“Speaking Between,” an exhibition featuring work by thirteen University of Oregon Department of Art master of fine arts students, will be on view May 4-26 at Disjecta Interdisciplinary Art Center, 8371 N. Interstate Avenue in Portland. The exhibition opens with a free public reception Friday, May 3 from 7-9 p.m.
“Speaking Between” encompasses a broad range of practices and ideas, and is both the culmination of the students’ studies and the launch of their professional careers. “Taken from a Homi Bhabha essay, the phrase ‘speaking between’ refers not only to his articulation of art as mediation but also to the collective experience of these artists as their work has unfolded over the last three years,” says Laura Vandenburgh, Swindells chair and Department of Art head.
Artists in the show include Robert Beam, Megan Branlund, Ian Clark, Emily Crabtree, Aubrey Hillman, Nika Kaiser, Benjamin Lenoir, Sarah Nance, Katherine Rondina, Morgan Rosskopf, Katherine Spinella, Michael Stephen, and Wendi Michelle Turchan.
“Within this rich community of exchange and shared commitment, each has developed a very individual line of inquiry and studio practice,” Vandenburgh says. ”Materially and conceptually varied, the work speaks to all kinds of experience—from the tropes of horror cinema to the intimacy of hardware, from middle class desire to our place in the universe. Driven by quite different intentions and convictions, each of these thirteen artists grapples with the ‘in-betweenness’ of contemporary life.”
MFA candidate Wendi Michelle Turchan does so by exploring the shifting nature of models and plans. “I create architectural forms that coexist with chaotic stains and mark moments of transformation,” she says. “I love planning and structure. I often meticulously plan out each piece I am going to make. I make a lot of sketches and lists, make decisions about the order in which things will happen and the exact nature of colors. Ultimately as I work on each piece I discover that things do not happen within my control and I disregard the plan to follow my instincts.”
For the MFA show, her work includes large-scale drawings and paintings on paper, the advantage of paper being “that I can cut, move, shift, cover-up, and turn things around easily as I am working. By doing this, often there is a visible trace of those movements and decisions that I find exciting when looking at the work.”
At Disjecta, Turchan’s pieces will hang a short distance away from the wall so the paper “can float a little off the surface. I hope the viewer can take away a feeling that provokes both a sense of calm and a sense of disruption or anxiety. Something that is also unknowable, like when a word is stuck on the tip of your tongue and you can’t quite get it out.”
For his part, Mike Stephen’s work “examines the filmic tropes of monsters associated with horror cinema,” he says. “I typically utilize and integrate sculpture and video to comment on the terrors and formulas used within the horror genre, specifically with the sub-genre of ‘slasher’ films,” he says. “I wouldn’t say that these ideas and notions are new or unfamiliar with my practice, but the integration of performance and video documentation of that facet of work is.” Most of his work for the show “will deal with tropic lighting gestures that set the mood within horror films and how certain triggers during a movie foreshadow what soon follows.”
Stephen says he’s always been interested in anti-heroes. As a kid, he split his days between playing outdoors in the woods and watching action movies on TV. “Bruce Willis, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sylvester Stallone, Kurt Russell, and Mel Gibson were my idols. They made action and violence seem so glorious and fulfilling.” As adults, he says, “I think we all try to disconnect ourselves from villains and characters that portray ‘otherness’ qualities, and yet we constantly go to theaters to watch horror villains slice and dice their victims for our amusement. Why is that?”
“Speaking Between” will be at Disjecta, a nonprofit organization dedicated to contemporary art, through May 26. Gallery hours are Friday through Sunday from 12–5 p.m.
The UO Department of Art acknowledges support of the following contributors to the MFA program: the Ballinger family in memory of Court Ballinger, The Duck Store, Gamblin Artists Colors, and the UO Alumni Association.