The year 2020 is one that most people will not easily forget. When the COVID-19 pandemic shut down “normal” life, typical events were canceled. Student artists were planning their final thesis presentations and exhibitions of their work to graduate; a culmination of years of working their craft. Their final year ended without the pomp and circumstance, but even more unfortunate, without their final shows. The Erie Art Museum understood the impact of the loss on both the graduates and the community. That is why it has partnered with western Pennsylvania universities to bring this exhibition, The Year that was Missed, to the Erie Art Museum.
This current exhibition is for the first half of The Year that was Missed, set to show from January 15th – April 3rd of 2021. This first half of the exhibition features the MFA/MA graduates from two university art programs: Edinboro University (EU) and Indiana University of Pennsylvania (IUP). The second, showing from April 30th – August 30th, will feature BA artists from Mercyhurst University. Every artist involved brings a unique style, voice, and technique that culminates in a stunning exhibition to witness. Enjoy the exhibition.
The Joy of Eating explores how our culture uses food as psychotherapy. Through the medium of mixed media collage, the work examines how food affects the mind and spirit of the person eating it. These collages address a narrative that often has negative connotations associated with food: gluttony, food related illness, and obesity. The work asserts that despite these very real health concerns, eating can be beneficial to our mental health. Using images of reoccurring characters, the collages create a vignette of eating habits to illuminate how food can be used as an effective coping mechanism to help manage stress while simultaneously bringing joy to one’s life.
Food provides more than nourishment for one’s body. H.L. Meiselman’s Study of Food Acceptability has shown that the way people experience food is affected by many factors. An individual’s culture, nostalgia, and physiological status such as hunger, thirst, and many other variables all shape our perception of food. Although food can be eaten in a plethora of scenarios, my artwork explores narratives of fantastical feelings that one experiences while eating, including humorous eating situations. Humor is employed as a critical strategy within the work because, like food, humor is a useful mechanism that can lead to better overall health and stress management. The Joy of Eating seeks to reinforce these positive concepts and reframe our culture’s narrative around food and eating.
My work explores sexual content that has often been artificially repressed by religious thought, and societal taboos that exist to this day. Influenced by Freudian theory, my drawings consist of the feelings of experiencing dreams, which are engaged with the id, or gratification from satisfying basic instincts. I want to express the complexity of these feelings in my drawings by showing the conflict between the id and the superego. In other words, my work is based on the conflict between desires and the acceptable morality principle as it manifests through dreams. The figures, or partial figures, in my work are nude to represent humanity in, arguably, the closest state to reality that they can appear. The inherent sexual nature of the human nude gives another layer of meaning to the work, conveying the psychological implications of the loss of identity as it relates to sex—one of the most fundamental of our instincts. I depict fragmentary spaces to convey the hostility in repressed human desire and satisfaction in modern societies. By using geometric forms, I intend to expand on the dynamism of the inner opposition between wishes and reality. The combination of bodies and shapes contributes to the sense of separation of mind function while dreaming, and the inception of anxiety through repression.
Azadeh recently obtained her MFA in Drawing & Illustrationfrom Indiana University of Pennsylvania
I am fascinated by imagination and its influence on how we see the world around us. It allows us to observe our surroundings in different ways and combine elements that result in new ideas and places. As much as we may try to prevent it, our interactions with our imaginations change through our lives. What once took us to fascinating worlds and places is seemingly supplanted by the rote routine and demands of day to day life. I want to create work that functions as a reminder and as encouragement to the viewer to engage with their imagination and all its wondrous potential.
I think that storytelling is one of the threads that connects the real world with the imagined one. Storytelling creates realms in which the two can interact with each other, realms that we can enter and explore. Storytelling also allows us to share our adventures in these other realms with other people, and as such I hope to share many of my stories with others. My current work relies on the platform of storytelling and narrative. Looking at illustration’s historical tradition and its changes through history, along with materials in developmental psychology and childhood, my current body of work presents the non-linear narrative of a character exploring the world around him. Drawing on the aesthetic characteristics of both traditional and contemporary illustration, the images are meant to evoke the atmosphere of a storybook. The world being presented uses both natural elements and human-made objects, both of which may be skewed away from the expected. The viewer is tasked with contemplating the story prompted by the illustration and imagining what may have come before and what may follow in the story. I hope the viewer enjoys exploring this imagined world and then finds themselves once again returning to their own.
