Date of Award

Spring 5-17-2019

Author's School

Sam Fox School of Design and Visual Arts

Author's Program


Degree Name

Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA)





Theater is used as a lens through which I view the act of role play in participatory and interaction based artworks. I examine the elements of Action – in participatory or performance works—and Set—in immersive installation works – for their effectiveness in creating avenues for empathetic relations in my own work and that of contemporary artists. I distinguish between the overblown spectacle of Peter Brook’s Deadly Theater and connect the mission of the Holy Theater to that of my own art practice. Performance, immersive installation, participation and interaction thereby serve to allow the artwork’s participants to engage in role-taking and play to connect with the uninhibited self. I discuss the limiting impact of life experience and social acceptability in enforcing us to become self-guarding and distrustful of our community. My work upholds a reconnection to childhood experience and seeks to break down the barriers for connection that form over our lifetimes. I propose that the key to truly connecting with one another and forming and maintaining community is learn to trust and depend on one another again. My work strives to be a opportunity to break the walls between us and allow freedom of interaction.

Mentor/Primary Advisor

Lisa Bulawsky

Artist's Statement

Grace Zajdel

Artist Statement:

I lack specificity in language. I speak in metaphor. I am constantly synthesizing the meaning of my observations and interactions by illustrating comparisons. It is in my artworks that I have found visual allusion the most concise manner of communicating what I feel. I began my work to increase empathy through shared experience. Navigating my relationships and my environment led me to focus on ideas of community and socialization. I believe art has the potential to create fellowship between people of vastly different walks of life. By sharing my vulnerable inner life with my community, I aim to break social barriers by projecting psychological space into the physical realm.

I am drawn to the sculptural media because of its ability to connect through interaction. I work with fiber, inflatables, casting and soft sculpture to develop participatory performances, interactive objects and immersive spaces. The initial feelings of levity evoked from my chosen materials entice people together so a truly empathetic experience is felt when the serious undercurrent hits. To understand and be understood is intoxicating. As more people connect to the feelings I put into the world, I see my practice transform from a study of a hermetic introspective life into a creation of spaces that foster a sense of interaction and community.

My practice is an ongoing project to sort out my chaotic and irrational mental space into a rational process. Making my work helps me to comprehend my thoughts. It is a form of catharsis as much as it is a communication of a lived experience. Although each piece is autobiographical in inspiration, it is not my goal for the work to convey a narrative. The emotional content of the work is distilled into the chosen materials and their relation to each other. The tone of my work is bright, bold and whimsical. At present, balloons and cloud imagery represent my ruminations on innocence and inexperience. It is where these light-hearted materials meet their contrast that the gravity of the subject matter can be understood. Balloons meet needles and clouds meet chains. Material connotation is vital to translating my private experience to a shared public one. I strive to illustrate the struggle for mental levity. To present a serious experience through an initially innocuous lens is not about repression, ignorance or naïveté, but rather it is a celebration of the strength it takes to continue to look for goodness despite the pain that can weigh us down.