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Student artist wins prestigious fellowship

April 13, 2005

Liz Rossof, artist and Javits fellowLiz 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 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.

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

Originally from Chicago and now an Oakland resident, Rossof 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, "Where are these rubber bands coming from? Why do they exist in the street … taking on this other life that doesn't seem to have a purpose?"

Photo of Rossof's rubber band artThe name "Feral Bands" is inspired by feral cats, domesticated animals turned out to the wild to survive on their own, Rossof said.

After completing her bachelor's degree in studio art at Pitzer College in Southern California, 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.

She says 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 says. "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 she graduates in 2007, Rossof plans to become an art teacher at either the university or high school level.

"I don't ever really think about any of my art projects taking a final form," she says. "Especially because they're so conceptual, they can continue to move. They can continue to expand and turn into other things. [They] sort of have a life of their own that lives inside of me."

For information about national scholarships and fellowships available to SFSU students, visit the Office of Academic Honors and Scholarships Web site, e-mail or call (415) 338-7461.

-- Student Writer Lisa Rau with Matt Itelson


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Last modified April 13, 2005 by University Communications