Art and Visual Culture

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Food Pirates: An exploration of food, technology and the future through sequential art

2017-01-01 , Alsbury, Bridgette , Brent Holland , Art and Visual Culture

This document serves as accompaniment and commentary for the exhibition, “Food Pirates. Food, Technology, Pirates and the Future” which was shown March 29th through April 9th, 2017 at Design on Main in Ames, Iowa. The work comprised of the first issue of the comic book series, Food Pirates. This document serves as a supplement to the exhibit, examining background material used to build the world the comic is set in, current and historical practices in the comics industry, influences, and processes used to create the finished work.

This body of work is an exploration of what happens when I attempt to blend my need to build systems and organize chaos, with my love of technology, and the satisfaction I find in working with both words and images. It starts with a bunch of questions about food, the future, and pirates.

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Culture and my art

2017-01-01 , Chen, Xin , CHRISTOPHER J. MARTIN , Art and Visual Culture

This thesis is an account of my development as an artist. It is partly a cultural study, and partly a reflection of what has inspired my journey. It explores the cultural impact and intersections between Chinese and Western cultures that affect my work, and offers insights into my artistic experiences. I pull from a variety of sources for the purpose of explaining how my immersion in two cultures has changed the way I see and produce art. Here I try to offer a deeper understanding of the cultural meanings and social issues that are evident in my work and are important to me and others. My thesis is divided in four sections. In part one, I reflect on my personal experiences growing up in China, my immersion in Chinese culture, and my later pursuit of higher education in the United States. In part two, I offer a cultural study of Chinese and Western Cultures, and how I have been affected by Western culture. In part three, I reflect on my artistic production as I describe and explain eleven pieces I produced during my MFA study. I conclude my thesis by discussing my plans to move from studio furniture to mass-produced furniture.

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Kill line

2017-01-01 , Miller, Jeff , Austin Stewart , Art and Visual Culture

The struggle of ambition against the realities of faceless labor has been a driving force in my art. This body of work draws from labor-based jobs that exist within a hog slaughtering plant located in my hometown and from childhood interests in arcade games, Halloween costumes, and horror movies. The juxtaposition of these topics combined with a mixed-media approach provides an alternative method with which to approach issues such as working class struggle and the fear of failure.

Repetition through imagery and motion is a constant throughout my work, such as in the Kill Line Arcade. This project presents six different video games that display various jobs on a hog processing line. The games are presented within an arcade-style cabinet and provides players an 8-bit voyeuristic view into the real-life monotonous job tasks that others go through. Other projects such as The Worker Line and the Kids Projects touch on the consequences of giving into failure and lack of identity within factory settings.

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Tackling the ‘right’ problem: Investigating cognitive strategies used in understanding design problems

2017-01-01 , Studer, Jaryn , Seda McKilligan , Art and Visual Culture

Looking beyond the provided or presented problem can allow new perspectives to emerge, revealing the potential for more varied and creative solutions. Current engineering and design research has primarily focused on the generation of ideas, and little research has investigated how engineering designers engage in identifying and refining problem definitions, a process called “problem exploration.” Past research has established that knowledge about how to perform problem exploration is important for improving our understanding of how presented problems turn into successful design solutions. However, existing problem exploration methods are not based on learning theory, and there is little empirical evidence about their effectiveness in education or practice. Therefore, the goal of this research is to investigate how engineering and industrial design students and practitioners explore problem spaces. The results characterize the cognitive strategies evident in finding, developing, and refining design problems.

This paper presents the results of two studies on the cognitive processes engineers and designers use to explore and define problems. Overall, the results demonstrated that problem exploration is associated with making shifts in design decisions. The first study focused on problem exploration strategies used by engineering and design practitioners through a content analysis of problem statements from web-based design competitions calling for novel solutions. The analysis resulted in an initial set of problem exploration strategies, or cognitive heuristics, extracted from the submitted solutions. The results also demonstrated that a single presented problem can be redefined by designers in a number of different ways. The second study examined individual cognitive processes through a think-aloud protocol study of five engineering design students (senior and graduate level) as they explored presented problems. The results of this study provided a more in-depth look at the problem exploration process, and demonstrated that while common problem exploration heuristics emerged, each engineer displayed a distinct way of looking at the problem.

