“I treat the making of artwork as a certain kind of looking…not just about looking but about looking for something; searching for something that is missing at present…”
(Adam Chodzko, Out of Place, 2000)
I encountered these graduating Masters of Fine Arts candidates as new MFA students during the first week of their three-year trek through the program. They were all newly met and were all from elsewhere save one. They had arrived at this place with varied worldviews and experiences that served as the basis of their artistic production and the raw material they would use as fuel for their various artistic rovings throughout the next three years.
During their explorations, involving both outward and inward journeying, they all experienced a metamorphosis of their worldviews and came away with the ability to understand and acknowledge their own transformations. They all had the experience of, as Eduardo Carriazo so elegantly put it, “climbing into a new intellectual space and filling it”. How they each accomplished that task became the story of their individual paths.
Some of the paths were surprising.
As Noah Verrier slyly commented, regarding his 150 day durational painting project, “…boredom can cede to fearlessness…” Noting that as he moved through a process that involved recognition of and breaking through the wall of suppositions and preconceptions about the nature of painting, he found himself with the ability to depict landscape from a larger conceptual stage. He found the strict structure he kept to led to adventurous experimentation, providing him access to an abstract language that involved, for instance, painting with fingers encased in a plastic bag …
As when Eduardo worked long and diligently on paintings that would eventually become the surprisingly moral centerpiece of a large sculptural installation. This was a move that involved an artistic catharsis on his part that took great honesty and intellectual courage. Realizing the meta-scale possibilities of the paintings, and more importantly, acting upon that realization, he pulled the resulting multimedia work off in a spectacularly successful, meaningful, multi-layered fashion.
Some shed layers of what they had previously considered the center of their artistic practice, taking off in a direction that had been on the periphery of their interests at the beginning of their travels.
Combining object making with installation and performance work, Kelly Gallo looks at her journey and artistic practice as exploration of the self with a certain tough honesty, “It’s not about playing it safe, this is my job.” Her love of extravagant color and pop culture is transformed into hedonistic and theatrical ritual, drawing on and transfiguring her Catholic upbringing into fantastic, comedic spectacle. In Unicorn’s Journey Towards Enlightenment, Gallo plays the role of Priest and confessor, adding a piquant transcendent edge to the hyper-lushness of her artistic theater.
Liz DiDonna’s interest in raw clay began to take more serious hold as she progressed through the program, and this passion combined with a renewed interest in performance, resulting in the stunning photos that document her performative actions. As Didonna works with the raw clay, whether using it for pillow or blanket, covering her face and body with it or eating it, the gestures she embodies have wide-ranging art historical references, from ancient goddess imagery to Ana Mendieta’s Silueta series. Her love of clay has an ecstatic quality that comes through in the photographs, and as she has noted with regard to this body of work, “It’s not the end but the beginnings of something.”
Some travelled a more inward path, examining aspects of the self as related to the portrayal of emotion and the idea of Beauty.
Alejandro Simon’s large luxuriant multi media drawings are filled with refined layers of color, shape and light. With his handling of color and light in this series, Simon has tuned in to the sophisticated sensibilities of mid-20th century Cuban artists. Simon’s works are all about metamorphosis and becoming, and along with their beauty they carry a bit of political weight for his home country.
The paintings of Pavel Protsyuk deal with abstraction, a language that is difficult to learn and even more difficult to speak. Traversing the sublime, the color in Protsyuk’s work addresses emotion at the most primal level. The subtle details of color on color draw one in for a closer look as the scale threatens to engulf. An investigation into the abstract is always a complex journey, involving not only great skill with color and brush, but also serious soul-searching and self-doubt along the way. Protsyuk articulated this demanding internal process of the past three years as one of “becoming more aware of myself and trusting my intuition”.
Hans Rasch is a whirlwind of energy, using his three years to stretch his artistic practice to incorporate dance and performance along with his existing printmaking, sculpture and painting skills. Hans is an animal for work and has created Glass Heart, a four act operatic extravaganza that is a synthesis of all his new and known knowledge. Utilizing performance, dance, choreography, printmaking, set and costume design, Hans’ desire is to give his audience an immersive and transformative experience. All of these artists have been remade over the past three years by travelling arduously, joyfully, into the unknown and searching out the thread of their future artistic paths. I’m very proud of them all and happy to have had the chance to know and work with them. And I’m excited for them all as they step off onto a new and much larger journey.
“The original artist leaves the known as well as knowledge behind and penetrates to the point of zero. This is where the exalted condition begins.”
(Willi Baumeister, The Unknown in Art, 1947)
Cynthia Hollis, Director