Some first-year master of fine arts students have decided that they do not want to be called “masters” of fine arts — they want to be called, simply, students. They have jettisoned the title with their latest show, “No Masters,” which is on view until Dec. 10.
“No Masters” features the work of 32 first-year art students who were thrown into grad school in the midst of a pandemic. The Exhibition Identity Design — the moving image that dominates the exhibition’s website — was created by graphic design students Alvin Ashiatey ART ’22 and Mengjie Liu ART ’22, and shows a series of Yale master of fine arts certificates falling one on top of the other. Scrawled on each certificate in messy handwriting is the name of a first-year art student featured in the exhibition. Liu and Ashiatey changed the wording on the certificates to symbolize students’ wishes not to be called “masters.”
Members of the Yale community can sign up for 20-minute time slots to visit the show on Wednesdays and Fridays. The School of Art will also offer a virtual version of the exhibition in the coming weeks, using Google Street View and 3D renditions of the pieces. The show, according to Ashley Teamer ART ’22, is composed of pieces that reflect what first-year art students have been thinking about in the past months, and what they experienced during the pandemic.
“I feel like the whole show is a temperature check for where people are at right now,” Teamer said.
Alex Puz ART ’22 said his work featured in the exhibition — and many of the other pieces as well, he suspects — was largely inspired by a class that all first-year MFA students are required to take: “Critical Practice,” taught by School of Art Dean Marta Kuzma. Puz said the class deals with the idea of using art as an instrument to create social change.
Puz is showing two paintings in the exhibition: “Solar Catastrophe” and “Grid Failure.” “In general,” Puz said, “both are kind of about large-scale events — sort of a philosophical proposition.”
“Solar Catastrophe” examines what the sun’s inevitable expansion means for people and objects on earth, and whether it means a certain code of ethics should guide our behavior. “Grid Failure” looks into ways in which the grid — which refers to both our societal infrastructure and the power grid specifically — has failed our society.
“By representing a warped grid on my canvas, it’s sort of a reminder that there is no perfect way forward, and it’s going to continue to take negotiation and social effort for all of us to understand each other and build a better world,” Puz said. “I use the term emancipatory — what I mean is sort of fostering empathy and self-respect, and respect towards others.”
Teamer, who took up bird watching during the pandemic, said her new hobby greatly influenced her work for “No Masters.” Teamer’s piece features a rendition of the “Beauty of the Week” model in an old copy of Jet Magazine alongside a bluebird. Bluebirds are very rare in Teamer’s native New Orleans, but the birds abound in New Haven.
In Teamer’s piece, a pair of boxing gloves tick like a clock’s hands in a circle around the bluebird and model. To one side is glued a laser-cut $12 million bill — representative of the settlement that the city of Louisville paid to Breonna Taylor’s family after she was killed by police.
Teamer said she does not think viewers’ experiences have changed with new health and safety precautions, since MFA exhibition rooms are generally sparsely populated. Even with 20-minute time slots, Teamer said it is unlikely that different visitors book back-to-back slots, allowing most viewers more than their allotted 20 minutes with the works of art.
But another artist featured in the show, Brianna Bass ART ’22, is concerned about representations of her work in the School of Art’s virtual exhibition. Her works explore color and how color systems interact with each other.
“The paintings rely on how color is physically processed by the eye,” Bass said. “When the paintings are mediated through cameras and screens, a lot of subtle information is lost.”
Teamer is also saddened by the lack of “pomp and circumstance” that usually accompanies the opening of MFA exhibitions.
“The thing I miss the most,” said Teamer, “is the part where everyone can joyfully celebrate their accomplishments together.”
“No Masters” is showing in Green Hall at the Yale School of Art, located at 1156 Chapel St.
Correction, Dec. 2: A previous version of this article stated that the public could sign up for 20-minute time slots when in fact only members of the Yale community are allowed to visit the exhibition. The article has been changed to reflect this.
Annie Radillo | firstname.lastname@example.org