These results will support the development of instructional materials for dissemination in both educational and practice settings in order to assist students, educators, and practitioners in their problem exploration processes. The project findings will help to better prepare designers and engineers to develop problem descriptions that represent core needs, and to frame them in ways that facilitate innovative solutions, ultimately resulting in solutions that address the real problems of the 21st Century.

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Transitions in the Design Process

2017-01-01 , Amman, Monica , Steven Herrnstadt , Art and Visual Culture

The proposed research uses empirical methods to investigate designers’ use of research

throughout the design process with an emphasis on research and idea generation. The goal is to explore the factors which impact the various phases of the design process. The early phase of the design process is often referred to as the “fuzzy front end” where many variables are still in play and the design direction is not completely agreed upon. This is also when the designer is conducting user research. The connection between the user research and the design solutions that designers move forward is critical. This connection creates a space in which the designer can ensure they are approaching this process as a user-centered process.

This research explores these topics through observation of junior level industrial design students at one Midwestern university in a project-based design studio and takes place for the duration of one project. A total of four students were observed. The structure was set up that they were a team for early research, then splitting into three separate projects where two students worked together and two worked individually.

The researcher’s observations for each designer are then followed up by a reflection interview in which the designer was asked to reflect on their own design process and to investigate their thought processes in choosing which research information they felt applied to their solutions and how this implementation might impact the outcome. This method is used to observe actions and behaviors during the design process allowing for observation of designers in their natural setting.

Therefor the question of what happens to research throughout the design process is explored. Building on new research in cognitive and decision sciences, along with studies of design students, the goal is to study the role of research throughout the design process. Possible application of this research would be in developing a framework that demonstrates implementation techniques of this knowledge for new teaching methods, among others.

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Inconsequential plan for reorganizing the value of art in the public sphere

2017-01-01 , Greiner, Mathew , Austin Stewart , Art and Visual Culture

The core argument of this document is that many art practices and the experiences of the artists performing them are fundamentally incompatible with late capitalism and secondarily, with much of its influence in academia. Art is often subsumed into the current late capitalism paradigm. When this happens, its ability to critique or dissent is blunted or removed. It may also undergo subtle changes in order to approximate compatibility with the market. None of these changes are inherently wrong. They limit and mutate the practice of art to better fit popular expectations, and therefore, they exclude some of the most vibrant and crucial roles art has performed in human society since its inception. The author’s research attempts to live outside of these expectations to demonstrate the possibility of alternatives. This document’s satire reflects the uncomfortable existence of art in the current paradigm. It is compounded by the necessity of directly stating this satire in order to satisfy the Iowa State Graduate College’s thesis requirements, which mandated significant alterations to the text and its form.

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Building Eugene

2017-01-01 , Obbink, Matthew , Chris J. Martin , Art and Visual Culture

Building Eugene is the culmination of a great collaboration across generations. Bringing the ideas of my great, great, great uncle, Eugene R. Obbink, to life was my greatest challenge to date. His entire life lay out in front of me, through the pages of a small journal discovered in a box in my grandmother’s attic. In it, he tells stories of distant lands, traveling across the country in a rail car, and working in the circus. Eugene did all this while trying to prove himself as a great inventor and craftsman. Only a few images of him actually still exist, found in the box along with the journal. I needed to dig deeper into his life, to understand who he was. I did this by recreating his ideas; some I admit were pretty obscure, but truly ahead of their time. Throughout this thesis and exhibition, I understood that in order to imagine the life of Eugene, I had to develop his ideas first: a collapsible, self-portrait apparatus, a bench that sounds like a train, a rocking chair that counts, and thumb guards for an anxious nail biter, just to name a few. I created my own works from the ideas of Eugene’s journal, utilizing my skills as a woodworker and metalsmith, along with modern equipment, to achieve my goals. That goal was to create an experience for the viewer—one where each person could walk through the exhibition, interacting with the work itself, and coming to have a greater understanding of who Eugene was. In addition they could see a part of the life he lived, along with the person I am, and how I create my work. My personal experiences with wood and metal are very different from Eugene’s; however, we do connect on many levels: understanding the quality and traditions of craft, knowing the importance of a good sense of humor, and having a love for travel. As you read this thesis, and interact with the work, I hope that you will be able to look into the window of a different time, a place where there was an entire life full of invention and adventure.

