The future of art is currently on view at the University Galleries in Uptown Normal.
The MFA Biennial Show highlights the work of students in the MFA program of Illinois State University’s College of Fine Arts. Kendra Paitz, the director of the Galleries and chief curator, has worked with her team to assemble a collection of works from 14 people who are establishing themselves as artists.
This is a great way to bridge the community and the University, said Paitz.
“We take it very seriously the fact that we have this Uptown space, and that we are a way for people to come in and see what’s happening at the University," she said.
The MFA program at ISU is a three-year course of study. The MFA Biennial allows the students to take their work from the studio and, for the first time, see their work professionally installed in a space designed to highlight their work.
“It's always exciting for people to see what’s happening in their community that they may not be familiar with,” Paitz said. “Whether it’s the techniques, whether it’s the content, just making it more accessible.”
Free tours lead by University Galleries curators can help community visitors appreciate the work of the MFA students.
The students themselves select the work that goes on display, choosing carefully to best represent their developing work.
“We meet with the students,” Paitz explained. “We walk around the space and talk about how we have these high ceilings and what technology we have and how this is a great place where you can experiment with an idea.”
It’s challenging, said Paitz, since the curators at the Galleries don’t always know much in advance what is coming in to be exhibited.
“When it all arrives, we have to make sense of it. We have 14 artists who address a wide variety of ideas in their works. So, it’s not the same kind of flow that you have in a curated exhibition. This is a little bit more spontaneous and you start to find connections in the work. You actually can’t overthink it, because of the timeline of when the work comes in to when it has to be installed and open,” she added with a laugh.
One of the MFA students whose work is featured in the show is Josh Roach, who is working with video and more in his installations, which can be found in the small room just off the lobby.
“Josh has been experimenting with video over the past year,” explained Paitz. “Josh came in and we painted the room black. He erected a temporary wall to bisect the space, so that when you come in, you can’t tell what’s happening in it. And you round the corner and see this large screen that features him in this wort of geometric structure that he’s created. You have this sort of droning effect with the sound for the video.”
“Josh is always thinking about costumes, too. He creates costumes and he creates sculptures for his works. And this 20-by-20 space will change over the course of the exhibition. When the show begins, there will be a large projection on one wall featuring these performative gestures by Josh in costume. This piece is called 'Touchy-Feely.' It’s silent, but it has these really intense and vibrant colors. Then, we’ll have another video by him on another screen. So, they will be in conversation with one another.”
“During the opening reception, for the entirety of the two hours, he will be in this space performing. He’ll also be creating some sculptural components that he’ll be adding into this space. This whole room will change multiple times over the course of the exhibition.”
Many of the works on display at the MFA Biennial will be for sale.
“It’s a really wonderful way to start collecting art,” Paitz said. “And to support artists in their community.”
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