Cody Skinner, Contributing Photographer

Between the lines of Martinican writer and politician, Aimé Césaire’s 1955 poem, “Le verbe mâronner,” is a story about the urgency for artistic experimentation — and through experimentation, liberation from societal rules and the status quo. It’s from this poem that the Yale School of Art Painting/Printmaking MFA Thesis exhibition borrowed its title, connecting both works to the artistic ambition of freedom.

Titled “and the forms which linger / humming in our ears,” the thesis exhibit held a public general reception on Jan. 26 in the School of Art’s Green Hall Gallery. While Green Hall’s exhibit spaces are not usually open to non-Yale-affiliated people, the public reception gave all viewers the opportunity to engage with the displayed art and to speak with the artists involved.

“We try to have an overarching theme that we all resonate with,” said Michael Cuadrado Gonzales MFA ’24, an artist with four pieces in the show, about the exhibit’s curation.

Many of the works, which took months to bring to life, were created specifically for the exhibit. Alongside the umbrella themes of perspective and nontraditional form, Cuadrado Gonzales mentioned that the show’s artists also incorporated their own individual themes into their work. 

Junyan Hu and Orlando Porras, Graphic Design MFAs ’24, worked on the exhibition identity, ensuring that the visual elements outside the showroom complemented the works and their themes inside.

The painting and printmaking MFA theses are divided into two parts, or “phases,” each having its own gallery showing and thematic overtone. This first phase was on display from Jan. 20 to Jan. 30 and contains work from Creighton Baxter, Zoe Ann Cardinal Cire, Earthen Clay, Haleigh Collins, Michael Cuadrado Gonzalez, Irisol Gonzalez-Vega, Eloise Hess, Mei Kazama, Mike Picos, Nadir Souirgi, and V Yeh — all MFA ’24.

While united in their approaches to broadly similar subject matter, each artist brought perspectives that came from their own experiences in the MFA program. The piece “Tenderness of Untruth,” from Cuadrado Gonzales, for example, is an abstract wood wall installation sculpture, upon which there are prints of doors. The doors hang in the liminal spaces between the existing and non-existing within the overall composition.

Baxter spoke about how the works on display reflected various aspects of the viewer-work relationship, including orientation, appearances and “the mediation between thought and object.”

“Hiss the name,” Baxter’s contribution to the collection, is a large interior with her drawings and prints plastered on the wall and various objects strewn along the ground to draw the viewer through their own created story.

“I think there are multiple fragments of a story within the structure of the installation,” Baxter said. “So I think it’s actually more about narrative itself than a specific narrative. I’m more thinking about how linear narrative structure is not a thing that is really possible. There’s always something that upends the appearance.” 

Other pieces on display also encouraged the viewer to interact with the creation of their meaning. Yeh, for example, presented “Introduction (Nothing heard, nothing said / We’re hand in hand, chest to chest, and now we’re face to face / You got me tossing and turning, can’t sleep at night)” in the form of three vertical paintings — beside which was a ballot box that invited viewers to submit answers to questions. 

Among the questions asked include “Please rate your current pain” and “Please describe what is and is not familiar.”

Yeh said about the work: “Overall, my exhibition is a lot about states of transition and transience.” The accompanying paintings included an abstract portrayal of several faces and bodies caught in a whirlwind of blue, red and purple lines, a cadaver which was painted from life at Yale’s anatomy lab, located in the Anlyan Center, and a resting doctor. cq

Each year, the MFA program hires curators to visit the artists and help organize the show. Kari Rittenbach, Assistant Curator at MoMa PS1, and Sophy Naess, lecturer and senior critic in painting/printmaking, worked with the MFA artists to decide on where to display each art piece in relation to each other.

The effect of artwork placement was pronounced to those walking through the gallery. 

The space’s first room contained sculptures from Clay, which experimented with the relationships between materials like metal, plastic and fabric to produce various textures and spatial orientations. His piece “Untitled,” included a constructed wireframe box held up in the air against the wall and pipes on the ceiling.

Through an array of hand-crocheted flowers, Gonzalez-Vega’s “Flor de 7 Colores in Mami’s Garden creates a feeling of immortalization of her roots and culture alongside a blooming tulle spiral flowing from the exhibition floor. The piece brings attention to the natural, organic process that went into hand-making the flowers. 

The rest of the exhibition similarly embodied a subversion of the traditional.

“I’m thinking about perception, how to disorient perception,” Cuadrado Gonzalez said. “Thinking about broadly queerness. I’m thinking about race, sexuality, all those things. How architecture and perception can take away from these ideas of gender and race and how disorientation functions as a tool to counteract patriarchal neoliberal white systems.” 

The second group of artwork for the MFA thesis show will be on display from Feb. 7 through Feb. 17, with a public reception on Feb. 9.

Cody Skinner covers art exhibitions, performances, and fashion. Born in Atlanta, Georgia, he is a first-year in Franklin College majoring in computer science.