Art exhibit displays PennDesign students’ work

“No man is an island,” wrote the English poet John Donne, and neither is a work of art.

“Art only exists in dialogue with the public,” says Kelsey Halliday Johnson, a Master of Fine Arts candidate in PennDesign. “It can’t be hidden away on an academic campus, so it is integral to have an exciting venue to share art in dialogue with the public.”

Art and the public will come together at the annual MFA Thesis Exhibition, on display from May 10-27 at the Ice Box Project Space in the Crane Arts Building, 1400 N. American St.

The exhibition features the works of 13 Penn MFA students and includes multimedia installations, traditional paintings, photography, and works in other media.

Johnson says each student has independently selected and installed his or her own work for the exhibit. Pernot Hudson, exhibitions coordinator at PennDesign, assisted artists with the technical aspect of managing the installations.

The show is the pinnacle of two years of work and studio discussions that students have had with world-class faculty, visiting artists, and critics. Because the MFA is a terminal degree, Johnson says the thesis exhibition is more like a dissertation presentation than a simple display of student work.

The exhibition space is one of the largest in the city, allowing each artist to showcase a full body of work, rather than just a few pieces.

Johnson says the PennDesign Class of 2012 is the first class to graduate without medium-specific classifications attached to their graduate degrees. The exhibit, she says, showcases “this open intellectual framework [that] has fostered new interdisciplinary methods of artistic research. This exhibit is the result of this dynamic artistic environment.”

The exhibition kicks off with an opening reception on Thursday, May 10, from 6-9 p.m. Admission to the exhibition is free. There will be beverages and food provided. After the opening, the thesis exhibit will be open to the public Wednesdays through Sundays, noon to 6 p.m., and MFA students will be in attendance to speak about the work with anyone who has questions. 

Some of the artists also have their pieces on display at the Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts through June 30, as a part of the Art in the House exhibit, a pilot visual arts project featuring new and innovative site-specific works.  

MFA Exhibit