Read Between the Lines: AU hosts MFA Annual Regional Exhibition
This year’s College Arts Association exhibit featured artwork exploring themes of culture and identity
Every year, the College Art Association sponsors an exhibit of works by artists in MFA and MA programs throughout the East Coast. This spring, AU’s own Katzen Art Gallery was chosen to host the exhibition, called RBTL, or Read Between the Lines. The featured artists hail from a variety of places, ranging from small art colleges in Philadelphia to larger state schools in the DMV area.
Reflecting on RBTL
Walking through Katzen’s main doors, this exhibit immediately drew my attention. Paintings covered the walls of the rotunda, and sculptures filled the space in the room. At first glance, the exhibit seemed a hodgepodge of random pieces, photographs, sculptures, collages and mixed media works. But after spending time contemplating each piece, I started to recognize common themes of struggles with identity, the environment, and societal constructs.
A College Art Association binder that includes each artist’s explanation of his or her piece made the exhibit more audience friendly. These descriptions, varying from short, lyrical poetry to essay-length discussions, allowed for a more immersive and interactive experience while viewing the exhibit.
The meaning of Miss Menses
At one point while touring the gallery, a group of older women stood contemplating two pieces of jewelry created from feminine hygiene products. The women bemusedly talked about the unique work and seemed unsure of how it could be considered artistic. Yet the artist’s explanation for her work, included in the binder, heightened its visual power. Sara Gallo, an MFA candidate at the Tyler School of Art, states that her work, titled Miss Menses, reconfigures feminine hygiene products “for display on the body” in order to de-stigmatize menstruation.
Several artists also wrote about their experiences with exploring and defining their cultural identities through their artwork. Dani Smith, an MFA student from The George Washington University, painted a vivid, dynamic scene of two young African-American girls in the midst of a pillow fight. In her description, Smith pointed out the struggle of “identity fragmentation” that young black girls face as they are “conditioned to dress, speak, and even walk as the dominant other.” Many other artists pushed the boundaries of traditional art while exploring such topics as geography, gender roles, existentialism and youth culture.
Few exhibits in DC this spring are centered specifically around the work of college students. The MFA exhibit created a space for the discussion of many subjects that affect young adults, and the opportunity to see artwork from colleges throughout the East Coast.