2021 Master of Fine Arts Thesis Exhibition SMFA at Tufts University
2021 Master of Fine Arts Thesis Exhibition SMFA at Tufts University
SMFA AT TUFTS Erica Ancrum, Program Coordinator, Graduate Programs Nancy Bauer, Dean, School of the Museum of Fine Arts Lisa Bynoe, Associate Director of Graduate Programs Robert Cook, Dean, Graduate School of Arts and Sciences Jeannie Simms, Director of Graduate Studies, Master of Fine Arts Program
GRADUATE ADVISORS 2020 —2021 Danielle Abrams, Performance Bonnie Donohue, Photography Patte Loper, Painting and Drawing Megan McMillan, Sculpture Ethan Murrow, Painting and Drawing Jennifer Schmidt, Print, Paper, & Graphic Arts Jeannie Simms, Photography Mary Ellen Strom, Media Arts
ON LEAVE 2020 —2021 Jane Gillooly, Film
TUFTS UNIVERSITY ART GALLERIES Dina Deitsch, Director and Chief Curator
AIDEKMAN ARTS CENTER Elizabeth Canter, Manager of Academic Programs Joshua Fischer, Exhibitions Coordinator Kaelynn Maloney, Department & Curatorial Assistant Laura McDonald, Manager of Collections Matt Murphy, Preparator Chiara Pidatella, Research Curator Tony Palocci, Associate Collections Registrar
SMFA AT TUFTS Kaitlyn Clark, Exhibitions Coordinator Abigail Satinsky, Curator David Thacker, Manager of Exhibitions and Public Programs
The class of 2021 arrived in the fall of 2019, in the midst of impeachment procedures against President Donald Trump. The United States was waging a trade war with China, attacking migration at the US-Mexican border (where the systematic separation of adult asylum seekers and their children was well underway), and imposing sanctions against Iran. Meanwhile, teenage climate activist Greta Thunberg (the daughter of two artists) was sailing from Europe to the United States to submit the IPCC Special Report on the Global Warming of 1.5º Celsius to the US Congress. In the art worlds, Warren Kanders quit the Whitney Museum of American Art Board of Trustees after employees and the public protested the use of his company’s tear gas at the US border with Mexico and by US police against protestors. The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and the National Portrait Gallery in London stopped accepting gifts from the Sackler family, who were accused of profiting from the concealment of the drug OxyContin’s addictive potential. These events spurred an era of ongoing widespread moral reckoning about the role of museums and the contradictions within them. The Sackler fallout hit close to home, too, with the removal of the Sackler name from the Tufts Medical School and university programs. The gains of the art market and rise of NFT’s (non-fungible tokens) demonstrated the divisions in the art world that mirrored the further stratification of the wealthiest and poorest people in the United States. In the summer of 2020, the Black Lives Matter movement mobilized a large-scale response to the murders of George Floyd, Sandra Bland, Philando Castile, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and many other African Americans by US police. The New York Times reported on July 2, 2020, that BLM might be the largest movement in US history. BLM activists led nationwide efforts to get out the vote, helping US Democrats to win the house, senate, and, narrowly, the office of the presidency in an election that wasn’t projected by national news media until four days after voting concluded. On January 6, 2021, insurrectionists invaded the US Capitol, led by “Stop the Steal” supporters who still refused to accept the results of the election, in which Donald Trump lost to Joe Biden. All this, of course, took place amid the novel coronavirus pandemic. After campus was evacuated in March of 2020 and students were over the initial shock, they
demonstrated remarkable resourcefulness in reassessing their lives and situations. In order to capitalize on cheaper rents, some left Boston to find new homes in other states or moved back in with family or with fellow artists, strengthening their networks in spite of the isolation of remote education. They made art in their bedrooms, barns, and kitchens, sharing their artwork, habitats, and virtual backgrounds via Zoom, the software interface du jour, at their weekly graduate critique classes. The usual live critique process (the backbone of most MFA programs) was compromised as students held up artworks to their webcams or shared works online via digital images. Yet, week after week, students continued to connect with one another through their classes, often working doubly hard to build upon their shared knowledge through conversation with one another and the words of visiting artists, scholars, and their graduate advisors, who often serve as a hub of advice and information for students—engaging with their questions and problems while providing cultural references and histories as needed to support resolutions in the artists’ work. Students attended Tufts University Art Gallery talks by Firelei Báez, Aliza Nisenbaum, Sanford Biggers, Faheem Majeed, Jibade-Khalil Huffman, and Claudia Rankine, as well as panels titled Indigenous-Led Cultural Regeneration + Commemoration; Building Histories: Collections, Monuments, and Racial Equity; What Is an Abolitionist Practice?; and Joy and Collaboration, among many others both on and off campus. Meghan Cleary writes poems and presents them in chapbooks. The poems serve as foundations for abstract ink drawings she creates with an invented code that prescribes the placement of the lines in the drawings. With time and translation, the drawings can be understood as precise “maps” of the poems, yet the translations of the codes offer nothing to help interpret the poems’ meaning. The drawings and poems supplement one another as alternate forms yet refuse explication and instead accumulate into further abstraction. Justin Guertin takes imagery from online social interactions, such as emojis, memes, and selfies, and creates physical objects that can be handled and interacted with—challenging the illusionistic symbols of exchange and social capital found online. Viewers relate IRL to familiar symbols but do so in real time, 10
