Curator Lobsang Tsewang’s first exhibition, Conversations, a collection of work by FIT students, faculty, and alumni as well as outside artists, was set to open March 17 in the Art and Design Gallery in the Fred P. Pomerantz Center. Then the coronavirus intervened. A 2017 Fine Arts alum, Tsewang has worked full time as exhibition coordinator for the space since 2018, and he is also a working artist. “Nowadays, every artist is a curator,” he says. He spoke about the show, which will eventually have a formal online presence, over Google Hangouts, from his apartment in Elmhurst, Queens.
Works by seven alumni appeared in the show. Tsewang chose three to discuss.
“Ever since I got the [coordinator] job, Austin [Thomas, the gallery’s exhibitions manager] has been saying, ‘You should do a show,'” Tsewang says. He already had a few artists in mind, and he followed their social media to see what they were working on. “I didn’t have an agenda for the exhibition,” he said, but he found himself drawn to pieces that demonstrated technical skill rather than dealing with social justice–related themes. “I am very political,” he clarified, “but I think people are tired of that in art. I want the audience to be focused on technique instead.” The work of Dimitri Dimizas, Fine Arts ’13, is a prime example.
Dimizas was a senior at FIT when Tsewang was a first-year student, and Dimizas’s expertise in metal fascinated him. “FIT didn’t have welding or metalwork then,” he says, but Dimizas had a job in his family’s metal fabrication studio in East New York, Brooklyn. Hold it Together, a steel-and-concrete production from 2014, alludes, according to the artist statement, to the “seemingly unremarkable social interactions” that shape life in New York. Asked for further illumination, Dimizas replied, “It’s just art—I like making things.”
Tsewang came to know the Haitian American artist Madjeen Isaac, Fine Arts ’18, from late nights when students worked together in the studio at FIT. Tsewang was impressed by the younger artist’s openness to feedback. Isaac’s artist statement says her work “explores the relationship between urban and tropical spaces” through “complex compositions of utopian worlds.” She adds, “I’m constantly questioning what it means to balance two different cultures with distinct ideologies.” In 2018, she won a residency with the Haiti Cultural Exchange, and she has collaborated with the unusual arts magazine MYÜZ, which pairs artists with academics who write about them. She was recently interviewed in a video for the independent artist platform Kulture Hub.
Though he wanted to avoid political themes, Tsewang made an exception for the work of Kathleen Johnson, Fine Arts ’17. Her piece, “Ritual of the Spill,” recreates the American flag using linocut prints of tampon shapes—red, white, and blue strings included—that resemble bullets. Johnson is often inspired by poetry. Her statement reads, in part: “The easily ‘miss interpreted’ form, tampon to bullet, led me to the contemporary American poet, Olivia Gatwood, who wrote a poem called ‘Ode to My Period Underwear.’ Gatwood’s poem likens the ritual of folding the American flag to the ritual of wearing, washing, and folding period underwear, breaking down the taboos surrounding women by turning shame into acceptance and perhaps even celebration.”