UC Berkeley Web Feature
Snapshots of the artists: 27 students win Eisner Awards celebrating campus creative talent
BERKELEY – UC Berkeley is often described proudly as one of the nation's top research universities, but some forget that there are plenty of "right brains" to balance out the left ones on this campus. As evidence, look no further than the 27 students below, recipients of an Eisner Award bestowed for the "highest achievement in the creative arts."
Sometimes talents for the humanities and science even coexist peacefully in the same head. Ian Cheng, for example, who won an Eisner for Film and Video, is an art practice and cognitive science double major whose projects employ software and art in harmonious — and hilarious — combinations. And Mark Massoud, a Boalt Hall graduate who is now a graduate student in the Jurisprudence and Social Policy Program, won an Eisner for his prose — a collection of short stories written while in Sudan on a legal internship.
The Eisner Awards got their start in 1963 with a $250,000 grant from Samuel Marks to promote the arts at Berkeley. Marks named the prize for his stepdaughter, Roselyn Schneider Eisner, an artist and sculptor who graduated in 1933. Although the Chancellor's Advisory Committee on the Arts flirted with the idea of using the money to commission a monumental sculpture by Picasso for the campus, it decided instead to recommend that prizes be given in each of the creative arts. Eisner Awards range in size from $2,000 to $6,000; $62,000 was awarded total this year. Departments determine their prize criteria individually, except for Literature, Film and Video, and Photo Imaging, which are handled by a central Committee on Prizes. There will be an award ceremony for the winners on May 7 at 4 p.m. in the Great Hall of the Faculty Club.
Gary T. Ku, fourth-year
Hometown: Anaheim, CA
Past projects: "My fall 2005 studio project was an East Asian Library for UC Berkeley" [interior perspective rendering, right]
Now working on: "My studio project for a winery in Napa Valley. The
project's focus is the integration of the landscape with the built
intervention, by designing both according to an underlying site-wide
Plans for the Eisner prize money: "A one-way ticket to some far-off place for some crazy post-graduation exploration … or a new MacBook Pro."
Jess Field, graduate student, architecture (May 2006)
Hometown: Half Moon Bay, CA
Past projects: "Working in Los Angeles and Vienna with Tom Wycombe for the past year, as project designer on the micro multiple tower project exhibited at the School of Architecture at UCLA, and on the international ideas competition for the Seoul Performing Arts Center, which won second place."
Now working on: "My graduate thesis in architecture, focusing on Romeo Pier, a deteriorating pier sitting in the Pillar Point Harbor in San Mateo County, to be redesigned as a marine rescue station. My design proposes preservation of a central axis of existing piles which reveal the structure of the new program as they decompose over time."
Erik Karstan Smith, fourth-year architecture major
Hometown: Santa Clara, CA
Past projects: "At nine years old I was on the job site picking up scrap lumber. I spent my evenings after school and summers framing houses from 9 to 16 years old. I love the smell of moist fresh sawdust in the morning."
Now working on: "A project about the Del Monte Cannery #3 in San Jose, CA. The building is significant and historical, yet the city of San Jose is allowing a developer to demolish it. My project deals with the reuse of the building as a landscape preserve, while simultaneously reaching out into the community with walls of water and images."
Plans for the Eisner prize money: "To purchase a new camera and take a road trip to the Southwest to document indigenous sites."
MFA candidate, Art Practice (May 2006)
Hometown: San Francisco, CA ("for the last 13 years; I was raised in a Midwestern amusement park")
Past projects: A video PowerPoint presentation called "What a Man Really Is, and What He Is Not" from 2005 [still at left] is currently showing at the Lab in San Francisco until May 6. "That's me in the wolf/rat suit; the photo was taken by Shane King."
Now working on: "An infomercial about the importance of ambiguity in life, called 'Everything is Better Now.'"
Plans for the Eisner prize money: "Production of 'Everything,' mainly paying actors and my cinematographer. Which is so much better than asking everyone to do it for free."
(Mike Kenny photo)
Joe McKay, first-year
MFA candidate, Art Practice
Hometown: London, Ontario, Canada
Past projects: One of Joe's websites, Prereview [reviews of movies that haven't been made yet], was simultaneously named both "cool site of the day" by Coolsiteoftheday.com and "unfortunate site of the week" by Time Out New York. And in the New Yorker's What's On section, McKay's installation piece "Color Game" was described as "a low-tech, hands-on cross between Nintendo and Josef Albers' color squares."
Now working on: "Photographing UFOs that are cleverly disguising themselves as streetlights [image at right]. I am also creating a new computer input device with small trampolines."
Plans for the Eisner prize money: "It will most likely go to the fine folks at Fry's electronics — either a whole bunch of little things or one really fancy big thing, but rest assured it'll be money well spent."
More work samples: McKay's website
Alicia McCarthy, graduate
Past projects: McCarthy's artworks have been exhibited nationally and internationally. She has been a codirecter for the "In the Street" street theatre festival for the past six years and has taught numerous free art courses to elementary and high school students in San Francisco and Oakland since 1997.
Work samples: Jack Hanley Gallery
Will Rogan, MFA candidate, art practice
Hometown: Highland Park, IL
Past projects: He has been an artist in residence in London, Taiwan, and Maine. He has spent most of the last two years thinking about Anne Hodges, a woman who was hit by a meteorite in 1954. Last year he held this meteorite, which is heavy, almost too heavy for its size. He thinks of himself as a sculptor and is often thought of by others as a photographer.
