Personal struggles portrayed through masters thesis art show
Rolling on a wheeled wooden frame in the corner of SF State’s Fine Arts Gallery, a queen-sized mattress enabled with motion detectors makes its way across the floor. It indiscriminately approaches anyone in close proximity in an attempt to seduce them into bed.
“Bedfellows” is part of fine arts graduate student Randy Sarafan’s collection “Objects Behaving Badly.” The series is an examination of materialism, relationships and the accumulation of shared possessions that come as a result.
Sarafan is one of four graduate students whose work will be shown at the 2015 Masters of Fine Arts Thesis Show at SF State opening April 25.
Fine Arts Gallery curator Mark Johnson has seen many graduate students install their best work for the annual show throughout the years he has worked at SF State.
“Every year, the MFA graduate thesis exhibition is very different,” Johnson said. “But what is constant is the high levels of ambition and invention.”
Johnson said this year there will be a range of humor, pathos, abstraction and the hard realities of life represented in each artist’s body of work. The students planned and proposed their collections individually, making for an art show that reveals personal parts of their lives.
SF State fine arts graduate student Brittany Powell filed for bankruptcy before entering the graduate program to alleviate her credit card debt after a significant loss of income in 2008. Over the course of three years, Powell said she has travelled across the U.S. inviting ordinary individuals to share their stories of debt. Inspired by medieval Flemish portrait paintings, she said she her subjects are formally seated in their homes, surrounded by their material belongings. She has taken 50 photographs thus far, and plans to take 99 in total to represent the 99 percent of average-earning Americans. The photo series and a short film that Powell installed for the thesis show are excerpts from a larger venture called “The Debt Project.”
“The project gives a social perspective to the shared experience of debt,” Powell said. “It’s somewhat of of social faux pas that people don’t often discuss, but permeates through every day life nonetheless.”
In her sculpture series, MFA candidate Alex Lederer will present a personal collection she said was influenced by processing difficult emotions of loss.
Lederer said each piece is dedicated to remembering her father who died last January. The objects depict past memories from her own experiences, parallel memories or stories about her father shared by someone else and future memories, or imagined events or experiences she expects to have, she said.
In the center of the gallery stand three floor-to-ceiling panels that MFA candidate Centa Schumacher will use for a large scale video projection which she said was inspired by occult groups in the pursuit of exploring the unknown. Schumacher captured images of symbolic metaphysical tools filtered through different crystals that enhance each implement’s respective mystical property, she said.
“All of our pieces come from a personal place,” Powell said. “Randy’s objects have to do with his relationship, Alex’s collection is about her father who recently passed and Centa’s work is connected to spiritual pursuits. I would say it all ties together that way.”