M.F.A. Theses 2009

2009 M.F.A. Degree Recipients:

Fernando Carvalho | Allen Chen | Emily Gustafson

Fernando Carvalho (M.F.A., industrial design, 2009)

Redesigning the Hospital Cradle to Promote Parent-Newborn Relationships

Approximately one million infants die every year due to conditions related to prematurity. Weekly, in the state of Indiana, there are two hundred and twenty five premature births. Worldwide, the incidence of preterm birth and low birth weight has remained virtually unchanged for the past twenty-five years.

Providing quality care and quality of life to preterm infants is a global challenge. As technology and therapeutic protocols advance at a fast pace, infants who had little chance of survival in a recent past are now crowding the neonatal intensive care units around the world. These premature newborns are being continually exposed to loud noises, bright lights, excessive meaningless stimuli, and diminished meaningful interactions.

Most of what stabilized premature infants need can be provided directly by the parents: breast milk, warmth and containment can be offered by mothers and fathers with little need for technological support. Facilitating parents’ access to their babies should be a primary concern for the design of products and spaces in which newborn and parents interact and begin to establish familial relationships.

The main purpose of the Elo is to improve the caregiving practices by facilitating physical and visual access to the infant, while providing for optimal performance of routine care tasks such as feeding, cleaning and bathing, and comfortably accommodating the infant. The name chosen for the product Elo is the Portuguese word for bond, reinforcing the utmost importance of nurturing parent-newborn relationships within the hospital environment.  

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Fernando Carvalho | Allen Chen | Emily Gustafson

Allen Chen (M.F.A., ceramics, 2009)

It is commonly held that as human beings we are more interested in ourselves than anything else.  I remember rejecting this at first because I've always thought it was the other way around: that human beings are adventurous, creative and curious explorers.  It is ironic that both statements are true, because the best way to understand ourselves is to understand the world around us.  This dualistic way of thinking is how I've learned to understand and make art.  Art to me is a conduit that connects the inner world with the outside, and I understand it through the language of dualism.  My work is the result of my curiosity of the world around me - more specifically, of what I have discovered in the world within myself.

My work has evolved into a series of ceramic sculptures.  Incased within are steel rod skeletons with yarn materials for structure.  Working with steel and yarn gives me the strong yet flexible structure to form and apply the paper clay onto.  Putting the work into the kiln to go through the ceramic process transforms the work.  The clay is now stronger than steel, yet the steel is softer and continues to give it support.  I am fascinated with this process and what is does to the relationship between the materials of clay and steel.  I believe that this process relates philosophically to the idea of dualism.  The push-pull effects of organic vs. mechanical, nature vs. man-made is the springboard for my ideas to make art.  Although I am trained in traditional pottery skills, my current work is an original and experimental contribution to ceramic art that deals with the investigation of dualism.  Much like the Titanic sitting at the bottom of the ocean, transforming into a quasi organic/man-made object, these ceramic pieces evoke a sense of a natural shell fusing with a synthetic idea.  Or maybe it is the other way around?

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Fernando Carvalho | Allen Chen | Emily Gustafson

Emily Gustafson (M.F.A., sculpture, 2009)

Past Action Acting Upon Itself

I often use recognizable subjects and materials in unexpected ways by changing the context or by creating a contrast between particular elements.  I use humor and often couple it with a critical commentary on contemporary life in the suburban Midwest.  I find that satire can deliver a message in a way that subtlety and lyricism cannot.  It's often said that some of the best jokes hold the most truth.

The themes of home and place have been a continuing thread in my work for the past few years.  Examples include the specific location of work in which I have placed items in various environments, the more literal translation of images of homes in others, or the use of the front lawn as a gallery.

With this project, I have combined the house and the inflatable yard ornament into one object and created a neighborhood of inflatable houses that inflate and deflate at different times.  By setting each house on a timer, constant movement is created.  The houses reflect various patterns of movement and only for a few moments each day will all the houses share full inflation.

By adding a kinetic quality to the decorative inflatable it is my intention to refer to the current housing and economic crises.  I believe the situation is only now beginning to be understood by Americans in a very tangible way.  Aside from their decorative qualities, the yard inflatables have, in my opinion, a pacifying effect on the owners.  They could either represent the owner's denial of tougher times or celebration in the face of uncertainty.

A rather literal reading of this piece would be that it alludes to the housing bubble created by inflated home values.  The secondary and more poignant reading is how the use of inflation and deflation of the houses represent a pattern of highs and lows throughout history.  The few moments when all of the houses are inflated are the good times, or the highs, and viewers who are fortunate enough to witness those moments can enjoy the installation in its completed state but if they were to stay around longer or visit 15 minutes later they are going to see it at a less than perfect point.

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Fernando Carvalho | Allen Chen | Emily Gustafson