The MFA Thesis Exhibitions begin at MICA. Yes, they have already opened—last Friday to be exact, the same evening as the excellent Jolly Cowboy opening at the DCAC. And, yes, you will miss them if you are not savvy. In fact you probably missed the first one already. Don’t worry there are more!!
Each Thesis Exhibition (there Are THREE—one after the other) runs only a mere ten days, which is ridiculous for the amount of work that has gone into them and so they should not be missed. The MICA galleries showcase the Institution’s primed artists from each of the graduate programs; Hoffberger School of Painting, Rinehart School of Sculpture, Mount Royal School of Art and MFA Photography and Digital Imaging. The artists have been intensely incubating and rigorously producing in their hermetic studios for two-years straight (HOPEFULLY). As you can imagine the work is diverse, from lowbrow to the highbrow from the extraordinary to the absolute banal. There, of course, is usually some schlock but mostly the work remains inspired.
Here’s how it usually goes:
I forgot about them and got there late. It’s a mad sprint to see all of the exhibits and its crowded and hard to appreciate the work and so you have to come back to spend time with each of the pieces. Equally as fleeting, are the fabulous Artist Talks, which I forgot about, too. They are always on an odd Wednesday. As usual I hadn’t prepared to go, but, lucky for me, as I wanted to write about a few of the pieces I had seen at the glamorous opening, I showed up partway through the talk session.
Most Artists pine over their discourse. Some are colloquial. Some are irrationally heady and some are informative and for most they are nervously performative. The talks are open to the public and all are encouraged to ask questions. As a fly on the wall, the audience is shown a vulnerable and valuable inside look into the brain of creativity. They start from 1pm and mill from one artists work to the next until 4pm.
Upon my late arrival I heard (from a few good sources) that Jeriah Hildwine’s talk was outstanding. If you have seen the brute-tall kilt-wearing, firearms enthusiast who created the excitingly large panoramic-gallery-wrapping and thinly painted canvas containing multiple penises, vaginas (and it would probably be appropriate to use a more visceral moniker for these body parts here although I couldn’t bring myself to write them) and then guns, lots of guns and explicitly posed nude woman, you too would be sorry to miss his talk. Myranda Bair in jeans began her dialogue about a breakup with her boyfriend (a typical graduate school occurrence). As she spoke she was closely stalked (was this performance art?) by a man in khakis capturing her every move on a beefed-up video camera a foot away. Even after listening to her boyfriend troubles—where her ideas spouted from, which was endearing, I still find her Watercolor Drawings of climbing regalia most sexual, grappling, binding, without being too perverse. Then there was Grant Guilliams who stated wryly that he did not believe in compassion nor sympathy, causing many huffs and eyeball-rolls (This is art school. There are many romantics). Unfortunately, as the talks moved outside onto the lawn, I had someplace to be and so I had to go.
However, my favorite pieces in the show were Jacob Fossum’s large paintings in Fox Third Floor Gallery. His striking group of oil paintings are just masterly. With imagery delving into a mix of mythology and storybook fairy tails, Fossum brings the traditional up to the contemporary in a Campbell-ian meld. His inspired use of animal imagery (geese, parrots, a vulture and wolves—the wild and the beautiful) make strong metaphors. Particularly Fossom’s Oil on Linen, “You knew What I Was When You Picked Me Up” is lovely to spend time with. In the painting, a man is strew across the lap of a seated woman ala David’s, The Death of Marat, except in a red sultry onesie. The seated woman is lifting her arms in the air and her hands lilt like birds in flight. Behind the both of them is a peculiar large-scale children’s book illustration in monochromatic blues. It is a mysterious scene of a castle, a sleeping girl, elves and, right above the seated woman’s bird-like-hands, is the forebodingly austere wolf pack. As a frame to the entire painting Fossum paints the wallpaper of lilies from darkness and makes them fall to life by the time they spill onto the Persian rug. It is a complete mix of reality and storybook wonder. It was unfortunate that I was unable to hear Jacob Fossom’s talk.
Grant Guilliams’s work on a whole is impressive and unfinished. “The Secret Lives of William Rindle,” is at first sight a sci-fi/video-game-esc interactive installation. It sits in the center of the room resembling a prop from Woody Allen’s sleeper morphing with the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, and that’s not a bad thing, the plastic colors are what drew me to it. The que was too long at the opening to get a peek inside the three brightly colored helmets so I had to come back to experience the piece in its entirety. The narrative consists of three different points of view (one in each helmet) describing a murder in which it is up to the viewer to conclude what had really happened. For me, the piece references Roshomon Kurosawa’ great classic which explored the relationship between truth and perspective. But they also the bring to mind the exciting new Mexican directors, Arriaga and Inarritu, who utilize separate stories that crash at a single violent event as well as Terentino’s, Pulp Fiction and Gondry’s, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind who deal with time-shifting experiments in Modern Cinema. “Secret Lives—” being an art piece, being an interactive sculpture, could be a fresh provacation. The trick is you have to see all three in order to appreciate the piece. And you wonder if, getting haphazardly into each modular and looking a quite a fool, if this is part of the piece. Despite the cumbersome, the gross sensation of trying on helmets that you know have been on many contestants heads, the three sections of digital video are great thumbnails of wonderfully edited narrative and appropriate for viewing in this manner. Also his painting on wood, “Scarborough Decalcomania,” needs closer inspection.
They’re off!! The Thesis Exhibits are exciting and sometimes disparate. They are always worth visiting. The openings are fun and crowded and the hors d’oeuvre’s are just as fleeting as the exhibits themselves. Don’t forget and go to the talks but remember, as we know, good Art, after all, is show don’t tell.
Later that day I bumped into a friend who said Jacob Fossum’s talk was excellent. I wonder if he talked about the wolves.
( by Asper Winktop)
MFA Thesis II Exhibition
Friday, March 30–Sunday, April 3
Reception: Friday, March 30, 5–7 p.m.
Open Studios: Friday, March 30, 7–9 p.m.
Gallery Talks: Wednesday, April 4, 1–4 p.m.