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Arts Dawg Preview: MFA + MDes 2013 Thesis Exhibition

A Henry patron takes in MFA candidate Carla Cummings' portraiture.

A patron takes in MFA candidate Carly Cummings’ portraiture.

“This is the fruitful season,” declares the catalog for the MFA + MDes 2013 Thesis Exhibition at the Henry Art Gallery. For the past two years, 12 artists and five designers—UW Master of Fine Arts and Master of Design candidates—have been honing their craft and deepening their understanding of the theory, methodology and practice that undergirds their work. The fruits of their labor are now on display, representing an exciting cross-section of the diversity of art being made through the UW.

On June 20, Arts Dawgs will get a taste of the best of the UW arts scene as they enjoy a special reception at the Henry, featuring wine and remarks from Chris Ozubko, Director of the School of Art, and Paul Rucker, ’95, ’02, UWAA Executive Director. The artists and designers will also be in attendance to talk about their work. Dana Van Nest, ’93, Henry Associate Director of Marketing, Communications, and Public Relations, graciously agreed to show us around the exhibition and walk us through the production and setup.

The MFA candidates’ artistic works represent an exciting mix of styles and media. Outsized, boldly colored portraiture lines many of the walls, while intricate ceramics hold the floor. One installation features hand tools arranged like Egyptian hieroglyphics to celebrate (and possibly eulogize) manual labor. Another incorporates found objects and what looks like construction debris to build a whimsical, sand-castle-like edifice. The sheer variety of talent on display is here is breathtaking.

MDes Candidate Mike Fretto (in blue shirt) shares Design for Us, his project for developing a community advocacy design workshop.

MDes Candidate Mike Fretto shares Design for Us, his project for developing a community advocacy design workshop.

The MDes presentations incorporate a broad spectrum of concepts from all over the world of design. One project traced the development of a map of the rhythms and patterns of language. Another followed one candidate’s campaign to introduce young people to the power of design. Drawing from the toolbox of industrial design and his own experience as a shipbuilder, one candidate produced a wall-mounted folding desk that marvelously marries the useful and the beautiful. Van Nest warns me about touching the desk. “You’re going to want to,” she says. She’s right.

According to Van Nest, preparing for the show started several months ago, when the students were first introduced to the space they would be using; many of the pieces were custom-built to take advantage of the unique features of the gallery. Works climb the walls and snake through a previously-unnoticed interior window. In several instances, a piece will take up an entire small room, drawing viewers inside and surrounding them.

Much of the art is intended to challenge and provoke. We pass a family in one of the galleries, and Van Nest asks what they think of the exhibition. “I’m still making up my mind,” says the dad. Van Nest is fine with that. She feels the exhibition will be successful if patrons are still making up their minds about it the next day. Says Van Nest, “We want you to decide what a work is about.”

If You Go—Walk-ups welcome!

What: Arts Dawg event in conjunction with the MFA + MDes 2013 Thesis Exhibition. The event includes remarks from Paul Rucker, UWAA Executive Director, and Chris Ozubko, Director of the School of Art , a tour of the exhibition with the MFA and MDes candidates, wine, light appetizers and live music.

Where: Henry Art Gallery, 15th Avenue NE and 41st Street, Seattle (view map)

When: Thursday, June 20, 6 p.m.–8 p.m.

Cost: $8 at the door (Free for Henry members)


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