Alexa Katz, USA

Images from the end-of-semester exhibition (Dec 2014)

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Final Project Statement:

I have always been fascinated by the way we as humans perceive ourselves on a daily basis, particularly the way in which we see our reflection, whether through a photograph, mirror, or reflective surface.  We as human beings are never truly able to confront ourselves face to face, and are only exposed to images that we inherently interpret as the embodiment of our true physical representation.  Image fragmentation of the human body has always been an interest of mine, particularly segmentation of our own physical manifestation.  For instance, one can walk down a street and catch a glimpse of their reflection in a puddle, on a street pole, or a shop window.  This image fragmentation is how we as humans perceive ourselves, but it is in fact segmented and we are subconsciously led to believe that we appear in real life as our mirror image.  In my collaboration with Della Hu, I intend to demonstrate the stark truth about territorial and anatomical fragmentation by introducing the viewer into a space that is split up into large reflective shapes, allowing them to confront the harsh reality that our own image is never tangible, and in fact we never know what we truly look like.  The viewer fills into a space and becomes an intersection between their own mirror image and the ricocheting light.

Finalized structures for collaborative installation “Today is Tomorrow: The Future of Colle” 

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Per il mio contributo alla maquette collaborativa dedicata al futuro di Cole di Val d’Elsa, ho deciso di creare uno spazio che si sviluppa a partire dall’idea del giardino verticale e del “vivere verde”. Quando mi immagino il futuro di qualsiasi città senza concentrarmi su una in particolare, tendo sempre a pensare a spazi funzionali e sostenibili per l’ambiente che promuovano uno stile di vita sano, soprattutto perché le aree verdi stanno diventando sempre più scarse man mano che ci avviciniamo al futuro della nostra terra e del nostro mondo. Dopo aver fatto alcune ricerche su Colle, mi sono resa conto di quanto fosse importante non solo preservare la storia di Colle mentre procediamo verso il futuro, ma anche promuovere l’importanza dell’integrazione culturale. La costruzione di giardini verticali e, più in generale, il tentativo di una vita ambientalmente sostenibile sono già processi diffusi in tutto il mondo. Spero quindi che, includendo un “nucleo verde” nella Colle del futuro, io possa coinvolgere culture diverse nella salvaguardia della tradizione di interesse per la natura e, allo stesso tempo, incoraggiare l’avanzamento di stili di vita sani. I giardini verticali sono intesi quali spazi dove la gente possa occuparsi delle piante, avendo uno spazio aperto proprio a ridosso della propria casa (cosa molto rara per la maggior parte delle case di Colle). Quest’area potrà anche incoraggiare i residenti ad entrare in contatto con altri abitanti della città, creando così una sorta di area socio-culturale.

For my contribution to the collaborative maquette depicting the future of Colle Val D’Elsa, I decided to create a space that builds upon the concept of vertical garden and the idea of “green” living. When I envision the future of any city in general, I tend to always think of environmentally friendly and functional spaces that promote healthy lifestyles, particularly because greenery is becoming more scarce as we approach the future of our earth and our world.  After doing some research on Colle, I became aware of how important it was to not only preserve Colle’s history as it moves towards the future, but to enhance the importance of cultural integration as well. Vertical gardening and “green” sustainable life have already been future movements all across the world, and I hope that by incorporating a “green” center in Colle’s maquette of the future, I can bring together different cultures in an act to save the traditions of gardening as well as promote healthy lifestyles moving forward. The vertical gardens are meant to be spaces in which people can garden as they please without actually having a backyard attached to their houses (which most houses in Colle do not have to begin with). This space will also lead residents to interact with other inhabitants from Colle, thus creating a sort of cultural center as well.       

Work-In-Progress, collaborative installation “Today is Tomorrow: The Future of Colle.”

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Oct 20, 2014:  Fifth Reading Response:

I chose to read the chapter “The Blue of Distance” from A Field Guide to Getting Lost by Rebecca Solnit.  I find the connections that Solnit makes between the color blue and depth of space both within a painting or in the space of desire are quite interesting.  I have never really thought of the color blue so in depth as how Solnit describes, and it was pretty fascinating to read about all of the different methods there are that include the depth/distance characteristics of blue.  Solnit focuses a lot on the meaning of blue not just as a color but a way to represent a space and distance that we as humans are unfamiliar with.  I am also very intrigued by her ideas of age in relation to distance, and how the importance of distance changes depending on the age of whomever it is affecting.  In this quote “at the end of life the beginning returns with renewed vividness, as though you had sailed all the way around the world and were going back into the darkness from which you came”, I have understood that she means to say after you reach a certain point in age (an old age), distance becomes relevant and those memories and thoughts you had as a child begin to become more vivid, which I totally agree with because from personal experience I have discovered that childhood memories of the elderly are much more vivid and recognizable than mine.  I also very much agree with what she said in terms of distance for children and how it can seem like such an unimportant thing when in reality it is a very important part of a child’s life.

