One of my art professors, Jorge Lucero, once described artists as those who not only look for problems, but they also create problems and solve them. This idea and those three words above only partially amount to the words that went through my head when I visited the School of Art + Design Master of Fine Arts exhibition at the Krannert Art Museum. This year, the exhibition features an extremely talented and inventive group of artists: Siyu Ai, Rishabh Doshi, Kathleen Patricia Durkin, Connor Dyer, Brock Landrum, Lauren Mistilis, Eunmi Moon, Mitchell Oliver, Amanda Shin, Liza Sylvestre, and Yunan Wu.

From alternatives of pet cages, to an interactive app that teaches you how to cook, there are so many other models for inventive objects and apps that could make our lives easier, created by these students. Going through the exhibit, what I loved most was the fact that so many of them were very interactive. This contrasts the usual art exhibitions of masterpieces where you can’t touch anything, but here, touching things and utilizing the objects they provide actually enhances the experience—sometimes even helping you see something that wasn’t there to begin with or wasn’t as noticable (hint hint).

For me, the interaction made me feel more involved in their art, instead of just looking at it and thinking like when I window shop. It adds another element to their art, to better understand their point of view or how they want the audience to see. There was a really big piece, kind of like tetris but with furniture, and you could go inside to the alcoves and sit on the couches.

© Kathleen Patricia Durkin

Another awesome thing about these artists is that some of them also teach courses in the School of Art + Design. For example, last semester I took a course called Time Arts taught by none other than Liza Sylvestre who was an amazing and inspiring teacher. She opened my eyes to the availability of our other senses and the many ways we can experience art using more than just our eyes. I remember for a particular project, she challenged us to create a video that would be accessible to both the blind and deaf. She described to us the difficulty of going to movies and not understanding what was going on sometimes, because she couldn’t hear clearly and some theaters didn’t have the closed captions. It’s funny because I think she was actually telling us about the project she was working on for this exhibition that was inspired by those experiences. So here’s a little tidbit of extra information. One of the projections in the MFA exhibition has a video with some sounds and actions. Instead of including closed captions of just the words that the actors were saying, Sylvestre went through that entire video and wrote her own descriptions of what was going on, what she thought in those moments, and her interpretation of what she heard. On the wall next to that, is a collection of drawings or a chart of the flow of sound, music, or words that she heard and then interpreted and transferred those representations onto a page. Her pieces create a sense of intimacy because you are being let into her thoughts and interpretations of what she hears and feels. It is a really unique perspective and such an inventive way of portraying and sharing her experience and voice.

All in all, none of the pieces were the typical art pieces one thinks of when they think of master student work displayed in an art gallery. Each and every piece has a connection to the artist, their interpretation of an idea or solution, and in many ways trigger the thought “oh wow, how did they come up with that?” It challenges our perception of what art should be, is, and what forms it can manifest itself in. Sometimes, it also just made me more confused the longer I looked at it. Though as a student in the School of Art + Design, it was very inspiring to look at how I can apply these skills and ideas I am learning to my life, art, and portrayal of my own voice. Maybe you will find connections with these artists and their voices in this exhibition too! If you have a chance, I highly recommend you stop by the Krannert Art Museum to take a gander or closely inspect the art created by these talented artists and designers. This exhibition will be up through April 25th and it’s definitely something you don’t want to miss!

2019 Illinois Masters of Fine Arts Exhibition
Now through April 25th
Krannert Art Museum
500 E Peabody Dr
Champaign
M-F 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Sa 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Open Thursdays during the semester until 9 p.m.

Top photo from Krannert Art Museum website, artwork © Connor Dyer. Additional photos by Tianyuan Wu.