Just before something big happens one perceives a pause, a hint of hesitation whispering that nothing will be the same again — a quick breath before giving in to the inevitabilities of physics and fate.
Such things were apparently on the mind of Gustavo Martinez, a student artist soon to graduate with a masters degree from the 3-Dimensional Forum (3D4M) program, as he created “Euphoria,” a thought-provoking sculpture now on display at the Henry Art Gallery.
Its part of the annual MFA Thesis Exhibition, where UW-trained artists in various media display their talents before graduating to the next stage of their artistic or academic lives. The exhibit will remain on display at the Henry through June 19.
“What I had in mind was the idea of that meeting point where theres something going to happen and everything is different after that happens,” he said during a press preview for this eclectic exhibit on Friday, May 27. “Or a seed falling from a tree and then meeting the ground, where its going to be fertilized.” Modern, man-made materials in the sculptures upper half play counterpoint to the earthy feel of its rough ceramic base.
Artist Kimberly Clark stood alongside her extraordinary, mural-sized paintings — which speak of forests and foliage — and told of how the work started in miniature. She went outside her Sandpoint studio daily to paint tiny canvases of what she saw.
“I was definitely affected by the palette I see every day,” she said. “Some days I was out there once, but a lot of times I was out there two or three times a day.” She said it was not until she had those little paintings gathered before her on the floor that she began to see the connections among them and to begin the large works on display at the Henry. She even sanded down her first attempt and started again, she said, “but what was there before is still underneath,” adding a depth to the finished work.
In her artists statement she added, “Studying the light on and through the trees as it changes during the day and throughout the seasons is what excites me and drives me to paint.” For this, we are glad.
Sensors note the approach of a viewer to Shweta Grampurohits elaborate, interactive piece “Things Think,” and bring it to blinking life. “My thesis is actually about the existence of objects, and the idea I want to express is that there is a lot more than what we perceive just from our senses,” Grampurohit said. “As designers we create objects, so its very important we understand and design with that sensitivity in mind.” Grampurohit said she got assistance from Ryder Ziola, a doctoral student in Computer Science & Engineering, for the interactive part of the work.
She said when people approach the work, “The dots on blank squares change to text and display a message about the thesis. This hints at the idea that when we, as human beings interact with the world, we bring meaning and associate things with language. Every time the space is emptied and a new person enters, a new message appears at random.” She said, “When we enter the world we bring meaning into the world — we bring semantics, we bring language, and symbols.”
Artist Leanne Grimes likes mixing colors to see what she can blend into a sort of light-hearted “personal landscape.” She said, “I found these colors resonate with me. Also, Im trying to play on some of the artificiality in the landscape — I try to be playful in my work and its how I go through the world.” She said shes always struck by hints of artificiality amid the natural world, “like when you are walking through the forest and you see those little tags.”
The small paper cat stuck to one of her works, by the way, is named Marcel. “Its kind of a personal story — I lost a cat to a boyfriend this year,” she said. She moves it from painting to painting, just playing around, “and this is the one that stuck — its not affixed permanently.”
Sean McElroys expansive “Wall of Congratulations” seems to riff on images of cartoony pop culture, though with an edge. McElroy said his friends are starting to have children now and “the way they draw is cool — its their way of figuring things out.” In his artists statement he added, “My work functions much the same way, as a means of mapping out the social pressures around (and within) me.”
Steven Minarsch, a longtime commercial designer, said he engaged in “blue sky thinking” — so futuristic it doesnt relate to current reality — in creating his elaborate designs of a possible future airline flight deck. “This would all fit into a production-ready flight deck if they wanted to build something in this shape or form,” he said.
Kate Clarks combination of performance, dance, sculpture, sound and video, titled “A Physical Breath,” was not available for the preview. In her artists statement she says, “My imagination goes to such places as … what if the breath is
able to manifest itself in physical form … affecting and changing the pace of the external world as well?” She adds, “Through the use of body extensions, video and sound, I aim to create an alternate reality where this feat is made possible.”
Christopher McElroys friendly sculpture “Communal Juicer” does not at first appear layered in deep meaning. “Ultimately, I wanted to make an implement to bring people together for food harvests,” he said. “This comes from my childhood memories of cider-pressing events in Virginia, and maple syrup harvests — that idea of harvest festivals.” He added, “Its everybody working toward a common goal — a big pitcher of juice — and no one persons efforts are measured more than anothers.”
The exhibit includes the work of 10 students in the Division of Art and five from the Division of Design. School of Art Director Christopher Ozubko wrote in the exhibit program, “It is our goal as educators to prepare our graduates not only to be qualified and skilled artists and designers, but also to be leaders in their area of study who are sophisticated about imagery and critical perspectives within our global society.”
These MFA graduates will find the next stage of their careers now — some to teach, some to pursue art full time. Just as Gustavo Martinezs sculpture hints of a pause before change to come, artists in the MFA Thesis Exhibition look back, sum up, and move forward to their future.