Date of Award

Spring 5-15-2014

Author's School

Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts

Author Department/Program

Graduate School of Art

Degree Name

Master of Fine Arts (MFA) in Visual Art

Degree Type



This thesis explores the work of visual artist Alyse Cole as she has employed the grid as the foundation for her process. Both analytically and expressively inclined, the grid makes perfect sense for artist Alyse Cole, as it comes with the most human contradiction: rational and the subjective. Using the brick as reference this paper discusses the use of the grid in 20th and 21st century painting. Including reference to artist like Piet Mondrian, Agnes Martin, Sean Scully, Richard Diebenkorn, Cole defines her use of the grid as it relates to her process as it strives to unite the failures and frailties of the human hand with the reassuring systematic order of the grid. The personality of the grid exists in the most human contradiction between the rational and the subjective, my work too finds its place within this very paradox, as it is both analytically and expressively inclined. Throughout the history of the grid, we see humans grasping on to it, as it has become this omnipresent agent of organization—as it organizes cities and networks, as well as time, space, information, and even galaxies. However, I am interested in this matter on a more personal level—the scale of the individual. My work explores this engagement as it associates with my process- between my rational and the subjective self. As a fixed underpinning of my practice, the grid is everything I need it to be. It is constant and true, yet flexible and adaptable. It is organized, precise and clean, yet chaotic. While it offers expansive precision, clarity, stability, balance, reassurance, and sense of space, the grid is also confining, self-referential, and flat—a contradiction within itself. Self-contained, the grid is a space in which I can organize my thoughts as I explore formal problems pertaining to line, form, and color. Defining my process, it strives to unite the failures and frailties of the human hand with the reassuring systematic order of the grid. As these paintings progress intuitively—exploring color together with line, form and composition—more often than not, they become chaotic, too much to handle. So, I go back to the grid, collect my thoughts and reorganize. Previously laid-down shapes of color are often interrupted by new ideas and lines or new grids are drawn out right on the surface. This results in the build-up of rich layers and most often brings a greater complexity to each piece—through contradiction. This allows each painting to serve as a mere index (pentimenti) or self-portrait (if you will) of the process itself. As every thought, idea, and decision—together with every emotion, failure, pause, circumstance, and insecurity—remains as a mark within the layers of each painting.


English (en)

Program Director

Patricia Olynyk

Program Director's Department

Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts

Second Committee Member

Jessica Baran

Fourth Committee Member

Denise Ward-Brown

Artist's Statement

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