COVID-19 and the Making of Art

Like so many other events during the time of COVID-19, the 12th Annual Stern Senior Show 2021 has had to move its exhibition online. In “normal” times, the show would have opened at the Yeshiva University Museum on the day before the YU commencement, on May 25, 2021, in a gallery designed by the students themselves with the guidance of design faculty and museum staff.

But the senior artists, undaunted by these obstacles, managed to transition their show, titled In/Tension, to a virtual one with the help of Traci Tullius, associate professor of art, co-chair of the Department of Fine Arts and Music and director of the Studio Art program, and Mary Creede, instructor in art.

Image of the words In Tension, the name of the senior art show

The exhibition name, according to the preface of the exhibition, “embodies the shared experience of searching for the best way to succeed within the unusual conditions that characterized this tumultuous year, both in our artistic practices and our lives.These unwelcome circumstances have led us to think intently about history and other preexisting phenomena which have drastically changed over the past year, and we’ve used this unintended change to our advantage, spurring us to think about ways certain staples or functions of the world can be altered for the better; altered in a way that spawns a new, unexpected perspective.”

In/Tension presents the work of Frida Bassan, Shira Levitt, Goldie Sion, Rena Cantor, Adena Loboda, Chana Tropper, Neriah Hadad, Dassie Okin and Rayna Wasserman. Below are their thumbnail introductions to their “sections” of the gallery. (The site design was done by Rena Cantor, Baila Landa, Adena Loboda and Shira Levitt.)

Frida Bassan

Four works displaying dresses by Frida Bassan

For my senior project, I am arranging several fashion figures wearing dresses made from different materials I’ve collected. I decided to use mixed media instead of just drawing each gown because I enjoy coming up with new ideas using materials that are not necessarily meant for that exact purpose.

The fashion figures will be placed on a pastel sky background as if they are floating. Each figure will be passing a piece of the material to the next figure that is wearing the dress made of that material. I decided to make the figures somewhat abstract and not so detailed so that the attention would be drawn more towards their garments and the construction.

This project combines my interests for fashion and discovering new materials to use in unexpected ways.

Rena Cantor

Collection of cookies decorated in sea themes and colors.

For my project, I created and designed a site page reflecting the ideas I have for a hypothetical nautical-themed bakery. This project was meant to explore my interest in graphic design as well as the tactile arts and includes elements of each, such as logos, signage, and two- and three-dimensional pieces.

I originally decided on this project because it combines two of my favorite pastimes, art and baking, and I thought it would be enjoyable to create something based on my love for both.

However, throughout the process, I have realized that there is much more of a connection between these two activities than just the fact that I enjoy them. Throughout my art education, I have learned to appreciate the importance of starting from scratch; much like in baking, it is advantageous to begin with the “raw ingredients.” Even when creating digital artwork, it is crucial to start with simple sketches, to put your ideas on paper, to work with your hands and use tangible materials to formulate your thoughts.

Jumping straight to the canvas or computer is like using a cake mix—it works, but it won’t yield the best results. If, however, you do take the time and effort to deliberate and sketch out your thoughts, to explore all your options and discover what works and what doesn’t, you have a much better chance at producing something successful.

Neriah Hadad

Composite of drawings based on photos of Neirah Hadad

Everyone struggles to find the inner beauty within themselves. This assortment of mixed-media canvases thematically and visually connects not only my interest in fashion, photography and art but also reflects on themes of self-love and self-loathing.

I used my own photography to create photo collages as well as incorporate my painting skills. The black, straight lines portrayed in all but one of the canvases represent the feeling of self-loathing and of being put in a box. The black lines never connect to show the process of the box coming apart in order to finally achieve self-love. Therefore, the final canvas doesn’t have any black straight lines to show the fulfillment of self-love. The canvases are arranged in the evolution from self-loathing to self-love.

