The Grunwald Art Gallery is presenting thesis exhibitions from 7 of out of the 13 students in their last year of the master of fine arts program from April 12-23. The former six artist’s work were showcased March 22 to April 2.
The exhibition is open to the public for viewing in person and online. All exhibitions will be available online beginning May 5.
Program coordinator Linda Tien has been working with the students to set up their works in the gallery.
“Gallery spaces can all be very different, and they all have their own personalities,” Tien said. “This is my expertise. I know the space really well, and I can help them figure out how to prepare all their pieces in this space. I like to think of it as a situation where I am kind of teaching them.”
Tien said she is excited to see the result of three years of hard work and research the students have put into their art.
“You only get this degree once so I want to make a good experience for them and for everyone here who ends up coming to see the show,” Tien said. “There’s a lot that’s very rewarding about this job.”
The exhibition will feature works in photography, ceramics, video art, fibers, graphic design and metals/jewelry.
Tayla Blewitt-Gray is focusing on video art for their MFA. She believes art encompasses more than just drawing.
“Art is anything,” Blewitt-Gray said. “It’s a skill that you learn over time and you just need to give yourself the space to learn it and really enjoy it.”
Blewitt-Gray has three different videos for the exhibition that are dedicated to remembering those who have passed, the impact they made while alive, how things changed in their absence and the allowance to grieve their death.
“Through my work, I’m looking at creating a space for people to grieve and to allow themselves to talk,” Blewitt-Gray said. “That’s one thing I’ve discovered is sometimes it is this taboo thing that we really don’t want to talk about.”
Blewitt-Gray was inspired by their frustration of others choosing to deflect conversations about grief and death in order to be polite. This was a change from the culture they’re used to in their original hometown of Canberra, Australia.
Liliana Guzman’s exhibition features nine pieces that are a combination of painting, drawing and photography that visualize the layers of the Latinx female experience and body. Guzman said her work stems from her background as a Columbian-American woman.
“I want to elevate the perspective of women, of her experiences,” Guzman said. “I also am interested in how experiences form different layers of yourself.”
Guzman defines art as a tool to talk about or show things are not often heard or seen.
“Art is just a wonderful way to do that and to connect with others and to open up conversations,” Guzman said. “It’s a very powerful force that we have. It drives culture, it drives, it drives politics and it drives people and ideas.”
Emily Yurkevicz is an interdisciplinary artist working toward her MFA in studio art within the fibers discipline. She works in ceramics, wood, plaster and fabric.
Yurkevicz said there is a lot of research that goes into the art the students create.
“The way we think about art as a society is that it comes from a venue,” Yurkevicz said. “That you just create this thing. The reality is that, especially in a master’s program, we are actively engaging with other voices within our disciplines, and responding and abstracting these ideas into our own work.”
Yurkevicz said she wants to challenge what society deems valuable or invaluable and who makes those decisions.
“A lot of my work deals with questioning the importance of certain daily objects,” Yurkevicz said. “I’ve pulled from my life and engaged with a lot of reading and writing on how we memorialize these things and how we create these monuments within our society, and who gets to choose what is considered to be valuable.”
Each student will also talk about their art during the virtual noon talks at noon on April 16. There will also be a virtual reception at 6 p.m. the same day.
Blewitt-Gray, Guzman and Yurkevicz are both excited to showcase their art in the exhibition as a culmination of their work over the course of the three-year MFA program.
“It’s pretty exciting to have this end cap, especially now when things have felt so unusual, it's a really nice kind of return to normalcy in some ways,” Yurkevicz said. “To be able to sit back and celebrate and be like ‘yeah, you know I did do that. That’s pretty remarkable’ is pretty lovely.”