Ross School - Senior Projects 2011


Student: Emma Lesser

Mentor: Therese Lichtenstein

Domain(s): Visual Arts






Title: Sos De Acá (You Are From Here)


Description: In my installation, I attempted to portray the fragmented nature, the familiar haziness, and the startling clarity with which we tend to remember events in our lives. This summer, Lucie Kessler and I went to Costa Rica to participate in a homestay program at the Costa Rican Language Academy. We explored many parts of Costa Rica and I documented my daily experiences with photos, writing, and sketches. My installation focuses on the concept of memory, using my trip to Costa Rica as its subject. From photos, writing, sketches, and anything else I could recollect, I tried to physically express my memories of the month I spent there.



Dimensions: About 6’ high at the center, about 7’ diameter around the middle, and the base is 4’ in diameter

Materials: Acrylic and textile paints, plywood, ¼” metal wires, invisible thread, poly stretch and poly muslin fabrics

Final Product Images:



















































Images (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7)






            During the summer after tenth grade, Lucie Kessler and I came up with the idea to go to Costa Rica the subsequent summer and use our experiences as inspiration for our senior projects. By the end of the first trimester, we had bought our plane tickets and contacted the Costa Rican language academy for homestay and educational accommodations. When we had to turn in our preliminary proposals at the end of eleventh grade, I still had no solid idea what my product would look like, but I imagined my project would be based around the relationship between the expectations and reality of a place.

            Lucie and I spent one month in Costa Rica, as we had planned. While we were there, we stayed with a Costa Rican family and took Spanish classes for four hours a day, four days a week at the Costa Rican Language Academy. On our three-day weekends, we went on excursions to various parts of Costa Rica.

            While we were there, I wrote every day in my processfolio, occasionally adding sketches to my writing. Both Lucie and I took pictures, especially on our three-day weekends. I was definitely strict with myself throughout this process, because I knew that what I returned with would be the foundation of my entire project. Reflecting in this way gave me a chance to contemplate my experiences, not only after I returned, but also while I was still in Costa Rica.

            When I arrived home, I tried to imagine what I would do with all of my documentation. On a day in early September, before the beginning of school, I decided to make memory the main focus of my project, using my trip to Costa Rica as a resource. I was really interested in the concept of memory from both a general and a subjective standpoint, and enjoyed forming my own ideas about how memory works, and placing my experiences in that general framework. I liked the idea that memory could be seen as fragmented, unfocused, and sometimes unreliable, and sought to portray these ideas physically. As the French philosopher Merleau-Ponty concisely says, “to grasp the nature of what appears to us in a confused way and place it before us as a recognizable object.”

            Using all of my documentation from my trip to Costa Rica, and any other images from my mind’s eye, I began to formulate what I wanted my project to look like. In envisioning my installation, I tried to incorporate ideas about memory: what memories look like in my mind’s eye, the reliance on photos to remember things, and how the experience of reminiscing could be portrayed physically. After sifting through several ideas that either did not fit the time or budget allotted, I imagined I would make a geodesic dome to house various skewed, fleeting images from my memories. I looked at work by Buckminster Fuller and Sarah Applebaum, but ended up deciding on a more organic design for the shape of my structure.

            My process began with having a circular, plywood base built. I then secured wires in the plywood at even intervals, and gathered them together at the top. I held the wires together with duct tape, and subsequently painted them white. I stretched the poly stretch fabric around the misshapen wires to create a unique form that would reflect the organic, and constantly evolving form that I believe memory typically takes. On the inside, I attached pieces of the poly muslin fabric, creating a web of interlaced shapes. I then painted images on these pieces of fabric that, in the space, would capture the translucent, fragmented, skewed and fragile qualities of memory. I left a gap in the structure so people could enter it, similar to my idea of reminiscing about a specific group of memories.

            I learned many valuable things from completing this project. I learned how to be independent in a foreign country and relish my new experiences. I was able use my experiences to fuel my artistic endeavors. I learned how to collaborate with the people in my community and make efficient use of the resources I had. I learned how to research materials effectively and gained skills in using materials I had never used before. I am now able to gage how much work goes into a project of this caliber and will be able to foresee how much time I need to devote to a similarly ambitious project. Most importantly, I learned that I had to take my own ideas seriously for anyone else to do the same, because I knew I was not founding them on researched, scientific material, but on my own experiences.



Works Consulted


Applebaum, Sarah. Works. 2010. Web. 07 Oct. 2010.             <>.


Barthes, Roland. Camera Lucida. United States: Hill and Wang, 1981. Print.


Baudelaire, Charles. Selected Writings on Art and Literature. United States:        Penguin Classics, 1993. Print. 


Brown, Aaron and Ben Chappell. Focus Creeps. 2011. Web. 18 Sept. 2010.             <>.

Ewing, Jack. Monkeys Are Made of Chocolate: Exotic and Unseen Costa Rica.   United States: Pixyjack Press, 2005. Print.


Merleau-Ponty, Maurice. Sense and Nonsense. United States: Northwestern       University Press, 1992. Print.


Palmer, Steven and Iván Molina. The Costa Rica Reader: History, Culture,           Politics. United States: Duke University Press Books, 2004. Print.


“Stories.” Dir. Charles Atlas. CD. Art 21, 2003. Film.  


Outside Consultant


Brian Leaver: Decorative Painter