Honors in the Arts Cohort 2014-15

Honors Students



BS Environmental Engineering and Design, Minor in Art Practice

Handcrafted fly fishing reel representing the process of tool-making from ideation through realization.

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Tools allow humans to survive and subsist in hostile environments. Anthropologist Leroi Gourhan believes that “the emergence of tools as a species characteristic marks the frontier between animal and human,” (Tim Ingold, Making, 114). Yet today, people who live subsistence lifestyles are becoming increasingly rare and the nature of subsistence living is evolving towards a greater dependence on manufactured products. My honors project explores the progression of human interactions with nature through creation of historical and modern survival tools. The tools I am building echo the physiological needs Maslow identified as necessary for human survival, which primarily are food, water, and homeostasis. A fishing spear and fly fishing reel represent food, birch bark baskets represent water, a beaver fur hat represents homeostasis, and a knife represents a universal tool that assist in the making of all the aforementioned tools. In my design process, I will explore whether unique handmade tools or manufactured tools with greater strength and functionality more suited to subsistence lifestyles.


JORDAN BRYAN | The Shape of Sound

BS Mathematical and Computational Science 

The Shape of Sound uses mathematics to create a harmony and rhythm-based visualization of musical phrases moving through space.

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What if your speakers could actually speak to you?  Or rather, what if there was a device that communicated, along with the auditory information of a piece of music, an intuitive physical depiction of its shape?  The creation of such a device is the focus of my interdisciplinary project, which I hope will bring those people without a connection to jazz or improvised music a little closer to experiencing what it is like to speak a musical language. To define the contours of a musical piece, I am turning to a relatively new branch of mathematics called computational topology, which can be used to create meaningful low-dimensional summaries of very high dimensional data.  It can therefore be used to create interpretable pictures out of information that is literally impossible for humans to see.  In addition, I will use a technique called non-negative matrix factorization to try to isolate the sounds produced by each individual instrument in a recording directly from the audio signal.  The final deliverable will be a new kind of speaker: a malleable surface—much like the popular “pin screen” desk toy—that produces a real-time visualization of audio stimuli.



BA Comparative Literature 

bacchae is a queer adaptation of the ancient tragedy by Euripides which locates Dionysus in the modern rave and imagines textual rhythms for a new age of music.

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This adaptation of The Bacchae translates Euripides’ classical tragedy into an immersive environmental experience, colored by a combination of poetic odes and free-style verse. Informed by the study of Dionysus worship in ancient Greece and inspired by the sights and sounds of twenty-first century raves, this polyphonic text refracts contemporary culture through the lens of ancient myth to reveal how Dionysian religion lives on today. Incorporating the stylings and insights of poetry, philosophy, queer theory, and music.


RYOKO HAMAGUCHI | Case Presentation: Re-imagining Medicine, Illness and the Human Body

BS Biology

Case Presentation is a compilation of watercolor, ink and mixed media paintings that visually re-imagine the human body and communicate diverse narratives of illness, loss and healing. 

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The primary objective of my capstone project is to integrate medicine and visual art, capturing illness as a complex human narrative with emotional, social and cultural layers that are often omitted from the language of modern medical practice. My finished product will be a series of 5-6 watercolor/ink paintings, inspired by my most memorable patient interactions as a volunteer in the emergency department at the Santa Clara Valley Medical Center. Among the key themes addressed by my pieces are: the impact of poverty and socioeconomic disparities on chronic illness, the complex emotional backdrop of Parkinson’s and other debilitating neurodegenerative diseases, and the role of the family in the context of illness and loss. Importantly, I aim to integrate the physical and non-physical aspects of illness, rather than emphasizing one over the other or imposing a dichotomy between the two.  To this end, a significant part of the creative process will be spent researching the conditions captured in my pieces, studying the affected anatomy and working to depict the pathophysiology as accurately as possible. While I have not yet finalized the venue for my exhibit, I am hoping to display my work in a space on the Stanford School of Medicine campus or in the Stanford Hospital. It is my hope that my exhibit, though small in size, will provide a valuable space for intrapersonal reflection and interpersonal dialogue among physicians, patients, and all other members of the healthcare community. My clinical experiences—some heartbreaking and some heartwarming—have become one of my greatest motivations to pursue a career in medicine. By expressing their important lessons through the brush, I hope to think deeper about the role of art in medicine and how I may harness my artistic passions in my journey to become the creative, humane and compassionate physician I strive for.



BA English, Minor in Spanish

Sheila is a full-length play that provides glimpses into six women’s lives as they perceive and misperceive, treat and mistreat, and interact with bodies.

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I am using my year in Honors in the Arts to edit, workshop, cast, direct, and produce my original play, Mixer (working title), which will be performed for the Stanford community in Spring 2015. It is a play about how intelligent, progressive young people still enact gendered binaries in their intellectual, social, and sexual lives, and it exists at the intersection of three disciplines: 1) English (Creative Writing), 2) Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies (FEMGEN), and 3) Theater and Performance. Among my mentors are Professor Elizabeth Tallent (English), Shannon Pufahl (Creative Writing), and Amy Freed (TAPS). The play is set in the lounge of a 6-person suite and the cast is comprised of 7 female actors, of any race. By portraying onstage the complex lives of seven college-age women – composite characters loosely based on interviews with Stanford students and other anthropological research – I will explore the way in which we perceive and misperceive, treat and mistreat, value and devalue bodies. I aim to leave this program with a revised script of the full-length play.



