In the ‘Midst’ of It All
New Exhibit at Stamp Gallery Highlights Graduate Students’ Work During COVID
A set of silent, cast-iron lips. A whimsical foam structure that defies its heavy appearance. A ball of dark, tangled yarn that seems to be melting.
All these are on display in “Amidst,” an exhibit of three second-year MFA students’ work that opened yesterday in the Stamp Gallery. It explores how artists are navigating a global pandemic, figuring out how to create in a changed world and grappling with questions of justice, perseverance and meaning-making.
The student artists selected the exhibit title to reflect their place in the world, said Tara Youngborg, manager of the gallery. “They were like, ‘Amidst is where we are. We’re in the middle of it all: in the middle of grad school, this pandemic, trying to work through what our art is and where we’re going with it.’”
Elizabeth Katt MFA ’22 will present her work, “an accounting,” in which she tallies by hand on adding machine tape every American who has died of COVID-19. She will livestream the work from the studio, where visitors (up to 20 at a time, per COVID-19 guidelines) can interact with her.
“I’m kind of interested to see how people react with me, if people come in and they want to engage and talk about it, or maybe they want to tell me about people they lost,” said Katt.
Another work on view from Katt, “Stuck,” is a mass of yarn covered with latex paint, which stiffens the fibers. First, Katt poured brightly colored paint over the yarn, then darker grays and finally black. “It’s this idea of when you’re in a situation where you’re feeling all anxious and depressed, how stuck you feel and how your own light and color gets lost,” said Katt.
For Alyssa Imes MFA ’22, quiet is key to one of her pieces, “I Will Keep You Upright in the Cold Silence,” a sculpture of cast-iron lips made from molds of lips of Imes’ friends and acquaintances. The piece, which includes signage asking viewers to remain silent and is a response to sexual assault and the toll it takes on survivors, “reflects on the misinterpretation of the phrase ‘cold silence,’” said Imes in her artist statement. “While often interpreted as a survivor’s inability to speak, it can also be exactly what a survivor needs: not a response but silent support.”
Martin Gonzales MFA ’22 is showing “Transition/Resurrection,” a playful foam and cardboard structure that’s different each time he installs it. The lightweight material—meant to look like a ramshackle shelter—belies its heavy appearance. “I can do things with those materials that look like they defy physics or gravity,” said Gonzales, who hopes to inspire a sense of “magic and wonder in the world.”