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The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman


    Seriously… Art at Stony Brook

    For as long as there has been human life there has been art. From cave drawings to the pyramids, the Renaissance to Impressionism, artists have created visual images of their ideas and the ideas of the world around them. Artists have been revered for their visionary genius and persecuted for their dangerous beliefs. However, there is no clear definition for what makes someone an artist. Whether it is the ability to paint, or the way in which one views the world, it is clear that artists are found everywhere. Here at Stony Brook, we have some of our own. There are artists here who acknowledge the playfulness of art; however, they take themselves, and their work, very seriously.

    This year’s “MFA Thesis Exhibition” includes photographs, paintings, drawings, and mixed media and electronic installations by Austin Furtak-Cole, Alan Goodrich, Shannan Lee Hayes, Jin-kang Park, Ver’oacute;nica Pe’ntilde;a, and Nalani L. Williams.

    These six artists are degree candidates in the Stony Brook University Department of Art’s Master of Fine Arts program. This program is currently in its twenty-fourth year, and attracts its talented artists from all over the United States, Latin America, Europe and Asia. The program focuses on contact between not only professors and artists within the Art department, but also encourages interaction with other university departments, in order to create a more well rounded and diverse individual. This thesis exhibition is the culmination of three years of this immersion and interaction.

    A reception honoring the artists was held on Saturday, Feb. 14. They experienced a successful turn out of well over 300 people. I was lucky enough to meet the artists and experience their exhibitions firsthand. Each artist brings something different and exciting to the table.

    Situated on the floor near the entrance is a compass by Jin-kang Park. Called “The Compass of Desire” (2006), it is made of fabric collected from family and friends. Around the edge of the compass are different phrases, such as “Good Person” and “Good Artist.” With these, Park explores the possibility of being many things at once. She is interested in “human networks, interactive art and the strangeness which is hard to explain with language.”

    Indeed language cannot begin to explain Ver’oacute;nica Pe’ntilde;a’s performance installation, “Each Time I see Tables” (2009). Her installation protrudes into the gallery space in a seemingly chaotic fashion. Her performance, coupled with her charcoal drawing “In My Bedroom” (2009), evoke emotion and allow the viewer a glimpse into the soul of the artist.

    This glimpse continues with Shannan Lee Hayes’ “Pocket Pal” piece. There is pain, anger, anxiety, compassion, jealousy, and love. Hayes’ work has focused “on the relationship between language and emotion in the cultural surface of social exchange.”

    Her individual show at the library gallery in September featured a neon sign with the words, “Everything Will Be Okay.” Currently on display in the University Art Gallery is an acrylic and papier-mch’eacute; collection of roses and her “Pocket Pal” piece, which deals with rationalization and empathy. A work in progress of ways to cope with life. Looking at her work, I cannot help but feel as if the artist has reached into my own head, and drawn out my deepest feelings for the world to see. With this interaction, the viewer can truly identify with the artist’s work.

    Interaction within oneself and society is indeed a driving theme of the exhibition. The four paintings on display by Austin Furtak-Cole are but a small sample of his work, however, they successfully “explore the conflicts that inevitably occur within our interactive human experience.”

    As an artist, he deals with such themes as the relationships between people and within the individual, while exploring how paint can be used to reach the viewer. “Cradled,” “Idle Hands,” “Restless,” and “Tough Love” were popular topics of conversation throughout the reception and definitely worth a look. While the paintings themselves may seem abstract, the abstraction created by the artist aptly expresses the “uncertainty of life.”

    Abstraction of some kind or another is often inevitable in art. Nalani L. Williams’ installation focuses on the use of space in the gallery, “turning the gallery itself into an organic body that is raw, wounded or decaying.” Her “Welcome” (2008) is a highlighted space which begins as a brand new stretch of white wall and eventually dissolves into a gaping hole. There are often arguments asking what makes something a work of art. Williams’ work is not a conventional painting or sculpture, however it is still an artistic manipulation of space, a vision forced into being.

    So what makes an artist? Alan Goodrich describes the artist as “one with a God complex.” Perhaps this is true in a sense. An artist is a creator of ideas and images. Two of the most popular exhibitions of the evening were Goodrich’s video installations. “That’s Entertainment” (2008) and “The Obscure Object of Desire” (2008) are multimedia works that combine images and sound. His works focus on the ways in which “modern forms of mysticism rely on speed and collision” to achieve “self (and hence universal) understanding.” It is fascinating to watch modern media manipulated in the space of a gallery.

    The 2009 MFA Thesis Exhibition is running until Saturday, Feb. 28. University Art Gallery hours are Tuesday through Friday, from noon to 4 p.m., and Saturday, from 7 to 9 p.m. Admission is free, so take the time to enjoy the artwork of Stony Brook’s own.

    You can also visit the artists’ individual websites:,,, and For further information, please call the University Art Gallery at 631-632-7240.

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