M.F.A. Theses 2010

2010 M.F.A. Degree Recipients:

Christopher Andrews | Ryan Bantz | Elizabeth Buchta | Joel Ottman | Brooke Vertin

Christopher Andrews (M.F.A., photography, 2010)

Blood and Glitter

The men who wore the Pink Triangle were not to be forgotten. It was my goal to produce a body for work that incorporated the Catholic iconography of martyred saints with a theoretical inversion of power in relationship to heterosexist norms and queer conditions of being. I have rigorously worked at this ambitious endeavor for the past three years while I engaged in how to create work that was both subversively beautiful and intellectually and artistically complex. My goal has been to expand the theoretical foundations of queer subjectivity through a model of racial identity within the Black experience and a theological framing of the Logos as the undoing of societal and cultural pre‐suppositions of how one maintains and performs as a linguistically formed subject.

My work is about the power within the eyes. Desire and the self‐subjective stance are void without the gaze. In my artistic narrative the Lavender Eye is a symbol for the “viewing of the self” that is not culturally permitted by the hegemonic systems fostered by established religion and social institutions. Indeed the martyr‐like blindness which I represent in my work is symbolically parallel to being sexual closeted.

My characters are posed as saints who have been given new eyes to see a world of freedom and dignity, a world not ordinarily afforded to them. The intensity of my images is designed to engage a multiplicity of audiences, to lead them to encounter and question their subjective stance in relation to a queer subject and gay desire which is one aspect of human sexual expression. The reference to Christian historical paintings and Byzantine iconography is implicit within my work. The light which permeates the metallic, large‐scale photographs evokes the light of the divine realm which shines onto the viewer.

Because my work is heavily dependent on scale, internal and external light, surface and frame for both its aesthetic and iconographic content, one must encounter the physical nature of the images to experience the reception of passionate beauty and deep sadness. 

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Christopher Andrews | Ryan Bantz | Elizabeth Buchta | Joel Ottman | Brooke Vertin

Ryan Bantz (M.F.A., ceramics, 2010)

Remanufactory

I create ceramic sculpture combining modular forms made from fired clay with metallic hardware. Seeking the truth in a material, I combine them to utilize their physical strength as well as exploit the interest of a naturally-treated surface. Ceramic objects compress well while steel can balance the stress and strain with tensile strength. My undergraduate education in industrial design led me to an interest in materials that I have carried through to my graduate studies. Suburban and exurban sprawl, industry, and the manufacture of products inspire my works. I have always lived in the rustbelt, a moniker that developed from the declining steel-related heavy industries that were at the core of communities in the lower Great Lakes region. In the cities I have resided, I repeatedly witness the rust-stained blight of the decaying, closed industrial buildings on the urban landscape radiating social effects into the surrounding community of formerly employed residents. However, I am optimistic that positive change can occur in our post-industrial economy.

The use of tools to reconfigure the world around us defines the human condition. By using tools, both society and individuals categorize and organize to create sense out of chaos. The resulting organization leads to a system of repeated elements, unified objects, and variation amongst the whole. Similar elements present themselves formally within artistic composition. Within my creations, I pay homage both to the skilled artist as well as the tradesman who unknowingly create a functional system that is itself a piece of art.

The products and processes of ceramics, especially pottery, align closely to those of factory production. The ceramist is continually innovating, looking to improve methods of production, reconfiguring the studio to accommodate changes in process. As an innovation in materials, I employ an experimental paper clay as my media to assist in preventing defects such as cracking that normally plague unconventional ceramic sculptural forms. Paper clay is a composite, adding a network of cellulose fibers to bind clay in the unfired state, adding multi-directional strength. Working within a modular system requires that I set up a plan to standardize dimensions and alignments. In order to maintain tolerances and align myself with industrial production, I choose to utilize a repeatable press-molding process. I press the paper clay into wooden forms that I create. Wood wicks water form the piece and allows for small production runs similar to prototyping before degrading. Because of my allegiance to the hand-made clay traditions, I appreciate that hand-packing allows pieces coming out of the mold to retain unique surfaces. Individual variations are accounted for and indexed to ensure parts re-align later.

