Campus: San Francisco State University -- April 13, 2005

SFSU Art Student Awarded Prestigious Jacob K. Javits Fellowship

Grad student Liz Rossof uses commonplace objects to depict thought-provoking ideas

San Francisco State University student artist Liz Rossof doesn't use traditional art-making tools. She uses public space, inspiration from her daily life and ordinary objects - even used rubber bands - to express her ideas in unique and unconventional ways.

One of four students nationwide to win a 2005 Jacob K. Javits Fellowship in studio art and photography from the U.S. Department of Education, Rossof will receive funding for tuition and a living stipend for the remainder of her graduate program. The prestigious fellowship of up to $41,000 is given to graduate students who have shown superior academic success and exceptional promise to complete their education.

Rossof is the fifth SFSU student to win the Jacob K. Javits Fellowship in recent years, joining Janet Martinez, Victoria Gamburg, Cade Bursell and Erin Ploss-Campoamor in the honor.

Her most recent project, titled "Feral Bands," showcased thousands of rubber bands - hung, stretched, photographed and heaped in the Cesar Chavez Art Gallery on campus.

Rossof, originally from Chicago and now an Oakland resident, was inspired one day during a walk through the streets of San Francisco. After realizing she had passed dozens of rubber bands in a single block, she began asking herself such questions as, "Where are these rubber bands coming from? Why do they exist in the street taken on this other life that doesn't seem to have a purpose?"

The name "Feral Bands" is inspired by feral cats, domesticated animals turned out to the wild to survive on their own, said Rossof.

After completing her bachelor's degree in studio art at Pitzer College, Rossof taught Spanish and health in the Bay Area. The aspiring artist worked on independent art projects for a few years and then decided to pursue a master of fine arts degree in conceptual and information arts.

Rossof said she strives to bring awareness to objects and ideas that would normally be considered "mundane." By applying otherwise ordinary concepts to her artwork, she hopes people will "start to recognize how absurd it is, how important it is, how neglected it is, or if it's an issue at all. Maybe it's just funny."

Rossof gains inspiration by asking herself questions of placement, legitimacy, definition, absurdity, cultural iconography and the meaning behind those icons in history.

Art Professor Stephen Wilson sees Rossof as a role model for other artists. She "finds a unique way to communicate her findings," he said. "She scans the world, her own experiences, and the larger socio-cultural context looking for themes that call out for comment."

"Something that can be turned into an action inspires me," Rossof said, "something you can activate, make happen."

After her expected graduation in 2007, Rossof plans to become an art teacher at the university or high school level.

"I don't ever really think about any of my art projects taking a final form." She said, now expecting to complete her master's degree in the Conceptual Information Arts program. "Especially because they're so conceptual, they can continue to move. They can continue to expand and turn into other things. It sort of has its own life that lives inside of me."

Contact: Matt Itelson, (415) 338-1743; (415) 338-1665; matti@sfsu.edu


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