Art and Design Faculty Earn Visualizing Research Impacts Awards

The Southern Illinois University Edwardsville Graduate School has announced the winners of the 2019 Visualizing Research Impacts (VRI) competition, which encourages SIUE scholars to show the results and impacts of their research to the public through images.

The recipients are Rodrick Whetstone, professor of graphic design in the Department of Art and Design, and Laura Strand, professor and head of textile arts in the Department of Art and Design. Their works were selected from eight faculty and student entries that depicted a wide diversity of creative activities from disciplines throughout the University, including entries from the sciences, arts, humanities and education.

  • Most Creative Representation of Research Impact: “Untitled” by Whetstone
  • Best Representation of Research Impact: “The Silver Knife” by Strand

“The VRI competition encourages SIUE faculty, staff and students to show the results and impacts of research through images rather than words,” said Susan Morgan, PhD, professor in the Department of Civil Engineering and associate dean for research and graduate studies. “Images provide a different tool than what is often used by researchers to explain their research. The hope is to make research more accessible and engaging to a public audience.”

Whetstone and Strand each received a $1,500 award to further support and encourage their scholarly activities. The awardees were chosen by an alumni panel comprised of varying disciplines. Additionally, the two award recipients will be recognized at the chancellor’s reception at the Graduate School Research Symposium during the spring semester.

Whetstone created “Untitled” as part of a series of drawings that use a machine he created from found parts and junk. The machine utilizes a writing utensil as a pendulum in order to make marks onto a page. Instead of having the autonomy to draw, the drawing utensil is tossed to and fro at the whim of forces happening upon it.

While wearing the drawing machine as a movement tracker, Whetstone recorded on paper the natural movement of his body through daily life. Because the machine extends two feet in front and behind him, he had to raise his awareness and rethink how to navigate through daily spaces while creating this piece.

“My work focuses on the loss of control,” Whetstone explained. “I questioned what would happen if I tracked the movement and rhythm of my body as I traveled through my day-to-day activities. My inspiration was the loss of control in my own life.

“I was also inspired by the Dala movement of the early 20th century, known for leaning toward incongruity, irrationality, and rejection of what is considered artistic. Thus, I created an awkward contraption that makes drawings in a distinct and peculiar way. I wanted to challenge everything I knew what art should be.”

Meanwhile, Strand’s work is built upon research into the vulnerability of the Ogallala Reservoir, the vast body of water beneath the central U.S. spanning from North Dakota to Texas. This body was deposited as glaciers retreated thousands of years ago and has become the primary water source throughout the central U.S. for residents and agriculture.

While Strand was flying west for a conference, she became inspired by the compositions of circles that covered the landscape. As she began using those images for her work, she learned the circles were formed by crops watered through a pump irrigation system drilled into the Ogallala. She was shocked to discover that 20 hours of one full rotation of the system uses six million gallons of water, and the presence of crops treated with herbicides and pesticides risks contamination of the reservoir.

“The relationship between the needs of western farmers and the plenty known in the St. Louis area where the Missouri and Mississippi rivers converge has informed this piece,” Strand said. “It describes the duality of presence and absence that influences the political controversy surrounding water.”

First Photo: “Untitled” by Rodrick Whetstone, professor of graphic design in the Department of Art and Design

Second Photo: “The Silver Knife” by Laura Strand, professor and head of textile arts in the Department of Art and Design


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