Ross School - Senior Project 2008-09

Student: Kirsten Judson

Mentor: Therese Lichtenstein

Title: Nostalgia


Inspired by the movement of abstract expressionism, proto pop, and feminist art, my Senior Project has become a reflection of post World War II art movement. Through the influences of Jasper Johns and Kiki Smith I have discovered the use of collage and mixed mediums that allows me to continuously shift between the conceptual and the literal, the political and the personal, and the abstractly metaphorical. My work focuses on the theme of nostalgia. It embodies the fragility of life through themes of lost youth, romance, and melancholy. Investigating the vast territory of the human body and repressed memories, Nostalgia is a framework for the metaphysical, personally introspective, and broadly multi-interpretational.

Along with my art pieces I have written prose poems to express the themes of my art. I also wrote a thesis on abstract expressionism, Jasper Johns, Kiki Smith, and their connection to my art. Through research on the history and techniques of these artists I have developed my own personal style. In my art, I try to convey the oppression of societal ideologies and reveal the choice people have to either critically analyze these principals or be subsumed by them.


Poetry  (Bugs in Amber, Cherub, Cry in All Languages, Empty Room, Exhalation, Face Nameless, Is Life a Repeating Circle, Stripes of Youth, Wings)

Images (1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10,11,12,13,14,15)

Paper / Addendum

My Senior Project has become a multi-disciplinary project that involves historical and critical writing, poetry, and artwork. The initial goal of the project was to learn about art. I thought it was important to learn techniques and the process of creating art to fully understand it. I took this opportunity to find myself as an artist, and develop my creative ability. As I began creating my art, paper and poems I discovered the significance of personal expression and using art as a means of self-discovery. There are four main components of my Senior Project. One, was to create a coherent body of artwork that exemplified personal themes. Two, was to write a thesis on Abstract Expressionism, two influential artists, and their connection to my art. Three was to write prose poems that went along with my art. And four curate my own art show.  Although this became a solid project, it did not start off this way. At first I was going to curate someone elseÕs show. I was going to take an artistsÕ or photographerÕs work from the senior class and curate their own art show. However, as I began thinking more and more about my project, I knew I couldnÕt rely on someone else for my project, and I wanted to create a project that was more challenging and would open my horizons. I wanted to explore something that I never have before. So, after discussing ideas with people from the Ross community, I decided to create my own art. I was going to create art influenced by the Modernity art movement. But, as I started researching I found out I already knew information on the modern movement because of the Modernity project, so I decided to focus on an art movement that was intriguing and novel to my artistic knowledge. When I decided I was going to study Abstract Expressionism, I decided to study the artists Mark Rothko, Jackson Pollock, and Robert Motherwell. I was fascinated how artists of this movement broke away from accepted conventions in both technique and subject matter and how their art became a reflection of their inner psyche. During this movement, art was used to display oneÕs primitive emotions. I valued the improvisation of these artists and their dynamic and energetic gesture and cerebral focus on color. As I continued researching Abstract Expressionism, the proceeding movement of Proto-Pop was introduced to me. I was immediately drawn and inspired by the artist Jasper Johns. Jasper JohnÕs work raises questions about the mass media world. He took iconic images, like a target or flag, and turned them into an aesthetic painting. He was able to transform a sign or iconic image and question the meaning of it, he was able to force the viewer to derive their own meaning of what he was trying to represent through his artwork. Like Johns, in my artwork I use objects of fixed proportions that could be measured and put on canvas. In my encaustic flag, I was able to challenge the viewer to think about representation and paradoxes art entails. Because I did not want to copy Jasper JohnÕs basic flag image, I decided to use the idea of stripes and geometric pattern. Focusing on the contemporary theme of the 2008 Election, I used bumper stickers embalmed in encaustic to symbolize the stripes, and handprints to represent the stars. The blue and red handprints in the painting mock the fastened geometric pattern of the flag, signifying the exposure of personality in society; how one often searches for a individual role in the world. Often JohnsÕ preferences are made manifest through addictive processes; motifs and images, illusions and associations accrue over time through repetition, quotation, and accumulation. Through my work, I emulate Johns, reflecting a simultaneous combination of motivations known and unknown to the viewer. Using encaustic was a novel experience for me. Studying JohnÕs method and techniques and encaustic I was inspired to make more pieces using this distinct medium. I was influenced by JohnÕs method of embalming newspaper shreds in encaustic. My encaustic pieces draw viewers to notice details, to look underneath the surface. I wanted my work to be engaging, I want the strong mediums to urge the viewer to want to touch the art and examine it in a deeper light. The encaustic medium also epitomized my themes of hiding and revealing, and the layering of time and memories. As my concept developed, I wanted to find a personal subject matter in my art. Using photo transferring, a process of photocopying photographs and using solvents and blending markets to transfer them on canvas, I used photographs to create iterations of ghostlike imagery. Arranging the copies in haphazard formats, I created bleak, haunting, staring, but romanticized faces. As I continued this process, I discovered artists who used the same techniques, Kiki Smith. She created shadowed effects of repeated images and random alignment to create a ruptured whole. My work and the work of Kiki Smith, both create a feeling of openness, uncertainty, and vulnerability. As my research became more profound, I started researching the body as a metaphor for the range of human emotions, thoughts, and fantasies.  There were many challenges when creating my art; finding an a specific color palette without blending, creating works of art that were coherent with each other, and finding time to create pieces that used collage. As I was creating my artwork I was also writing a paper in which I was able to connect my perceptions of art within the historical context of the actual art piece I was studying. I had to develop my skills in researching, drafting, and learning how to connect words with art. Although I did not have as many challenges with writing as I did art, it was difficult for me to find words how to express my feelings and critiques. Because I was reading many magazines, books, and websites it was hard for me to transfer these profound words into my own. I was also writing prose poems while writing my thesis and creating art. It was difficult for me to connect my prose with my artwork. Sometimes I would write my prose while looking at a piece, while other times I would write poems and then try to connect them with certain pieces of my artwork. Since this was the first time I have ever exposed myself to artistry, it was difficult for me to find a creative process, find unique and original ideas (that were different from my two influential artists), and to write a thesis while also creating art. I have learned many things throughout this project. I found a creative side of myself, learned the skills of photo etching and encaustic, the idea of color palette, and curating skills. . As I transformed from a historian to an artist, I have changed as a person. Through my developing vast body of artwork I have ultimately affirmed my multifaceted identity, as a strong feminist and philosopher. I have developed a strong appreciation for art and artists alike. I have now experienced the process of creative ability and have now been exposed to the world of art. In the future, I hope to develop my artistic abilities through studying art history in college. With the experience of my Senior Project, I will be able to grow personally and artistically. I hope to achieve a place among the crucial voices of the modern artistic movement.

