May 2–25, 2014
We Are Here
Megan St. Clair, Brandon Siscoe, Jessie Rose Vala, Matt Christy, Andrew Oslovar, Alex Krajkowski, Anne Magratten, John Tolles, Chen Fei, Farhad Bahram
Ten second-year graduate students in the master of fine arts program presented their work.
Painter Agnes Martin argued that the heart of creativity is in the possession of one’s own mind, and therefore she distanced herself from notions of artistic influence. She stated,“I don’t believe in influence. I think that in order to be an artist, you have to move. When you stop moving, then you’re no longer an artist. And if you move from somebody else’s position, you simply cannot know the next step. I think that everyone is on his own line. I think that after you’ve made one step, the next step reveals itself. I believe that you were born on this line. I don’t say that the actual footsteps were marked before you get to them, and I don’t say that change isn’t possible in your course. But I do believe we unfold out of ourselves, and we do what we are born to do sooner or later, anyway.”*
Often in group exhibitions, there is a tendency to categorize work according to perceived notions of influence. Viewers can easily understand how and why an artist might be participating within a specific aesthetic lineage. There can also be a tendency towards homogenization – an urge to conflate, or force a theme onto the group even when not totally warranted. Rather than seeking out an overarching theme or thread to bind it together, We Are Here embodied a discontinuous, fragmented ensemble of ten, second-year University of Oregon master of fine arts candidates, represented via a multiplicity of mediums. The result was a cross section of progress and process. We Are Here offered a glimpse into the work in progress of these students and of the students, themselves, as works in progress at the midpoint of their degree program.
We Are Here included video, sculpture, installation, collage, performance, painting, and photography, and demonstrated the expansive breadth of approaches and interests that can harmoniously coexist within an MFA program. The exhibition acted as a bridge not only for students and viewers to visually compare and connect works still being formed and developed to the finished thesis work of the third year students at the nearby Disjecta exhibition, but also engaged the students in the larger cultural ecosystem of Portland.
We Are Here gave the impression that the work in the room was stretching its legs, expanding, and testing limits. We Are Here illustrated, through a compelling comingling of work, how the students were navigating through questions of process, medium, biography, and identity, in an ever more complex and networked world. They were reacting to their environment and to the world – this was shared. The results were fascinatingly vibrant and varied and were representative of not just a moment in time, but of artwork of our time.
*Agnes Martin quote found in: Gruen, John. 1991. The Artist Observed: 28 Interviews With Contemporary Artists. Atlanta: A Capella Books.