Exhibitions 2021: 2021 MFA Thesis Exhibition

Exhibitions 2021: 2021 MFA Thesis Exhibition
2021 MFA Thesis Exhibition

March 30 – May 7, 2021

2021 MFA Thesis Exhibition

Reception + CVPA Star Series (outside) AHA! Night, Thursday, April 8th, 6:00 pm
Virtual Artist Talk 7:00 pm introduced by the guest speaker and artist María Magdalena Campos-Pons
Gallery Hours: Monday - Friday 9:00 am to 6:00 pm

Exhibition also viewable during CVPA Star Series, Thursdays 6 to 8 pm.


Visitors outside of the UMassD community are invited to reserve a free timed ticket to view the gallery exhibition.

View the Online Exhibition

Exhibiting Artists

Ryan Cooley
Paulina Fuenzalida-Guzmán
Taylor Hickey
Shabnam Jannesari
Sung Ji Lee (이성지)
Madison Moreno
Danielle O'Malley
Valleri Rami
Cynthia Bryndis Schilling
Tran Duc Binh Vu (Vũ Trần Đức Bình)
Emma Young

The UMass Dartmouth 2021 MFA Thesis Exhibition is a much anticipated and celebrated annual event showcasing the artwork of graduating students from the College of Visual and Performing Arts. The creative work of graduating students ranges from traditional media such as painting, sculpture, ceramics, textile, to digital media or site-specific installation.

About María Magdalena Campos-Pons

María Magdalena Campos-Pons was born in in 1959 in the province of Matanzas, in the town of La Vega, Cuba. She grew up on a sugar plantation in a family with Nigerian, Hispanic and Chinese roots. Her Nigerian ancestors were brought to Cuba and enslaved in the 19th century. The family passed on traditions, rituals, and beliefs. Her polyglot heritage profoundly influences Campos-Pons’ artistic practice, which combines diverse media including photography, performance, painting, sculpture, film, and video. Her work is autobiographical, investigating themes of history, memory, gender and religion and how they inform identity. Through deeply poetic and haunting imagery, Campos-Pons evokes stories of the Trans-Atlantic slave trade, indigo, and sugar plantations, Catholic and Santeria religious practices, and revolutionary uprisings.

In the late 1980s, Campos-Pons taught at the prestigious Instituto Superior de Arte in Havana and gained an international reputation as an exponent of the New Cuban Art movement that arose in opposition to Communist repression on the island. In 1991, she emigrated to Boston, where she resided and taught at SMFA until 2017.

Campos-Pons has had solo exhibitions at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Indianapolis Museum of Art, the Peabody Essex Museum, and the National Gallery of Canada, among other distinguished institutions. She has presented over 30 solo performances commissioned by institutions including the Guggenheim and The Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery. She has participated in the Venice Biennale, the Dakar Biennale, Johannesburg Biennial, Liverpool Biennial, Havana Biennial and Documenta14, the Guangzhou Triennial and is included in Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA and Prospect 4 Triennial.  In October 2017 she received the Cornelius Vanderbilt Endowed Chair of Fine Arts at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee. 
Campos-Pons’ works are in over 30 museum collections including the Smithsonian Institution, The Whitney, the Art Institute of Chicago, the National Gallery of Canada, the Victoria and Albert Museum, the Museum of Modern Art, New York, The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, the Perez Art Museum, Miami and the Fogg Art Museum.

Campos-Pons in 2004 co-founded a Boston art space, GASP, a gallery that encourages artistic exchanges and collaborations in order to understand the contemporary cultural landscape. In 2007, she was featured in a major solo exhibition at the Indianapolis Museum of Art, Everything Is Separated by Water: María Magdalena Campos-Pons. In 2018 she launched EADJ Engine for Art Democracy and Justice at Vanderbilt University. Campos-Pons project intermittent Rivers in Matanzas 2919 was highlighted as one of best curatorial events in 2019. Monserrate College of Art awarded Campos-Pons a Dr Honoris Causa in 2017. 

2021 MFA Thesis Exhibition. Photo credit: Spencer Ladd
Photo credit: Spencer Ladd

Greetings from the Office of the Dean

I am very pleased to be able to offer my heartfelt congratulations to our MFA class of 2021 both on completing your degrees and for a really beautiful final exhibition. I also offer my best wishes for what I know will be a bright and successful future for all of you. This year’s MFA show represents the work of eleven emerging artists who have met the challenges of their degree program with creativity and rigor. Their work is the result of two or three years of exploration, struggle, discovery, and, at least for now, resolution. It is also a harbinger of things to come. The need to express oneself in the visual arts does not end with an MFA; instead, the years spent here in graduate studies has been precious time to reflect, explore, and refine. It is, however, only a small although formative moment in what will be a whole lifetime of creative expression.

While this work is perhaps not about pandemic or the social, political, and economic issues it has raised, it was certainly forged by the unique time of COVID-19. The members of last year’s class endured the disruption of the pandemic at the end of their MFA studies. This year’s class has with grace and good humor overcome the complicated pressures of uncertainty, anxiety, and isolation brought on by this crisis and has done it with the additional burden of the unprecedented logistics of learning and creating COVID has imposed. To the graduating students, then, I would like to say that the pandemic does not define your work in this exhibition, but it will always mark your graduate experience, as it has affected and impacted all of us. Thank you for your persistence and your dedication to your work. Your accomplishments here are particularly notable this year, and you should all be very proud of that.

In closing, I would like to acknowledge and thank the faculty whose rigorous expectations have pushed these graduates to new and exciting levels in their work. Thanks also to Viera Levitt who has worked so diligently with the graduates to create an extraordinary exhibition, and my gratitude as always to Thomas Stubblefield and Spencer Ladd for their leadership in the MFA program through a difficult time, to Michelle Bowers and Paula Erenberg Medeiros and all who assisted them in creating this catalog and our online exhibition. Finally, a sincere thank you to all of you, friends and families, who have supported and sacrificed for our students. You have given them the space and the support they needed to achieve what they have.

Lawrence Jenkens, Dean
College of Visual and Performing Art

2021 MFA Thesis Exhibition. Photo credit: Spencer Ladd
Photo credit: Spencer Ladd

Notes from the Gallery Director

When we finished installing last year’s MFA Thesis Exhibition, we never expected to have yet another show take place with the restrictions of social distancing and other Covid-related precautions. Yet here we are again, a year later, listening to the artists’ talk on the screen rather than watching them in person. This year, another stamped with the imprimatur of the pandemic, has been intense, at times quite overwhelming and, of course, marked by anxiety as a stubborn companion. And yet, the art that has emerged is powerful and honest. The works these young people have created respond with sensitivity and creativity to a world turned upside down. Our students kept working on their art because that's what artists do even during a time when there is little predictability. In doing so they showed us how to cope and continue in the midst of uncertainty.

We are presenting work that is fragile, broken, sometimes loud, sometimes quiet, that represents the inner and outer worlds as well as those of the cosmic realm. There is so much behind these artworks - markings of touch left on ceramic pieces, imprints of nature on handmade paper, traces of careful stitching on pieces of fabric, as well as music and quiet meditation. This exhibition guides us, through focused looking at the works of art, towards healing and recharging.

Thank you to all the 2021 graduates for making this possible.

Viera Levitt, Gallery Director and Exhibition Curator