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‘This is Your Life’ unpacks universal experiences

Ruggiero ’22, Poisson ’22 display works from RISD Collaborative Study Project

Two hundred and ten hours. That is how long it took Jake Ruggiero ’22 and Rémy Poisson ’22, both dual degree students and illustrators for The Herald’s post- magazine, to complete their Collaborative Study Project, titled “This is Your Life.”  The piece contained eight separate graphite illustrations that depict various scenes from the artists’ lives — from birth to their ultimate partnership today. Ruggiero and Poisson celebrated the completion of the piece with a reception on Feb. 21 at the RISD Paper Gallery.

“We wanted it to be autobiographical, like about the both of us,” Ruggiero said. “So it’s us experiencing similar things at different points in our lives and then eventually meeting. All (of) these people who are fading in and out of our lives actually come all together and we have a pretty shared network of friends.”

“This is Your Life” blends the shared and separate histories of Poisson and Ruggiero. Using one-point perspective — a type of illustration that converges to a single vanishing point on the horizon line — the artists depict significant moments in their lives in recognizable locations, aiming for their works to be both personal and universal. The piece also represents a “sort of a coming-of-age,” Poisson said. Viewers see the artists, their friends and family in different settings that represent the phases of their lives. The work is sprinkled with pop culture references to put each scene in a moment of time. For example, in a scene set in middle school, posters for TV shows like “Glee” and “Adventure Time” adorn the walls — as well as a shout-out to Poisson’s middle school band, “Daft Skunk.”

A Collaborative Study Project allows RISD students to partner with another student to complete an independent study, according to RISD’s website. Supervised by RISD faculty, students are allowed to complete up to three independent or collaborative study projects while at RISD, each for three credits. Poisson and Ruggiero completed their CSP over the five-week Wintersession period and were supervised by Leonard Long, Senior Critic at RISD.

“We wanted to work together. That was kind of the starting point,” Poisson said.

Collaboration on shared projects “was something we felt that at RISD we were lacking, like not getting to work with other people. You get this assignment in class, you go home and do it by yourself and bring it back in to talk about it,” Ruggiero said. He added that the pair are roommates and “workout buddies,” and were excited by the opportunity to work together.

The artists are both pursuing a dual degree from RISD and Brown. While both studying illustration at RISD, Poisson is studying Literary Arts at Brown and Ruggiero concentrates in Biology.

Embarking on a project of this scale came with its challenges. Poisson said they “didn’t really realize at the time what an undertaking it was going to be.” Originally, the artists were planning on doing one panel for each year of their lives, which would add up to 20 individual illustrations each.

Although the artists noted that they worked cohesively together, there were still bumps in the road. “There was a midway point where (Long) was very not pleased,” Ruggiero said.

According to Poisson, Long told them that they were “failing, this is hardly done” two weeks before the project’s due date. “I cried after the meeting. It was literally like doomsday,” Ruggiero said. But Long’s critique proved to be a motivating factor for the artists. After this meeting, they took over the shared common room of their suite as a workspace and “started working for an insane amount of time,” Poisson said. .

Ruggiero and Poisson ultimately completed the CSP on time and displayed their work in the Paper Gallery of RISD’s Illustration Studies Building. At the reception last Friday, many of their friends featured in the works were surprised — as many had not known that they would see themselves in “This is Your Life.” Eugene Rhee ’23  was surprised to see her likeness in one piece.

“The exhibition was in a beautiful part of the Illustration Studies Building, and on the closing night when I went to see the piece, it made me so happy and proud to see all of the hard work Jake and Rémy put into the piece be so appreciated,” Rhee wrote in an email to The Herald.


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