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MFA 2015

Graduate Thesis Exhibition


Laura Amtower


Mary Ayling


Mike Bianco


Trevor King


Math Monahan


Josh Nierodzinski


Nataša Prljevic


Cosmo Whyte

Laura Amtower The Connecting Curriculum exhibition demonstrates a collaborative educational project between Laura Amtower, Rachael Van Dyke and Ann Arbor STEAM @ Northside Elementary, engaging student learning with Northside Elementary’s 2014­ 2015 facility expansion. Children, Kindergarten through fifth grade, collaboratively designed their school’s new playground through play­ based education units taught in the classroom. As experts in the field of play, the student body proposed a movement toward a playscape­ combining multi­purpose, unique play structures with imaginative manipulation of the landscape. Students presented a series of original playscapes and concepts to the school community, public, and Ann Arbor firm Beckett & Raeder who will facilitate the new space in Spring 2015 based entirely on the children’s’ designs. The Connecting Curriculum exhibition documents Laura’s representation of a five-step engaged pedagogy through a selected compilation of children’s artwork and writings throughout the playscape project. Each thematic process demonstrates the scaffold and process of students’ development in self-expression, exploration in play, shared experiences, playscape designs and participatory research. 1

Designs for Public: Student Playground Models 2015 Wood, digital & mixed media

Designs for Self: Pop-Up Adventure Playground & Running Paths 2015 Collage, wood, photos on vellum & found Objects


Meeting in the Middle: Student Drawings 6

2015 Drawings, wood, & artificial grass


Mary Ayling Breathing Room is a site-specific sculptural exchange set between the artist’s apartment in Ypsilanti and Slusser Gallery in Ann Arbor. Designed for one person at a time, appointments were taken at the opening for a future time and date, at which the person would return to Slusser Gallery to retrieve a key and meet a mysterious black car that would transport them to the second location in Ypsilanti. Participants were given very little information about where they were going and what they would encounter upon their arrival. Drawing upon personal narrative, sculpture, choreography and performance, this piece is the culmination of a three-year body of work exploring the use of art as a means personal transformation.


Breathing Room Date of creation: A lifetime

Opening front door, Hole in the floor Date of creation: A lifetime

Hole in living room floor, Instrument for choosing Date of creation: A lifetime

Breath Share 2015 Glass created from two people sharing breath between two glass bubbles. 16” x 22” x 12”


Mike Bianco Since I began graduate studies here, I’ve been working through the idea of humans “working with” rather than having “power over” nature. I was immediately attracted to the beekeeping community and what bees have to teach us about cooperative and communal living. It occurred to me, though, that I don’t want to be a “beekeeper.” I think this title has the capacity to imply a master/servant relationship to the bees. I want to care for bees - I want to give them space to work, to conduct their alchemy of manipulating materials, and support the important work they do - the same work that I feel art curators should do for contemporary artists. So that’s how I arrived at calling myself a curator of bees. Drawing from a variety of mediums, ranging from beeswax and neon, to cooking and performance, my practice is invested in issues of sustainability and environmental and social justice, with a focus on honeybees. Hive includes a number of sculptural objects, including a mobile bee house for sleeping with honeybees, and features a live honey tasting performance. Also included is documentation relating to my social practice focusing on my own environmental activism and honeybee advocacy. 17


Trevor King In sculpture, momentum creates stasis. Whether carving, constructing, or forming, an effort is exerted upon material until it becomes a sculpture. The question for the sculptor is when does the work stop? When does the material become sculpture, and how does that sculpture’s being communicate something about our own being? In ceramic processes, the firing of a work signifies its becoming. This process literally fuses the material in place. The microscopic geology of the material becomes vitrified; individual particles form a whole, and this is the shape of the object for at least a few centuries (unless the object is broken down by non-geological forces). In Listener, the making of a pot is a metaphor for a human action, with clay recording the potential of my hands and of my spirit to shape the space that I exist in. Firing these pieces creates a registration of these actions; physical indexes of where a human event took place.


Listener 2015 42 wheel-thrown porcelain vessels, steel sound sculpture

Listener 2015 Backlit digital photograph

Listener 2015 42 wheel-thrown porcelain vessels, steel sound sculpture Detail


Listener 2015 Two luna moth specimens Dimensions variable


Math Monahan Tellings is an art exhibition that explores how interprets the impermanent state of storytelling is interpreted into through visual art, through story narrative, space, and objects.  Exhibited in the Stamps School of At & Design’s Slusser Gallery, this MFA thesis project places the viewer in the delicate position between the world of things and the imagined spaces of folklore and fables.  Through a series of sculptures, installations, and narratives drawing draw on folklore, mythologies and personal memories, to obscure the role of storyteller is obscured and leave the audience is left to build their own narratives. The aim of the work is to deconstructs the narratives/fables into key moments, translating them into viewer experiences in visual storytelling.


