Lizzee Solomon-Undergraduate Research Office - Carnegie Mellon University

Lizzee Solomonlizzee solomon

Major: Fine Art, Hispanic Studies           Year: Senior          Hometown: Deerfield, IL

Honors: Phi Kappa Phi Honors Society, Dean's List, Ellis Sophomore Art Award

Projecttitle: "Vivan las Fallas"
Type of Support
: ISURG

When did you become involved in undergraduate research at CMU?  In Spring of 2009, I began working for the Undergraduate Research Office, which provides students with valuable opportunities such as SURG and SURF. Upon securing my plans for studying abroad in Valencia, Spain, I received an ISURG in Fall 2009 for the Spring and Summer of 2010.

How did you find your mentor?  My mentor was Andrew Johnson, my drawing professor. In Spring 2009, he had taught a course on text-image relations in art with a strong emphasis on narrative, sequential forms, such as comic books. This was my first Advanced Studio Course, and until then, comics had never been a part of class-it was something I pursued completely independently from school through political cartooning and in drawing weekly comics for the Tartan. This course, along with Andrew's encouragement, inspired me to pursue my interest further.

How has your idea/project evolved through the academic years?  My initial idea was to create a comic book telling the story of las Fallas, an annual festival in Valencia. Fallas takes place the week of St. Joseph's Day, and evolved from a tradition in medieval Valencia which was to burn all of the trash accumulated from winter in preparation for spring. Over time, these piles of garbage became complex works of art. Today, the "fallas" are combustible 30ft structures built by each neighborhood within Valencia mimicking political figures, celebrities, and everyday people.  At the end of the week, all of them, except the best one, are burned in a magnificent display. Based on what I had read and pictures I'd seen of las Fallas, I assumed that the fallas were the focal point of the festival. However, after experiencing the festival firsthand, I realized that there was much more to it than that. My initial plan had been elaborate upon each "falla" as a character using sequential art.  However, the fallas were complex, comprising of many different components, and frequently did not convey any particular message. The aspect of the fallas that interested me most was watching them burn, which I did not expect. In their burning, I could sense a duality of old and new, as well as renewal and destruction. As I began the comic, I felt compelled to capture these themes as well as the general energy of the festival.

What successes or difficulties have you encountered in this project or others?  I had initially aimed for the book to be done for the 2010 Meeting of the Minds. However, as I discovered while I was abroad, it was nearly impossible to work in Valencia. The timing of the festival came near the end of my semester in Spain, so I could not begin the storyboarding process until then. Also, with all of the other challenges and excitement of living abroad, it was difficult to focus on drawing. There was no time for reflection or development, which I feel are necessary for art. Another setback was losing a lot of drawings from Valencia in the mail. In hindsight, this was a good thing because it challenged me to do better the second time around. I'm still working on it, and can only guess that it will be done before the next semester is over. Despite all of the difficulties in realizing the project, it has been an incredibly important experience for me as an artist.

If you could summarize your experience in one word, what would it be?  Vital