navigating bodies with less-familiar shapes in space and gravity and without the shielding curtain of a user interface. Anne Harris describes herself as “collaborating with a mountain”: Mount Greylock, in the Massachusetts Berkshires, where the Hoosac people lived. Harris paints the landscape en plein air, using close observation and knowledge gleaned over seven years of visits. She then wraps her body in the completed canvases and performs in front of a camera. She also sets up installations in the woods she grew up with in Worcester, Massachusetts, where the Nipmuc people lived. Harris uses a wildlife camera to capture bobcats, a porcupine, and other animals encountering her artworks. She exhibits the final results as paintings, videos, and photographs. Emily McDonald has been based partly in Locust Grove, Virginia, since the pandemic broke out. She has created performances and sculptural works in the landscape, where she utilizes her own body in relation to natural materials, site, and objects ranging from sheets, deer bones, oysters, chicken wire, and irrigation tubing to soy fields, a ukulele, red clay, milkweed plants, and abandoned peafowl enclosures. Jess Pouncy makes sculptural tableaus from cheap repurposed objects and discarded plastics and presents them on dayglo colored card stock. The works include colorful sponges, plastic grass, faux fur, foils, and foams in what look like miniature real-world models of colorful digital environments and screen savers. Not surprisingly, Pouncy has experience working with the tools of illusion in film and television art departments, manipulating props and sets—and also works in graphic design, including the art direction of this thesis catalogue. Jana Purington creates stories based on her most intimate relationships and presents them in audio recordings and stitched words on fabric. In The Parasite, an audio recording, and About the Bedrock, a “quilted essay,” Purington positions her anorexia as an ongoing hunger—and her love for her twin sister as indivisible drives. Human needs for love and nourishment are intertwined and shared through soft fabrics and aural experience.
Camila Sánchez-Longo Dávila utilizes two sites for the thesis show—the El Bastión cultural center in San Juan Puerto Rico and the Tufts University Art Galleries. Her recorded performance, La Carga, features the artist carrying heavy sandbags emblazoned with the words Insurrección, La Princesa, Bootstrap, La Marina, Valor, and Sacrificio. Using performance, installation, audio, video, print and found objects, Sánchez-Longo Dávila’s objects and gestures address colonial tensions between the archipelago of Puerto Rico (an unincorporated US territory) and the sovereign powers of the US federal government. Sko works with reflectivity and light, using discarded mirrors, glass, and silver Mylar. He creates woven works with Mylar strips in large, fluid sheets that function like architectural-scale curtains. A set of mirrored light boxes that mimic the scale of retail display cases hangs on the wall at human height. Without objects to display, these works reflect back the viewers who land in front of them. To the artists, I share three hopes for your futures: • that you will continue to use your artwork as a way to contemplate, experiment,
connect with others, research untold stories, call out the injustices of our time, probe the self, spread joy—all the while observing the effects of your own actions and artworks with curiosity and wonder. • that you will rely on others to nurture your practices, working together to defend them from their inherent precarity, while sustaining divergent views and healing from mistakes in your artistic communities. • that you will share scissors, tape, text messages, wood, poems, car rides, wigs, couches, forgiveness, bananas, eye shadow, hashtags, essays, leftovers, Post-it Notes, paint, library books, professional connections, recipes, winks, old photographs, stories, balloons, hand-me-downs, political petitions, tickets, tours, picnic blankets, observations, playlists—and visits back to the SMFA. JEANNIE SIMMS Director of Graduate Studies, School of the Museum of Fine Arts at Tufts University 12
Translation #5, 2020 Ink and graphite on paper
My practice integrates creative writing and abstract pen-and-ink line drawings of varying sizes. The poetry at the center of most of my work is generally very intimate and personal, exploring my, or the speaker’s, relationships to other people, the passage of time, memory, and the self. I systematically translate these writings into drawings through a code I developed. The translation drawings take a step back from the intimacy of the poetry, making the original poems as unknowable as we find any other person before investing effort and time in cultivating understanding. These drawings can be “read” when viewed and deciphered alongside the code that determines the placement of the lines—without which they appear solely as a collection of illegible abstract marks, just as a person’s appearance reveals very little about who they are or what they think and feel. The act of attempting to read the drawings is a metaphor for coming to understand intimate details about the people around us, which we would otherwise be unable to comprehend, through careful observation and time spent with them. Time itself, our relationship to it and its unknowability, is also a subject of my visual work— drawings that explore our tenuous grasp on what time is and how we experience it.
