By Ashley Bowden
Students in the MFA program have just installed their thesis project exhibitions in Chelsea, at 511 W. 20 St., New York City. After two years of studying in the graduate program, six students, Susan Kelly, Isabelle Podrasky, Arwa Falenbam, Samantha Hofsiss, Victoria Pendzick and Elizabeth Jordan, are showcasing their individual works in a world-renowned art district. Professor Seung Lee describes this opportunity as “testing the real water.” The graduate art students will be exhibiting “shoulder-to-shoulder with famous artists.” Lee hopes the students receive attention from curators, collectors and directors at the event.
The students came up with the name for the show, “Anomalous,” which Kelly describes as “deviating from the norm or being different.” This sentiment reflects the various art styles and works of everyone who is part of the show; no two pieces of art are similar. Hofsiss, “took to the dictionary to look for a term that defined our group.” All of the artists are as unique as their works.
Though this project is a part of their degree program, Lee decided to add the element of real-world experience, moving the show from the Hutchins Gallery on campus to Artspace Patchogue, and finally to its current location in Chelsea. In doing this, the students get to be critical of the work they’ve done and can judge themselves against the rest of the art world. “The biggest challenge for them is how they expand their audience.” Lee places emphasis on how the art scene is globalizing, and he teaches his students how large their market is.
Visitors to the gallery can expect to see the contemporary artwork of emerging artists. A diverse array of art is featured including sculpture, paintings, ceramics, photography and graphic design work. “[The students] have their own style already, so we try to expand them,” Lee explained. The MFA program exposes students to other mediums in art. “They can become a better painter by introducing different areas.”
The students are excited to have their work shown. “It’s a really great feeling! We’ve all worked so tirelessly the last two years to complete these works, and now we get to show the works, in the heart of Chelsea, no less!” Kelly said. “Artists around the world strive to have their works shown in this area, and I am so honored to work along Professor Seung Lee to make this happen.” Kelly’s art featured on display consists of stained glass and stencil works inspired by the K-Pop group EXO. As the group is touring through New York, Kelly has been advertising the show reception alongside its concert. “I’m also doing a giveaway of hand-made, screen printed ceramic pins for any fans that come by the reception.”
Kelly’s personal art style consists of stained glass, stencil work and immediacy (which means a work can be done immediately). “I started with stencil work a few years ago, from a history of street art taught by Professor Ryan Seslow, and I haven’t been able to stop since,” she said. She has also learned to work with stained glass and develop her skill in crafting with it. “To me, the stencils and stained glass pieces work alongside one another. The breaking up of the portrait, and use of color, and even the labor-intensive process feel similar to me. I enjoy both processes and will continue after graduation in the same fashion! Until, I completely wear myself out of them, I’ll charge forward!”
Falenbam, who is from Saudi Arabia, feels lucky to have her art on display in Chelsea because it helps her earn credit as an artist from abroad. She explained her artwork, “This art is an Arabic calligraphy that’s out of rules of Arabic writing. Also, I did combine my Arabic calligraphy design with Piet Mondrian as well.” Falenbam has studied in the graduate program for three years and said that the faculty has guided and pushed her to develop as an artist.
“I feel proud to have my work hung up in a gallery where everybody can see it,” Podrasky said. She explained the artist’s process as, “developing a technique and finding one’s skill when it comes to creating art, and then focusing on producing art that one is good at, and not being afraid to experiment in other areas.” Podrasky believes in the importance of hands-on experimentation when it comes to creating art, and emphasizes that much is discovered through trial and error.
Hofsiss and the rest of the graduate students have had much experience in the graduate art program in pursuing outside exhibition opportunities. “I have actually exhibited at a couple pretty important exhibitions like the Northern California Women’s Caucus for the Arts,” Hofsiss said. The current show, “Anomalous,” is the most sentimental to Hofsiss because it is “the culmination of over two years of work.” Showcasing her work in Chelsea as part of this travelling thesis show has been very gratifying to her.
“My work is probably the most conceptual of our group,” Hofsiss said. Her exhibition consists of a video called “Dissolve” and two photographs titled “Ejection” and “Purge.” She explained, “I discovered my process while studying with adjunct professor Shirley Wegner. She taught me to use vulnerability as a tool in my pieces.” The video is meant to convey the theme of human relationships, interaction, and identity loss. The photographs depict black liquid flowing from Hofsiss’s mouth, and are a result of her research on, “performance art and contemporary female artists using their bodies to express their emotions.” She describes these photos as being transformative and showing, “The duality and complexity that all self-aware human beings feel at all times.”
The show will be up in the SIA Gallery until May 2.