Lily Parmenter // Major Studio Art

Each week, The Mac Weekly interviews a senior artist specializing in Macalester. This week, I had the pleasure of speaking with Lily Parmenter, major of Studio Art, whose dual passion for technology and creativity opened up a whole new artistic medium, marketable and skillful while preserving originality and allowing spectators to experience tangible emotions. .

Lily Parmenter, major in Art Studio. Photo of Melissa Feinman ’17.

What is your origin?

I am from Newton, Mass. Which is a suburb of Boston.

Do you have other specializations outside of Studio Art?

No, it’s the only one.

What is your medium?

It took me a while to figure this out because I thought I was just a graphic designer and had always been very comfortable with computers. But then I felt limited by the design because you usually do things for a client and it’s not very expressive, so I found myself heading into new media and researching the way artists use new media to make art. It’s really exciting for me because it’s this fusion of my two interests in computers, and also creativity. I’m really interested in the possibilities of pushing technology beyond its goals to create something inspiring, creative, and beautiful.

You transferred schools twice before coming to Mac. Could you tell me what it looked like and how you finally got here?

When I was in high school I wanted to go to art school and I really wanted to go abroad. I ended up being accepted early into this art school in London (The Chelsea College of Art and Design), and I went there and decided to drop out after a semester because I really didn’t like not the structure of the program. All the British students were already familiar with all the traditional approaches to drawing and painting, and I hadn’t really done that in high school. I was hoping this foundation program would introduce me to the foundations of art, which I think it should have been. But, instead, it was purely conceptual, so they would give you a project and leave you alone for two weeks and say, “Okay, work on the project”. And instead of lessons, it would just be free time in the studio. I felt really demotivated in a room with around 150 people where no one knew my name […]

I ended up applying for a few [American] small liberal arts schools, and I got accepted into Bard College and went there. I started again in the first year. I didn’t even try to get credits from my program in London, and immediately hated [Bard] also. I declared a major in art history, and they actually had a really good program, but I felt really isolated because we were in the middle of nowhere, and I really needed a culture to which one to be in, but instead it was like this extreme bubble and I didn’t like it, and it wasn’t for me. I applied [to] transfer to a dozen schools and Macalester is the only one I entered. So I came here as an art history student, but found out that the art history department was tiny and there was only one full time professor. and that it was too small for me. Studio Art had more teachers and I decided to change. I also felt frustrated with just writing and wanted to translate my thoughts and knowledge about art into something tangible and just express myself that way.

Did you do a lot of art in high school or did you primarily work with art for the first time in college?

My experience was mainly in design. In high school, I chose to do a track called Visual Design and Communication, so I did a lot of Photoshop and Illustrator. My dad works for Adobe, so I’ve been using these programs for a long time, since I was about 11 years old. I am very proficient in basic programming. I took a few plastic arts classes, so I knew the basics of painting, drawing and ceramics.

What is the most difficult project you have done in your major?

I would say that the most difficult project I did was my last semester which I spent abroad, in Prague. This was for my class which was called “2D, 3D and Time-based Media”, and in this class we learned how to use game design technology to create interactive 3D space. Never having used 3D software, I learned how to create 3D models, integrate them into the game software, make them interactive, and add cameras and lights to create a realistic 3D world. The project was completely open; the prompt was just to create a 3D art space. I ended up doing this piece which was inspired by dreams. It was like this surreal mountain landscape so there is no goal – you just walk around this spiral mountain and it glows blue, pink and purple with fog and clouds and some random furniture and it’s very pastel and very dreamy. It was very difficult-[I] I must have learned a lot from YouTube tutorials, but it went well.

Can you tell us more about your study abroad experiences in Prague and how you decided to get there?

My decision came from this new passion for new media which I was unable to study in Macalester.
So I wanted to do it in another country because it’s cool and I love to travel, it’s one of my other passions after art. I wanted to travel to a place I had never been before, which had an English New Media Arts program. This particular program offered all of that and it was exactly what I was looking for. It was pure creation and purely practical. I needed to balance all this theory that I had been given because I was frustrated with all this knowledge I was getting and not applying myself to anything, so it worked out perfectly.

Do you participate in other activities on or off campus?

I’ve had a few radio shows here at Mac, but much of my activity is off campus in Minneapolis. I started with some friends an art collective in the Twin Cities and it’s called “Upstairs Neighbor Collective”. We did a bunch of house shows, and it was the most rewarding activity I did in my college days because we were able to bring people from the Twin Cities together through music and art. We also had an art exhibition where anyone could submit art and be accepted and we also had it in my house, and I was really proud of it.

Do you have any plans to pursue art beyond your time here at Mac?

I’m aware of the realistic implications of being an artist in today’s world, especially in New York City where I want to live, so I think my practicality is influencing what I’m doing right now because I I’m trying to develop the skills that I think are marketable, so I’m trying to learn as much programming as I can and be proficient in programming and web design. I can now do this game design, I can do sound design, I can work in a TV studio. It may make me a more desirable candidate for these kinds of jobs instead of just being a creative person. I really want to have a job that doesn’t work in a cafe. I want to have a real job but not be bored to death. I will take anything that is relatively creative, as long as I have some form of personal expression in my life.

Do you have anything else to add that you would like others to know about you and your art?

Well I guess I could talk about the senior exhibit. This semester for my last show, I’m trying to find a way to synthesize all of these things that I’ve been working on, and we have a lot of leeway to do whatever we want. I plan to do some sort of interactive new media installation that could be like a room you walk into and are aware of your presence and through sensors translate your emotions into visual forms that you will immediately see around you.
I want this to be a fully immersive experience that will be generated in real time to include the viewer. I want to transform the viewer into a participant or co-creator of the play. I don’t know what it will look like, but this is the direction I want to go.

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