MFA students coexist

The sounds of hammers and electric drills filled the second floor of Neuberger Hall this weekend, as second-year Master of Fine Arts (MFA) students installed their opening show in the Autzen Gallery.

The sounds of hammers and electric drills filled the second floor of Neuberger Hall this weekend, as second-year Master of Fine Arts (MFA) students installed their opening show in the Autzen Gallery.

A Human Pyramid for Coexistence was the show title the students agreed on last spring, but the pyramid itself never really came together. Part of the group showed up in the wrestling practice room to give the concept a try, but in the end decided to leave human pyramid building to the pros-random Internet people.

A found Internet photo was used for the show’s postcard and according to MFA student Shelby Davis “more accurately expresses what we’re about anyway.”

The show’s title is less a reference to current events than an accurate description of how the small, close-knit group of graduate students came together to support each other, despite their very different backgrounds and artistic styles.

“I’m not really good with tools,” said Joel Garcia, who worked together with Davis in the woodshop over the summer to realize a life-size wooden porch for the show.

A kind of artifact from Garcia’s summers back home in Chicago, as well as from his current home in southeast Portland, the porch is Garcia’s way of inviting anyone who enters the gallery to sit back and have some long conversations.

“All my work revolves around love, and just my family and friends,” Garcia said.

The porch is made entirely of found material, which Garcia spotted around Portland while driving with friends or riding his bicycle, and picked up later in his pickup truck.

In the gallery, Garcia still wasn’t sure exactly how all of the pieces would fit together, but continued to look at the installation as a learning process. He described the feeling he had at the start of the project, “I just wanted to get it done” as compelling enough to convince him to teach himself the woodworking skills necessary to complete the work.

Furniture and other trace items of human details are represented in several of the pieces. Amber Moss-Jensen still wasn’t sure of the title of her piece while hand-drawing her own vellum wallpaper, but the concept for her installation was evident as soon as the students had divided the space they were going to work with.

“I needed to see what the space was like and be able to work in it, and a lot of [the installation] became the logistics of how to get those things up versus what those things were necessarily going to be,” Moss-Jensen said.

Which makes sense, considering that the end result, the fantastic objects, such as a fluorescent-lit suspended couch, enhance rather than distract from one another, creating an environment that feels both real and warped.

Facing Moss-Jensen’s papered windows are Davis’ silicone rubber specimens, tactile remnants of places and experiences Davis recorded around Portland and in his home state of South Carolina.

For Davis, the texture molds are a “way that I can make things but still explore my area, and get to know Portland.” His favorites are the molds of names scratched into trees, such as “Justin Mike 06 07.” “Apparently they were only together for two years,” Davis said smiling and looking over the arrangement of molds spread out on the floor before starting to pin them to the wall.

The silicone specimens are meant to be touched, as is the small installation at the gallery entrance, where Kevin Nagler set up a collection bowl for nail clippings, complete with a silver clipper hanging from a tiny string.

Nagler’s large collection of clippings is on display in a variety of containers next to the bowl, which he has been collecting for a friend. Also on display are image discs in white jackets, all individually decorated. The images saved on each disc are unique too and were created for gallery visitors to watch at home.

Next to Nagler’s piece is a coffee grind drawing by Kate Simmons, who has been keeping used coffee filters around her studio and producing huge drawings of the coffee-patterned filters with tightly curled pen strokes. The drawing is very different from the other work in the gallery, in that it required long periods of solo time in the studio to produce, but relatively simple installation. Instead of the playful interactivity that helps define much of the work, the piece invites awe at Simmons’ dedication to a formal image.

In the only dark corner of the gallery, Posie Currin built cages for her borrowed projector and the DVD player she was about to buy. Currin described the four-minute film loop she was installing as a “kind of visual sound piece,” like a set of images that supports the music, rather than the other way around.

The art that makes up A Human Pyramid for Coexistence is as diverse as the students who create it, and as you pass the gallery on your way to class, consider stopping by.

A Human Pyramid for Coexistence is open in the Autzen Gallery on the second floor of Neuberger Hall, Oct. 15-26, with an opening reception on Thursday, Oct. 18, from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m., and a closing reception on Oct. 26.