Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

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October 4, 2022

‘All Else’: Studio art graduate students showcase work in final exhibit before receiving MFA

Analise Pickerrell
Sculptures by Irene June and oil paintings by McKenzie Drake are on display in UT’s Visual Arts Center on Thursday. The pieces are part of the 2024 Studio Art MFA Thesis Exhibition.

The culmination of two years of unobstructed artistic investment, six graduate  students prepare for their final exhibition before receiving their Master of Fine Arts degrees.

“All Else,” the 2024 Studio Art MFA Thesis Exhibition, combines the artwork of graduate students Rosie Clements, McKenzie Drake, Ariana Gomez, Irene June, Colleen Blackard and Jacob Mattingly. The exhibit opens Friday at UT’s Visual Arts Center and runs until May 11. The gallery showcases a wide variety of creative styles and mediums including dynamic, uniquely-textured sculptural work, photography-based experimental models and landscape-based, abstractionist oil paintings.

“We all have very unique styles, very different approaches and we’re thinking about different themes,” said Clements, a photographer who tests the relationship between digital images and material expression through creative printing and installation techniques. “‘All Else’ was something that I felt could be a beginning or an end. It’s the end of our MFA, but now it’s the beginning of whatever we do after this.”

Drawing on a broad range of ideas such as influences on identity, ancestral homes and the natural world, the students highlighted themes as diverse as the mediums they expressed them through. However, Drake, who explores themes about the nature of change through painting abstract, geometric planes of color, said she finds connections across the cohort’s art.

“We’ve pushed ourselves to be really vulnerable about our own thinking and how we describe ourselves in the work,” Drake said. “That’s been a really big connecting theme … trying not to hide yourself behind (the art).” 

June, a sculpture artist with a focus on exploring themes about his Taiwanese heritage, grief and spiritual practice, said pursuing an MFA felt like a natural course of action due to his deep passion and drive to create. 

“I can’t see myself doing anything else,” June said. “Maybe it’s like a life calling or something.”

Clements said her curiosity to see where her art could go with external support and resources drove her decision to get an MFA.

“I’ve had a lot of help to push (my art) in different directions and see what could come out of it,” Clements said. “To have the time and space to be able to focus on making the weird stuff you like to make is a massive privilege.”

Drake said it is the job of the artist to change and that her art thrives in a state of transition. Her time in the program allowed her to explore different mediums and creative methods to fuel her practice.

“(This exhibit) is a culmination of a lot of experiments and pushing myself to make things that feel completely different — adjacent, but different — from the work that I was making before,” Drake said. 

Clements said she is grateful for the creative and personal growth of herself and her fellow graduate students as this chapter closes and the next one begins. 

“Getting an MFA is not easy,” Clements said. “We’ve all worked so hard and put in so much effort, time and vulnerability. I’m just proud of all of us.”

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