Tag Archives: University of South Dakota

Queen of the Nerds

January 27, 2017 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Amanda Fehlner has some opinions about superheroes wearing spandex.

“You’re about to go into battle, and what are you going to put on? A spandex suit? That’s not going to help you at all. So, I made the Rogue [costume] out of leather,” says the Omaha costume designer, explaining how she constructed a bodysuit for the X-Men character.

Fehlner says it was one of her earliest forays into the increasingly popular world of cosplay.

“First of all, cosplay is just a combination of two words. It’s costume-play. So it’s really any opportunity that you as a person get to dress up as someone that you’re not, and you get to play while you’re in that [costume] and have fun with it,” she explains.

amandafehlner3Fehlner is more than a hobbyist. She’s an associate costume designer at the Omaha Community Playhouse. Skills useful for her day job benefit her hobby, while the reverse is also true. For instance, a cosplayer might work with plastic to fabricate armor—techniques that translate to theater.

Cosplayers are typically spotted in places that celebrate nerd culture, such as comic book or sci-fi conventions. Fehlner explains that cosplay is similar to attending Renaissance fairs in costume or dressing in genre-inspired outfits such as goth or steampunk, but that cosplayers tend to portray specific characters in movies, comic books, cartoons, or Japanese anime.

On Facebook, where she goes by the name “Ezmeralda Von Katz,” there are photos of Fehlner’s diverse creations including an elaborate Ursula costume from Disney’s The Little Mermaid and the computer game character Carmen Sandiego. Because of her theater background, Fehlner explains that she sometimes enjoys getting into character when she’s in costume, but it isn’t required.

Her passion for constructing costumes started early. While growing up in Tabor, Iowa, she learned to sew Halloween costumes to meet her exacting specifications and participated in theater at Fremont-Mills High School.

“It started with Halloween. It was my very favorite holiday, still is my very favorite holiday, but as a kid that was my big thing,” she says.

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Before heading off to study theater and anthropology at the University of South Dakota, Fehlner was cast in a Mills Masquers community theater production of  Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. She begged them to let her make the coat.

“Of course being in theater now, I’m sure they were like, ‘Some person just wants to do this, and we don’t have to handle it. Done, done, and done!’”  Fehlner says with a laugh.

She likes a good challenge; her latest cosplay projects include an elaborate ball gown for a character from the anime series Vampire Hunter D and a hand-stitched Sally costume from The Nightmare Before Christmas. Not to mention the spring productions at the Omaha Community Playhouse.

“I’ll be working on The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, so I’ll get to do some fun Western stuff,” Fehlner says. “Of course, our closer is Beauty and the Beast. It’s exciting and a little terrifying at the same time.”

Fortunately for the playhouse team, Fehlner says she has already been experimenting with a Beast costume thanks to her cosplay side projects.

Visit omahaplayhouse.com for more information.

Joseph Broghammer

May 13, 2016 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

It has been said that art imitates life. Joseph Broghammer’s art is based on his life, acting as a sort of diary that captures his minutes, his hours, and his days. Talking about the role art has taken in his life, it’s clear that being an artist has shaped Broghammer into who he is today. Art is so much more than something he just wakes up and does. It is part of him.

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Broghammer says. “I use symbols, icons, religious objects, and more to spell out something that happened to me, that interests me, or something that I can learn from or someone that I can learn from.”

While Broghammer creates quite a few pieces centering around birds, he says the works aren’t always about the birds. They are more of a symbol to him and sometimes have
nothing to do with the story he is trying to tell. It is always the story that matters most to Broghammer. However, seeing as birds come in a variety of shapes, sizes, colors, and even textures, they make an enjoyable subject.

This can be seen on his website, which is filled with images of birds. They aren’t quaint chickadees and bluebirds, but more often are imaginative images such as “King of the Lollipop Fatties,” a pastel of a realistic-looking bird covered in candies. He often creates art based on the Sandhill Crane.

Broghammer stumbled into the role of artist his senior year of high school when he took art as an extra class. At the suggestion of his art teacher, he also applied for a scholarship to the University of South Dakota. He won the scholarship, obtaining a Bachelor of Fine Arts. He also started working on a master’s degree, but his art career nearly ended there.