Re-manufactory is an installation of modular ceramics components, fastened with hardware, that allows a viewer full immersion into the piece as if walking into an industrial environment. I see beauty in the old, abandoned structures prevalent in rustbelt communities. Although often looked down upon as a dilapidated, dirty scourge, they are unique to the region's history and culture. Frequently made of brick, a ceramic, the colors and textures resonate with the surfaces I am familiar with in traditional ceramics. I believe that the trend toward re-urbanization will continue to bring people into close contact with these structures. Decisions will need to be made whether to preserve and re-purpose a structure or raze it. I have created a sculpture that presents the viewer with a scene implying an old infrastructure that is in process of being revitalized.

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Christopher Andrews | Ryan Bantz | Elizabeth Buchta | Joel Ottman | Brooke Vertin

Elizabeth Buchta (M.F.A., printmaking, 2010)

A Portion of the Field

“. . . a field woman is a portion of the field; she has somehow lost her own margin . . .”

~Thomas Hardy

"A Portion of the Field" consists of five canvas panels that have been collaged with paper, photocopies, fabric and paint. These banners are hung directly behind the glass panes of the storefront windows that are attached to west side of the Snite Museum of Art. The piece is a site-specific work, created with the unique features and limitations of this space in mind.

The title refers to both the above quote by Thomas Hardy as well as the way the windows frame the artwork, allowing only a portion of the full composition to be seen. Within the frame I have striven to create a coherent whole that allows the disparate elements that make up the image to exist harmoniously together, but nevertheless to retain their individuality.

These pieces emphasize process over final result. They were created horizontally on the floor and retain indexical traces of their creation in the form of footprints and other incidental marks. Layers were added atop one another, both obscuring earlier phases of the work and bringing into juxtaposition unexpected elements.

This work reflects the sedimentary process of becoming an artist – layers of experience and inspiration build upon one another, revealing surprising affiliations among seemingly unrelated stages. New layers obscure previous ones, yet traces remain of the past. While the artwork and the artist change through the process of creation, the movement forward occurs only through the incorporation of what has gone before.

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Christopher Andrews | Ryan Bantz | Elizabeth Buchta | Joel Ottman | Brooke Vertin

Joel Ottman (M.F.A., painting/drawing, 2010)

Masculine Glory

My work presents masculinity as a culturally constructed performance that encompasses many variations. A man’s masculine performance defines his personality both socially and psychologically. The goal of my work is to represent various stereotypes represented in our culture, to critique and destabilize the notion of a traditional fixed masculinity.

The intent of my project is to reveal the cultural construction of masculinity through the use of portraiture. Portraiture is a means to convey specific characteristics and personas to the viewer. My paintings intrinsically depend on the use of expression and gesture to psychologically reveal the person as well as define their masculine performance. My intention is to present cultural stereotypes such as: hypermasculinity, ethnicity, and sexuality. My paintings reflect a wide range of masculine stereotypes, but they are ultimately unified within the larger spectrum of masculine performance. My paintings idealize of the figure to enhance their character’s exaggeration in relation to their masculine performance. The humor involved in my work is presented in the parody and satire of figure, present in their role acting. Their suggested performance is exaggerated with props, gestures, and eye contact. The objective of my work is not only to analyze the degrees of masculinity, but also to create a narrative through the presentation of masculine portraiture. The paintings depict male stereotypes the call into question the absurdity of culturally shaped notions of masculinity that define our normative standards. 

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Christopher Andrews | Ryan Bantz | Elizabeth Buchta | Joel Ottman | Brooke Vertin

Brooke Vertin (M.F.A., printmaking, 2010)

Identity and the Nature of Change

In an attempt to mask our helplessness and vulnerability in the face of loss, we lend illness a mysterious air of transcendence. This work is constructed of three pieces, including a ribbon flooded with tears, like pricks of blood or bile, purging the patient of a cancer or the mourner of their grief.  The next piece is a stain that acts as an obstruction of identity, as we can never really understand how bodily pain affects another’s reality. The cloud is a middle-place, where the landscape and skyscape are pale and quiet, yet retains brightness as they move and cry out. The image fades before the viewer, admitting a lack of power. The poetry of Emily Bronte and the tales of sympathetic werewolves from the Middle Ages inspire the imagery in this installation.  The soft shapes and tones beckon comfort as the sickly yellows and pinks evoke discomfort while one is in the midst of change and loss.

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Christopher Andrews | Ryan Bantz | Elizabeth Buchta | Joel Ottman | Brooke Vertin