808 Gallery Showcases Work of 39 CFA Seniors
BFA thesis show: painting, printmaking, design, sculpture
Walking past the floor to ceiling windows at the 808 Gallery, a striking silhouette catches the eye. A female figure delicately clad in a mass of haunting white fabric is suspended upside down, seemingly entangled by her own hair.
“Some people think it’s violent or suicidal,” says sculptor Mia Cross (CFA’14) of Susanna Never Could Decide. “But it reflects a girl who is stuck by her own doing. She’s holding herself back. She’s unable to make a decision. She could cut her hair to get away.” Next to the piece is Brimfield Bride, another sculpture by Cross. The figure is dressed in an antique wedding dress the sculptor bought at the Brimfield Fair for $20. The figure is framed by wire, her face coquettishly obscured by a veil. “I’m a hopeless romantic,” says Cross.
Her sculptures offer just a glimpse of the diversity to be seen in this year’s College of Fine Arts School of Visual Arts Senior Thesis Show, now on view at the 808 Gallery. Aptly dubbed Thirty-Nine, the 39 emerging artists graduating with a BFA this spring are all represented here. The show is an arresting display of technical virtuosity in sculpture, painting, graphic design, and printmaking—a culmination of all the artists have mastered during their undergraduate careers.
With so much work on display, the exhibition is an amalgam of techniques, mediums, and motivations—there are pieces here that will engage, confound, and challenge the viewer.
“Now, there’s a philosophy where the work is more about problem-solving and designing for different audiences across different mediums,” says thesis advisor Kristen Coogan, a CFA assistant professor of art. “I think it’s incredibly exciting. We give a lot of control to students to develop their own voices and be really immersed and involved in contemporary practice.”
The Color Classroom by graphic designer Grace Galloway (CFA’14) is an example. By assigning different colors to each digit, zero through nine, Galloway attempts to teach math to visual learners in an innovative way, by reimagining classic teaching tools such as the multiplication table. By translating the table from a grid of digits into one of pixel-like color combinations, her work shows the relationship between numbers in a unique and inventive way.
In the work of the 22 students in the graphic design category (the largest visual arts group) can be seen a range of mediums—from animation and installation to more traditional ones like books and posters. The video project Again by Adriana Ateyana Chuta (CFA’14) explores via a dizzying array of typefaces how certain key words are used by people in nations struggling socially and politically. Ateyana Chuta became interested in sociopolitical events in places like Syria and North Korea and in the role of repetition in helping “us synthesize our ideas into key words and make it easier for listeners to capture the message being transmitted.” In three different monitors, words like “crime,” “passion,” “regime,” “kill,” and “arrest” flash across the screen, bleed together, and disappear.
Also featured in the exhibition are the works of the school’s first graduating class of printmaking majors. Inspired by Venetian and Florentine tile work, Leslie Ochoa (CFA’14), one of the two inaugural printmaking majors, based her thesis work on the intricate mosaic work she saw in basilicas and cathedrals while studying abroad in Italy.
“It was my first time abroad and America is so young compared to Europe. The tile and mosaic works were much more interesting to me,” Ochoa says. “There’s so much more history in these floors alone than we have in this country.”
Among her pieces are several smaller acrylic prints, like Basilica di San Marco #2, in which an overlayed geometric pattern comes together to create a tessellation-like poster. The largest and most striking piece, however, is Translation, a grand, silkscreened floor installation. She notes in her accompanying artist statement that she experimented with mixing floor designs from different basilicas, but the main design for this piece was from a 100-foot octagonal floor pattern in Florence’s famous Duomo. Ochoa used large sheets of fabric to print a 15-foot version of the geometric design, deliberately leaving one side of the octagon open so viewers could step inside and experience the design the way it was originally created—at a horizontal level. The experience is akin to what a tourist standing on the Duomo’s floor would see.
A time-lapse video of the project’s genesis runs nearby, but because it’s only a few minutes long, its depiction of the work involved is skewed. “It took the whole semester to plan,” Ochoa says. “To actually print it took a month and a half.”
Some of the works—either overtly or more obliquely—include commentaries on social media, feminism, appearance, and the increasing role of technology in both art and daily life. The series of beautifully rendered prints by Jordan Frease (CFA’14) offers an antidote to mass-produced, technologically rendered art. “Simply slapping together an image with text should not suffice for someone to claim they are designers,” he writes in his artist statement. “The value of hard work and sacrifice cannot be overlooked.” Other works in the show explore the blurring lines between public and private lives and environmental sustainability.
“Each piece reflects what the students value in the culture of design,” says Coogan. “It’s a striking example of their tremendous efforts and labors.”
The BFA Thesis Show is on display at the 808 Gallery, 808 Commonwealth Ave., through Friday, May 9. The gallery is open Monday to Friday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., Thursday, 11 a.m. to 8 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday, 1 to 5 p.m.; it is free and open to the public
Paula Sokolska can be reached at email@example.com Comments