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News . Feature Stories . 2020 BFA Q&A: Alicia Telzerow

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May 14, 2020

2020 BFA Q&A: Alicia Telzerow

Alicia Telzerow, “Adapting” 2019. Hot-sculpted glass, kiln-fused wings, iron nail. Installation measures approx. 3’ across.

By Michael C. Butz

In her BFA thesis project, hu·man·i·ty /(h)yo͞oˈmanəd"/, Cleveland Institute of Art Glass major Alicia Telzerow looked inward—and invited viewers to do the same. Her intricately detailed pieces—made of cast glass, cast resin and a host of found materials—explore themes of identity and examine both personal and collective experiences.

Telzerow was selected student speaker for the Class of 2020, a cohort that shares the distinction of being the first CIA graduating class to experience a virtual commencement, thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic. She answered a few questions about her BFA thesis project and her experiences learning at CIA.

Describe one or two of the pieces in your thesis exhibition.
“An Intimate Conversation," consisting a multitude of cast-glass tongues, dealt with intimacy and sexuality as they relate to the identity of an individual. It was an exploration for me into a subject that was unfamiliar up until then in my studies and practice, and so at first I was uncomfortable when I began working and talking about it. Strangely enough, taking the life cast molds got me thinking differently about my approach. I had to explain my concept to all of my “models,” who allowed me to take a mold of their tongues, which in itself was a very up close and personal process, and we had some really interesting conversations about sexuality that would not happen in literally any other scenario than me pulling silicone off their tongues. It was kind of humorous and strange and personal and awesome, which is exactly how I felt about the work in the end.

You write in your thesis statement that “self-discovery requires some level of vulnerability." What did you learn about yourself along the way?
Many of these works were reflections on thoughts I had already had about parts of my identity as a human being or even to cope with learning parts of myself that were unfamiliar to me. Many of them are highly personal topics, such as things like personal change, anxiety and sexuality. However, I've learned that many uncertainties that are highly personal are often universally felt. It's really allowed me to learn more about how much we all have in common as humans and helped me to better understand myself in relation to others.

What about your BFA project did you find most challenging and/or most rewarding?
As a visual artist, I am always very careful with the language and symbolism I use in work, as it can be interpreted very differently by my audience, which is naturally people from all walks of life. Finding recognizable imagery and recontextualizing it in ways that were not too obscure for viewers to understand but also gray enough to cover complex topics was probably the most challenging part of making work about identity. Well, that and (obviously) the studio shutdown due to COVID-19 and working from my small apartment kitchen.

What do you hope to do with this project moving forward?
Many of these topics are very gray-area and complex and deserve so many more explorative works. I intend to further pursue most of them. In terms of material, as glass was unavailable to me for a large part of the spring semester [because of quarantine], I learned to work with isomalt, a sugar substance that when melted at high temps behaves and appears very similarly to molten glass. Not so much in the cake-contest blown sugar way, but more in ways like forming and casting. I may explore more in this realm of material possibility.

How did learning at CIA affect your creative practice?
What's at the top of the list for me in terms of what affected my creative practice has to be, without a doubt, the insanely well-equipped studios, and unfailing assistance and accessibility provided by my department faculty. I learned how to use just about every piece of machinery, every tool and every kiln in the place. Having this wide pick of tools to do just about anything you can imagine can be paralyzing for some; instead, I went wild and learned everything I could get my professors to let me use. This resulted in me being able to pick and choose processes to fit my concepts perfectly, as I strongly believe the making of a work contributes to the concept and so I will never settle on one process in my work because it's “my thing.”

Our Glass technical specialist, Zac Gorell, does an amazing job maintaining our shop and even building new equipment for us to have the best shop we can to produce work in. He and Department Chair Benjamin Johnson have truly been the greatest influence on my technical abilities, as they never hesitated to teach me and help me with unknown processes and crazy ideas. They have no idea just how grateful I am to them. Because of the facilities and the guidance of my department’s faculty, I have really been able to realize my potential as an artist and maker.

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Our Fall Semester reopening plan has been updated with new info at https://t.co/LVGUfnMs8R. We’ll update the document—and our social media—so students, parents, faculty and staff can stay informed. https://t.co/vSI2KtiBXe

4 days ago via Twitter

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