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CFA Showcases Work of MFA Candidates

Thesis exhibitions: painting, sculpture, graphic design, and more


After two years of intensive studio work, 25 painting, sculpture, and graphic design graduate students and 9 art education graduate students have a chance to show the fruits of their labor in three exhibitions, running through April 24.

The largest of the shows, the MFA Painting and Sculpture Exhibition, is on view at the 808 Gallery. The massive sculpture Dreadlock, by Claire Roll (CFA’16), is the first thing visitors see in the gallery—it literally pulls them into the space. Several works by 13 MFA painting students comprise the rest of the exhibition.

People entering can walk through Roll’s colorful, winding, braided structure crafted of wood, fabric, wire, and foam. Her thesis project presents “an invitation to participate in a communal experience,” she says. “It invites the audience to physically engage by passing through recognized architectural forms: thresholds.” Dreadlock is also “about forging human connection through accumulation of ritual action.” For Roll, the act of wrapping, weaving, and building up the structure became ceremonial through its use of repetition. She says her interactive creations are “metaphoric representations of transformative ritual and lineage—the connection between the one who came before, the one who passes through in the present, and the one who will pass through after.”

The only sculptor represented in the show, Roll incorporates materials like cement and copper in her other works, which dot the expansive space, drawing patrons like a magnet.

Not far from Dreadlock is a wall of paintings by Leeanne Maxey (CFA’16). In an exhibition filled largely with big canvases with palettes of neon colors, abstracted compositions, and wild textural elements, Maxey’s work packs an impressive punch by virtue of its subversive delicacy, an effect achieved through her use of watercolor primarily.

Dreadlock by Claire Roll, sculpture included in the Boston University College of Fine Arts MFA Painting and Sculpture Thesis Exhibition at 808 Gallery

Dreadlock by Claire Roll (CFA’16), wood, fabric, wire, foam. Photo by Alexandra Wimley (COM’17)

Two of her pieces, Construct, made with watercolor on canvas over board, and Act Natural, watercolor and oil on canvas over board, feature a cropped view of a limb paired with overgrown leaves or grass. Compositionally, these works convey a divide, both in their horizontal, parfait-like layering and in their competing details—from the fine hairs on an arm to a tangle of vibrant green blades of grass. Not only the level of detail, but also the vibrancy she achieves with watercolors is impressive.

“I find it compelling that as a society we construct nature, then use our ideas about it to reinforce cultural narratives and expectations about bodily presentation, sexuality, and the landscape itself,” Maxey says. “Both the female body and the landscape have been historically subjected to discovery, exploratory, and conquest narratives, yet continue to be viewed as having essential natures within human control. As a lesbian growing up in the South, my identities were often at odds with the ideologies rooted in my evangelical upbringing and larger community. In response, I use imagery of organic matter to delve into the idea of natural versus unnatural, a theme that often arises when discussing my sexuality with family back home.”

Corey Larue (CFA’16) similarly draws on his own life for inspiration for his paintings. “My work is about the Chicano experience,” he says. “The images in my paintings relate to this experience and reference political concerns, family, and my Chicano heritage. The materials I use also reference components of the presented pictorial dialogue.”

Chocolatl by Corey Larue, Boston University College of Fine Arts MFA Painting and Sculpture Thesis Exhibition at 808 Gallery

Chocolatl by Corey Larue (CFA’16), chocolate, wax, bandana on canvas. Photo by Alexandra Wimley (COM’17)

An exhibition standout is Larue’s Chocolatl, made using chocolate and wax on canvas. Like many of his works, the piece has subtle religious imagery, with a cross embossed out of the middle of the canvas and a blue bandana affixed to its center. Mixed with the wax and smeared around the canvas, the chocolate has a rusted, gritty effect. Larue also conveys a sense of violence with the punctures and scratches that appear around the composition. Chocolatl, he says, references colonialism and “the present genocides affecting indigenous communities in the Americas for the sake of manufacturing commodities.” Such communities, he says, are “forced into chaotic systems of violence, one such being organized crime—which is why I used a blue bandana in the painting.”

