2017 MFA Thesis Exhibition at the Contemporary Arts Center

A woman peruses art at the 2017 MFA Thesis Exhibition.

For the soon-to-be graduates of DAAP's Master of Fine Arts (MFA) program, it has all come down to this final exhibition. With their time as graduate students coming to a close, they are ready to showcase the culmination of their experiences here at UC. Get an in-depth look at their thesis work in the 2017 MFA Thesis Exhibition. Installed on the fourth floor of the Lois & Richard Rosenthal Center for Contemporary Art (CAC), visitors will have the opportunity to experience works in a variety of modes and materials.

The exhibit is free and open to the general public through April 20, 2017. There will be an Artist Talks event from 1-3 p.m. on April 9 where the students will discuss their work in person. Hear it here first as they talk through their thesis presentations below.

Britni Bicknaver

Britni Bicknaver's thesis work.

My piece in the show is titled Audio Tour. Audio Tour presents itself as a normal museum audio tour, but unlike a standard tour it ignores the exhibits on display. Instead, it addresses other ideas and information, framing the Contemporary Arts Center in alternative ways.

By juxtaposing the story of the land on which the museum sits with its present-day appearance and inner workings—its modern facilities, its idiosyncrasies, its employees, etc.—it strives to aurally frame the museum in its specific time and place. Audio Tour seeks to synthesize the past, present and future of the CAC.

Kelly Cave

Kelly Cave's thesis work.

I make metal sculpture to understand the world around me; to feel the affirmation of existence through the reification of form; and to discover what motivates humans to move, build and connect within the world. The purpose of this work is the creation of a pause—a space of meditative breath in the flux of everyday existence. Two minutes and a simple task are a gift: they provide a moment in space where one can accomplish work while still serving the inner conscience. Breathing, walking, sweeping; if you let yourself feel them through your body, you will feel the world around you.

Ben Effler

Ben Effler's thesis work.

My work at the CAC concerns my thoughts and observations about the types of playthings and related interests I had as a young boy, and how they are similar to those of my own sons'. As a father of three boys, I'm exploring the dual responsibility I have towards fostering imagination while also including truth.

In other words, I played with a ton of action figures as a kid. This was driven in part by elements of historical fiction—film, comics, toys, etc.—completely naive and free of any responsibility, as play should be. At that time, I had a limited understanding of the actual application and results of the types of situations I coordinated. Now as a dad I see my sons doing pretty much the same things, which I honestly find endearing and also concerning.

Elizabeth Johnson

Elizabeth Johnson's thesis work.

The mixed media artworks that speak to one another in a linear fashion within my MFA Thesis Exhibition are a vessel for the social commentaries and visceral happenings that relate to my everyday experiences in life. Using contour, shape, color and texture, my work allows for what is not visible before our eyes to become intensified and visible through the senses.

Sarah Keefe

Sarah Keefe's thesis work.

The Adirondacks are a rural area in upstate New York. They contain small towns that have populations as little as 50 during certain times of the year. The residents of these rural areas live here year-round in order to find solitude. These small towns have limited economic and job opportunities. The only income these residents have is from tourist-reliant businesses. The realm of solitude to which they're accustomed becomes punctured, and these quiet areas are overpopulated. It is this relationship, between the tourists and locals, in which an interesting dynamic can be found.

The tough winter is endured by the locals yearly, making their struggle to survive financially year-round a constant battle. Despite these hardships, they have to maintain a laid-back, easygoing attitude in order to indulge the summer tourists' ideas of fantasy and escape. Through the use of photography and videography, I interviewed the locals, and they reveal a side of rawness to this delusional experience. A relationship evolves from the dependency between the locals and tourists—one in which they need each other, but they wish they didn't have to rely on one another. I believe there is a deep importance in understanding and communicating with different people from different walks of life.

Lauren Post

Lauren Post's thesis work.

