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USF’s 2012 Graduate Thesis Exhibition

By Dan Swartz

Fort Wayne Reader


Terminal degree programs, and those who hold these terminal degrees, are always important contributors to the construction of any economy or sophisticated culture. Because Fort Wayne currently does not have a terminal degree program within the arts, it is fundamentally at a disadvantage when competing with others which do, be they larger like Indianapolis, or smaller like Bloomington.

Luckily, the University of Saint Francis' SOCA program does include graduate studies, in the form of an MA which can include fine art. This program is not exactly integrated into Fort Wayne's art scene currently, with most of its students being rather low-key or not actually residing in Fort Wayne for the duration of their degree. That being said, SOCA's annual Graduate Thesis Exhibition is still usually a treat right before Summer hits.

The 2012 Graduate Thesis exhibition is an interesting mix of styles and voices, including the four main bodies of work by the graduating graduate students, centered around two dimensional work, all representational, two more concept driven, and one being the most original.

Jon Detweiler and Brian Milcinovic both present studied, comprehensive practices focusing on the landscape and environment. Their works are, formally, echoing many others, but retain strong aspects which carry them to the viewer. Milcinovic's work contains evocative images reminiscent of the glimpses recalled through memory, and he astutely creates memorial images to many mundane moments which grow in beauty when placed onto the pedestal of "fine art" by being painted. Milcinovic's images like "Buried Treasure" are partial in their detail and compositional strength, but contain very strong points in aspects like a room with wood grain exposed floor and detailed exterior view through a window. Clearly, Milcinovic's strongest work are his pieces like "The Arrival", which is an almost sepia tone image of a burning object on the sea, seen from the perspective of the view, as though they are on a ship along side the object. The images lacks much in the way of a strong narrative, and so seems like a video snapshot of a memory barely etched into the viewers consciousness.

Jon Detweiler's environments are dissimilar in that they are much more sympathetic and concerning for the viewer, giving them ample color, texture, and variation to retinally make the piece quite interesting. This method produces little in the way of long term commitment on the part of the viewer however, as works seem to blend from one to another, and the content begins to matter less and less. Pieces like "Indiana Summer" are perfect as little distractions, but without the turmoil or rapturous joy of the post-impressionists, the impasto brushwork gets lost in the decorative.

Lisa Girlie Jordan's work differs in that it is essentially abstract portraits of organic material, being either wood, intestines, or insect carcasses. This method almost has a post-punk Georgia Okeefe or Lee Bontecou formality to it, producing very sensual and strong lines, commanding the viewer as they scan the image surfaces. Jordan's introverted, complex images like "Flowing" and "Intestinal Fortitude" are almost meditations on formality more than images mean to be read in a concise way. After lingering with the images, the viewer begins to pick up on the subconscious patterning Jordan uses, and the excellent line quality which although visually obvious is not immediately apparent as a carrier of the total piece.

More than the other graduate students, James Bibler's work immediately stands out and captivates its audience with its originality, art historical references, and sense of joviality. Bibler's work can be described as large scale works on paper which are, formally reflexive, being drawings about drawing. The images are all cartoonish mechanical constructs, half theoretical descriptions and half representations. Pieces like "Proof of Concept" are innovative constructions including vellum layers, and "Carburetor" is a burst into color for Bibler by using red line to highlight the piece. Beyond this, Bibler's work is simplistic in construction, produced in a scrawl-like style of drawing which is like a combination of Giacommeti's anxious markings and the way a child fills in space when scribbling a crayon. Over all, Bibler's work brings up acute art historical references of the Dada mechanical drawings of Man Ray, Marcel Duchamp, and Francis Picabia, as well as the general style and matter-of-factness of Phillip Guston's work. Bibler's frenetic, time-skipping, contemporary images leave an indelible mark with the confidence of being. Bibler's work is refreshing and has strong potential.

Ultimately, SOCA's MA degree must develop into a terminal Masters in Fine Art (MFA). Without this function driving the local art scene, supplanting it with new developed talent on a regular basis, challenging our "staple" artists, and providing more connections to the outside world, our community will lay rather stagnant. Artists like James Bibler, of Ohio, are perfect examples of that refreshment which graduate level talent many times brings. This certainly is not meant to be an indictment of our current community, as great talent has been consistently produced at both the high school and college level. An MFA program would stabilize the local talent pools, provide a clear "A to B" path for many younger artists, and do wonders for the generation of a local art market. With time, SOCA's annual Graduate Thesis Exhibition will include those terminal degrees, and will be a joy to experience.

"2012 Graduate Thesis Exhibition: James Bibler, Jon Detweiler, Lisa Girlie Jordan, Brian Milcinovic"
John P. Weatherhead Gallery
University of Saint Francis
May 19-June 29
For more information, please visit sf.edu/art

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