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USF SOCA Graduate Thesis Exhibition I

By Dan Swartz

Fort Wayne Reader


One of the key indicators to the vitality of a city's art scene is the size and number of its higher education art programs. One increasingly sought after degree in the last decade has been the Master of Fine Art, or MFA. This terminal creative degree has recently become very important to Research and Development divisions of large companies, and the design departments of just about any business in a competitive market.

University of Saint Francis (USF) School of Creative Arts (SOCA) offers a Masters of Art (MA) and not a Masters of Fine Art. Its program has grown over the past few years, and with the use of the Weatherhead and Goldfish Galleries, the program is allowed a great exhibition space. The 2011 SOCA "Graduate Thesis Exhibition I" includes four defined bodies of work, created by Paul McCormick, Dan Schroeder, Sasha Aleksa Perisic, and Lindsay Allison. Each of these graduate students has a distinct style and their work spans photography, woodworking, and oil painting.

Paul McCormick's photographic series which he calls "Paths and Grids" is described as being about "personal paths." While this subject nature belies the autonomic, cold framing of his images, McCormick's work does take on a distinctly mnemonic function, like a trigger for vague memories, or a transient sense of nostalgia. All of McCormick's images are taken in a first-person viewer format, though none of them are truly personalized. This creates a sort of odd "archetypical voyeurism" where the viewer knows that they are not viewing someone's life as much as they are viewing anyone's life. The scenes chosen tend to be banal yet compositionally interesting and effective, again belying, forcing the the viewer to discover the photographic technical hook hiding within the repetitive image. McCormick mentions the renowned photographer Jeff Wall as an inspiration. This comparison is interesting at first, because Wall uses large scale, highly composed, hyperbolic images in his work, while McCormick is seeming to use repetitive small images of every day life. Part of the intrigue to McCormick's images comes up through this comparison though, as McCormick's grids, seen as a whole, can be considered large scale, and what seems so adamantly as random, off the hip snapshots, now take on the possibility of being masterfully put together. The end result is work which is so easy to digest, creating a flicker that keeps them alive long enough to entertain the viewer.

Dan Schroeder's work could not be more different, as it centers around the totemic solid wooden structures which are made to mimic living organic forms, and are described as being fantastic species of plant life. The populist star of the SOCA graduate exhibition is clearly Schroeder's "Dendrological Deconstruction Project", an eight-plus foot tall butchered stump standing in the gallery's entrance. With specifically placed stains, "Project" is made to look like it is bleeding from the places where it is missing limbs, and as a whole, the piece has been produced to make the viewer to take notice and pity. Other pieces like "Cactajuldum Droserfolia", and "Quereuscladio Granicota" are made to look like a deadly tropical flower and a woodland mushroom respectively. This practice of creating mimicked, exaggerated biological forms out of the strapped and wholly manipulated lifeless pieces of organic matter is itself very interesting, like a convoluted version of Robert Gober's material processes.

Sasha Aleksa Perisic's work is clearly the most tradition out of the exhibition, being that his works are mostly oil on canvas or pencil drawings on paper. Perisic's work tends to straddle both realism and fantasy and dip its toe into more pure surrealism. No stranger to painterly drama, Perisic's work is very moody, and utilizes incredible vantage points in pieces like "Old King Avenged". Two of Perisic's more interesting pieces are "Lust" and "Narcissus", which work more closely with traditional surrealistic concepts and allegorical imagery. These two pieces both work with psychological ideals, twisted figures, and place with gender roles. This conceptual depth displayed in the two aforementioned pieces certainly outshines some of Perisic's more pedestrian, though still technically admirable, images of photoshopped feminine ideals and one of Lady Gaga.

Lindsay Allison is not just funny, she is hilarious. Allison's photography, which is primarily based on skewing the accepted versions of "normal" things, has a sense of melancholy covered in ecstatic humor. This sense that Allison creates makes Suburbia her perfect subject with all of its hidden fears and joyful exteriors. In pieces like "There's always a winner," which portrays teens/young adults playing strip poker, or "Calories don't count after dark," with a young woman bilging in the glow of opened refrigerator, Allison finds ways to create humor out of clearly disturbing issues. Some of Allison's pieces, like "Top it off in the Morning,,” or "Home Alone with Self-Help" are composed masterfully to contain a set up and punch-line compositionally. This humor then because a critical tool to look at the conditions which are creating the environment, being the flawed human characters, and the formulaic suburban landscape. In a separate, but no less wonderful series of photographs, Allison created a series of "Strange Holiday" images which describe things like "Dear Diary Day," and “Lost Sock Memorial Day." The knowing innocence, wit, and technical beauty of Allison's work make her the most memorable artist out of this very strong exhibition.

As the program continues to develop, attract more students, and gains a reputation for producing fine arts, we will begin to see a direct link to the growth of galleries, educated collectors, and a more stable arts community. Already, two of SOCA's graudates have begun this process of continuing their education — Dan Schroeder has been accepted into Arizona State's highly selective woodworking MFA program, and Paul McCormick has been accepted in Purdue's relatively young MFA program. This graduate level Fine Arts program is a key to the success of Fort Wayne's art scene.

University of Saint Francis, School of Creative Arts
Graduate Thesis Exhibition I
May 14-June 3

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