POUGHKEEPSIE, NY—The outdoor sculpture installation White Flags by Aaron Fein ’93, an artist, architect, and Vassar alumnus, will be on view on the Chapel Lawn from Sunday, April 24, through Friday, April 29. A closing reception with the artist will be held on April 29 at 2:30-4:30pm. Preceding the reception on April 29, Fein and his wife, media commentator Dahlia Lithwick will present a panel discussion on the topic of "Creative expression and free speech - What are the boundaries in America today?" at 1:00pm in the Taylor Hall, room 203. During the weeks leading up to the installation, Fein and Lithwick will be visiting classes and interacting with the Vassar community to explore these issues in both academic and social settings. White Flags will be open to the public from 10:00am to 7:00pm daily, with additional hours (sunrise/sunset) as posted at http://blogs.vassar.edu/artistinresidence/whiteflagsinfo.
Fein began working on the flags not long after the events of 9/11, and is completing the work in honor of the 10th anniversary of that event and its aftermath. He has been on the Vassar campus for several visits this year as a 2010-11 Vassar Artist in Residence, sponsored by the Mellon Foundation.
White Flags presents the flags of all 192 United Nations member states rendered entirely in white, as a large scale, global vision of peace and unity. Fein notes that his project “re-imagines a world in which our national symbols have faded just enough to highlight our common bond as a single human family.” Following the installation at Vassar, White Flags will be sited at the Union Theological Seminary in New York City, to be a part of the memorial events surrounding the 9/11 anniversary.
During Fein’s visit last fall, many members of the Vassar community helped sew some of these flags in makeshift sewing studios set up around campus, including tables set up in the Vassar’s College Center. A small installation of the flags was on display in the College Center for the fall semester. In the time between Fein’s visit last fall and his return to campus this spring, many have been following the progress of the project on the Facebook page for White Flags at http://www.facebook.com/whiteflags, where Fein posts each flag as he completes it and asks viewers to “Guess which flag!” Fein also uses the Facebook page to relate his work on the flags to current events, as political unrest can result in design changes – Fein has noted that since he began the project, eight national flags have changed.
Fein said that his project developed from “the idea of an entire world comprised of white flags that began in the months following 9/11, as I observed how all the American flag bumper stickers – our symbol of permanence and comfort after the attacks – began to lose their color in a slow, but inevitable fade to white. I wondered whimsically with a tinge of grief, if more than just the differences in our flags could fade away, ultimately rendering a more united world.” He said he hopes that the completed installation at Vassar will be “a monumental vision of peace.”
In contrast to the utopian vision that Fein continues to stitch together, Lithwick has spent much of the post 9/11 decade involved in the public debate over the continued fraying of the American legal system. As a pioneer of internet journalism, writing columns forSlate and Newsweek magazines, Lithwick has worked tirelessly to communicate to her readers that we are only as free as our laws, and that they inform every aspect of our lives regardless of the distinctions between us.
The educational aim of the residency is to explore the myriad ways in which different peoples have struggled to both exist and coexist since 9/11. In their own ways, Lithwick and Fein will work with students to explore how both language and symbols — our civilizations most fundamental tools — have been manipulated in recent years to either unite or divide us. They said that they hope to impress upon the students that they, regardless of their occupation or station or views, have the power to use these tools in their own way to shape our world for better or for worse.
Fein and Lithwick’s residencies are co-sponsored by the departments of Art and Political Science; the International Studies program at Vassar, and by the Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center.
These events are supported by funds from the Vassar Artist in Residence program, sponsored by the Mellon Foundation. More information about this program and specific events can be found at http://blogs.vassar.edu/artistinresidence.
White Flags Schedule of Events
All events are free and open to the public
Sunday, April 24 - Friday, April 29
The world premiere of the outdoor sculpture installation of all 192 of artist Aaron Fein’s White Flags. The installation will be open to the public from daily from 10:00am to 7:00pm daily, with additional hours (sunrise/sunset) as posted at http://blogs.vassar.edu/artistinresidence/whiteflagsinfo.
Panel discussion with Aaron Fein and Dahlia Lithwick at 1:00pm
Taylor Hall, room 103
Artist Aaron Fein and media commentator Dahlia Lithwick will discuss the topic "Creative expression and free speech - What are the boundaries in America today?"
Friday, April 29, from 2:30 - 4:30pm
Closing reception for White Flags
The closing reception of the full outdoor sculpture installation of all 192 of Aaron Fein’s White Flags
About the Artist in Residence Program
Vassar Artists in Residence is a new program to engage artists with the Vassar community for sustained, interactive, interdisciplinary projects in a variety of art forms. These projects bring real world experiences into the classroom and then reach from the classroom back out again, to the rest of the campus and to the world, adding a social element in addition to the academic element. This kind of residency has a greater impact than what is possible during a shorter visit, or a residency contained in one department. Our community has much to gain from interaction with these artists, but the artists also have the reciprocal effect of access to the knowledge, feedback, and resources of the entire campus.
The 2010-2011 academic year is the second year of the first phase of this program, funded by the Mellon Foundation. The first year, 2009-2010, was a planning year, in which a faculty steering committee was formed to develop the goals of the program and solicit applications from faculty for projects with artists. This second year is a very active one, bringing the artists to campus.
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Vassar College is a highly selective, coeducational, independent, residential liberal arts college founded in 1861.