Cast of Hawks 2015 Arrows & found objects

Between Tides 2015 Driftwood, chalk, charcoal & found objects

Stone Tomes 2015 Cement


Josh Nierodzinski Below Shepherd’s Hill is an exhibition of artwork that investigates the methodological possibilities of forensic aesthetics. In particular, it examines the derivative concept of forensic imagination through the narrative potential of painting in conjunction with forensic multispectral photographic imaging. In this MFA thesis project, exhibited in the Russell Industrial Center, the visitor encounters a series of paintings that trigger the affects of a traumatic autobiographical event. As I bear witness to my experience through painting, the paintings become material witnesses. They carry the history of their creation embedded in layers of paint. Using forensic imaging techniques, like x-rays and infrared I can look back through the surface of the painting. The resulting photographs reveal hidden information, both intentional and accidental. They are a reminder that what can be seen on the surface is both a consequence of the past and far from the complete truth.


Bath 2015 Digital X-Ray photograph on vellum 24” x 32”

Knock, Knock 2015 Digital X-Ray photograph on vellum 24” x 32”

Bath, Knock, Knock 2015 Digital infrared photograph on vellum

Shepherd’s Hill 2015 Oil on canvas Triptych: (3) 36” x 68”


The Birthday Party 2015 Oil on canvas 60” x 72”



Nataša Prljevic The House on Four Waters is a multimedia installation that addresses the mechanisms of real and imagined sites of memory for two sisters. The title is taken from a collaborative personal narrative with my sister Jelena that serves as the foundation for the work. Far from a nostalgic idealization of the past, The House on Four Waters uses collage and disjunction to create an alternative understanding of present. This installation is rooted in my experience of national fragmentation in the context of an increasingly globalized world. The inherent conflicts exposed the relationship between imagination and politics as well as memory and materiality. Through my research I discovered static displacement as an apt metaphor for an individual and national experience. Static displacement is the condition of being displaced without moving. As a nuanced physical and psychological space, static displacement is an integral human ability to absorb and look inward, to collapse into oneself and come together. The House on Four Waters embodies this notion through a direct visual, auditory, and physical encounter. Referencing Cells (Eyes and Mirrors) by Louise Bourgeois as an example of an installation formed around bodily centered metaphor, The House on Four Waters exists as a meditation on retroactivity and presence in a constrained space of disparate media.


Down view on the video of a human eye integrated into the aluminum-covered floor.

Inside view towards the exit showing two persons in front of the installation.

Close up detail of one of the collages showing its glowing surface and textures.

Inside view and close up of a drop cloth collage composition with cut outs and shadows.


Cosmo Whyte My work explores postcolonial identity through the lens of globalization, modernity, diaspora and migration. Through the process of dialectic installations of drawings, photographs and sculpture, I argue for the reexamination of identity as not fixed, but liquid and in a constant state of flux. Taken in its entirety, my work is interested in probing the following questions: How has identity, sense of placelessness, or presence been altered by dislocation? Can identity exist beyond the nation state in a transnational way? And if it can what are the new ways that this postcolonial subject can understand himself or herself to be part of a larger group beyond the categories of political, ethnic, subcultural or diasporic?


YOU know WE can’t swim right 2015 C-Print photo on Plexiglass plexiglas 50” x 38”

Wake The Town and Tell The People 2015 Plywood, 12 speakers, 3 horns, 15 tweeters 8.5ft x 6ft x 4ft

Tools 2014 Cast porcelain, ink, glaze

Stranger than the village 2015 C-Print photograph 35� x 26�


About the Penny W. Stamps School of Art & Design at the University of Michigan The Stamps School offers both undergraduate and graduate degrees in art and design. The School’s unique open curriculum emphasizes interdisciplinary study, requires international educational experiences, fosters community engagement, and draws on the resources only available at a top-ten research university.

Regents of the University of Michigan Mark J. Bernstein, Julia Donovan Darlow, Laurence B. Deitch, Shauna Ryder Diggs, Denise Ilitch, Andrea Fischer Newman, Andrew C. Richner, Katherine E. White, Mark S. Schlissel, ex officio. Š 2013 Regents of the University of Michigan.

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Design: Parisa Ghaderi Director of the program: David Chung

2000 Bonisteel Blvd, Ann Arbor, MI 48109-2069


Profile for Parisa Ghaderi

2015 MFA Graduate Thesis Exhibition  

2015 MFA Graduate Thesis Exhibition