Stunted Prosperity: UCI MFA Candidates Present Theses in Dept. of Art MFA Exhibition Part Two

Originally written May 2013

By Katrina Yentch

On the evening of May 16th, four of UC Irvine’s Master of Fine Arts candidates of 2013 in the newly re-named major “Art” (previously titled “Studio Art”) presented their theses at on-campus art galleries as “part two” of the earlier MFA exhibition that showcased in the spring of 2012.

Spread throughout galleries in The Claire Trevor School of the Arts, exhibitions with titles such as “Shifting Shapes” and “Johnny” were on display in the Room Gallery, CAC Gallery, and UAG for the public to contemplate while sipping and munching on complimentary wine and cheese.

As part of the three-year curriculum, students in their last year of the MFA program must display a thesis exhibition in one of the galleries in the spring, and are also given the opportunity to mount a second exhibition in Los Angeles during the summer after graduation.

The candidates for this part of the exhibition were Kuan Hwa, Alexandra Garcia, Andy J. Brown, and Lindsay August-Salazar; their theses had variety in subject material and physical material itself; the works ranged from video projections to pencil drawings to bare furniture pieces. In these materials, the artists deal with concepts such as subtle atmospheric changes, social forms of knowledge, nostalgia, and repetition.

Despite its openness to the general public, it seemed that a majority of the audiences that the MFA students drew were undergraduates and professors in the art major, creating a sort of “support system” in the UCI arts community. Monica Verdin, a third year in the Arts major, noted to me, “Some of these students have been working on their theses for three years!” Another Arts major, second year Adrian Garcia, excitedly stated, “I came to see Andy Brown’s work, Johnny. I am used to seeing him do photography but his thesis includes a lot of different materials, like wood, steel, and resin, so it drew my curiosity.”

Resin, typically used in art for varnish and adhesive, is also used for incense and is a form of secretion of the female lac bug. Talk about a change in materials!

A resident of Long Beach and undergraduate arts student at Cal State University San Bernardino, Andy J. Brown is a M.F.A. candidate who is also Garcia’s instructor for his “black and white photography” class. His thesis, titled Johnny, is a work that encompasses the concept of what Brown calls “stunted prosperity,” as represented in his materials.

The exhibit consists of various pieces of un-painted wooden furniture strewn about the concrete floor along with touches of Roman architecture. For example, a roof lay on the ground with curves marked into it. Next to it was a singular pillar. Along with this were included singular items such as a postcard and a chalk drawing of a Roman citizen.

“Johnny,” Brown stated, “is a narrative between a hopeful sailor boy and pieces in my thesis. The pieces, like this roof with Roman-esque detailing on it, are reflective of the Housing Crisis of 2008. As the sailor boy looks on this, he is hopeful, and he is the promise of commerce and navigation, the perpetual renewal of the hope of all.”

As a result of record low interest rates, the Housing Crisis of 2008 occurred due to the abundance of unstable loans that were taken out in response in order to buy new homes. However, too many people walked away from these loans and the system of easily approvable loans “broke,” leaving the nation in a financial crisis and later recession.

In explaining how his work grapples with this event, Brown stated, “His hope is projected into the hope that homebuyers had before the crisis. However, this hope later became stunted prosperity.”

Along with Brown’s thesis, Hwa’s, Garcia’s, and August-Salazar’s theses are on display at the galleries from May 16th-May 31st.

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