BA American Studies, Minor in Dance

Duality is a duet that explores how new forms of contemporary ballet reconstruct and empower the female body onstage, expanding how our culture views women and their bodies.  

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The project explores how new forms of contemporary ballet reconstruct and empower the female body onstage, expanding how American society views women and their bodies in the twenty-first century.  Within the project I research and investigate American choreographer William Forsythe’s avant garde contemporary ballet technique in order to contextualize my own choreographer and incorporate current dance research on the female aesthetic. The dance represents my own distancing from classical forms of ballet in their representations of women and shows my process of embodying a more confident, forceful self while dancing. This female duet is an attempt to create new movement that give agency to the female onstage, and inspire women in society to find the same strength and conviction within themselves.



BA Film and Media Studies, Minor in American Studies, Minor in Art History

New York Cuts is a feature-length documentary that explores a variety of barbershops and hair salons throughout disparate cultural enclaves of New York City. 

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New York Hair explores the variety of barbershops and hair salons throughout the cultural enclaves of New York City. Focusing on themes of ethnicity, class, and community, conversations between stylists and clients are observed and intertwined in a portrait of urban multiculturalism. The film brings viewers into interiors spaces they might not otherwise visit, as its experiential approach encourages understanding of the ways in which vastly different communities experience one city. The relationships between these vignettes hope to inspire a collective appreciation of the importance and value of cultural diversity in an increasingly globalized world.



BS Computer Science

Anchored by the physicality of a book and the written text, this collection of poems is my re-interpretation of the myriad of meanings located within the human genome.

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The genome is an entity that is at the same time universal and uniquely personal. Seq is inspired by this paradox and draws its name from the sequencing process necessary to construct a genome. Drawing on personal anecdotes, snippets of computer code and the language of scientific literature, Seq is a collection of writing that explores the search for the author’s individual identity and experience. To echo the dynamic diversity of life, the pieces in Seq will ‘evolve’ under the rules learnt from machine-learning algorithms, such that each rendering is unique and virtually unrepeatable.


LAURA PETREE | bacchae

BA Comparative Literatre

An immersive, site-specific, festival inspired adaptation, bacchae twists theatrical conventions and examines an ancient tragedy through a contemporary, feminist lens.

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“We are still mythical.” Euripides’ The Bacchae continues to seize the imaginations of artists and audiences more than two millennia after its first performance. This adaptation seeks to explore the gender, power, and pleasure politics at play in the original text translated into their new context at Stanford. The immersive, site-specific work will also involve as many student artists as possible, weaving individual pieces throughout the larger narrative of The Bacchae to create a playground for the artistic abilities of other Stanford students. The performance will experiment with concepts of fate, working to understand audience agency within the theatrical sphere.


ALTHEA SOLIS | Wanderlust

BA Art Practice, Minor in Psychology, Minor in Creative Writing

A science fiction graphic novel and exploration of the possible near-future colonization of Mars. Set in 2042, Wanderlust follows the first crew of a private space exploration company's first mission to our neighbor planet, a mission made necessary by the catastrophic consequences of our inadequate response to climate change. 

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I aim to create a full-length, science fiction graphic novel. Set in the near future, it explores the option of interplanetary colonization as a possible response to climate destruction through the lens of one bearing the burden of leaving Earth and representing humanity. The narrative will question the moral and ethical implications of human’s claim to the universe, complicate the vision of progress, and pit emotion and experience against an alien environment and a backdrop of technological sterility and regiment. My hope is to create a believable, critical representation of humanity’s future — technologically, emotionally, and philosophically. This graphic novel uses science fiction elements as the grounds on which to discuss ethical issues regarding ideology, revolution, and representation. This project is based on thorough research of space exploration of the recent past and the near future. Because I do not want my reader distracted by scientific jargon or inaccuracies, all of the technology featured in the graphic novel comes from active engagement with current technological advances — technology that is being prototyped now, in 2014. For example, their spacesuits are a modified version of the MIT Biosuit. I also hope to move beyond the common tropes of the genre — the horrific space death, the crazed astronaut in isolation — in order to connect this fiction to real life experience and emotion. I intend on using a pragmatic vision of the near future in order to explore the psychological and moral complexities of an individual’s responsibility to one’s species.


IRIS WU | Gehirnrauschen

BS Human Biology, Minor in Music

Through Liszt and EEG, Gehirnrauschen is a solo piano work that explores the interaction of music and mind. 

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Music has been an integral component of emotional expression and storytelling since the beginning of human culture. How can a structured collection of sounds convey and evoke such deep emotion? To investigate how music affects us, EEG and EKG data will be recorded and analyzed from volunteers as they listen to various genres of music. These electrical frequencies will then be turned into sound frequencies, creating an acoustic representation of our experience of music. How does the body and the mind react differently to various musical elements and genres? Does the experience of the same piece of music produce similar response patterns in different individuals? This sonification of musical experience is an exploration of the biological basis behind the power of music.

Headshot Photography: Alex Tamkin