UCI MFA Students Debut Their Work

Five studio art graduate students going for their MFA, two rooms displaying their work and one exhibition rich in diverse ideas equals some interesting art.
On May 25, the New Masters MFA III Thesis Exhibition commenced its two-week display with the usual three-hour opening reception. The show is spread between the two galleries in the Claire Trevor School of the Arts, the University Art Gallery and the Room Gallery.
In the University Art Gallery, one finds the work of artists Amy Robinson, Carrie Yury and Tom Haviar. This eclectic group of pieces separates the room into three distinct regions, each rich with the artists’ style.
Upon entering the gallery, one finds two pieces from Robinson’s 17-piece collection. These pieces are obviously maps, but the significance of them is not recognizable until one steps into the heart of the gallery. It becomes clear that there is a common theme running throughout the series of paintings.
The group, entitled ‘Dust Jackets,’ is exactly what the title states: each painting is a bungled dust jacket of a well-known novel. When I say bungled, I mean that the cover has the same basic components one would see on the original dust cover for the novel, but the text is encrypted. Composed of about seven letters, both right-side up and upside-down, the title and author of the works are barely readable, but within the context of the painting, one can determine the exact novel.
An eye-catching series by Yury drew me over to the long wall in the gallery. ‘More,’ a five-piece series, is comprised of two themes. The first three pieces are fractions of a whole picture, focusing on one specific body part or portion of the body. The body parts selected include a woman’s revealed thigh looking slightly bruised, a woman’s backside, her hand covering her genitals and a shot of female feet and legs from the knee down. Feelings of sorrow filled my being as I began to zoom out to the full scene. The dynamic of a partially nude woman alone in a forest, exhibiting signs of physical shame and pain led me to believe that the viewer is witnessing a scene of anguish following a violation of her sexuality.
With a stark contrast, the last two pieces in the series, entitled ‘Diptych #1’ and ‘Diptych #2’ offer another view of female sexuality. My first study of ‘Diptych #1′ led me to believe that the scene was simply a scantily clad female in a sensual pose on a bed.
But what is so fascinating is the two canvases in the diptych (a term used for two paneled artwork) do not anatomically match up—her stomach from one canvas leads to a different back in the second canvas. This physical incongruity takes a backseat to the beauty of the overall picture. The woman is portrayed in a way that is far from the idea of perfection found in today’s fashion magazines. Her visible pubic and armpit hair, her soiled panties and an overall appearance of disheveled femininity create a wonderfully refreshing painting.
What one comes to realize is that this figure is still just as beautiful and intriguing as any idealized female in a magazine. Further, the reality of her imperfections makes her that much more attractive. Real physical beauty overrides our contemporary demand for fake and unnatural perfection. These pieces demand that we escape current perceptions of beauty in favor of a more realistic, natural beauty.
In the Room Gallery, Jessica Lawless’ piece entitled ‘Past Present Future’ dominates the space. This piece presents a powerful and overwhelming dedication and education of violence against women. In a four piece art exhibit, one sees the past, present and future of this violence. The past is represented by a series of framed news articles and pictures, each representing a different form of violence.
On the floor in front of the mural are several televisions showing the present state—chalk outlines of human bodies on the pavement, showing that today death is the result of the continued violence against women in the world.
The third part is two projected movies showing self defense instruction. The characters of the film, dressed in unlikely outfits, chant strong words of resistance as they practice their moves.
The final piece is a pamphlet that archives the idea behind the project—to explore how art, feminism and gender interact with the arts community in relation to the idea of violence against women as the focal concentration. Parts of the different e-mails sent to the artist throughout the process give a glimpse into the complicated progression of the development of this artwork.
Overall, I was moved, shaken and I respect the way this piece presents the subject at hand. It calls attention to an important issue in a way that has not been done before—it is refreshing and attention grabbing.
The pieces by Eric Cho and Tom Haviar added a rounder aspect to the exhibit, but were less intriguing as the aforementioned pieces.
Cho’s tribute to car racing, ’18 Circus,’ delves into its history by paralleling the ancient Roman chariot races with our contemporary vehicle races. Surrounding ’18 Circus’ is a dual part piece called ‘Hood Hatin’ that shows the conflict between foreign and American car makers.
Tom Haviar’s pieces were interesting but a bit over stimulating. His ‘Arthistopathology’ presents a different twist to creating art—the took magnified slides of cells of dead skin tissue and colored them to create a wild collection of biological art.
In a contrasting piece called ‘Advanced Civilization Series #4,’ he represents the demolition of a building through thousands of pieces of cut metal. Much like the overstimulating colored organisms, there is so much going on in this piece that it is hard to focus on the content.