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Mastering Fine Art

CFA graduate exhibitions start Friday

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In the slide show above, Shari Mendlowitz and Esteban Longoria talk about their work, and life after graduation.

When it comes to the materials for her sculptures, Shari Mendlowitz will try just about anything. She has used foam, beeswax, and even sausage casings to form a skin-like texture on her art.

So when Richard Ryan, a College of Fine Arts associate professor of art, suggested cowhide, Mendlowitz (CFA’10) was up for it.

At the time, she was an undergraduate at Brandeis University and Ryan a visiting professor. She procured a hide — still covered with pieces of fat — from a local slaughterhouse and contacted a taxidermist, who walked her through the steps of preservation.

“It didn’t go over well with the board of health,” she says, “but it’s something that will go down in the history books at Brandeis.”

Mendlowitz stopped working with hides when she came to BU, but she kept the metal ribs and spine that she had created. That sculpture, along with her new pieces and the work of other graduating master’s students, will be on display during CFA’s MFA Exhibitions, from Friday, April 16, through Sunday, May 2, at galleries across campus. Opening receptions for the exhibitions will be on April 16, from 6 to 8 p.m.

Mendlowitz still works with unusual materials. “I don’t remember when I initially thought to work with trees,” she says, “but I knew I wanted a material that was once living — similar to the hide, but not as controversial.” She takes branches and uses various materials to create magnified abnormalities normally found in nature, like burrs. Then she covers them in auto body paint.

After graduation, Mendlowitz will head to Sunshine, Alaska, for a residency at the Homestead AK, where she plans to do more work with trees and their root structure. During a residency there last summer, she used tractors to pull trees out of the ground and displayed them upside down, to focus the eye on the roots.

Esteban Longoria’s work also changed when he arrived at BU, particularly the scale of his paintings, which can span from floor to ceiling. The paints he uses range from bright, primary colors to muted grays and whites. He describes the subjects as memories: giant bears and childlike figures that seem more the stuff of nightmares.

Longoria, who plans to open a studio in California after graduation, says he works on his paintings for up to 11 hours each day.

“One of the things you learn is that you have to let the art lead you,” he says. “But you also can’t waste any time.”

The MFA Exhibitions begin on Friday, April 16, at three locations, each with an opening reception from 6 to 8 p.m. The MFA Painting and Sculpture Exhibition is at the 808 Gallery, 808 Commonwealth Ave., open noon to 5 p.m. The MFA Graphic Design Exhibition is at the BU Art Gallery at the Stone Gallery, 855 Commonwealth Ave. The MFA Art Education Exhibition is at Gallery 5, 855 Commonwealth Ave. All exhibition spaces are within easy walking distance of one another, and visitors are invited to take a self-guided tour. The exhibitions, which run through May 2, 2010, and the receptions are free and open to the public.

Kimberly Cornuelle can be reached at kcornuel@bu.edu; follow her on Twitter at @kcornuel.

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