​By repeating the same techniques, shapes and colors, the pieces connect visually and thematically as well as emphasize the importance and meaning of the themes. The repetition of the visual elements not only unifies the pieces but also shows that even though she is evolving into a new person, her past is always with her.

This series follows the journey of a girl overcoming self-loathing and reaching the point of self-love through the evolution process of revulsion, perception, ambition, reflection, emersion and infatuation.

Shira Levitt

Decadent Coffee Co.

Design of a can and tote bag for the Decadent Coffee Co. of Shira Levitt

For my senior project, I wanted to explore some areas that were a bit outside of my comfort zone. That’s why I created Decadent Coffee Co., a hypothetical online coffee vendor based around the theme of time and decades.

I designed patterns and color groupings for each decade, creating a series of “blends” of coffee, each with its own design. Throughout my process, I was able to explore patterning, packaging design, marketing and so many more skills that I believe will help me advance my career in graphic design.

​And who knows? Maybe one day you’ll see Decadent Coffee available for purchase in your local supermarket….

Adena Loboda

Adina Lobada and her composite of postcards.

Adina Lobada's great-grandmother in front of pyramid in EgyptFor my senior project, I created a series of five compositions inspired by an image of my great-grandmother, Mama Helen.

Using photography and graphic design, I recreated this image that was taken in front of the Pyramids of Giza in Egypt in the 1930s.

The additional four compositions depict some of her descendants. I photographed my family members, and placed them digitally in front of a widely recognized location, landmark or city. These designs are inspired by Mid-Century Modern postcards or travel posters.

When the original photo was taken, my great-grandmother was far away from home and her family. Similarly, these days it is nearly impossible for my entire family to gather together because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The location/landmark for each design also has a personal connection; for example, my sister is placed in front of Macchu Picchu in Peru because that is one of her favorite places she has visited, and my brother is placed at the Western Wall because that’s the only place outside of America that he has ever traveled to.

Each piece includes texture, vector graphics and small pieces of a handwritten letter that my great-grandmother wrote for my mother. Through the combination of photography and design, I am bringing out some of the similarities of my great-grandmother then and the world we live in today.

Dassie Okin

My senior project is titled “Women Without Men.” I was inspired by historical photographs featuring women. The common tie among the pictures is that the subjects’ eyes seem to cry “listen to me, I have a story to share.”

Women’s narratives are sorely lacking in the annals of history, and I would like to rectify that, to give these forgotten women a voice, even if only hypothetical. I want to illustrate that a woman doesn’t need a man to have a purpose, to have feelings and opinions worthy of being heard. I find that women often feel stifled by the presence of men, hiding their true selves behind socially appropriate behavior. I want the women in my compositions to feel free and uninhibited.

Each of my illustrations was inspired by a vintage found photograph and is accompanied by a short story or written snapshot imagining the lives and emotions of the women depicted.

The illustrations were drawn in either colored pencil or charcoal, or painted with acrylics, depending on what I felt the image required.

I want these women to feel real to the viewer, to take a black and white photograph and paint a technicolor picture of the lives they might have led.

Goldie Sion

A person's head is replaced by a vibrant bouquet of flowers by Goldie Sion

My senior project reflects how I want to practice art therapy.

It all started when I asked a variety of people to visualize specific emotions, and based on that experience I developed my own series of graphite and digital ideas.

I started my research by interacting with people and asking them to draw how they picture each emotion I gave them and to write down their own definition of it. The list of emotions were anxiety, trapped, fear, awkwardness, confusion, excitement, freedom and sympathy.

I asked people of all ages and both male and female. The responses I got were remarkable. Being able to dive deep into the human mind was fascinating and very educational. It opened up my mind to this vast world with so many different perspectives.

When the coronavirus hit, I had to be more creative on how I wanted to move forward with this project. I ended up doing my own graphite drawings on the emotions I had listed before. I was able to experience the other side of this project and I loved it. I was able not only to see how other people felt and expressed their emotions but also mine!

