2019 MFA Thesis Exhibitions
Hosted in multiple installments, the Boston University 2019 MFA Thesis Exhibitions represent the culmination of two years of intensive studio work and artistic research by graduate candidates in Graphic Design, Painting, and Sculpture. For the first time, this year’s MFA Thesis Exhibitions are hosted both on-campus and off, simultaneously on view at Boston University Stone Gallery and at Laconia Gallery in the SoWa arts district of Boston’s South End.
April 2–April 15
Opening Reception: Friday, April 5, 5:30-8:30 pm
Laconia Gallery, 433 Harrison Avenue
Featuring Elizabeth Flood, Kat Gardener, Sam Guy, Zak Shiff, and Gus Wheeler.
- Tuesday April 2: 12:00 – 4:00
- Wednesday, April 3: 12:00 – 6:00
- Thursday, April 4: 12:00 – 6:00
- Friday, April 5: 12:00 – 8:30 (First Friday)
- Saturday, April 6: 12:00 – 4:00
- Sunday, April 7: 12:00 – 4:00
- Monday, April 8 – Wednesday, April 10: Gallery closed
- Thursday, April 11: 12:00 – 6:00
- Friday, April 12: 12:00 – 6:00
- Saturday, April 13: 12:00 – 4:00
- Sunday April 14: 12:00 – 4:00
- Monday April 15: 12:00 – 4:00
The Master of Fine Arts in Painting program at Boston University teaches students to engage critically with this ancient form of expression. As artists, they make the medium contemporary through the recognition of their own sensibility, the maintenance of a rigorous material practice, and an awareness of the conditions of our time. The program encourages a diversity of artistic approaches so that students learn there is no right or wrong way to make art. They themselves have the freedom to define what painting means today. This variety is reflected in the work on view, the first of two graduate thesis exhibitions. These five artists have developed together, alongside their wider cohort, over the last two years, charting their practices in relation to one another’s.
Samuel Guy and Elizabeth Flood work directly from life, painting experientially in relation to people or places. Through the act of looking—and being seen—these two artists congeal the exchange between themselves and their subjects on the surface of their paintings. Both are after a particular intimacy, a knowledge that can only be attained through touch and color. Where Flood rapidly tracks her observations through jabs and smears of earthy pigment, Guy softly brushes on the effects of light on skin. It is winter in this work. In Flood’s paintings of a quarry and a desert mine, cold midday sun cuts shadows across rocky terrain. Guy’s roommates hang out in the dusty light of a living room at night, illuminated by screens and friendship.
Zak Shiff and Gus Wheeler also use painting as a means to make sense of their environment, responding to the signs and graphic symbols of the commercial world. Their work ingests the inundation of imagery and the incessant solicitation from the urban landscape. They metabolize their observations, converting corporate messaging into private meaning, critique, and satire. Wheeler’s mimetic practice scales up or down his source material, carefully calibrating its cultural context and speeds of legibility. Miscommunication is the name of the game, where a mass-produced image is unexpectedly rendered by hand. Shiff’s work processes images of authority, such as brands, flags, and political figures, drawing out their psychological claims in collage and cartoon. The effects are unnerving.
Paintings negotiate our internal and external spaces. Katherine Gardener’s large fabric collages function like maps of her daily movements throughout Boston and New England. Aesthetically robust, they weave together MRI images, fitbit readouts, and atmospheric color, overlaying macro and micro environments onto the body of each canvas.
All of these artists are alive and alert to their particular time and place. Painting is the frame that allows them to capture and interpret what they encounter. They don’t look away.
Josephine Halvorson, Professor of Art and Chair of Graduate Studies in Painting, March 2019
April 19–May 3
Opening Reception: Friday, April 26 6-8 pm
Stone Gallery, 855 Commonwealth Avenue
Featuring Bedour Al-Gosaibi, Sharifa Ahmed Aljoghaiman, Casey Bowser, Ziqi Cai, Sarah Cooper, Casey Devaney, Sarah Friedman, Jason Golbitz, Katharine Harmsworth-Morrissey, Nadine Kabbani, Brittany Latham, Zhuolun Li, Ge Liu, Vincent Ng’Aru, Bliss Parsons, Anvi Sarin, Aditi Sharma, Thomas Suglia, Zimeng Wang, Yufei Weng, Samantha Wonderlich, Qiong Wu, Tong Xu, Chen Yan, Yunjia Yang, and Xirui Zhang.
