. In Interactive Design, I’ll be pressed to not only progress my understanding of code, the programming.. but also to figure out what I’d like to do with the space I’m given. Should this widget be at the bottom-right or the bottom-left? Do I create a fixed sequence of images or allow my users to scroll through? Where should I place my search engine? What choices are most convenient for my users and therefore make sense? These are the questions I should be figuring out throughout the course of this course.
Adaptability and a strong sense of space are the two primary assets I’ve taken from this showcase. Just as this artistic duo of Alvaro and Enoch adapted their scenes of man-and-woman in accordance with their environment, I will need to adapt my content in accordance with my demographic. Interactions between the subjects and the furniture in the Untitleds correlate directly with the interaction online users will have with my websites. I, the producer, create the space that they, the consumer, take up. And there is no formula; the design process branches off in so many variant directions. Through thorough research of who I’m marketing to, I can make a website that fulfills the desires of that group, and through careful sketches and blueprints of how I’d like things to look, I can keep that demographic intrigued with an appealing platform.