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MFA Illustration as Visual Essay: Selections from Thesis Projects

April 27 @ 8:00 am - May 28 @ 5:00 pm


School of Visual Arts (SVA) presents “Selections from Thesis Projects,” an exhibition from the MFA Illustration as Visual Essay class of 2021. Curated by David Sandlin, thesis coordinator, the exhibition will be on view from Saturday, April 24, through Saturday, May 15, at galleries.sva.edu.

In a time of unprecedented challenges, the MFA Illustration as Visual Essay class of 2021 has achieved amazing things. The members of this unique cohort have responded to social and academic isolation and personal hardships with a brilliant burst of ambition and originality, creating spectacular paintings, drawings, prints, graphic novels, children’s books and illustrated memoirs.

Ironically, the COVID-19 pandemic has offered rare uninterrupted time for these natural storytellers to observe and reflect on current events, examine issues like social media’s overarching influence on individuals and popular culture, and take deep dives into personal memoir and revelation. Each artist has capitalized on the past year’s restrictions to focus on a body of intensely personal work. Here are some samples:

Oliver Allison’s enigmatic series of meticulously rendered ink and watercolor drawings, reminiscent of William Blake’s, are based on the Book of Isaiah’s “songs of the suffering servant” in the Hebrew Bible.

Flora (Ruojun) Bai examines contemporary social-media anxiety with a series of vividly colored line drawings. She augments the self-portraits with a life-size figure with a mirrored face to represent herself as she attempts to fit in with others’ preconceptions and expectations.

Yichin Chen has fashioned a lyrical and provocative faux catalog of beauty items that question the ideals of feminine allure propounded by social-network influencers.

Emilia (Wei Yun) Chin has created an updated Land of Cockaigne in her brightly hued series of drawings, filled with fantastical snacks and the whimsical creatures that enjoy them.

Abanti Deb Chowdury uses atmospheric colors and textures to set a somber tone for her series of drawings recounting the effects of her father’s death on the family.

Karlotta Frier’s ambitious, exquisitely wrought graphic novel vividly recounts the tedium of daily life and emotional perils of a refugee family traveling through the bleak yet beautiful landscapes of a climate-besieged dystopia.

In Taarika Ravi John’s elegantly illustrated bildungsroman, a mutual love of the lyrics of Bob Dylan creates an indelible bond between an Indian father and daughter that transcends distance and culture.

In a witty sendup of dating sites, Carly Larsson has created a series of journalistic line drawings mocking Tinder profiles.

The pandemic has provided inspiration for Sarah K. Meyer’s graphic novel of horror and paranoia, depicting a woman’s spiral into alcohol abuse and mental illness. A misbehaving doppelganger and an unreliable boyfriend add to the angst. Is she really the crazy one here?

Carles Garcia O’Dowd exploits his immense talent as a draftsman as he builds a world of gigantic zaftig goddesses dominating hordes of mindless consumers of selfie culture and indiscriminate likes in this critique of influencer privilege.

A Proustian mix of food and memory suffuses Sanika Phawde’s visual biography of a food stylist and her epic epicurean journey through life.

John Rego’s modern-day interpretations of medieval tapestry hunting scenes are exquisitely painted in a surreal and hilarious style that’s a cross between Northern Renaissance painting and National Lampoon covers.

In the subversive tradition of Roald Dahl, Millie von Platen has created an instant classic with her sly morality tale of a cheeky trickster banana who refuses to learn from his pranks.

In her delightfully illustrated children’s story, Simiao Wang tells the tale of a young astronaut and the mysterious and very cute monster that changes her life.

Paul Michael Wright has embarked on a poignant series of light-suffused oil paintings describing his and his brothers’ carefree and love-filled childhood in New Orleans, along with intimations of tragedy to come.

In her finely detailed, large-scale drawings, Nadia (Yincao) Xu critiques traditional societal control using S&M images as a metaphor. Bound and pierced bodies tattooed with subversive slogans force the examination of patriarchal power dynamics.

In his beautifully inked and dramatically paced graphic novel, Zhilan Yang contrasts the dramatic life of mythic dragon hunters with the dronelike existence of contemporary counterparts whose searches are undertaken entirely online.

In a swirling fantasy of light, line and shimmering color, Danlin Zhang retells the classic Buddhist tale of a selfless nine-colored deer.

The beautifully crafted and richly colored drawings of Jiubi (Qinyu) Zheng tell the story of Chinese history through exquisite objects from antiquity and her reimagining of their romantic, sometimes poignant, backstories.


April 27 @ 8:00 am
May 28 @ 5:00 pm
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