Oct 13, 2014:  Project Statement, “Today is Tomorrow: The Future of Colle”

For my project, I will be creating a space in lower Colle that will promote sustainability and an option for “green” living.  In my space, I will build a structure that is known as a “vertical garden”, along with two other buildings flanking the vertical garden that are “green” based buildings that will incorporate vegetable, herbal, and floral gardens as well.  These two buildings will have outdoor access on each floor and each section will belong to the person who owns their section.  In other words, the buildings will be built upon the idea of community gardening in a shared space but individual gardening in the sense that each person will have their own section in which they can do anything they want, as long as they will be cultivating something.  Surrounding the building will be a in-ground water system as well as forrest/trees.

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Oct 8, 2014: Fourth Reading Response:  Questions for Prof. Ulivieri on Vernacular Architecture

1)I find vernacular architecture to be extremely important for defining a certain people or place, however as we look into the future vernacular architecture is becoming more of a rarity, being overthrown by contemporary and ultra modern architecture.  What are some ways in which you think we as a human race can continue the tradition of vernacular architecture as well as stop the future from architecturally being all the same?

2) Are architects and historians worried that, due to the constant diminishing amount of natural resources on earth, vernacular architecture will only become a thing of the past and eventually die out due to modernization?


Sept 23, 2014:  Third Reading Response:

There are many things that interest me about the planned Photolife collaboration project we will be working on with Wafa.  Firstly, I am very interested to learn more about Colle and exactly why we are planning on creating a future image for the city.  Is the city in need of a transformation, does the diverse culture of Colle mess with its identity?  It interests me to know more in depth as to why Colle is the target city for our project, what specific changes have been made pertaining to Colle in the past, and what do the inhabitants of Colle wish to become of their city in the future.  Apart from the history and politics of Colle, I am very interested to see how eight students and Wafa will be able to reach a consensus and to work collaboratively in the effort to provide a future for Colle which might not be something that the people of Colle are able to see.  I am excited to work with new materials and build 3-D models because I have very little experience within this realm of artwork.  I would love to be able to promote hope and excitement through my artwork to the inhabitants of Colle.

I would like to respond to the quote that begins with “ tiny artworks force us to draw closer…” (Rugoff 1997: 14).  I am a firm believer in the idea that inherent movements of our bodies can say a lot about our subconscious, about things we don’t necessarily notice but are happening all the time.  In this quote, Rugoff expresses that artwork that is created in a smaller scale forces the viewer to become more engaged with the artwork physically, thus mentally engaging the viewer as well.  Our minds control every movement or reaction that our bodies have, but most of the time we do not think about what we are doing, we just do it.  Small artworks tend to have the same effect on us: we find ourselves mentally engaged with something that is much more minute than ourselves by a simple physical movement such as peering closely or squatting down to observe a minute detail.  To properly understand something that is smaller or larger than ourselves, I believe that you must place yourself in a situation where you are physically able to connect with the size of the object.  When observing a smaller piece of artwork, it is necessary to physically become immersed in the piece, because as Rugoff mentions, “the more closely we examine minute details, the less we notice the gulf in size that separates us” (81).  As humans in this day and age, we tend to forget about the little things surrounding us, thus become robots of a larger, more power-driven life.  But by observing something that is smaller than our own size and mentality, we are able to live in a moment in time when we get rid of the commotion and vast space that surrounds us, and begin to pay more attention to the smaller things that could very well be more powerful and meaningful than the immense world we live in.  Thus, the parallel between our bodily movements and our mentality is a strong force that we should never resist, allowing us humans to explore and discover new things.



Sept 16, 2014:  Second reading response:

By reading the article “Guy Debord and the Situationists” from the book Psychogeography, I have discovered many experimental and intriguing ways one is able to approach the subject of space, nonetheless cities in which we as people walk amongst every day.  Within my own thoughts, I take a city in the way I see it.  I interact with the space surrounding me as an individual within a city, rather than someone who is able to transcend from their own thoughts and view the city in a different way.  However, I strive to change the way I am present within a city.  What I found quite interesting was Chtcheglov’s idea of “magical awareness”.  He was a firm believer in the idea that “the city must be rebuilt upon new principles that replace our mundane and sterile experiences with a magical awareness of the wonders that surround us. ‘We are noted in the city, there is no longer any Temple of the Sun’” (84).  What I believe he is trying to say is that we as humans have already formulated our own ideas and perceptions about what a “city” is, however we must remove ourselves from that preconceived notion, which has become quite boring, and become immersed in the magic that a city has to offer by going back to stories, history, and fairytales.  We must go beyond the buildings, the walls, the shops, and the streets to find beauty and mysticism amongst other things such as the angles and perspectives a city has to offer us.  He mentioned that the angles and perspectives “must be sought in the magic locales of fairy tales and surrealist writings: castles, endless walls, little forgotten bars, mammoth caverns, casino mirrors.” (84). I believe that I will alter the way I view cities from now on, and take more of a mystical or fantastical approach and try to rediscover the meaning behind every city I travel to.

