UW MFA and MDes Thesis Exhibition 2014

Posted on June 25, 2014, 9:00 am
4 mins


The University of Washington MFA and MDes exhibition, on display last week at the Henry, showcased the extensive explorations of this year’s graduates. The University of Washington School of Art Graduation was held on Thursday, June 12, and I was thrilled to see many of these students walk across the stage and awarded for their hard work. While much of the exhibition was intriguing, a few artists were especially compelling.

A peek at the UW MFA and MDes exhibition at the Henry Art Gallery

A peek at the UW MFA and MDes exhibition (now closed). Image courtesy of the Henry Art Gallery.

Abraham Murley

Much of Abraham Murley’s work on display was done from memory, documenting recent and long-past experiences. The majority are mixed media, smaller works resembling quick sketches, seeking to capture that unattainable, illusive origin of memory and mind. Charlie’s Walk, a large oil on canvas piece is somewhat of an anomaly among the other pieces. It depicts Murley’s father on his daily walk through the woods and was added to over the course of a year. The result is layered and complex while simultaneously strikingly simple. Although abstracted, the viewer is able to understand both the forested space and the deeper emotional content. The artist’s bond with his father and other autobiographical elements play a central role in Murley’s work, and are expressed in various visual forms.

Jonathan Happ

Jonathan Happ’s large, detailed drawings of cadavers are hauntingly beautiful once one gets past any initial shock one may have. The scale of the works gives a “zoomed in” focus and attention to detail, and though the pallor of death is strong in Happ’s palette, the works retain a sense of vibrancy. Studying and drawing alongside medical students at the University of Washington, Happ developed works that allude to the vanitas style of art popular during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries in Northern Europe. Traditionally, vanitas works evoke the fragility of life and the transience of earthly things through stock symbols, such as bubbles, fruits, skulls and flowers. Happ has a much more literal approach, depicting the decay of human flesh in a calm and almost comforting manner.

Xinchen Xie

Xinchen Xie’s work for the thesis exhibition is immediately eye-catching, dominating an entire wall with bright colors and abstracted forms. The piece, entitled Living Room, depicts a typical living space: a bedroom that is cozy and comfortable, documented after only one night spent in it. Xinchen Xie explains that this fairly average space allows viewers to insert themselves into the environment. It is captured in detail on canvas, but abstracted forms extend from the canvas edge onto the wall. This exciting choice extends the space beyond the confines of the rectangle and allows Xie to experiment outside of the traditional concept of the still life.

Jason Petz

Food System Visualization, by Jason Petz, is true to its title, concise and accurate. The topic generates heated debate—often not fully informed—but Petz’s clear design seeks to circumvent a sense of accusation or indictment while promoting ecological literacy and correcting false assumptions about our food system. Petz initially surveyed shoppers and did countless hours of research on the subject in order to develop a method and style that was both coherent and aesthetically appealing. Petz’s Food System Visualization, in a way, acts as a public service announcement. An attempt to educate and raise the awareness of our community. In my mind, it is truly a success.

Claire Reiner is a writer, artist and recent graduate from the University of Washington’s School of Art with a major in Art History. She is interested in recent art movements and subcultures (1950s, 60s, 70s) and how they have shaped present perceptions and practices of art. She grew up in Southern California and moved to Seattle in 2010. She is quite influenced by the unique geography of both places and enjoys hiking and exploring the Pacific Northwest. Reiner covers visual art exhibits in Seattle and seeks to contribute to a profound and positive artistic community, as well as encourage people to come out and experience art moments for themselves. Reiner is also the Executive Assistant for VanguardSeattle and handles any press related needs.

3 Responses to: UW MFA and MDes Thesis Exhibition 2014

  1. X

    June 26th, 2014

    Hi Claire,

    First off, I want to say thank you for covering this show. I’m glad to see the UW MFA grads receive the coverage they deserve.

    That being said, I would encourage you to write more critically–not critical as in negative, but critical as in critical thinking. Arts writing in Seattle spends too much time patting the arts community on the back rather than engaging in the discourse necessary to make it grow. I don’t mean to single out your article in saying this–I just see it as part of a larger trend that needs to be addressed.

    Words and phrases like intriguing, compelling, layered, complex, strikingly simple, abstracted, hauntingly beautiful, literal, eye-catching, concise, accurate, successful–there’s nothing inherently wrong with these descriptors. They’re not meaningless (the dictionary indeed lists definitions for each), but the way they are used in your article renders them empty. These descriptors don’t provide access (emotional, psychological, intellectual, sensory, or otherwise) to the work, but rather talk around the work without saying much. It feels like your article is simply rehashing the positive, empty language of press releases, rather than engaging in critical discourse–a feeling that is exacerbated by the article’s structure (disjointed paragraphs that lack the cohesion of an overarching idea).

    We don’t need empty words and disjointed paragraphs. We don’t need press release-style blurbs. We need stories, narrative. We need long-form writing. We need new frameworks for approaching and considering artwork.

    Again, I don’t mean to discourage you, or anyone, from writing–the more voices, the better–but we need more criticality in the arts writing by and for our community, and that’s something that every single one of us must consciously work towards.

    All the best to you!

  2. Abe

    June 26th, 2014

    Hi Clare, It was a good show at the Henry. Thanks for covering it!

  3. Abe

    June 26th, 2014

    Sorry: Claire (not Clare)