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BFA + MFA Theses on Display at the Snite

Brigid Mangano | Wednesday, April 11, 2012

As a proud Double Domer, I have had the opportunity to attend and participate in a wide variety of campus performances and competitions, from the Keenan Revue and Glee Club concerts to the Holy Half Marathon and the Collegiate Jazz Festival. Time and again, the talent and originality of my fellow students astounds me. This is especially true at the annual exhibition of BFA and MFA candidates’ theses at the Snite Museum of Art, one of only two events that I have not missed once over the past five years.

This spring, the culminating projects of eight seniors and five third-year graduate students are on display until May 20. Broaching topics as diverse as childhood fitness, the romanticization of cyberspace and the under-regulation of the cosmetics industry, they promise to appeal to a broad audience.

Children may gravitate towards “Stray,” a video game created by Amanda Carter that tells a heartwarming story about a bipedal sheep seeking to rescue his shepherd from a pack of wolves. Players must rely upon the skills of other members of the flock to reach the cave where the shepherd sits tethered. With its anti-bullying message and likable cast of characters, “Stray” is a welcome departure from the many violent video games on the market.

Those who constantly experience noise pollution will be intrigued by “Hush,” a hybrid device conceived by Ryan Geraghty. By combining sound-masking techniques and directional speakers, the device drowns out unwanted or harmful noise. One of the strengths of the display is its interactive component; viewers who step on a carpet square will suddenly become aware of an overhead buzzing sound.

New mothers may be drawn to Meghan Corbett’s “Koala Karrier” and Becca Huffer’s “PAC.” The former addresses the problem of how to safely transport an infant and offers a lightweight alternative to car seats that double as carriers. Eschewing plastic, Corbett created a wool-felt carrier which has a button tree design to add a nice aesthetic touch. “PAC,” short for the Personal Accessibility Cart, is a multifunctional walking aid that serves as everything from a stroller to a grocery cart. Presented as a lifelong companion, its rotational capacities and adjustability are impressive.

Parents and grade school teachers will appreciate “TRAKS” by Amanda Jonovski, a program that embraces technology in order to encourage physical exercise from a young age. (Editor’s note: Jonovski is the ad design manager at The Observer.) Students can earn points for the activities they log and challenge classmates to sports contests. By shifting the attention away from weight loss and customizing the appearance to reflect each school’s mascot, Jonovski transforms exercise into pure fun.

Internet users will see opportunity for self-reflection in “Neighborhoods” by Laura McGinn. In a series of four paintings, she depicts clusters of floating shapes that are intended to recall computer graphics. Many vaguely resemble buildings, and one cannot resist comparing a red-and-yellow checked shape to a Rubik’s cube. For McGinn, paint was the ideal medium to challenge contemporary attitudes towards cyberspace.

Avid readers will pause before “En Route” by Jackie Emmanuel, a sequence of six digital paintings that accompany a chapter book written by the artist. The story’s protagonist is Lorenzo Ibycus, the son of a government official who must journey to his homeland to save his family’s reputation. In one illustration, a buxom blonde asks directions, while behind her a winding path leads to a precipitous island evocative of Mont Saint-Michel. Viewers will leave wishing they could open the novel and read.

Philosophy majors and all those who muse about the nature of time and human existence will enjoy “Light Painting” by Nicholas Gunty and “The Temptation to Exist” by Jackson Zorn. In the former, Gunty explores light as a metaphor for the organic and spiritual worlds. Using long-exposure photography, he tracks different light sources across a moving frame and recreates the images in seven oil paintings. One of these, “Entanglement,” is loosely reminiscent of orange octopus legs.

In the latter, viewers encounter nine graphite drawings of bone fragments, organs, insect casings, antlers and fur. These sundry components are blended to produce bizarre-looking creatures, with the message that life always finds a way to flourish. The largest of the drawings calls to mind a famous Georgia O’Keeffe painting of a cow skull.

Women for whom primping is a sacred morning ritual should check out “Fierce Cosmetics” by Marie Yvonne Bourgeois. In a humorous but highly informative campaign, Bourgeois draws attention to the alarming levels of skin irritants and toxins that are found in many beauty products. Well-known slogans associated with Cover Girl and other big-name brands are turned on their heads, and Bourgeois’ process video shows exactly how she used lipstick, foundation, and mascara in her printmaking techniques.

Nirvana fans will empathize with “Kill Yr. Idols” by Benjamin Funke, a project dedicated to the life and death of Kurt Cobain. Funke deliberately distorts and silences the music videos that Nirvana filmed during their contract with Geffen Records, as a way of symbolizing the perversion of their message by the music industry and the loss of Cobain’s voice. The muted sound is especially noticeable due to the loud hum of six simultaneous projectors.

The final two projects both address the nature of recollection, albeit through markedly different means. In “Youthful Days,” Jessica Zekus considers the way in which our minds remember significant childhood events. Her staggered clay sculptures portray four boys and three girls in multifarious poses; one raises her hand as though waving to a friend, while another leans on his knees like an outfielder awaiting a fly ball. Viewers will smile at the playful titles, such as “See You Later Alligator.”

Memory is also foregrounded in “Re: Collections” by Christine Hinz Lenzen, a labor-intensive project in which old photographs were doused in wine, wrapped in cheesecloth and dipped in wax. Many of these were sewn together to create “Tapestry,” a sprawling quilt hung over a wooden drying rack. Others are bottled and arranged on shelves or scattered in a shallow trough. Viewers will find themselves searching for images that repeat and squinting to make out the details in those that were soaked the longest in red wine.

This year’s exhibition of MFA and BFA candidates’ theses cannot fail to please. Students and faculty should make time to view the work of some of the most creative minds on campus.

Contact Brigid Mangano at bmangano@nd.edu