Sophia Ainslie in the Northeastern Global News

Northeastern art professor and her students transform Boston-area home into abstract art

April 14,2023
by Cody Mello-Klein

Northeastern University computer engineering and computer science alumnus Alexander Langrock ’22, assists Sophia Ainslie, Northeastern associate professor of art and design, in painting an abstract piece in a private home in Chestnut Hill. Ainslie and her students were given free reign on the commissioned piece to paint anywhere from floor to ceiling. Photos by Alyssa Stone/Northeastern University

Walking into this mid-century modern Chestnut Hill home you might not expect to find abstract art literally flowing off the walls. But that’s exactly where Sophia Ainslie, a Northeastern University associate teaching professor of art and design, has created her next masterpiece.

Ainslie’s abstract style, which combines bold pops of color and shapely-yet-formless flows of black and white, is impossible to ignore. It’s why, on top of her work in the classroom, she also brings her art out into the world through commissioned, large-scale pieces. Her work transforms spaces like Northeastern’s Ryder Hall, Boston City Hall and, now, a private home in the Chestnut Hill neighborhood west of downtown Boston. 

“It’s always been more about the two dimensionality of a space, and now it’s interesting working more three dimensionally because it is more experiential,” Ainslie says. “You get more engulfed in it.”

Sophia Ainslie drew on the colors from the property owners’ art collection to connect her piece to the character of the Chestnut Hill home she was working in for this project. Photos by Alyssa Stone/Northeastern University

But Ainslie doesn’t do this alone. She uses these projects as experiential learning opportunities, bringing her students along for the ride. The design is Ainslie’s, but her students use their own brushstrokes and style to help bring her vision to life.

“She asks us to assist her, but it feels more like we’re partners or collaborators rather than assistants,” says Rene James, a second-year architecture student who worked on the Chestnut Hill project. She’s always asking us for our input and trusting us to add our own little personal touches to the artwork and use our personal judgment.”

“It’s her artwork, so she’s done all the thinking and everything for it, and I just like being a part of something bigger,” says Madeline Zhang, a third-year computer science and media arts student.

Read the full article here.