Secluded at the far north end of campus in a small building, the art department and gallery at California State University Northridge is almost an entity of its own.
Dark and practically abandoned during the summer, it is hard to register how much importance lies on this gallery featuring art pieces submitted by sixteen graduate students.
The Thesis Exhibition, just wrapped up its third year Saturday in the Main Gallery. It brought together the art department’s masters of arts and fine arts graduate candidates to present their thesis projects.
Since the works do not have a common theme and all pieces stand individually it is safe to say the show captures the vast diversity on campus at CSUN.
Artists from different backgrounds and experiences which make them unique as artists and add to their stories reached a finish line at the Thesis Exhibition, the visual component to their written thesis.
Christina Erives, master of arts in ceramics, used her medium to create a three-dimensional timeline of her life and her experience growing up with parents from a Mexican background. The timeline shows how she evolved as a person and became modernized with the American culture and society.
Erives feels that art is a perfect way to stay connected and in touch with her roots. In a sense, she said, her art represents all the hardships and personal battles she and her family have had to overcome to get where they are today.
“My pieces are of course inspired by my family and household experiences growing up, especially in the kitchen and through cuisine,” Erives said. “I incorporated a traditional dish such as tortillas, but there is more to it than meets the eye.”
Looking closely one of Erives’ ceramic pieces features hand-written recipes taken from old cookbooks written by her great grandmother. Embedding the recipes into her pieces was the perfect way to have these recipes last forever and pay respect to her great grandmother.
Embedded on one side are different spices and ingredients used to prepare traditional Mexican dishes. On the other side are logos from different Americanized Mexican restaurants, brands and shows. This all adds up to Erives’ idea that culture and tradition are fading with time as the more modern and acculturated ways are becoming more common.
While Erives pieces are very personal to her own experiences and family, other artists chose to focus on more social and political issues that the United States is facing.
Emily Wiseman, master of fine arts in painting, brings forth the themes of structure, safety and vulnerability against today’s very public society. Wiseman’s work incorporates ordinary items we use everyday such as paper towel dispensers and what resembles shower curtains, creating a visual commentary about voluntary exposure and acceptance of cultural authority.
“My work takes the ideas of safety and privacy to really question it, as well as everything around us,” Wiseman said. “With today’s society being so open and exposed via Google, Facebook and Twitter, we the public become vulnerable.”
Wiseman reflected on the early 1960’s and 1970’s when people were more able to take a step back and just observe, analyze, and question everything. It seems to Wiseman society today has lost that ability and has become robotic, believing and accepting every piece of information that is put out there.
Wiseman’s work stands out and makes you want to think twice before hitting that blue share button on Facebook again.
From private to public matters, the gallery features truly unique works of art and offers a feeling of intimacy. The show took viewers to a private place through the personal experiences and stories that were evident in all the pieces, individually and collectively.
“It is a completely different feeling due to it being a group show with submissions from all different types of artist, but somehow all the pieces have a nice dynamic,” said Sara Gordon, Graduate Student at CSUN who has been a student assistant for the show since its opening day.
The piece that hit closest to home for Gordon was a painting by Master of Arts student Arezoo Bharthania.
Bharthania, an Iran-American artist, documents the chronic and severe air pollution that the city of Tehran suffers. This was something that Gordon could understand and relate to her own personal life.
Gordon having lived in Cairo, Egypt and Shanghai, China, was able to directly understand the impact of pollution in both of these cities.
“The way that it is delivered is so unique up against the wall, and almost like a 3D model with buildings coming out, and the use of resin as a representation of the pollution makes it feel so real and authentic,” Gordon said.
Regardless of age, major, or ethno-cultural background, this show reminded us that CSUN students are all unique, but at the end of the day not so different from one another.
“This show is the end of the line for our Master of Arts and Fine Arts students, and it is something that is equally as important as their written thesis,” said Jim Sweeters, CSUN Art Gallery Director. “It is a nice way for all the artists’ work to come together, so that people can get recognized and get exposure amongst society.”