The graphite drawings were so expressive and liberating. I loved it so much I wanted to try it on a different medium, which was digital illustrations. I used colors on this part of the project to help me express myself further. It brought movement and life to the images I was creating. I’m hoping that this project will help people be expressive and not be afraid to communicate their feelings and even more so in a creative way.

Chana Tropper

Model of a two-story house by Chana Tropper

For my graduation project, I created a multifaceted project to showcase many of the skills I learned in college and their practical application in the interior design field.

The overarching concept was to redesign my childhood home, both the interior and exterior, including landscaping. Some rooms remained untouched while others were repurposed or fully renovated.

I began by taking measurements of the actual home and drawing up current floor plans in ¼” scale from scratch, since there are no floor plans to date. Using the floor plans, I built a virtual 3D model of the home in SketchUp.

Then on translucent paper I drew the renovated floor plan; in this way, the two floor plans can be overlaid so the alterations can be directly seen.

Finally, I constructed a physical 3D structure of the two-story, fully renovated, home. The structure is made up of three separate forms that can be stacked to see the house from the outside as well as separated to see details on the individual floors.

Rayna Wasserman

Cover of the It Looks Cooler This Way catalgoue

My older brother’s attention to detail and innovative thinking taught me many things in life and led me to establish the philosophy for the collection that I will be sharing today.

Max’s love for fashion and innovation trickled down into the most basic items hanging in his closet. A specific blue graphic T-shirt had always stuck out to me because of the story it held. He viewed the main graphic on the tee as more captivating when worn inside-out. He would often receive comments informing him of the fact, but his response was instinctive: “It’s inside out on purpose because it looks cooler this way.”

When the shirt was eventually passed down to me, I honored the history and continued to wear it as so. When I began receiving the comments just as he did, I did not think twice before responding, “It looks cooler this way.” The instinctive and unapologetic reaction sparked the idea for a streetwear brand that revolves around garments intentionally produced to be worn inside-out.

The inspiration continues under Louis XV’s reign in 18th-century Europe when fascination with all things Asian reached its peak. With the lack of firsthand experience, the ways of the Eastern world were mysteriously intriguing. The mystique led the British and French population to embrace and, in many ways, appropriate Asian motifs in art, fashion and home furnishings.

The juxtaposition between decorative chinoiserie and explosive French fashion of the Rococo era create a detailed union, mirrored in the patterns used below. Studying the history of art at all levels aided in conducting successful primary and contemporary research in preparation for my collection.

The entirety of my fine arts education has opened my eyes to understanding the world through color theory and obscure attention to detail. The joint program between Yeshiva University and The Fashion Institute of Technology provided me with the tools to proficiently utilize the Adobe Creative Suite while simultaneously understanding the functionality of garments.

In designing and producing the It Looks Cooler this Way line, these skills allowed me to create the original hand-drawn logos, digital fashion mockups, fashion sketches, and mixed media collages. Further, I completed an independent study in ’zine-making over the past year that inspired me to incorporate an electronic catalogue of collage art as the main branding avenue for the collection.

Computer design and fashion design are both heavily founded upon precision and perception. There is a reason Max believed that wearing his shirt this way was “cooler.” It is, on a technical level, more attractive to the eye because of the subtle details it encapsulates, similar to traditional chinoiserie.

To intentionally replicate an inside-out shirt, one must study the shift in detail. When dealing with the inside-out garment, the manipulation of color presents itself as faded and lightened. To replicate this effect, I’ve applied the soft light filter to the logo at 100%-70% opacity. Further, the seams on all the garments in the collection will present as inside out, and the tags will be sewn on the outer neck. With this project, I hope to convince you that art is intelligent, just as it is a science of perception and precision.

It Looks Cooler This way, or ILCTW, is not only a brand but an ideology. It encapsulates living unapologetically through detailed function. We, as humans, must not fear the reaction we may get when attempting authenticity but thrive off of it. Make the active decision every day to think differently because it’s cooler this way.