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A world in a flower

2017-01-01 , Chen, Xiaohan , Christine Carr , Art and Visual Culture

Since photography was invented, it was used to record the beauty of life. I made an abstract photography project using flowers as my subject to borrow colors and shapes from nature. I use cut flowers since they are separated from the whole plant and only survive a few days. I use long exposure as a transformative process to create abstract photography, and freeze the fleeting beauty.

I was inspired by Hiroshi Sugimoto and Wynn Bullock. Sugimoto’s Seascapes inspired me to incorporate basic elements of nature while Lightning Fields encouraged me to explore my process. Bullock’s works of using broken glass to create different scenes enlightened me to produce works that transform the subject matter.

‘To see a world in a flower, and a bodhi in a leaf” is one of the most important Buddhist philosophies. It explains how a world of information may be discovered through a simple object, like a flower. A flower contains a wide range of information from the earth to the sun it grew with. By moving my camera while shooting, I attached my feelings at different moments into the photos and expressed myself with the flowers. As viewers wander through my arrangement of hanging fabric prints, they react to the overall presentation with their own personal experiences and feelings. It’s an unusual way to appreciate flowers, and another new world of feelings could be triggered through the walking process. The gallery installation features large silk hanging fabric, and it allows viewers to wander through and lose themselves in it.

The series includes the blooming flowers as a way to explore ephemerality and eternity. When I look at the images I forget who I am. I experience movement, color, and form. There’s another world that can be found within one flower. The viewers are connecting to the macro world as they lose themselves a little bit.

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The Jade Emperor: Identifying a Chinese Ceramic Sculpture

2017-04-11 , Knight, Mackenzie , Art and Visual Culture

A ceramic sculpture in the collection of the Brunnier Museum at Iowa State University depicts a bearded male figure sitting in front of a flaming mandorla, a background used to frame and imbue a transcendent quality to spiritual figures. The piece is covered with green and orange glaze. Tradition Chinese calligraphy runs down the center of the mandorla. The sculpture is simply titled Figurine and Throne by the Museum and attributed to the Tang dynasty (618-907 C.E.). My research has identified the figure as the Jade Emperor, and thanks to interpretations of the calligraphy by Dr. Li Tonglu and Dr. Stephen Eskildsen we can date it to the Ming dynasty (1368-1644). The Jade Emperor is an important Taoist Deity who is the supreme ruler over heaven and earth. He is often depicted, like the ceramic figure, wearing a ceremonial cap called mien with hanging jade beads. His cult was especially encouraged during the Ming Dynasty, a fact which supports the re-dating of the piece to that period.

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Recognition of symbols in different cultures: Chinese culture vs. non-Chinese culture

2017-01-01 , Shen, Tian , Sunghyun Kang , Art and Visual Culture

Graphic design in different countries exhibits strong cultural characteristics of the countries. The beauty of cultural differences is commonly viewed as making graphic design unique and valuable. Alternately, the diversity of cultures may also result in unsatisfactory design due to a cultural barrier between the designer and people who are from a different cultural background. As a graphic designer, creating high-quality visual information that satisfies consumers with different cultural backgrounds is very important. Misinterpretation and misunderstanding of some cultures may result in design failure or cause conflict between different cultural groups. This study compares the acceptance levels of various kinds of symbols between people with a Chinese cultural background and those with a background that is not culturally Chinese. For this comparative study, three representative objects were selected: dragon, monkey and fish. For each object, three symbols were selected or designed. An online survey was conducted among currently enrolled students at Iowa State University to evaluate people’ acceptance of these symbols. This study found that people from different cultural backgrounds perceive meaning of symbols differently. The choices they made were influenced by which ethnic group they came from. When looking at the same set of objects, participants from the same ethnic group tend to make the same choices. In addition, the study results also indicate that Chinese symbols do have strong cultural characteristics that can be easily distinguished from Western symbol designs. With the influence of cultural differences on symbols changing over time, the trend is that Chinese style becomes more recognizable by people from other ethnicities and who speak other languages.