"Ghosted": What it Means to be Present
By Rachel Sousa ‘18 | Monday, April 9, 2018
Rachel Sousa ‘18
Monday, April 9, 2018
On Tuesday, March 20, six second-year graduate students presented their work for The Annual MFA Midway Show held in the Herter Art Gallery. These students are: Kristy Childress, Althea Keaton, Nick Criscuolo, Margaret Wilson, Leah Burke, and Emily Tareila. An interdisciplinary art show entitled “Ghosted,” the gallery is composed of 3 rooms/spaces of varying sizes--contributing to the eclectic feel of the art represented. As Leah Harrington describes in her curatorial statement: “the exhibition explores “the immaterial, intangible, remembered, spoken, or fantasized.” There is a strong interplay between a sense of presence and absence, with the idea of “ghosts” referring to their effortlessness, or the idea of an abrupt exit--as if nothing had been there to begin with. More complex than this, “ghosts” in the artists’ work also represent the past, present, and future in a variety of different mediums and materials.
Some of the artwork itself was also interactive, with children touching and reacting to the large photographs on the walls, and adults wandering in between work placed on pedestals in the middle of the floor. Leah Burke’s “Constructed Landscapes” was particularly interactive, with a massive photograph of two women in their home in Puerto Rico dominating an entire wall of the exhibit. The large size of the photograph allows the viewer to feel like a part of the seemingly intimate moment between what appears to be a mother and a daughter. Burke allows her audience to dive into Puerto Rico’s complicated and difficult past, through the artist’s book that she presented, in which she overlaps and interweaves personal accounts and photographs with the larger social history. The audience was invited to personally interact with it, given that to view it, you have to touch it, and turn the pages yourself to view and connect with the complex contents it presents.
The middle room, comprised of a series of screens and video projections, showed objects and shapes gently morphing into new forms. These videos, created by Nick Criscuolo, represent emotions and states of being, in a state of dreamlike anxiety, with shapes and forms constantly shifting, never at rest.
The other artists captured similar emotions in different mediums. For example, though Emily Gray Tareila’s work appears entirely different in its materiality objects that are of personal significance to the artist - clothes dyed in indigo blue, cyanotype prints, collections of herbs, dried flowers, and postcards, etc.), it is also meant to capture a reaction to anxiety – but one of hope and deliberation. She asks her audience questions like “how much do we become attuned to a way of living that is wedded to a critical empathy, generosity, care and respect? How might we create fissures in the hateful structures that surround us?” These powerful questions strongly contrast with the calming essence of her curated collection of objects that Tareila uses to “warm and slow time, examining individual and communal relationships to self, to one another, and to the earth.” Her work, coupled with these questions, urges the viewer to question what it means to be “present.”
The medium itself also contributes to the meaning of the individual artist’s work, as is exemplified by Althea Keaton. Keaton utilizes the painstaking process of printmaking to capture “abstract emotions of love, longing, and the fear of loss.” Margaret Wilson is also impactful in the way she explores materiality in her work. While an image of herself as a surrogate is projected above, Wilson captivated audiences at the gallery’s opening by sitting on the floor, with a long, billowing piece of fabric in front of her—intricately covered in text painted in gold. The words form the text which is her theoretical exploration of the idea of self and image, and its roots in the Middle Ages. As she sat on the ground, Wilson quilted selections of the painted text as people wandered through the gallery. She utilizes performative artwork to “uncouple the body from personhood.” Kristy Childress’ artwork also explores this intersection of materiality and immateriality through her paintings, drawings, and sculptures of houses – some of them stand alone against a surreal, barren landscape, others, like the sculptures, appear stuffed with concrete and impossible to live in. For her, childhood memories seem to be what represent the idea of things that “haunt” her—that the places she once lived in are “ghosts” of her past.
The show was curated by visiting artist Leah Triplett Harrington, a Boston-based writer, editor, and curator focused on modern and contemporary art, and organized with the assistance of Coe Lapossy, Lecturer in the Department of Art. Triplett Harrington said of the show: “After conducting visits to the second-year [students'] studios, I kept up with their projects via email. Seeing how the grads were interested in presence, I started thinking about being and absence in their work. Ghosted showcases the breadth of concepts, materials, and aesthetics that the students are working in, and I'm thrilled to have had the chance to work with such an exciting group of artists.”
Working alongside Triplett Harrington and Coe Lapossy, was Procheta Olson, director of the Herter Art Gallery. She shares Triplett Harrington’s love and appreciation of the artists’ work and enthusiasm and concludes that “the opportunity to install an exhibition and problem-solve together as a group is a significant part of an MFA education because it teaches you indispensable lessons in curating, installing, planning, and collaborating.” This collaborative spirit is evident in the fluidity with which these diverse voices and practices have come together.