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arts exhibits

MFA Thesis Group Two Exhibition to present student work, celebrate April 8


IU Grunwald Gallery will present the MFA Thesis Group Two Exhibition reception 6 p.m. April 8 in the gallery in the Fine Arts Building. 

The exhibition is a culmination of 10 Master of Fine Arts students’ graduate art research. Each artist will speak about their work via Zoom for the gallery’s Noon Talks program Friday at 12 pm. At 6 p.m. that evening, the reception will be open to the public. 

Master’s student Angela Caldwell, who specializes in metalsmithing and jewelry making, created a series of armor and jewelry pieces after being inspired by the different communities of women in her life. 

Caldwell said her inspiration struck as she was mending her family’s heirloom quilt and realized they didn’t know the name of the woman who made it. 

“That made me start to question the aspects of how women are unrecognized in today's society and have been for centuries,” Caldwell said. 

The quilt is featured in Caldwell’s exhibition, alongside her grandmother’s thimble and the armor, each with its own message about women’s relationships with one another. 

“Women just have to protect one another and ourselves in the world in which we live,” Caldwell said. “I started thinking about how, when I'm feeling pressured or not acknowledged, it is women who turn to women for the support we need.” 

Another master’s student, Sophia Okotah, specializes in graphic design. She created a 3D printed, accordion fold design that she hopes will educate people on better ways to interact with others. 

Okotah said she was inspired by an interaction she had in Minneapolis during the George Floyd protests. When she encountered a small caterpillar on her car windshield, she said she wanted to smash it at first because of her fear of bugs. But upon looking closer, she said the caterpillar was beautiful and complex. In the wake of the discrimination and violence she was seeing at the time, she said the caterpillar made her realize how dangerous stereotyping and judgement can be to people. 

“It got me thinking closely about how we relate with people, and the need for us to approach or get closer to know for ourselves who people really are,” Okotah said. “I believe there's beauty in diversity.” 

For Zachary Kaufman’s work in photography, he spent four years following the Wabash River’s 500-mile path from start to finish, documenting communities along the way. 

Kaufman said he tries to cultivate empathy for different communities and the people he depicts. 

“I'm always so struck when strangers trust me to make an image of them,” Kaufman said. “I am so grateful. I feel it's a really big responsibility on my part to portray them in a fair light. Their stories and generosity will stick with me.” 

For his aerial pictures, Kaufman flew above the river in the middle of winter and stuck his head out the window at 6000 feet above the ground to take photos. He said this experience helped him to conceptualize how connected the communities below were. 

A West Coast native, Kaufman said the project helped him get to know Indiana. 

“To be able to present it to natives of Indiana is extremely meaningful to me,” Kaufman said. “I feel it's really important that I take this opportunity to understand my new home and my new neighbors.”

This second installment of IU’s Spring MFA Thesis Exhibitions will be open through April 16. Grunwald Gallery’s hours are Tuesday through Saturday, noon-4 p.m. or by appointment.

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