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Armored Art Project Explores the ‘Rise and Fall of Masculinity’

SVA continues its series highlighting some of the many outstanding projects by 2017 Alumni Scholarship Award winners. Next up is Lily Maslanka (BFA 2017 Visual & Critical Studies) on her project The Rise and Fall of Masculinity , in which she co-opts historical tropes of masculinity, such as armor, in order to celebrate the "butch" woman and her various forms.

Tell us about your project. What inspired the idea?

In short, my project is about butch women celebrating their masculinity through the outlet of the knight. It's about appropriating the suit of armor, which has notoriously been gendered male, and making it for women that tend towards the masculine, and feel more comfortable engaging themselves with masculinity. In part, this also has to do with physically masking gender markers through the ritual of placing a breastplate onto one's body.

What most surprised you once you started working on the project?

I would say how close armor making is to making clothes. Armor and fashion were actually closely tied historically; armor would often mimic fashion, but it never occurred to me that making armor would be so similar to pattern making.

What advice do you have for next year’s students going through your program?

Stay true to yourself and your goals. It doesn't matter what the goals of your program are for you, it matters what your own personal goals are. Senior year really is that final step where you are ready to enter the "real world," and for me that meant that my schedule was being morphed by me, and my goals were being morphed by me and only me. I knew exactly what I needed to get out of senior year, and exactly what connections I wanted to make for myself, and that is what's truly important, not your grades.

What was a highlight of living and studying in New York City?

I lived at home so I didn't have to worry about rent. Also, being able to go to Mets games throughout college helped my sanity. Being from New York City is the best, eh?

Was there a teacher or class that was essential for you?

Jeff Wasson was key to my learning about armor and metalworking, and I'm endlessly grateful for how patient he was with me and that he had given me his time to begin with. I'm also incredibly grateful for Jeff Edwards and how similarly patient and caring he was towards my written thesis. Without him, I definitely would not have the confidence surrounding my writing or ideas.

What would you tell a first-year student about your experience at SVA?

My experience is very different because I know a lot of people are not from New York. So basically, if you're not [from New York], just know that there's a whole damn city out there besides Bushwick, Ridgewood and Bed-Stuy.

This year, a record 78 students were chosen from a pool of over 300 applicants, and were awarded scholarships worth more than $83,000 for projects as varied as narrative film, animation, painting and sculpture. For more information about the Alumni Scholarship Awards and to see a complete list of this year's recipients, click here.

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