Class of 2012
Erica Sutton ’12 can add Sotheby’s to her resume—next to Fendi and Oscar de la Renta—when she begins a master’s program in contemporary art at Sotheby’s Institute of Art this fall.
An artist drawn to painting and illustration, Sutton graduates this spring from the College of Architecture, Art, and Planning with a bachelor of fine arts degree, a minor in art history, and a concentration in feminist art and feminist theory. Since her artistic interests vary, Sutton took advantage of Cornell’s diverse course offerings, including a semester abroad in the Cornell in Rome program, as she learned, grew academically and artistically, and explored potential career opportunities.
The College of Architecture, Art, and Planning’s Cornell in Rome program, in particular, had a profound effect on her educational and career path.
During the semester in Rome, students attend lectures given by prominent international artists living in the city, and their curriculum draws upon the immense historical and cultural resources present in Rome’s art and architecture. According to Sutton, it provides a semester of extraordinary opportunity for creative growth.
“I embraced the experience,” she says.
In addition to her independent study in fashion illustration, Sutton interned for an online Italian fashion magazine, Fashionezine, as a stylist and art editor intern. She illustrated articles, assisted with onsite photo shoots, styled thematic concepts, and archived photography.
“I was fortunate to form relationships with Italian fashion and design students, collaborating with them to supplement art for the magazine,” she says. As Sutton illustrated articles for the e-zine, she studied Italian culture and history. She took a course on the business and politics of modern Italy, and she practiced Italian.
Looking back, Sutton says her experience broadened her artistic education. “It also showed me how important it is to travel and be knowledgeable of contemporary artists outside the United States,” she says.
Her semester in Rome allowed her to nourish her passion for high fashion. As she studied and interned in the city, Sutton says she fixated on window displays and mannequins in her Rome art studio. Inspired by Italian fashion’s attempts to embrace concepts of sophistication and high-quality craftsmanship, she applied for an internship in Fendi’s New York City location for the summer of 2011.
“There is no doubt that my experience in my classes and internship in Rome helped me tremendously with my internship at Fendi and will continue to help me,” Sutton says. “I loved building connections and skills in Rome and using them to further my practical experience here in the United States.”
As a Fendi intern, she maintained and redesigned interior store displays. Sutton also helped install the summer 2011 and fall 2011 Fan di Fendi collection window displays.
When she wasn’t at Fendi, Sutton interned at Oscar de la Renta, Ltd. in New York City. As a production and operations intern for the fashion design company, she had the chance to work on the creative and financial sides of the business. Not only was she responsible for updating international and domestic style definitions and price forms, but she was also photographing current collections and assisting with embroidery related to handbags.
“I found the business and artistic components in visual merchandising to be a rewarding and stimulating experience,” she says.
Upon her return to Cornell in the fall of 2011, she completed a research project, “The Color of Dreams.” Drawing on her experiences in the fashion industry, her interest in the psychological aspects of style and design as well as consumerism, materialism, and media, she created a faux installation of a Tiffany & Company salon. The result: she found humor in the fantasy of fashion as she attempted to understand fashion’s power and influence. As Sutton documented the space in film and in interviews, the area became a backdrop for an investigation into the superficial and idealized norms perpetuated in product marketing.
After four years at Cornell, Sutton is thankful for the opportunities—research, coursework, study abroad, and, indirectly, internship experiences—the university provided. And she believes a master’s degree in contemporary art from Sotheby’s will complement her Cornell degree. The graduate program’s focus on the international art market will also allow her to travel abroad.
“For that reason, I feel that my experience in Rome and learning about the Italian art market helped me prepare for this next step,” she says. “Being in Rome encouraged me to branch out and meet new people and new professors, and I am excited to start that experience again at Sotheby’s.”