VPA MFA Show: None the Wiser

Syracuse University graduate students exhibit collection of artwork in Shaffer Art Building.

The annual exhibition of the Master of Fine Arts thesis candidates from the College of Visual and Performing Arts opened on Thursday.

This year’s exhibition, titled None the Wiser, featured the work of 27 artists who created works of art in a variety of disciplines from sculpture and painting to digital art, virtual reality and music.

The works of art addressed a wide range of contemporary discourse such as human waste and consumption, sustainability, democracy and black feminism through visual, auditory and textual media.

A small crowd of staff, students and supporters strolled around the gallery, taking their time to appraise each piece. Their paint-splattered pants, quirky bow ties and colorful outfits complimented the interesting pieces that surrounded them. Guests interacted with the artworks – walking into installations, touching objects and listening where audio was provided.

The virtual reality installation, created by Chongha Peter Lee that hung from the ceiling in the center of the room drew the most interest. Upon wearing the black Oculus Rift piece over the eyes like a pair of goggles and the pair of headphones that were provided, the viewer was transported to a different space.

"This is so trippy!" one of the attendees exclaimed as he was transported through different scenes - an artist’s studio, under a bridge, a Syracuse University classroom and an art gallery, while a voice encouraged him to abandon convention and pursue their dreams.

One of the more fascinating pieces was a minimal structure of a tree trunk, screwed onto a stainless steel platform. The trunk ticked like the hand of a clock, in 3- to 4-second intervals.

“I kind of wanted to remind people of the idea of our lives moving constantly,” the artist Ozan Atalan explained. “It is a phenomenon, something we can’t have an exact idea of. So I wanted to create a universal language of time that anybody can understand … a poetry to time.”

Otto was also in attendance but looked slightly different from usual. The mascot’s typical soft, orange body was replaced by a rough, green exterior made of shredded dollar bills and carved to resemble Otto complete with his big eyes and wide smile.

A little boy walked up to him for a fist bump.

Artist Trey Gegenfu created and wore his creation for the exhibition. He wanted to use his artwork to make a political statement about the rise of the Chinese economy, its impact on Chinese students who study in America and the importance of Chinese students studying humanities to promote democracy, freedom and fairness in China.

Some of the professors who coached and prepared the students through the semester and up until this moment were present to see the finished pieces and offer support.

“[The artists] go through such changes, struggles, then to actually see it here. It’s kind of like ‘wow,’” said Kevin Larmon, the head of the painting program. “We’ve done a good job. They’ve done a good job, and you feel proud.”

In case you're wondering how these student artists will be graded on such personal works of art, Larmon explains that he is more concerned with their effort, commitment and how much of their heart is in each project.

The exhibition will run until May 5, 2016 at SUArt Galleries located in Shaffer Art Building.

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