David Kiefer recently obtained his MFA in Drawing from Indiana University of Pennsylvania
I am a feminist artist. I create to express the passion I have for moral activism. Most of my first metal work responded to misogynistic norms and traumas that I have experienced personally. However, I have realized that my experiences are only that of a cisgender female. After reflection, I found myself as an artist whose work responds to toxic, misogynistic norms that people outside of the cisgender female experience also have faced. This inclusive and socially driven mode of work is the foundation of a series I call Femmetallic. Femmetallic is driven by a commitment to overturn the patriarchal status quo, with the belief that it is necessary for inclusionary feminists, theminists, the queer, transgender, nonbinary and Black Lives Matter communities to confront patriarchal social injustice together.
The Electrical Conduit, a person presenting themselves in a sexually explicit manner has historically been shaped through the white cisgender-heterosexual (cis-het) masculine male lens. This has created virulent social constructs. These constructs stem from classism, which promote sexism, racism, homophobia, transphobia, fat-phobia, and an obsession with binary gender. White cis-het narratives have distorted human sexuality, creating toxic perspectives that both demonize the sexualized body and simultaneously worship it. Thus, the sexualized body is currently problematic in society, whereas it should not be. Human sexuality and the feeling of being desirable should be both accepted and respected, whether it exists on a personal/self-reflective, interpersonal/intimate, or public level. My thesis exhibition is not artistically limited to my own creation. I am a conduit for individuals who come from diverse backgrounds because I want to provide a discourse that expands beyond my own personal experiences. These individuals are diverse in terms of body type, age, race, gender, gender expression, and sexual orientation. The intent behind this project is to give these individuals the opportunity to feel empowered by creating custom made harnesses for them and photographing them as dominant, powerful individuals because they are each the masters of their own bodies. Please note that this project also takes each person’s consent very seriously.
My practice has always been influenced by society and my surroundings, by the feelings that are present in that environment and the entities that populate it; people, animals, inorganics and the landscapes themselves. There has been a major emotional shift since 2016, the El Paso/Juarez region has felt this in an increasingly aggressive manner. On the southside of the border, femicides continue to be a rampant crisis. Atrocities committed against thousands of women since the mid 1990’s that remain unsolved, unpunished and a problem that governmental authorities seem more invested in ignoring and potentially being culpable of further perpetuating these killings by permissive of cartel actions against citizens.
North side of the border proved to be dismissive of humanity in a different way. As hundreds of migrants from Central, South America and Southern Mexico reach the border in search for asylum, the U.S. government decided to conduct one of its cruelest policies in decades, the separation of families and caging on children. Being born and raised in the border region has granted me an outlook not found in many other places of the United States. However, life on the border does not mean it is without its share of prejudices, xenophobic or racist remarks and confrontations. Separation of families, caging of children, mass deportation, revocation of foreign nationals’ legal permanent resident status being some of the humanitarian concerns on the border because of this administration.
Experiencing life having direct access to two cultures in the matter of minutes grants us a distinctive perspective, albeit never experiencing this firsthand, I could only imagine as being a child of divorce. A duality in which one loves both countries as one loves both parents, where an individual can appreciate the beauty for both cultures and have its qualms with the distressing environments in both. I like to think my work is never intended as a luxury, it often includes, blue collar workers, immigrants, nor symbols nonrepresentational of Eurocentric tradition. In lieu of vilifying those figures, who have caused so much pain throughout time, especially over past four years, these images are meant to uplift and empower the voiceless and powerless.
My practice explores and celebrates the relationships between memory, narrative and material culture. Material culture has an innate ability to manifest memory and narrative by connecting to a specific time or experience. Even objects lacking connections to known histories are often assigned narrative pasts in the curious eyes of an imaginative beholder. The sculptural and furniture forms I create celebrate unknown narratives of objects and materials while simultaneously prompting reflection and curiosity through their encasement and presentation. My parallel goals are to challenge the perceived value of found things and to invite viewers to reflect upon the objects they encounter in their life and their memory.
Conditions of the human body, concepts of sexuality, and the connection between surface and form have guided my work. In all my sculptural series, there is tension between the surface treatment and the physical shapes. Each sculpture lures viewers with sensual curves and silhouettes that tease intimate nakedness made of pieces molded from different bodies and combined to make forms that are both abstractly ambiguous and individually figurative. The essential response to the abstracted human forms was an unconscious attraction that defies hetero-normative cultural norms and rather incited, directly through form, theories of gender and sexual fluidity.