Art That Is Not to Be Passed By

2024 MFA Thesis Exhibitions feature work from 27 graduating students

Printmaker Nina Montejano is interested in “depictions of architectural material surfaces that exist in places we pass by, through, or over,” she writes. For her thesis project, she reproduced the very floor that exhibit-goers tread upon. It took the form of a large screen print of a section of tile within the Aidekman Arts Center on the Medford/Somerville campus.

photograph of legs in pink heels

Quincey Spagnoletti, “The Room at the Top of the Stairs, No. 1,” 2022, archival inkjet print

“Creating these highly detailed copies helps us reconsider their originals,” Montejano explains in her artist statement.

She accompanies the piece with a thick binder of work orders for the building, dating back to 2011. The collected requests for replacement of stained or missing ceiling tiles, securing of a railing in the sculpture court, and countless other repairs read like a biography of this space that has been the backdrop for so many kinds of art over the years.

Montejano is just one of 27 graduating Master of Fine Arts students from SMFA at Tufts whose thesis works are now on display at the Tufts University Art Galleries at Aidekman Arts Center. The exhibit, Pulling Teeth and Jumping Rope, curated by Danni Shen, is free and open to the public.

As the exhibit’s description explains, many of the works reflect upon personal memory, through “dreamscapes, portals, wormholes, holes, and psychological landscapes rendered through a variety of mediums.”

Photographer Niko Krivanek, for example, presents black and white images of the natural environments surrounding correctional institutions—alongside a color portrait of their incarcerated mother, a photo it took years to arrange to take.

“To be able to see my mother through the viewfinder was the first time I’ve seen her beyond the walls of incarceration, to see her potential life after her release,” they write in their artist statement.

Many of the graduates took inspiration from their identities. 

Photo of an incarcerated woman

Niko Krivanek, from the series “Natural Life,” silver gelatin print, 2024

The Cuban American artist W.O.V. explores taboo and queer subjects such as online pornography, fatphobia, camp, labor, and excess through painting and papermaking. 

Sayako Hiroi challenges Japanese female stereotypes in her paintings, which are marked by contoured fragmented bodies with undulated forms and textures; their vivid colors, she writes, draw inspiration from the rich palette of Japanese tradition. 

Meanwhile, Rachel A. Lee uses iconography indicative of the American South and objects associated with Korean culture, such as rounded white ceramic “moon jars,” to create a juxtaposed environment that is representative of her multi-racial identity.

Pulling Teeth and Jumping Rope is on view through Sunday, May 19, at the not-to-be-passed-by Aidekman Arts Center on the Medford/Somerville campus.

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