For second-year University of New Mexico Master of Fine Arts students, the juried graduate exhibition “Not Yet and Yet” has been more than just an opportunity to showcase their work at a museum; the exhibition, which opened on March 11 and consists of MFA and Graduate Art Association artwork, ushered students back into an in-person art world.
Since they began their study at UNM amid quarantine in fall 2020, remote critiques and the inability to interface with their peers’ art directly made things difficult, according to GAA member and artist in the show Eleonora Edreva.
“Some things are physical and you want to be there; you want to see it. Having the opportunity to show work together in person has been really wonderful. Art has energy with it. Having things in a space together is really important,” Edreva said.
In order to bring this exhibit to life, the GAA selected juror Nancy Zastudil to make studio visits and select pieces for installation.
“We wanted to prioritize New Mexico artists … She’s been very involved in the art scene around, so we thought she would be a great fit,” said sofía méndez subieta, a GAA member whose work is featured in the exhibit and who stylizes her name with lowercase letters.
The UNM Art Museum took care of the installation process after the GAA dropped off the art, according to Edreva and subieta. A shade resembling Pantone’s 2022 Color of the Year “Veri Peri” was chosen for the accents. Marlene Tafoya’s acrylic print “Price List” and Alyssa Eble’s painting “Day Off” hang on the purple walls.
Although there was an MFA exhibition organized by the GAA in 2021, Edreva said it didn’t receive as much attendance as it could’ve due to the pandemic, and studio visits weren’t conducted in person. Evdreva said hosting the exhibition at the Art Museum has also allowed for a larger audience.
Edreva, whose work prior to the pandemic centered around scent, said art takes emotions that feel immaterial and transforms them into interactive, tangible things. Their work — specifically “Cooking with Grandma” — approaches topics like family and language, using a technological feature like Google Translate to turn text into a physical material.
“It was translating both a typed cookbook and my grandma’s handwritten recipe book that she gifted to my mom. I was thinking about what it means to not be able to read this family heirloom,” Edreva said.
The piece by subieta, “se me ocurrio que es una litania/it occured to me that it is a prayer,” centers around family and language. It features a dialogue between fiber arts and poetry written with texts from her grandmother. The pillow bearing poetry is also an heirloom of sorts, something that’s dwelled in her family home for years.
She explained how this technique can increase the accessibility of a piece of art, perhaps providing someone who shies away from art galleries an easy in.
“It can be a strong entry point for the viewer. Sometimes it can be hard to have that initial door to enter a piece, so I’ve been thinking of it in terms of providing layers of information without it taking up the whole space,” subieta said.
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Wandering around the quiet bottom floor of the UNM Art Museum, isolated from the sounds of metronomes and violins in the rest of Popejoy, the viewer is invited to ponder the relationships between pieces or wonder about what the exhibit says as a whole.
“Going off of Nancy’s title and interpretation, (it’s about) the process … emphasizing or reclaiming slowness, especially in today’s day and age in a society that really values efficiency and velocity. My interpretation of the title and my peers’ work is the reclaiming of slowness and paying very close attention to our surroundings,” subieta said.
The 15 artists in the exhibit experiment with text and visual art, challenge oppressive structures and surprise the viewer, like Shelby Roberts’ 3D photograph “Tunnel Vision.” This disrupts the viewer’s expectation of photography as being flat or one-dimensional, according to subieta.
Karina Faulstich used recycled fibers to create a red banner that reads “Take Your Time.” The piece speaks to a certain “slowness” that Edreva also mentioned in regards to her art.
“It’s important to be gentle with yourself … and to create things that are meaningful to you and other people, and maybe that means a slower pace. I love slowness,” Edreva said.
The exhibition will run until Saturday, April 30. Works can also be viewed on display online via the catalog.
Nell Johnson is a freelance reporter at the Daily Lobo. She can be reached on Twitter @peachnells or at firstname.lastname@example.org