Madeline Roe, Managing Editor
The 2013 BA, BFA and MFA candidates’ exhibition and opening reception showcased some of Notre Dame’s finest creative talent in the visual arts on April 7. The candidates presented their culminating works that, along with a formal defense, contribute to receiving their degrees. The BFA and MFA work was displayed in the Snite Museum of Art and the BA work in the Isis Gallery of O’Shaughnessy Hall. The visual art ranged in media from the standard fine art forms like paintings (which were anything but standard) to innovative multimedia art installations and product design projects.
Following the opening reception, the department of art, art history and design announced its annual awards in the Snite’s Annenberg Auditorium. Among the winners in the Masters of Arts program was Erin Daly (MA) for the Radwan and Allen Riley Prize in Art History for her paper on “Ruben’s Head of Medusa as an Emblem of Early Modern Cabinets of Curiosity.” In the Masters of Fine Arts program, sculptor and printmaker Justin Barfield received the “grand prize” of the night—the Walter Beardsley Award chosen by the director of the Snite Museum, Charles Loving. “This award is completely subjective,” stated Loving warmly, and the crowd laughed alongside him in nervous anticipation for one of the only cash prizes of the night, and the sole prize for MFA work. The entire audience burst in applause and stood in ovation for his joyous reception of the award.
Among the 6 candidates for MFAs, Barfield’s work stands out (quite literally, from the wall). In essence, his work is multi-media installation sculptures that comment on the economic collapse through his portrayal of industrial decay. The rusty, copper-colored I-beams jut out of the clean and calm gallery wall. In places the wall is made to have a gaping hole with its remnants spilling out. Despite the beams’ intrusive, chaotic criss-crossings in space, they illogically present the illusion of floating, as almost elegant delineations of space. Here is the irony of the piece: The I-beams, traditionally weighty, industrial metal materials, are actually made of paper. Thus, Barfield plays with the viewer’s perception of reality. Art breaks the realistic set of expectations that are ultimately constructed by a viewer’s interaction with the world, and Barfield invites us to enter into that imaginary space to re-construct our notions of the possible.
The MFA award recipients included Brandon Keelan for both the Judith A. Wrappe Memorial Prize and Emil Jacques Gold Medal of Fine Arts; Alisa Rantanen for the Emil Jacques Silver Medal of Fine Arts; and Cyril Bennett for the Radwan and Allan Riley Prize in Design.
Rantanen’s project fuses traditional and cutting-edge technologies of documentation through a “memory connection reference” called “Amber.” Like a touch-screen tablet attached to a sketchbook, the technology would sync the physical and digital information—handwritten notes, digital photographs, ticket subs—to bring the convenient storage and sharing capabilities of digital documentation with the sentimentality and emotional presence of crafted text and objects. “I first conceived of the idea from my Moleskin notebook,” Rantanen said. “The technology isn’t there yet, though,” but, given the success of digital programs that appeal to personal expression like Instagram and blogging platforms, her concept is an exciting possibility for the future.
Bennett’s product design, on the other hand, is marketable today and was shown in its fully realized form in the Snite. Called “RO. Roll Out. Ride On,” the detachable bag sits on the bike’s back tire to provide convenience of large cargo capacity that bicyclers desire. Bennett targeted a large audience of many socioeconomic positions so that, no matter how much groceries needed to be transported or what kind of bike one owns, becoming an environmentally and health conscious biker is easy with “RO.” The display featured a sleek city bike as if it were a sculpture itself in front of three gorgeously designed informational posters.
Among the Senior Bachelor of Arts candidates, Sade Murphy received the Radwan and Allan Prize in Studio Art; William Bass received the Eugene M. Riley Photography Prize; Samantha Bradley received the Mabel L. Mountain Painting Prize; and Breeana Stachowski received the Fr. Anthony J. Lauck, CSC Award.
While each of these candidates showcased beautiful work, Bradley’s photo-realistic paintings were a standout. Each portrait captures a person, from the shoulders up, in a moment of surprise. The older woman looks away while pursing her lips; the boy seems distracted by a shiny object; the girl squints—all with disregard for the viewer. And yet with what attention their painstakingly detailed rendering demands! The curly hairs on the older woman’s head, in particular, illustrate the complexity of these apparently nameless individuals. With the blankness of background that is simply solid color and the range of emotion each expression potentially elicits, Bradley’s detailed portraits are, however richly accurate and generous with the visual information, mysterious.
The reception was true to form as a social celebration of contemporary art, including delectable cheesecake bites and the edgy atmosphere of fashionable people populating the galleries. All artwork is currently on display at the Snite and Isis Gallery until May 19.
Madeline Roe is a senior double majoring in art history and English. She is proud to be a proselyte of Justin Barfield’s photo-printmaking class. Contact her at email@example.com.