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Art Department


Franklin’s Four Seasons Bridges Art, Design, and Storytelling

Franklin’s Four Seasons Bridges Art, Design, and Storytelling

: Tory Franklin, detail, "Four Seasons: Peter and the Wolf," mixed media, 2014; the winter tale. Photo by courtesy of the artist.

Franklin’s Four Seasons Bridges Art, Design, and Storytelling

: Tory interviewed at a Capitol Hill coffee shop. Photo by Mark Bocek.

Franklin’s Four Seasons Bridges Art, Design, and Storytelling

: Tory with Alumni Relations Manager Chris Sande at a Capitol Hill coffee shop. Photo by Mark Bocek.

Franklin’s Four Seasons Bridges Art, Design, and Storytelling

: Tory Franklin, window view, "Four Seasons: Peter and the Wolf," mixed media, 2014; the winter tale. Photo by courtesy of the artist.

Franklin’s Four Seasons Bridges Art, Design, and Storytelling

: Tory Franklin, detail, "Four Seasons: The Man Who Made Trees Bloom," mixed media, 2014; the spring tale. Photo by courtesy of the artist.

Franklin’s Four Seasons Bridges Art, Design, and Storytelling

: Tory Franklin, detail, "Four Seasons: The Man Who Made Trees Bloom," mixed media, 2014; the spring tale. Photo by courtesy of the artist.

Franklin’s Four Seasons Bridges Art, Design, and Storytelling

: Tory Franklin, detail, "Four Seasons: The Man Who Made Trees Bloom," mixed media, 2014; the spring tale. Photo by courtesy of the artist.

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Cornish staffer Tory Franklin’s (AR ’00) Four Seasons is a work that hovers at the borderlands of art, design, and illustration, just as Tory finds herself right in the middle of the new foundational program for Art and Design.

Tory Franklin sees herself as a storyteller. She is partway through a Herculean effort, a window installation at 826 Seattle, a non-profit writing and tutoring center, that will tell four stories over the course of a year. The street-facing window morphs over time as the stories unfold. She makes changes about every two weeks, adding new elements and moving around existing ones. The work is called Four Seasons; she has finished one story for winter, is most of the way through a spring tale, and will have one each for summer and fall. The work is reminiscent of Javanese shadow puppets, intricate, flat-cut figures and settings; in fact, she calls herself a “paper cutter.” She roots her work in the traditions of ancient cultures. Her winter piece told the story of Peter and the Wolf, and her cut patterns were based in Russian folk art. The spring piece she is finishing now is a Japanese folktale, The Man Who Made Trees Bloom, filled with motifs from that cultural tradition.

Four Seasons seems to fit a lot of different categories: art, of course, but it could also be design, or illustration, or theater. Tory’s day job is resource lab technician for the new combined foundational program for the art and design departments at Cornish. By happy coincidence, given the organically interdisciplinary nature of her art practice, she could be the poster child for what the two departments are trying to accomplish with this program. Tory lives in the world the college is moving towards, a multidisciplinary curriculum that responds to the desire of art and design students to work across boundaries.

Tory has experienced transitioning between departments. Her Cornish BFA may be in art, but it was not always her degree track. “I started out in design the first year, and then switched, ’cause I was making things that were too big, and they were like, ‘Uhhh … you actually need to go upstairs,’” she says. “Upstairs,” meaning the art department’s studios. “It’s funny,” Tory continues, “Because I’m using so much of the design background now in my stuff. It’s become so interwoven through processes and computers. I’m, like, starting ‘hand,’ going back to computer, back to ‘hand’ — like this whole balancing act between them.”

Franklin is preparing herself for the big changes coming in the art and design curriculum. “I’m going to be the first year’s studio supervisor,” says Tory. “I’m excited to see what’s going to happen with that. A lot of the art students who don’t get a very good grounding in computer technology will now get that. Design students who don’t get as much of a fabrication background will get into this sculpture studio year one instead of year two or three.”

When it comes to her own work, two roads came together for Tory that led to Four Seasons. The first was a life-long interest in telling stories. Franklin, who attended high school in Woodland, Texas, credits her grandparents with getting things started for her. “They’d travel the world and bring back these amazing children’s books that were exquisitely illustrated,” she recalls. “That’s what led me to going into art in the first place. It’s sort of like I’ve made this 30-year circle.” The paper-cutting style she has mastered parallels jobs she had before coming to Cornish, working with silk-screen printing and sign fabrication, both of which emphasize stencil-type graphics.

Tory loves the hand-work of paper cutting, but has increasingly become comfortable with machinery. Her work is often quite large and uses material a pair of scissors and an exacto knife are not much good with. “I’m doing a lot of hand-cut for small stuff,” she says, “but architectural-scale stuff — it’s mainly machine-cut. I do a lot with cut vinyl. … I’m just now getting into laser cutting. For this most recent work, the tales, I’ve been doing laser-cut plexi.”

The ability to work across disciplines while studying at Cornish has given Tory both the breadth of experience and the courage to do things her own way. “I’m not about ‘shock’ and all of that. I just want to tell stories,” she says. “I feel like there’s this push, like you have to be ‘über-conceptual, über-cutting-edge.’ I’m not interested in that. I want to make these crazy worlds and populate them with characters that I’m working on and use it as a narrative. It comes back to the art-versus-design thing: I’m basically doing book design in windows.”

Four Seasons is a “book” meant for everyone. Tory’s evolving narratives can be visited at any time for the rest of 2014 in the window of 826 Seattle in the Greenwood neighborhood, at 8414 Greenwood Avenue North.


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