“Nailed it!”: Anthony Viscardi’s youth portrait includes a creative twist

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Architecture professor Anthony Viscardi and his students created a portrait of Viscardi when he was younger out of nails and wood. Viscardi collaborates on a project with his students every year. (Anvita Brahmbhatt/B&W Staff)

Architecture professor Anthony Viscardi works on a project with his students in the art, architecture and design department every year. The students collaborate to choose a portrait, draw it out on a piece of wood and cover it with nails.

This year, they chose to create a portrait of young Viscardi.

Teasha McKoy, ’22, one of Viscardi’s students, said this project taught her how to work without a plan and share ideas with other students who had different perspectives. She said the project helped her further develop her creativity as she learned how to create a 3D image from a 2D one.

“I think it was a different experience and one of my favorite projects,” McKoy said. “It was a hands-on experience and a collaborative project. Choosing the right person for the portrait is necessary since we needed someone that had the depth in the facial features and elements we could explore.”

Professor Viscardi talked about the project in detail and the purpose behind it.

“In this course, I am trying to get my students to look at ordinary things in a different context that makes them extraordinary,” Viscardi said. “So you take nails that are used to put things together, but they also make dots.”

Viscardi started the project two years ago with a portrait of Einstein. The main goal of the project, Viscardi said, was to get his students to work together and to understand that both effort and collaboration are needed to create a good project.

The students were each given a portion of the portrait to work on, and when they put it all together, the transition from one part to another completes the nail project.

Viscardi asked his students to bring in pictures of people they wanted to make. However, the students resonated with the youth in Viscardi’s portrait.

“The portrait came out above in a strange way,” Viscardi said. “We were looking at the web and someone wanted a picture of an athlete or a character from ‘Game of Thrones.’ Unable to decide, we came across a picture of me when I was their age and they wanted to do it. It was a crazy process, there was a lot of hammering but there was something about the cacophony of sound that made them excited.” 

At the same time, Viscardi realized that because the artwork would be made of nails, the nails would rust and the work would start to look different.

However, he said the rusting and the plywood peeling adds something to it. He doesn’t want the portrait to be perfect forever and knew the nails would at some point rust.

“It means the nature would take something we started and manipulate it,” he said. 

Emily Landgren, ‘21, a student of Viscardi, said everyone helped each other throughout the process and made sure the individual work looked correct as a whole.  

“Everyone was supportive of each other,” Landgren said. “When we got our individual squares, we worked on our own, but it was important to check in whose square was next to us and making sure everything was going smoothly.” 

The project took three weeks, including choosing the face behind the project and splitting the work between the students, Landgren said.

However, the nail art project seemed to achieve what Viscardi hoped it would. Like every group project, this one took his students on a journey and conveyed to them his vision of creativity.

“For me it was important for them to understand how the portrait changed,” Viscardi said. “I am trying to teach them the process of creativity, the process of how time changes things and how the sun moves over the sky and casts shadows on different angles.” 

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