MFA students’ “Shameless Self-Promotion” on view at the University Gallery

By Lisa Linsley

“Shameless Self Promotion” is currently on view at the University Gallery in the Fine Arts Center. It consists of artworks of Polaroid dimensions by UMass MFA students in response to Andy Warhol’s exhibit “The Minox and The Big Shot: Andy Warhol’s Photography.” “Shameless Self Promotion” is described as an opportunity for MFA students to engage in artistic dialogue with Warhol’s art. The title might lead one to expect the artworks in the exhibit would look similar to Andy Warhol’s famous photography. One might also expect to walk into the Fine Arts Center and see remakes of the brillo pad pieces or Cambell’s Soup cans. However, none of these images appear in the exhibit. Rather than representing mere imitations of Warhol’s famous pieces, “Shameless Self Promotion” works to create a conversation connecting the MFA students’ original work with that of Warhol.

The Polaroid sized pieces of the 15 MFA students: Katie Baker, Courtney Cullen, Michelle Dickson, Ryan Feeney, Joshua Field, Kerry O’Grady, Michele Lauriat, Chun-Tso Lin, Camila Molestina, Sarah Purnell, Hannah Richards, Chad Seelig, Karla Stingerstein, Jieun Shin, and Steve Snell each use different media, subjects, and color schemes. While Warhol is most noted for creating pieces of items, products, or people our culture has seen before, many of the MFA artists utilize various mediums to create images we have never seen. Jieun Shin’s piece titled “Proxy” is a watercolor on paper with grey shadow-like lines. Hannah Richards’s untitled piece is comprised of Elmer’s glue. The piece contains loops of glue that unintentionally resemble plastic canned soda rings.

Several pieces do resemble life-like objects or people. Surprisingly, one of the most beautiful photographs in the exhibit was taken on an iPhone. Ryan Feeney’s piece consists of a beautiful image of a windshield and dashboard of a car while driving on a highway with the forest and sun rising in the distance. Another piece that uses interesting media is Camila Molestina’s “The Stutter.” The piece consists of a blurred still image of white roses with music notes on a ribbon-like form resembling a tape measure. Steve Snell’s piece is a photograph of an adolescent boy in hunting gear. He has a flannel shirt, a fake long brown beard, and a raccoon tail hat on his head. Although using bright colors, Courtney Cullen’s piece titled, “Oh, How Cute” features bright colors made out of newspaper. The subject is a female head with eyes and mouth closed. She has a bright head-wrap on her head with pink, yellow, green, and blue blotches.

Other artists use mixed media to create extremely abstract pieces. One such artwork is Michelle Lauriat’s  “Phil’s Hill.” The piece comprises simply blue and green dyed and ripped tissue paper, however, the paper pieces don’t constitute a recognizable object. Similarly, much of Michelle Dickson’s “To Stop Past It” is made of glue, or some such similar product smudged across embroidered cement.

The only artist who clearly draws on Warhol’s work as a direct inspiration is Karla Stingerstein. “If These Walls Could Talk” features a photopolymer print in an acrylic medium. The bottom of the piece has lips, similar to the famous lips seen in Warhol’s “Marilyn” series. The lips are more abstracted and it is clear that Warhol’s work only provides inspiration and the work is not a deliberate recreation of any of the “Marilyn” pieces.

Participating artist Chun-Tso Lin says in the event advertisement, “Art needs an artist, a gallery, and viewer in order to be ‘art.’ You as the viewer are invited to come and be part of the ‘art making.’ Let us be known; let us be seen, and let us shine.” “Shameless Self-Promotion” is said to not just be a response exhibition, but a conceptual art project that will be performed by the gallery, artist, and viewer, connecting the three through art. Lin says “We might not be seen from Warhol’s eyes; we might not be rich and famous; but what we can be are artists that enjoy Warhol’s legacy.”

Shameless Self Promotion will be on view in the University Gallery of the Fine Arts Center until Sunday, Dec. 13, 2009.

Lisa Linsley can be reached at [email protected]