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Fine Art Gets Technical

Alumni find ways to combine art and technology

Posted 11.01.12 by mica communications

Yu-Jean Lee ’10 (Mount Royal School of Art), "Passages," installation detail, video projections, 2012.

MICA alumni have long been pioneers in their crafts. Today, many are bridging the gap between fine art and technology, demonstrating the two fields have more in common than many people think.

When Joyce Yu-Jean Lee ’10 (Mount Royal School of Art) came to MICA, she was happy with her work as an abstract oil painter. But the interdisciplinary nature of the program “gives you room to explore a lot of  different media,” she said. In that spirit, she tried her hand at video. “I was able to merge my interest in painting with digital media,” she explained.

Today, Lee is a fine artist that uses technology for her art. She is also an adjunct instructor and lecturer at MICA, where she is teaching Electronic Media Arts and Culture and Professional Practices for the Visual Artist this fall.

“I think the moving image, digital media, and the Internet have really changed the way people consume visual information,” Lee said. “What I’m trying to do with video is create something that still references and maybe even looks like a painting at first, but then when people realize it’s moving ever so subtly, they’re challenged to continue watching to see what will happen.” The whole idea is to inspire people to take a break from their busy schedules for a little self reflection and art appreciation. “If my art can create a still moment in that person’s day, then I feel like I’ve done my job.”

When Jenny Kendler ’02Jenny Kendler'02 (general fine arts) Pagan Archipelago, hand-sculpted paperclay, watercolor, synthetic hair on shelf fungus. (general fine arts) noticed many of her artist friends needed help creating websites to show their portfolios online, she
and her computer programmer husband Brian Kirkbride were inspired to fill that need.

“We really wanted to help people, but we couldn’t design websites from scratch for every single person. Instead of making individual websites, we set out to make a website that creates websites,” she explained. In 2005, the idea came to fruition under the name OtherPeoplesPixels.

An artist without a website is at a huge disadvantage, a fact Kendler learned when she took her first web design class at MICA. “The whole point of the class was to get an artist portfolio site online,” she recalled. “A website gives you this enormous reach so you’re able to share your work in a way you never could before,” she said. “We have customers writing us all the time telling us they got gallery representation because someone found their website online.”

In addition to running the business, Kendler continues to practice her craft as a multimedia artist with a focus on environmental issues. Her time at MICA also helped to prepare Kendler for the multiple projects she juggles. “It was a good program for me because it was really multidisciplinary,” she said.

K. David Fong ’11 (interaction design & art), The Pillar, wood, steel, steel cable, mirrors, electroluminescent tape, 2011For K. David Fong ’11 (interaction design & art), technology is a great facilitator. “There’s always been a really great interaction when engineers and artists get together,” he said. “It has led artists to branch out and use more technology than we’re accustomed to.”

The collaboration is evident in his own work, in which Fong uses mirrors along with added light to create the illusion of infinite depth.

“I’m really interested in using space architecturally and exploring what opening up a space like that can mean both to ourselves and to the environment around us,” he said. Fong has also spent time working as a glassblower, a skill he learned through summer classes at MICA.

Fong credits MICA with expanding his network, as well as creating a forum for him and his peers to help each other advance their careers.

Today, in addition to managing his studio practice, Fong works part-time as an art handler at the C. Grimaldis Gallery in Baltimore. He also plans to launch an art handling business of his own. “All collectors are wildly different people, and it’s really interesting to see the breadth of things out there and where so much of our art goes.”

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Image captions (top to bottom): Jenny Kendler '02 (general fine arts), Pagan Archipelago, hand-sculpted paperclay, watercolor, synthetic hair on shelf fungus; K. David Fong '11 (interaction design & art), The Pillar, wood, steel, steel cable, mirrors, electroluminescent tape, 2011.