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BY MION EDWARDS | The Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) held a June 14 reception where 2018 MFA in Illustration graduate students displayed their Visual Thesis Exhibition, which brought together the unique styles of seven artists into one harmonious expression of creativity. “INK MADE” not only serves as the name of the exhibition, but is an acronym representing each of their projects (In-Vogue, Nudes, Kittens, Mélange, Aliens, Dolls, and Earth).
The artists let their lives fill the walls of the gallery, expressing their culture, heritage, and creative vision. Whether they used, ink, print, paper, or pixels, there was no shortage of imagination and vitality in the work.
“Culture was my biggest influence,” said Hilary Hubanks. “I studied a lot of cultures for this [exhibition] — Egyptian art, Syrian ancient art, different tribal cultures in Africa. My family is Norwegian so I studied a lot of ancient Norwegian culture and tribal art.”
Hubanks’ “Visions of Indigo” (aka “Aliens”) represents her fascination with the supernatural, nature, fantasy, and magical creatures. “I have to be true to myself,” she said, by wondering “what’s out there… Don’t stop imagining.”
Hubanks, a print designer and illustrator by day (and by night and weekends, an MFA Illustration student), reflects the majority of the group, most of whom have full-time or freelance jobs outside of the program but manage to strike a balance between academia and employment. The artists involved all come from different disciplines.
“We have designers, we have teachers, we have people from the fashion world, we have people with illustration careers,” noted Brendan Leach, chairperson of FIT’s MFA in Illustration program.
The thesis show is a combination of the students’ three years of study in the program. They have been working on this project since September, and created the title and theme for the show.
“They’re all individuals with strong voices,” Leach said, adding that the group has become “a really tight unit, and functions as one.”
Even though the majority of the students are professionals working in various fields, they still saw opportunity to sharpen their skills.
Mark Higden was influenced by the historic temples of retail fashion known as The Ladies’ Mile Historic Shopping District, which was a prime shopping district in Manhattan at the end of the 19th century.
With vivid illustrations representing the Victorian era shoppers, Higden’s “Ladies’ Mile Historic Walking Tour” (aka “In-Vogue”) taps into new technology to bring this blast from the past to life. The “Ladies’ Mile Walking Tour” app uses location technology to provide a window into history (the app is available in the Apple store).
“I teach in the fashion business management department [at FIT],” Higden said. “So many of our students don’t really understand or even think about in terms of what retail was over 100 years ago and what the experience was. I thought this would be a good way beyond a textbook and a lecture [to engage them].”
The artists drew from more than just their educational background in illustration — some explored new ventures.
“I’ve always been interested in art history,” said Edgar Alanis, “and this was a way for me to explore that passion. I thought, what better subject to pick than nudes, because I can be tongue-and-cheek with it.”
Alanis’ “Nudes, Nudes, Nudes (In Art History)” has a wall display in addition to a graphic novel.
“I wanted people to smile and make people laugh” and “get to know their favorite pieces from art,” Alanis said.
Some in the exhibition, like Alanis, seek to evoke emotion, while others illustrate how art can imitate life.
“I wanted to show the everyday person going through their daily activities” and “show that we may look different but we are all the same,” said Sarah Wilmot, whose “American Mélange” has a patriotic tone that represents the different cultures in America. “It’s a reflection of your life,” Wilmot said, regarding her illustrations and animated scenes. Her artwork depicted the cultural melting pot that is America — specifically, New York.
Walking through the exhibition, visitors will see the assortment of skills, cultures, and environments.
“It’s incredible how it comes together and only we know how they came in,” said Melanie Reim, currently the acting associate dean for FIT’s School of Art and Design. “We see the evolution of where they are at now. They’ve launched into really successful careers.”
The INK MADE exhibition will be on view through July 7 at The Museum at FIT’s Gallery FIT (Seventh Ave. at W. 27 St.). Admission is free. Gallery hours are Tues.–Fri., 12–8pm and Sat., 10 am–5pm. For more info, visit fitnyc.edu/museum/exhibitions or call 212-217-4558. For social media of the participating artists, visit HilaryHubanks.com, edgaralanis.com, thefashionistoprofessor.wordpress.com, JohnJayArt.com, and, on Instagram, @Wilmot.Sarah, @Awsemonyari, and @juhye.cho.