Facebook, Twitter and other social media sites affect our everyday lives, such as tracking our every wall post to a friend, flirty chat with a new fling or picture from last weekend’s party. But can such a technological medium influence art?
Friday, seven graduating Master of Fine Arts (MFA) candidates will be displaying their thesis projects, offering a multitude of responses to the general question: How are young artists responding to the changing environment for art in the technological age of social media?
The exhibit features a wide range of artistic mediums, including three painters Mathew Zefeldt, Matthew Taylor and Manuel Fernando Rios; two elaborate video and media art projects Jen Cohen and Benjamin Rosenthal; and two sculpturers Lisa Rybovich Crallé and Paul Taylor.
The exhibit is being called “The House of Others” – a title which Renny Pritikin, director of the Nelson Gallery and curator of the exhibit, believes reflects the feeling of his young students as they transition to the real world.
“The title is meant to intrigue people and encourage them to check it out,” Pritikin said. “I think sometimes all students feel like they’re living in someone else’s reality – whether their parents’ reality or their teachers’ – and during the course of school they have to learn to move out of their inherited world and build a new house to live in for themselves, that they make themselves.
Certain artists, including sculptor Cralle, crafted their work specifically around the issue of technology in a contemporary society – the effects of which her sculptures are meant to represent.
“The sculptures in this environment function like props on a stage that the viewer is expected to enter,” Cralle said. “Most of the sculptures reference the body or costume as a surrogate for the body in a blatantly theatrical way with oversized cartoon-ish simplifications and exaggerated forms. These theatrical references to the body are a means to address the day-to-day staging and costuming that we partake in on social networking sites.”
Cralle especially applies this idea of staging to how we function and display ourselves on Facebook.
“I am interested in the natural construction of persona that we partake in daily,” Cralle said. “For instance, how we stage our Facebook identities to portray us as well-read, clever, good-looking – someone who goes to interesting events, etc. The photographs we choose to display of ourselves online also give an impression of our often-idealized life and lifestyle. Increasingly, we use the language of advertising, product-placement in particular, as a means to present ourselves to the world.”?
Despite the amount of technological influence that went into the thought-process of her work, Cralle said the effects are so subtle that most viewers won’t even know her work is about internet at all.
Much of this subtlety can be found in the exhibit. For instance, painter Zefeldt claims that, although his work is not directly about social media, it is surely influenced by it.
“Painting is a very old medium, you have to contend with a whole lot besides today’s technological advances, but at the same time you are aware of things that are shaping the world today. I feel like I have to balance the two, something very old and something very new,” he said.
Zefeldt also feels that the technological world has made painting an even more obscure medium for people, a fact that excites him.
“Painting is like sculpture, it’s a physical object that a person walks up to and has a relationship to,” Zefeldt said. “The more time people spend in front of monitors, the more weird the painting and the physicality of it”.
Viewers of the gallery can exhibit bright acrylic paintings from Zefeldt, who also utilized hard edge odd-perspectives.
Pritikin believes that the exhibit could be a fantastic educational experience for students who often have their noses in their books.
“Most students have a natural tendency to focus in on their studies,” Pritikin said. “This is admirable, of course, but it also runs counter to the intentions of a liberal arts education, which is meant to broaden one’s awareness of the world. Seeing the work of these talented seven grad students is guaranteed to open one’s eyes to how the arts is responding to today’s world.”
“The House of Others” exhibit opens on Friday with a reception from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. and will continue to run through June 24.
ANNETA KONSTANTINIDES can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.