- Tuesday–Sunday 12-6 pm
- Closed Mondays and major holidays
Painting & Sculpture II
April 20–May 3
Closing Reception: Friday, May 3, 5:30-8:30 pm
Laconia Gallery, 433 Harrison Avenue
Featuring Kayla Arias, Max Bard, Matt Hufford, Erin Jesson, and Marsal Nazary.
Exhibition Statement: MFA Sculpture
Within the expanded field of contemporary art practice, it is ironic that sculpture – once so obdurately definite – is now so difficult to define. The artists enrolled in the MFA in Sculpture at Boston University are working to explore new possibilities for the potential of sculpture as an area of practice concerned with unifying aesthetics and ethics in addressing the “real.” The genre’s open-ended condition allows them the freedom to form their own individual positions of principle across a range of activities that include intellectual and theoretical research, critical engagement with cultural history and contemporary art discourse, and creative production within an unlimited field of formal and conceptual interaction. Through collaboration, dialog, and dissent, they mutually support and challenge one another to embrace creative risk, to productively engage with inter-subjective difference, and to accelerate and intensify each individual’s relationship to their own work. Rather than confirming a singular definition of the genre, they are asking what sculpture might yet become, thus collectively cultivating an expanded vision for the future of art itself.
Both Kayla Arias and Erin Jesson make work that is motivated by iterative, process-based inquiry and a project-specific approach to media. Consistent throughout their work is an involvement with historical narratives and immediate material and social context as a means of addressing what is overlooked, underappreciated, or otherwise taken for granted. For this exhibition, Arias offers a humorous and critical set of problems that focus on the notion of an MFA thesis show as a kind of cap-stone achievement. Appropriating and tweaking formal structures from iconic works of late twentieth-century art, Arias parodies her own situation as a student by repositioning these works as enigmatic placeholders for “learning” within this high-stakes institutional exhibition. Jesson’s work involves the development of an ongoing “argument against skin.” Here, “skin” is understood as that which complicates visibility and legibility. Jesson’s work configures a dramatic reading of the text from a furniture catalog with a plastic-wrapped wooden bench as a kind of low-fi conjuring trick, one that asks us to re-examine the role of both material and language in the formation of impediments to understanding.
Won Ju Lim, Assistant Professor of Art and Chair of Graduate Sculpture
David Snyder, Assistant Professor of Sculpture
Exhibition Statement: MFA Painting
The Master of Fine Arts program in Painting at Boston University teaches students to engage critically with this ancient and enduring form of expression. As artists, they make the medium contemporary through the recognition of their own sensibility, the maintenance of a rigorous material practice, and an awareness of the conditions of our time. The painting program encourages a diversity of artistic approaches so that students learn there is no right or wrong way to make art. They themselves have the agency to define what painting means today. This diversity is reflected in the work on view here, as is the common intellectual and aesthetic ground that these three artists share.
Max Bard grew up on the north shore of Boston where he has since worked as a park ranger at a wildlife refuge along the Atlantic coast. There, he collects trash, debris, and nature’s castaways and transports them to what was once a car manufacturing plant and has since been repurposed to house the graduate art studios at BU. Max arranges and preserves his found specimens, attaching them to sweeping forms composed of pipes and fallen tree trunks, hewn and sanded by hand. His work is powerfully evocative of life beyond the studio walls—both the energy of nature and the litter that entangles it.
Matt Hufford shares this sensitivity to the environment, making art that puts our ecological fragility in relief. His modulated, shaped surfaces are formed in relation to particular patches of earth and elemental conditions, such as the edge of a boggy pond or the bright, gray sky above Brookline. Working from observation, Matt makes paintings in time, capturing the ephemerality of shifting light, melting show, and the barely perceptible change from one season to the next. He puts his finger on transformations in our environment that are typically too fleeting or too gradual to record, rendering them through subtle color and the human scale of touch.
Marsal Nazary’s still lifes depict handheld objects that appear both mundane and precious. She finds the edges where reality and imagination meet, uncovering them with the soft scrub of her brush. A bunched-up scarf becomes a mountain range seen from above, a porcelain dish, a celestial body. Working within a monochromatic spectrum, Marsal draws attention to color itself, casting mood and atmosphere across her canvasses while reminding us that blue is also a pigment. Drawing associations to the lapis lazuli mined in her birth country of Afghanistan, her paintings appear excavated from another time and place.
Josephine Halvorson, Professor of Art and Chair of Graduate Studies in Painting