La Pecosa , 2020 Video Installation
CAMILA ALEXZANDRA SÁNCHEZ-LONGO DÁVILA
Welcome to my side of el charco, my casa, my lucha and dreams of libertad. As a multidisciplinary artist-activist, largely focused on the methods of gesture politics, my artistic practice is characterized by working on a series of creative exercises aimed at resisting and unfolding the relationship of colonial tension between the United States and Puerto Rico, My Mainland. With object-sites historically enmeshed in the ongoing war against Puerto Ricans, I materialize the experiences of living in the colossal disaster of 122 years of U.S Imperial Rule. Evolving into my own form of resistance, I tie into the fabric of ideas by designing political visual imagery, and in the best of cases, creating true collective experiences. To answer the question of how a contemporary artist goes about revealing the nuances of this charged relationship, I’ve prepared a multigeographic graduate thesis project. Inviting the viewer to participate in a sitespecific satellite exhibition to be held at “El Bastion” (Former Prison and Troops Dormitory) in San Juan-Puerto Rico, dialoguing with the 2021 Graduate Exhibition at the Tufts University Art Galleries. Considering the historical quality of the capital of our mainland, El Bastión, and Boston – site of the U.S Court of Appeals for the First Circuit for the archipelago – both the body of the sites inform the pieces to be showcased, and the body of the works, inform the sites. Hopefully uncovering new and more effective ways of raising these issues in the court of public ethics we call the art world.
Likes, 2021 Hand-Crafted Resin Tokens
JUSTIN ANTHONY GUERTIN
My work seeks to dissect and understand the habits formed around the social implementation of technology. In the digital age, new social platforms and media creation tools allow users to dictate ideals and curate stories. An unwritten language has formed around today’s communication landscape filled with selfies, emojis, reels, memes, and filters—a way of interacting that transforms the political into the volatile, the celebrity into the mythical, and the banal into the spectacular. Users employ this language to create highly curated expressions of contemporary life and recycle iconic imagery with lightning quickness. Through a vibrant, silly, and bizarre implementation of multiple artistic media, I work to subvert the forms of this system of communication to expose its inherent weaknesses. My projects are small systems unto themselves, channeling the symbols and icons of this greater system of digital communication. The work flips these symbolic forms on their heads while forcing the viewer to reckon with their meaning on a different scale. The objects I create are meant to be handled, held, touched, and traded; interactions with these objects mirror their use in the digital sphere. By focusing viewers’ attention on object interactivity, my projects expose the value structures and cultural mechanisms at work behind the fun and flashy facades of our favorite apps.
Winter Canvas Camouflage, 01/25/21 Performance Still
ANNE BIRUTĖ HARRIS
My interdisciplinary practice visualizes my relationship with the more-than-human world. Since I was a small child, I have always felt that there was something more in the woods than what I could see with my eyes. When I am present in the landscape, I experience something invisible and atmospheric. Painting, performance, photography, and video installation represent my felt experiences and a lifelong relationship with the woods. For the last seven years, I have been involved in a collaboration with Mount Greylock, the tallest mountain in present day Massachusetts. Wearing my paintings through performance, I blend into the landscape and become an extension of the environment. My practice involves spending time in the woods, wearing my unstretched paintings as camouflage to absorb the spirit of the mountain, to become the mountain, to express the mountain. And when I am camouflaged, I turn into something more than myself. As this mountain spirit, ghost, and animal-like creature, I repeatedly visit to experience seasonal changes, different lighting, and weather conditions. Today my artistic journey lies in a local forest in present day Worcester, Massachusetts where I collaborate with the animals, and with my porcupine friend. Visiting this porcupine among the dead hemlock trees, I participate with this porcupine’s journey on its return to the forest soil.
