The Masters Thesis Exhibition, held annually at Blaffer since 1981, is the culmination of MFA candidates' work at the end of their three-year program. For many of them, it is the first opportunity to show their art in a museum setting. This year's graduating class includes Noora Alsalman and Zack Zwicky from the graphic communications department; Kristen Cliburn, Norberto Gomez Jr., Cody Ledvina and Cheyanne Ramos from painting; Michael Brims and Richard Wall who work in photography and digital media; and sculpture students Joel A. Bender Jr., Dennis Harper, Samantha Medellin and Emily Sloan.
"The 12 artists represented in this year's Masters Thesis Exhibition have created engaging art that truly speaks to their passions," said Blaffer curator Rachel Hooper. "The MFA candidates challenge viewers with fresh topics pertinent to today and give us an intimate look at what they've been creating in their studio for the past three years."
The works in the exhibition consist of media as diverse as the subject matter they present.
- In her mixed media graphic piece "Forming Interstices," Noora Alsalman has designed a new set of emblems for her native country, Iraq, which reflects the population's ethnic diversity.
- In his untitled assemblage of found objects, Joel A. Bender Jr. smashes and reassembles items significant to him in an attempt to break out of the confines of his past.
- Michael Brims's video "Just a Whisper" explores issues of self and national identity.
- In her acrylic on canvas painting "Afterglow II," Kristen Cliburn draws inspiration from sunsets and colorful skies to determine her palette.
- Norberto Gomez Jr.'s "hairy nude" graphite on paper, examines what it means to be a man and serves as an allegory for the struggles raging inside the artist.
- Dennis Harper's multimedia installation, "Mr. Libido Wears a Blue Tuxedo" is a critique and celebration of humanity's bizarre qualities during a first date.
- "Connection" by Samantha Medellin, consists of large links of burnt wood hung in the museum that symbolize the artist's desire to connect to the loved ones she feels separated from.
- Cody Ledvina works with watercolor and graphite in "Big Drawing of a Little Boy Held by Two Art Objects," which is his statement on the absurdities of popular culture.
- In her untitled oil and mixed media on canvas piece, Cheyanne Ramos explores underlying human fears while portraying the natural world as an unrelenting and sublime force.
- Sculptor Emily Sloan creates her own snow globe with "Global House Warming (Aunt Boo´s House)," which serves as a memento of a past or a dreamed-of place.
- "Scream," a digital print by Richard Wall, features cartoon icons Rocky and Bullwinkle, along with classic green plastic army men and a toy truck, appearing to be in battle with ghostlike floating heads. Slightly comical at first sight, the work becomes darker as the viewer learns that it is the artist's interpretation of childhood dealings with his alcoholic father.
- With his mixed media piece "Digital Cabinet of Curiosities," Zack Zwicky displays cultural artifacts in an appeal to embrace diverse perspectives in order to properly understand the world.
Visitors can see examples of the artists' works online at www.blaffergallery.org. The 2009 School of Art Masters Thesis Exhibition is made possible by the University of Houston's Student Fees Advisory Committee.
About the University of Houston"
The University of Houston, Texas' premier metropolitan research and teaching institution, is home to more than 40 research centers and institutes and sponsors more than 300 partnerships with corporate, civic and governmental entities. UH, the most diverse research university in the country, stands at the forefront of education, research and service with more than 36,000 students.
About Blaffer Gallery:
Founded in 1973, Blaffer Gallery, the Art Museum of the University of Houston, was named in honor of the late Sarah Campbell Blaffer, a noted Houston arts patron and collector. Since its inception, the museum has been a vital force in the presentation and promotion of contemporary visual arts in Houston. Blaffer Gallery is located in the Fine Arts Building on the University of Houston's central campus, entrance 16 off Cullen Boulevard. It is free and open to the public Tuesday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., closed Sundays, Mondays and University holidays. The museum is ADA compliant. For general inquiries, please call 713.743.9530, or visit the museum online at www.blaffergallery.org.
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