Works Consulted

Art Institute of Chicago. Jasper Johns: Gray. New Haven: Yale UP, 2007.

Bois, Yve-Alain, Joop Joosten, Angelica Rudenstine,  and Hans Jensen. Piet Mondrian. New York: Little, Brown and Company, 1994. 20-387.

Crichton, Michael. Jasper Johns. Danbury: Harry N. Abrams , Incorporated, 1994.

Crow, Thomas E., Sabine Eckmann, and Joanne Heyler. Jasper Johns to Jeff Koons: Four Decades of Art from the Broad Collections LACMA. Danbury: Harry N. Abrams , Incorporated, 2001.

Hughes, Robert, and Robert Hughes. The Shock of the New. New York: McGraw-Hill Humanities, Social Sciences & World Languages, 1990.

Kandinsky, Wassily. Concerning the Spiritual in Art. United States.

"Kiki Smith." October 16 2006. Viewed 1 Dec. 2008. <>.

"Kiki Smith: Prints, Books, and Things." Museum of Modern Art. Dec. 5, 2003. Viewed 1 Dec. 2008 <>.

"Kiki Smith." Whitney Museum of Art. Viewed 2 Dec. 2008 <>.

Moffat, Charles. "Abstract Expressionism." The Art History Archive. Jan. 2008. Viewed 04 Apr.  2008 <>.

Pendergast, Sara, and Tom Pendergast, eds. Contemporary Artists. New York: Saint James P, 2002.

Varnedoe, Kirk. Pictures of Nothing: Abstract Art Since Pollock. New York: Princeton UP, 2006.

Smith, Edward. Visual Arts in the Twentieth Century. Danbury: Harry N. Abrams , Incorporated. 1996.

Zelmati, Jeanne. "Kiki Smith Collection." The Daily Princetonian. 11 Dec. 2003. Viewed 5 Dec. 2008 <>.

Community Member (Details)

Alicia Longwell:

Lewis B and Dorothy Cullman Chief Curator, Art and Education at the Parrish Art Museum