Next to Chocolatl hangs Larue’s painting Las Paredes, a canvas with aluminum flashing that obscures an underpainting. The slats between the flashing just barely expose what is underneath, beckoning the viewer to come closer to investigate. Larue says that the title and the work itself “reference the wall, or border, between the United States and the southern Americas” as well as the “mental and spiritual walls” people build around themselves.

“It is my goal as an artist of color to create a dialogue about race and belonging,” he says, “with the intention of demystifying and normalizing aspects of my heritage to majority culture.”

Richard Ryan, a CFA associate professor of painting, describes this year’s MFA Painting and Sculpture Exhibition as “courageous and adventuresome,” saluting the energy the students have exhibited over the course of the program. “They’ve created a wonderful living, breathing, exhibition.”

A short distance down Commonwealth Avenue and across the street, visitors can catch the Graphic Design MFA Thesis Exhibition, titled _______ Point, at the Faye G., Jo, and James Stone Gallery, which shows works by 11 MFA students, ranging from bold posters to interactive installations.

Boston University College of Fine Arts MFA Graphic Design Thesis Exhibition at the Faye G., Jo, and James Stone Gallery

The MFA Graphic Design Thesis Exhibition is at the Faye G., Jo, and James Stone Gallery. Photo courtesy of School of Visual Arts

For her thesis project, Erin Sanders (CFA’16) created A D**ktionary of the English Language. Presented both in book form and in large wall posters, the humorous work offers reappropriated words and their definitions, many inspired by pop culture phenomena and millennial sensibility (an example is the word “textpectation,” which Sanders defines as “the anticipation one feels when waiting for a response to a text message”).

Sanders is struck by the beautiful way language is able to evolve to reflect the times. “As graphic designers,” she says, “our job is to keep up with technological advances as well as become cultural anthropologists. My hope was to cultivate cultural awareness in a way that was approachable to my audience.”

For her graphic design project, Protect Endangered Species from Global Warming, Ge Feng (CFA’16) created a swarm of lifelike butterflies. Printing them on transparent paper in contrasting blue and yellow with a laser printer, she incorporated text, which appears on some of the butterflies’ wings, of facts about endangered species.

Protect Endangered Species from Global Warming by Ge Feng (CFA’16) displayed at the Boston University College of Fine Arts MFA Graphic Design Thesis Exhibition at the Faye G., Jo, and James Stone Gallery

Protect Endangered Species from Global Warming by Ge Feng (CFA’16). Photo courtesy of School of Visual Arts

Feng says the butterflies are meant as “a metaphor for all endangered species.” Her research on the topic enlightened her to butterflies’ particular sensitivity to global warming. “Plus,” she says, “they are so beautiful and fragile.” She affixed the butterflies to galvanized steel wire and installed them on foam board so they jut out of the gallery’s walls and give the impression of quivering. In addition, she placed some of the butterflies—the burned and melted ones—farther down the wall and on the ground to “represent how global warming is driving species to extinction.”

The final component of the School of Visual Arts thesis work can be found several floors above the Stone Gallery, in Gallery 5 on the fifth floor: the Art Education MA Thesis Exhibition, featuring the projects of nine students in the MA Studio Teaching and Art Education programs. Written descriptions of the philosophies the students have developed in their student teaching are paired alongside the work of their pupils.

The MFA Painting and Sculpture Thesis Exhibition is at the 808 Gallery, 808 Commonwealth Ave.; hours: Tuesday to Sunday, noon to 5 p.m., Thursday, noon to 8 p.m., closed Monday. The MFA Graphic Design Thesis Exhibition is at the Faye G., Jo, and James Stone Gallery, College of Fine Arts, 855 Commonwealth Ave.; hours: Tuesday to Sunday, noon to 5 p.m., Thursday, noon to 8 p.m., closed Monday. The Art Education MA Thesis Exhibition is at CFA’s Gallery 5, 855 Commonwealth Ave., fifth floor; open during normal building hours. All exhibitions run through Sunday, April 24, and are free and open to the public.

Mara Sassoon can be reached at msassoon@bu.edu.


One Comment on CFA Showcases Work of MFA Candidates

  • Sharon Daniels on 04.20.2016 at 7:20 am

    We really have to see this!!!

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