Future plans: Filming a movie he is encouraging his daughters — ages 4 and 6, "the only things that make him truly happy" — to write. "It's about magic, or animals, or magic animals."
Work samples: Jack Hanley Gallery
graduate student in city planning
Hometown: Encino, CA
Now working on: "I was just selected (as part of a multidisciplinary Berkeley team) as one of four finalists in the Urban Land Institute Gerald Hines Urban Design competition. The project [pictured below] was an urban infill site near downtown St. Louis involving complex transportation, brownfields, and community integration issues. We placed second place, winning $10,000."
Previous life: "My passion for the physical environment stems from my youthful days following my father, an architectural photographer, on photo shoots throughout Los Angeles. I am also a graduate of the University of Virginia School of Law and have professional hopes of using my skills as an attorney to create stronger connections between policy-makers and designers."
Plans for the Eisner prize money: "My fiancée and I are getting married this summer and traveling around the world for a year to Asia, Africa, and Europe. The money will definitely help insure that we make it back home."
Eric Martin, fourth-year film major
Hometown: Auburn, CA
Past projects: Has been involved in various capacities in more than 25 major productions. Directed "Unknown," a short film that won Martin the Eisner prize (still, left).
Now working on: "A film about narcissism and sexual deviancy."
Plans for the Eisner prize money: "What's a more appropriate accoutrement for an aspiring filmmaker than a car?"
See his work: The Pacific Film Archive will screen the Eisner winners' work May 7.
Ian Cheng, fourth-year art practice
and cognitive science double major
Hometown: Los Angeles, CA
Now working on: "Several interactive art installations that explore human physical limitations, augmented space, and augmented reality. I just finished a piece called "Harmony Club" [still, right] in which a participant speaks into a microphone, and that audio data is analyzed for pitch, duration, and volume. Depending on these variables, the spoken input gets mapped to one of four barbershop character heads projected on screen — a bass, a tenor, an alto, and a soprano. The corresponding head repeats that audio indefinitely and sporadically until some other participant (whose vocal range activates that same barbershop head) overrides the sound. Together, the four heads on loop create a humorous musical composition that doubles as an evolving archive of participant input."
Plans for the Eisner prize money: "It has given me a more comfortable resource pool from which I was able to recently purchase more video and audio equipment for personal experimentation. A lot of times I think resource limitations can lead to highly creative solutions, but just as well, this new spending freedom has afforded me an opportunity to think and create with more sophisticated tools.
See his work: The Pacific Film Archive will screen the Eisner winners' work May 7.
Jordan Zlotoff, third-year
graduate student, landscape architecture
Hometown: Dillsburg, PA
Past projects: Zlotoff worked as a field ecologist, a plant nurseryman, and in various other trades before beginning graduate school at Berkeley.
Now working on: "A proposal for new levee design alternatives for certain islands within the California delta to address seismic risk of flooding, create new wildlife habitat, and provide new recreation opportunities."
Plans for the Eisner prize money: "A trip to Europe this summer. I will bicycle along the Rhine River from its headwaters in the French Alps to the delta in the Netherlands."
More info: "Reclaiming Urban Wasteland For Urban Ecology" in Philadelphia [PDF of Eisner submission]
Gravendyk Burrill, third-year Ph.D. candidate,
Hometown: Carnation, WA
Past projects: Co-curates the campus reading series "Poems against War." Her poetry has recently appeared or is forthcoming in "The Colorado Review," "1913: A journal of forms," "The Eleventh Muse," "Fourteen Hills," "The Bellingham Review," and other publications.
Now working on: "A poetry manuscript called "The Sensible Horizon." Using experimental poetic forms, the work is concerned with the intersection of nature, sentiment, and perception in the body of the lyric. Many of the poems thematize the limits or breakdown of language at the moment of poetic articulation. I'm also translating the German-language poems of my great aunt, Erna Hummel, who lived and published in Russia."
Plans for the Eisner prize money: "Taking the summer off from working/teaching in order to finish writing and revising my poetry. My goal is to have the book-length work complete by September. Of course, the money will also allow me to buy lots of other poets' books, which is a treat!"
Castillo, third-year comparative literature
Hometown: San Francisco, CA (currently)
Past projects: This is Castillo's third Eisner Award.
Now working on: A collection of stories and novellas, tentatively titled "Postcard from the Volcano." (Read a poem from Castillo's work in progress)
Plans for the Eisner prize money: "Paying for the Tin House Summer Writer's Workshop, where I will work on my collection with the author Jim Shepard."
Hometown: San Jose, CA
Recent projects: "The collection of short stories that received the Eisner Prize was written primarily in summer 2005, when I was in Sudan on a legal internship with the Rule of Law Unit of the United Nations Development Programme."
Now working on: "Researching and writing my Ph.D. dissertation on how grassroots nongovernmental legal organizations build the rule of law in failed states. Most research on the topic comes from political science and focuses on advanced and emerging democracies. My goal is to apply that work to the case of a failed state. I will use Sudan as a primary source, and existing literature on advanced and emerging democracies as secondary sources. The project is also exciting because it builds on existing — primarily American — literature in critical race theory and political theory around law; two areas of scholarship rarely seen in tandem. My focus for this project is Sudan, where I plan to return next year for further research."
Plans for the Eisner prize money: "I spent it on the war in Iraq, social security, Medicare, highways, and — some would cynically argue — torture. In other words, I paid federal taxes. I donated the remainder to my parish in San Jose, the St. Elias Melkite Greek Catholic Church, which is about as strapped for cash as Berkeley graduate students are."