A lot can happen in three years, especially inside the mind of any artist.
In three years, artists can develop work based around a consistent theme, cultivate their technical skills and even switch the media in which they are working altogether. The University of Tulsa's Master's of Fine Art thesis exhibition presents what young artists are capable of creating when given ample time, guidance and limited distractions.
The work created by 2011's graduating class of MFA candidates is diverse, contemporary and too expansive to be contained within the walls of the exhibition's traditional venue, the Alexandre Hogue Gallery. For the first time this annual exhibition will be displayed at the Living Arts in the Meyer Gallery, 307 E. Brady St. on Friday, April 1 from 6-9pm. The show features the work seven MFA candidates: Kaylee Huerta; Kate Johnson; Clayton Keyes; Allison Lackner; Joshua Meier; Josh New and Jason Stamper.
These seven artists represent all areas of emphasis available at the university including photography, ceramics and sculpture, painting and printmaking.
Kaylee Huerta's work is comprised of a series of large paintings that explore self-portraiture as well as figures in interiors. Her work is a reflection of life as she perceives it both visually and emotionally.
Kate Johnson's work has culminated in a life size installation that recreates a childhood bedroom scene.
"The installation is based in reality with a touch of surrealism, subconscious and some nostalgia that are all wrapped up in everyday objects," Johnson said. The installation is built entirely of terra cotta clay, unfired porcelain, found objects and original weavings.
Ceramic artist and sculptor Clayton Keyes creates figurative sculptures characterized by imagery of children, incapacitated animals and emotions associated with empathy.
"The work deals with notions of environmental stewardship and impermanence as it relates to the legacy left to subsequent generations of humankind and nature," he said.
After switching from printmaking to ceramics during the course of three years Allison Lackner's work is an exploration of the dollhouse as a space that brings the viewer into a sense of nostalgia, personal memory or invented scenario.
"I want people to want to play or at least remember what it was like to play," she said.
Joshua Meier is a photographer and sculptor whose work is a response to his fascination with the in between, even failed steps that occur during the creation process.
"There is, in the work, a strong connection between the three-dimensional objects that inhabit the gallery space and the human character who occupies the photographs," Meier said.
Imaginative Imagery. Ceramic artist and sculptor Clayton Keyes creates
figurative sculptures characterized by imagery of children, incapacitated animals
and emotions associated with empathy.
Josh New uses digital photography to explore the notion of masculinity and how men are perceived in today's society. New's photos are large panoramas of scenes that create interesting visual narratives. New said the narratives expose "how men change and augment their identities in the same way women change clothes and apply makeup."
The most valuable experiences the candidates took from the program are arguably the travel opportunities offered to all of the students throughout the course of the program.
Huerta, for instance, was afforded the opportunity to travel to New York City to participate in a two-week drawing marathon at the New York Studio School. Meier was given funding to bring his work to the Missoula Art Museum in Missoula, Mont., and Allison Lackner traveled to Amsterdam to view famous dollhouses in the Rijksmuseum and attend a tile-making workshop in Delft.
Artists enroll in a Masters of Fine Arts Program for a number of reasons. An MFA is the terminal degree for Fine Art and a Master's degree is the universal prerequisite for teaching positions at universities and art schools around the country. While preparing for their career is an important benefit to earning an MFA, the real reason artists choose to go back to school for an MFA is that they feel they have no choice. The burden of being an artist is contained within the ceaseless desire to create, regardless of resources, time and logic. Time spent in graduate school is often what many artists need to set their careers moving in a new direction.
"It's like rebooting," said Huerta.
The University of Tulsa's MFA program is designed like an artist residency in that the program offers its students endless hours of studio time with minimal interruption for critiques, classes and seminars. This style of program is not for everyone but for those who are highly self-motivated and require little outside accountability the program offers amble time to develop work and grow as an artist.
In terms relevant to Tulsa's art scene the MFA candidates described their thesis exhibition falling somewhere in between Momentum and Vision Makers while leaning in the direction of conceptual art over craft.
"You're not going to see student work here," Keyes said. "Its something fresh and new to see."
Despite a number of changes in the right direction, Oklahoma needs to do more to recognize the talent it has before it moves away. "
There is a lot of good art in Tulsa," Meier said, "But the work tends to be by the same artists."
Young artists often find it easier to sell their work out of state and at higher prices. The MFA Thesis exhibition is an opportunity for the community to acknowledge the talented artwork created by this fresh generation of artists and support the talent that already exists in Tulsa's art community.
More information is available at utulsa.edu and livingarts.org.
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