“I got burned out from graduate school,” Broghammer recalls. “I took time off from art.”

Broghammer clearly recalls his return to the world of art. One day he walked into The Antiquarium, a combination bookstore and art gallery located in the Old Market. The Antiquarium’s director of the art gallery at that time, Al Strong, asked Broghammer if he was an artist. When Broghammer confirmed that he was, Strong asked if Broghammer wanted a show. “I said sure,” he recalls. “I decided then to make whatever interests me and I wanted to focus on my life.”

Broghammer’s work was described by the great Norman Geske (known as the father of Nebraska art) as “dry paintings.” In other words, Broghammer’s work is too bright and full of color to be considered drawings; however, they are not acrylic or oil, which would categorize them as paintings. They are instead dry versions of wet painting.

“I started to use chalk pastels in college because I liked the look and feel of them,” Broghammer shares. “I like the quickness of the medium and I can do images in chalk that I just can’t do in paint.”

Broghammer also regularly participates in art shows. His art is currently being displayed at The South Dakota Art Museum and Museo de Filatelia in Oaxaca, Mexico (in collaboration with El Museo Latino in Omaha). Encounter

Visit josephbroghammer.com to learn more.

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Steve Gordon

August 20, 2012 by
Photography by minorwhitestudios

Designer Steve Gordon’s urbanized sense for what’s in-vogue permeates his lifestyle and RDQLUS Creative signature work. He indulges a love for hip hop, sneakers, and bikes. He provides brand development, identity design, and creative direction services for corporate clients, big and small, near and far.

Growing up in the North Omaha projects, Gordon displayed an inquisitive mind and aptitude for art. Attending Omaha Creighton Prep exposed him to a larger world.

“I was encouraged to explore, and I think exploration is a major part of creativity and innovation,” he says. “All of that comes from the wide-open spaces of being able to reach and grasp at straws, get some things wrong. After I bought into that, so many things opened up. At Prep, I fell in love with architecture. It still drives a lot of the work I do. My work is a lot more structured than the free-form work of some other designers. Mine is very vertical and Art Deco influenced.”

His design endeavors shared time with his passions for music and competitive athletics. He “fell in love” with music as a kid and went on to success as a DJ, producer, and remixer. His skill as a triple jumper earned him scholarship offers from top colleges and universities. After two years as a Cornhusker in Lincoln, he transferred to the University of South Dakota, where he won multiple national titles. He was ranked among the world’s best.

Gordon with the shoes he designed for NIKEiD.

Gordon with the shoes he designed for NIKEiD.

His pursuit of an Olympic berth and a music career took him around the world. Back home, he worked corporate gigs before launching RDQLUS Creative in 2005.

“As an artist, you want that creative outlet to do something a bit more outside the box, something you’re passionate about,” he says of going the indie route.

The sneaker aficionado recently combined two of his passions when NIKEiD invited him to design shoes and to document the process online.

“I didn’t want to just put some pretty colors on a shoe, I wanted there to be some story, some branding. I’m very much into fashion, style, aesthetics, and athletics, and so I wanted to design a shoe that spoke to all of those things.

“Guys like myself, though we dress in denims and sneakers rather than wing-tips and a tie, we’re no less in tune with wanting to look sharp and present ourselves well.”

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He’s authored two books on freelance design for Rockport Publishers, whose Rock, Paper, Ink blog features his column, “Indie.” He also does public speaking gigs about design. He’s a big tweeter, too. “I love communicating with people.

“At times I wonder how I keep everything up in the air. All of the things I’m involved in, I really have a true belief they feed each other. Someone asked me once, ‘What is it you do for a living?’ and I said, ‘I hope my answer is always, I live for a living.’ What I do to sustain that, well, that’s a different story.”

This one-man shop embodies the independent creative class spirit of engaging community. “Design and creativity are not about art,” he says, “but communication. We’re visual problem solvers.” He says “the really fervent” way he worked to better himself as an athlete “is a lot of like how I still approach life in general,” adding, “If I could work so hard at something that was a game and that gave me fulfillment and made a lasting legacy for myself, then how can I not enjoy life that same way?”

Read more of Leo Adam Biga’s work at leoadambiga.wordpress.com.