Chelsea Burrows, a graduating senior graphic design student at Rutgers University–Camden, has won the best-of-category for book covers/spreads at the National Student Show & Conference 10, held earlier this month in Dallas. According to the organizers, this year’s competition had more than 1,000 entrants competing for more than $15,000 in scholarships and best-of-category prizes.
The Clementon resident earned first prize for her piece, “Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction,” which houses the classic text The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction by Walter Benjamin. Fifteen specialty booklets each contain one of the essay’s informative chapters, making the writing both approachable and enjoyable in short windows of time. The booklets also showcase etchings by Rembrandt, one of the earliest forms of reproducible art, as well as Burrows’ custom replicating patterns. The piece is one of several works that Burrows currently has on display in the senior thesis exhibition, now running in the Stedman Gallery on the Rutgers–Camden campus.
As Burrows explains, The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction is a classic and very influential text within the arts, one dealing with the debate as to whether or not art that can be reproduced easily or in great numbers can still be considered art. “Or perhaps more accurately, it asks whether subsequent reproductions can be considered art,” says Burrows, a Class of 2014 graduate from Rutgers–Camden.
Burrows recalls that, at the time she was reading the text – a lengthy read, broken into 15 chapters – she was regularly commuting by train and found it difficult to read large texts on her short trip. A small booklet, she thought, would require just the right amount of time to read between home and school. “I decided that reading this particular text in shorter intervals, with plenty of surrounding time to consider its implications, seemed beneficial,” says Burrows, who attended Baptist High School in Haddon Heights.
As for the illustrations, she notes, they are all her own. “The repetitive patterns of each chapter's cover are designed to add to the debate at hand; each is composed of reproduced symbols,” she explains. “Most include elements that comment upon their respective chapters, and all were born out of my affinity for geometry.”
In addition to her studies, Burrows currently works as a junior designer at the award-winning studio GDLOFT PHL in Philadelphia. She has also interned as a graphic designer for Cooper’s Ferry Partnership, a nonprofit urban planning organization in Camden, and, in her spare time, designs stationary and greeting cards. According to Burrows, these experiences have taught her to work creatively within the constraints and realities of designing projects on a professional level.
Reflecting on her lifelong love of art, Burrows recalls that playing with color was always a driving force in her earliest creative endeavors. Later, in her early-teen years, she enjoyed drafting blueprints and home layouts, often getting lost for hours in an amateur architecture program on her family's desktop computer. “What I thought was a silly hobby taught me a great deal about using visual elements to control space,” she says.
She credits the “rigorous” graphic design program at Rutgers–Camden, under the direction of Allan Espiritu, an associate professor of fine arts, for helping her to hone her raw passion and desire with the skills and thought processes necessary to become a successful graphic designer. She considers her Rutgers–Camden education to be the perfect launching point for a successful career in design. “Our passionate faculty strives to mold each of us into artists that can produce communicative work that is beautiful, logical, and relevant,” she says.