In response to Certeau’s “Every story is a travel story, a spatial practice,” quote, I believe that what he is saying holds validity and could be a very interesting idea to explore further.  Certeau mentions that a map cannot portray the exact path of one’s life, because it reduces exploration and arbitrary decisions to a definite point or location.  I agree with this idea, because in order to be an individual one must be able to create their own path and their own story, as Certeau’s quote demonstrates.  Once a system is set into place, the “theoretical system” that Certeau talks about, it can abolish those unknown spaces and unclaimed territories that could otherwise define the path of an individual if it weren’t for the theoretical system.  I completely agree with the idea of uncharted territories and life without theoretical systems.  For one thing, as an individual I like to explore what cannot be seen on a map, and I prefer to travel to those places that have not been mapped out, otherwise known as the “hidden gems” of the world.  Unfortunately, I have not had the means by which to travel so often and to so many places, but it is my goal in life to explore areas of the world that are unmapped.  Being forced to explore an area that has not been explored as much or isn’t so popular can really define a person by placing them in a certain situation where they must find their way around without the help of a “theoretical system”.

From my observations concerning the city of Siena, it has become very apparent that every individual has equal contribution to defining the city.  The city is defined by the palio which happens twice a year, yet celebrated for most of the year.  The palio is an event created by individuals that has been practiced for centuries, and for many more centuries to come.  Contrary to the Certeau’s idea, Siena is quite the mapped out city and each individual has a specific path he or she travels along every day.  Siena seems like a city that is very invested in individuals who are native to the town, and being an outsider in Siena can be quite challenging in terms of being able to interact with Sienes folk.  The city itself appears to be a construction of important historical events and ideals that have lived on to this day and will live on as long as Siena is in existence.  In a sense, one could say that Siena thrives on individuals who are situationists and are constantly constructing new situations that further define the culture of the city.


Sept 9, 2014:  First reading response:

As a member of the art world, I have been exposed to both inspiring and challenging situations throughout my life.  After reading the short excerpts from Nori, Bradburne, and Guadagnini, I have come to realize that these situations are what define the artistic territories to which I have been both an foreigner and a native to.  In other words, I believe that the two main territories I belong to as an artist are the challenging territory and the inspiring territory.  Mentally, if I find myself within the challenging territory, I have trouble crossing the boundary into the inspiring territory.  I hope that in my discoveries as an artist I will be able to mentally inhabit both territories at once; to be challenged and inspired simultaneously.  However, physically I am able to inhabit both territories at once.  I discovered that when I am physically challenged in the process of creating artwork, I am able to pick up different and new techniques and use them to my best abilities.  My ideas of territories as an artist are quite opposite from what I believe a territory is as a world citizen.  Growing up, I have always mentally inhabited two places at once: the American state of mind as well as a very European way of life.  These two territories are not bound by physical barriers, but rather are formed by household customs, my family, and the traditions that have both carried on from my Romanian heritage as well as my home in the United States.  My parents are Romanian, and moved to the states 30 years ago.  I was born and raised in America, however my household functioned as my retreat to a foreign world in which I grew up differently than the rest of my American acquaintances.  In that sense, I have always had two separate territories, yet have always been able to cross into whichever one I wanted whenever I wanted.  One physical territory that I feel a strong connection to is the community of the University that I attended for 4 years.  This is a special territory for me because it is the first place I was away from my family and friends that I grew up with, and placed in a new city of America with new people and new rules.  For me, this was the territory in which I matured the most, and for that reason it is a very special place for me.  From my perspective, I believe that a territory is not defined by physical borders or by sections of land, but rather by a state of mind.  Although different countries are considered different territories, I believe that countries have been formed to help distinguish people who have different traditions, culture, and mindsets, and to me, a territory encompasses its own version of all of those things.


Alexa Katz is a recent graduate from Brandeis University finishing with a Bachelor of Arts as a double major in Biology and Fine arts, with honors in Fine arts. She was born and raised in Philadelphia, but is an avid traveler amongst many different cities and countries. She was originally studying to become a doctor at her university, but after her second year of college she decided that she would like to pursue the arts in hopes of maybe one day combining the sciences and the arts as either a medical illustrator, product designer, or even quite possibly being an architect.

She has been exposed to many different fields within the art world, including a fashion design company Bagir as well as the HandsHouse Studio Making History: The Wooden Synagogue Replication Project in Poland. She is currently being commissioned for painting by several different companies and individuals, and hopes to expand her horizons and possibilities as an incoming student at the Siena Art Institute. Her artistic background began with a lot of drawing, painting, and printmaking, however she has advanced within drawing and painting the most throughout college, specializing in many different mediums as well.

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