Open Studio

University of Maryland College Park, MD | by May 29, 2010

This past May I had the plea­sure of mak­ing the trip up to see the stu­dios of six MFA can­di­dates at the Uni­ver­sity of Mary­land, Col­lege Park. Accom­pa­nied by Champ­neys Tay­lor, TSV’s video edi­tor, we were able to peruse through the stu­dios of these six tal­ented grad­u­ate stu­dents as well as take in the the­sis show of the 3rd year stu­dents (three out of the six).

The Art Depart­ment is housed on the south side of the expan­sive big-​​ten uni­ver­sity cam­pus in a fairly non-​​descript large red brick build­ing that seemed to be designed from the 1970’s.

We were greeted by Jonathan Mon­aghan, a sec­ond year can­di­date whose work is already being shown at the Hamil­ton­ian Gallery in Wash­ing­ton D.C. and has won a num­ber of awards. He led us through the cav­ernous build­ing point­ing to var­i­ous art rooms and venues along the way. We passed through a gigan­tic set of doors and entered into the stu­dio area.

Jonathan Mon­aghan
His stu­dio is a pris­tine min­i­mal­ist white akin to the sort one would find in a Mar­garet Atwood or Franz Kafka novel where there is some­thing not entirely com­fort­ing. Impres­sive nonethe­less, his work is inspired by things that are Gothic, Medieval, Baroque and Chris­t­ian. His medium of choice is the vir­tual 3D world of com­mer­cial CGI (com­puter gen­er­ated image) soft­ware. He calls his work a cel­e­bra­tion of “Pixar and Jesus, the Vir­gin Mary and arti­fi­cial insem­i­na­tion, oper­at­ing tables and sac­ri­fi­cial altars and myth­i­cal crea­tures and genetic engi­neer­ing.…”. These images man­i­fest into prints and com­puter fab­ri­cated sculp­ture that are slick, sexy and seam­lessly put together.

Selin Balci
Selin has a back­ground in micro­bi­ol­ogy. She worked in research labs that were focused on pathogen biol­ogy. It is not sur­pris­ing that her work as a first year MFA can­di­date is address­ing micro­bial growth as a form of por­trai­ture. Along her walls hang petri dishes with var­i­ous stages of mold growths. “Dif­fer­ent microbes from each per­son showed the unique­ness of that person’s per­sonal his­tory and envi­ron­ment. Micro­bial growth on each Petri dish changed from day to day, as does each per­son.” She’s also inter­ested in polit­i­cal and eco­nomic hege­mony. On her com­puter screen she showed us var­i­ous microbes grow­ing on the map of the world. The indus­tri­al­ized nations enjoyed the most growth while the lesser-​​industrialized ones did not. “I chose more aggres­sive iso­lates for the devel­oped coun­tries to reflect the cur­rent polit­i­cal char­ac­ter­is­tics.” The forms are beau­ti­ful and vis­cer­ally uncom­fort­able at the same time. I was glad they were covered.

Sarah Laing
Sarah is a 3rd year can­di­date. We vis­ited her stu­dio first and then her show in the stu­dent gallery. Her work is draw­ing based. She’s inter­ested in the metaphoric process of draw­ing through the med­i­ta­tive process of rep­e­ti­tion. They may start out ran­domly and the marks do look like they’ve been done by some­one in a trance-​​like state, but what comes forth are forms that make direct and spe­cific ref­er­ence to the land­scape. In this case, Scot­land, where she is from. “I make work about under­stand­ing my rela­tion­ship to my sur­round­ing land­scape, and the but­ter­fly effect of global events that inevitably affect my per­sonal sphere.… I find draw­ing and trac­ing a means to fil­ter out­side infor­ma­tion and rep­re­sent shared expe­ri­ence.” Using mylar as her paper of choice “adds to the anti­thet­i­cal nature of the work: ethe­real, yet synthetic.”

Joe Hoff­man
Joe’s sound instal­la­tion is a col­lec­tion of numer­ous found speak­ers con­nected by even more wires that all con­nect to a large archaic brown box on the floor. It resem­bled an inel­e­gant sea crea­ture as seen from far away and then resolved into a more inti­mate and reward­ing expe­ri­ence once up close to the actual piece. Each speaker was emit­ting whis­per­ing voices of vary­ing degrees. “I use sound to cre­ate frag­mented dis­tor­tions of famil­iar expe­ri­ences. Found and invented sounds are com­posed within reassem­bled speaker sys­tems.” His post-​​modernist approach is evi­dent in each and every one of the appro­pri­ated tweet­ers and woofers that are often dam­aged. “As schiz­o­phrenic voices scat­ter around the struc­ture each speaker trem­bles while tak­ing on the char­ac­ter of the noise they pro­duce. What was once famil­iar has been reshaped allow­ing for new rela­tion­ships and per­spec­tives to be formed.”

Jack Henry
At first glance, his sculp­tures could be described as kitschy in its amal­ga­ma­tion of detri­tus, ran­dom objects and other dis­carded mate­r­ial. But as they coag­u­late into the totemic arbo­real forms he cre­ates, they resolve into a much more mono­lithic and lucid con­cept. He states, “Each object is rein­ter­preted and pre­sented as an arti­fact or a nat­ural his­tory museum model of some­thing pulled from the con­tem­po­rary land­scape.“
By build­ing some­thing up and mon­u­men­tal, he seems to give honor and rev­er­ence to a decay­ing envi­ron­ment and all it tem­porar­ily holds.

Tim Hor­jus
As with many artists who make hard edge paint­ings, Tim’s stu­dio was not just made up of col­lec­tions of paint, but the used mask­ing tape from mak­ing those hard edges. This time, the tape pile was grow­ing in a cor­ner like a green amoeba. Using latex house paint, his large-​​scale paint­ings are divided into geo­met­ric shapes and some­times pat­tern that spa­tially go in and out. He talked exten­sively about his inspi­ra­tion and ref­er­ence to the his­tory of west­ern paint­ing and the influ­ence for­mal­ism has on his work. Color cer­tainly defines the space and how one maneu­vers through the can­vas. The expe­ri­ence is mes­mer­iz­ing and the illu­sion of form and space clearly comes forth. This notion is fur­ther empha­sized in one paint­ing that evolves from the two-​​dimensional plane into a three dimen­sional sculp­tural growth (like the tape amoeba in his stu­dio) where it thus dis­tills line, shape and color into pure phys­i­cal form. It is what it is.

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