My aim is to explore the relationship between femininity and liquidity, particularly water in its many forms. Women have been characterized by this element throughout history, and while I personally find the association appealing, I want to question the origins of this relationship and reframe it from my own perspective. Through a combination of appropriated imagery from pop culture and classical painting, as well as self-portraiture, I am highlighting my personal crisis of identity within the framework of these problematic identifiers that inform the concept of femininity.

My work is a celebration of the feminine divine, our watery history, and my watery present/future. I am exploring the vulnerability and oftentimes contradictory aspects of gender identity that many people still struggle with. By acknowledging the inherent fluidity attached to femininity and/or femme-identifying individuals, I am embracing the fluidity of life, sexual identity and orientation. Although all human beings have both estrogen and testosterone, there are many times when certain aspects associated with these binaries are suppressed. As a woman, I embrace water as a sort of spiritual guide for my identity in all of its forms. It can be both calming and sublime, as well as unpredictable and treacherous. Water is in a constant state of flux, alternately strong and subtle. It is a giver of life but powerful enough to take it away.

Harry Sanchez, Jr.

Harry Sanchez's thesis work.

With my work, I have been pursuing the ideas of the way people are perceived and have themselves perceived by their actions or the visual elements that make up who they are, without painting a complete picture of who they really are. Many times, people are judged based on what they look like, what they have been told or about preconceived notions. This judgmental way of seeing someone who is unfamiliar is something I have experienced throughout my life being Hispanic around non-Hispanic people.

The main subjects of my work have been whistleblowers who are caught in a situation of having dual identities as a hero and a traitor at the same time. Many of these selfless acts are done to expose wrongdoing, and are many times put in harm's way for the larger picture of what is going on to be seen. People seem to have created a situation where the polarization of their beliefs has left us in a situation where we have hindered our ability to get along and progress. We are so ingrained in where we stand that we cannot step back and see the that there is more to the picture than what we allow ourselves to see. There is more than black and white, left and right.

Sayak Shome

Sayak Shome's thesis work.

[My work] SMH (Seconds-Minutes-Hours) is a space-time clock, in the sense that it shows the space, where it is in, and whose videos at its momentary angles become the hands of the clock to say the time. As time changes and the cameras move, the Face assumes different expressions, like emoticons. A structure made out of plywood is covered by a skin of adhesive print, which becomes a target; a brown body, expendable, which can be shot at for practice. As the audience shoots gazes at the Face, the Face/Space/Time gazes back at it, and that too visually, literally, physically.

Jedidiah Stuelpnagel

Jedidiah Stuelpnagel's thesis work.

My personal admiration for early 20th century animation and the history of viewing mechanisms for motion pictures laid the groundwork for the series of references and metaphors created in my thesis exhibit. The objects, video and sound collaborate to create a personal commentary on cultural degradation through entertainment and popular media culture with the use of appropriated videos and sound clips from cartoons, nature documentaries and news reports. After digitally abstracting and intuitively composing the clips based on formal decisions, the videos are displayed from objects with mirrored channels and viewers to see the videos through. The resulting videos are then reflected through the viewers, which symbolize and express my personal views on how current popular media culture manipulates information involving issues of social expectations, climate change and politics.

Carolyn Wagner

Carolyn Wagner's thesis work.

Of the more than sixteen million Americans who served during the Second World War, fewer than one million of these heroic men and women are still with us today. As a photographer and filmmaker, I have become wholeheartedly invested in documenting and sharing individual accounts of the War. In my work, these stories are preserved in objects—the things that have seen war. Every tear, every blemish, every mark forms an individual and collective narrative of the Second World War. By taking notice of material items that are saturated with human history, we widen our understanding of how others managed, sacrificed, and survived in the world we share.

Editor's note: Maxwell Feldmann and Seth Wade couldn't be reached for this piece, but are also included in the MFA Thesis Exhibition.

Written by Dakota Wright, Graduate Assistant to the Graduate School Office