Springfield Farm Interventions, 2020-2021 Multimedia
As a multidisciplinary artist living and working in Locust Grove, Virginia, I utilize modes of performance, painting, and installation to conduct site-specific and material-based research, considering how history, storytelling, and bodily experience can inform and define the relationship of self to site. I engage a particular place through durational observation and embodied inquiry, moving through the landscape and encountering nonhuman entities and objects that I interact with and respond to. The result is an accumulation of multimedia projects, experiments, and artifacts that become materials for constructing immersive, social-sculptural environments. As an outcome of site-specific study, the spaces support the continuation of my research through the connections and perceptions of the viewer continually recreating the original site.
Hairy Melts, 2021 Installation
My practice spans sculpture, painting, design, video, and installation, with an emphasis on color, abstraction, and scale. I use a variety of materials, mostly repurposed or recycled, to create objects and spaces that fall somewhere between an alternate reality dreamscape and architectural domestic interiors. I aim to evoke introspective reactions regarding the body, space, and the environment—both built and natural, urban and earthly, inhabited and barren, domestic and otherworldly. Growing up in Florida, I was surrounded by color, whether it was the ocean and sunshine, Art Deco architecture, or the vibrant handcrafts of Latin American culture. I use a similar oversaturated palette to form relationships between the viewer and my sculptural objects. My childhood was also filled with both colorful plastic kitsch and environmentalist directives to “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle!” These conflicting influences, coupled with the working-class struggles my family experienced, encouraged creative problem solving and evolved into a resourcefulness reflected in my work’s materiality. I attempt to provoke questions of body and space relations, acknowledge the global impact of plastic and manufacturing pollution, examine the dynamic of nature and industry, consider material history and material lifecycles, and push viewers to form connections between fantasy, consumerism, popular culture, and the human imagination.
Separate, Related, 2021 Digital image
I work with text and textiles to explore themes of intimacy, identity, and hunger. Fabric, as something our skin knows almost every second, can be deeply comforting. It can be worn in until it remembers the shape of our bodies; it can be torn and it can be mended. This is true of relationships, both with others and with ourselves. I write to try to come to a better understanding of how I fit within my body and within my bonds to others, then translate the ideas into something physical, something I can wrap myself up in. In Separate, Related, I write through the ways in which my relationship with my twin sister has shifted and how my anorexia has impacted that shift. I worried for a long time that I swallowed the closeness between us. I couldn’t tell if the increased distance I felt from her grew from the natural separation and individuating processes all twins experience as they become adults, or if she was pulling away from my seemingly bottomless appetite. Through my essays and fiber pieces, I have re-remembered us, finding the words, the warp and the weft of our narrative, in order to trust the fabric of our twinship. 93
MORNINGS Mornings silver into being A dollar coin shine you have to bite to believe Alchemy, hours, to gold to color To color To color I run through. At some stage my body grew into some place unfamiliar And I tried to carve it Into home Pounding over pavement rock dirt field frost. I can tell years of mornings I can tell how my bones groaned hollow Honeycombed with nothing sweet Hived by fears buzzing me into motion Into mornings I defy my body My body defies me And we will know mornings Until something soothing, sweet, bone-deep Tells me I’m home I can stop running.
Total control/ complete chaos No.2, 2020 Woven mylar, stage lights
I am a New England–raised artist currently living in Santa Cruz, California. I hold a BFA from Montserrat College of Art in Beverly, Massachusetts. Specializing in sculpture and installation, I explore how the visual phenomena of light pushes the physical boundary of perception. Through the spectacle of light interacting with specific materials such as glass, mirror, Mylar, and other reflective surfaces, I strive to create a visceral sensorial engagement with perspective and materiality. This fosters an immersive experience that transforms the physical boundary between viewer and work into a spectacle of cosmic wonder. The goal is to create a scenario like Lewis Carroll’s white rabbit, enticing the viewer, like Alice, to fall down the rabbit hole and become part of the land of wonder.
All works courtesy of the artists. Art Direction by Jess Pouncy, MFA 2021 Copyedited by Kristin Swan Printed by Puritan Press 2021