MFA student exhibition hosts opening reception

Ethan Lauesen holding “The Act of Turning: Rotation” by Max Bartsch. Max has stated that this specific artwork was meant to represent “something that can’t be viewed without turning or rotating it,” as opposed to tradition paintings.

In the Fine Arts building a crowd gathered in the gallery for the opening reception of the Master of Fine Arts Student Exhibition Thursday, Jan. 25.

Once a year the graduate students in the art department collaborate to put on a show that displays art the students have been working on.

Carol Hoefler, the administrative assistant of the art department, says that the show gives students an opportunity to share what they have been working on while in the program with the public.

“It’s fun to watch the progress that some of these students make because you can tell some of the students are close to the end of their program while some are just at the start,” said Hoefler.

Eugene Cole (right) views “Borealis” by Indi Walter among other students at the exhibit that was hosted on Jan. 25.

A total of 10 artists make up the show with work ranging from digital media to photography, ceramics, bone carvings, weaving, and painting. But with there being such a wide variety of art and styles presented in the show, setting up the event itself can come with some difficulty.

Indi Walter’s “Borealis” (left) and “Aluminum Wolf Skull” (right) on display at the MFA Student Exhibition. One reason that draws Walter to using bone in her work is because its biodegradable.

The process of readying a gallery for a show is not always simple. Second year MFA student Max Bartsch described it as being similar to piecing together a puzzle, while gesturing to the opposite wall. Hanging on the wall is a body of work by photographer JR Ancheta. Above the photographs hangs art by Theresa Woldstad.

“We have this line here of JR’s birds of prey, and then we have Theresa’s pieces above that,” said Bartsch. “That’s not like an intentional decision, but then when we look at everything together it kind of becomes really obvious that those go really well together, and it kind of becomes its own pairing of ideas and pairing of different pieces.”

The art on display in the gallery can make coordination difficult between varying bodies of work due to the wide range of uniqueness presented. It can make or break the experience for visitors without a logical aesthetic flow in the gallery.

The artists in the MFA program come from different backgrounds and experiences prior to arriving at UAF. Originally from upstate New York, Bartsch received his BFA in Ohio before coming to Fairbanks.

Bartsch typically produces large paintings with different shapes and materials. The color palette may sometimes vary, but Bartsch tends to gravitate toward a few specific colors, such as pink and yellow, that then reoccur throughout his art.

Onlookers in the gallery view paintings on the backwall of the exhibition. Fine arts graduate students hung their own paintings at the exhibit.

Bartsch said that he both did and did not have a planning process and that he treats his art as an improvisational laboratory.

“I’ve done a lot of performance work, and people always ask with the performance work if I change my work to make it more entertaining, and not really,” said Bartsch. “The way that I kind of work I’m kind of tearing things up. I’ve got, like, these screen print pages. I’ve got like 30 sheets of that just laid out, you know. If a painting needs a spot of that, I just cut that out and stick it over there.”

Bartsch explained the process that goes into his paintings tends to involve the use of acrylic gel and finding textures and gluing surfaces together.

The style of Bartsch’s paintings drastically differ from art by Theresa Woldstad. Set on a pedestal near Bartsch’s work is a case of glass Coca-Cola bottles. Weaves of red and yellow cedar bark wrap the bottom of an empty bottle. It’s titled “Native Pop Culture.”

Yarn and cedar bark are woven around Coca-Cola bottles for the “Native Pop Art” display. The piece acts as a statement against cultural re-appropriation of Alaska Natives.

Woldstad was born in Kodiak and practices traditional weaving. “Native Pop Art” is an example of Tlingit style weaving where the weaving is done from the bottom-up. Woldstad said the shape of the bottles presented a challenge when trying to weave around the curvatures of the glass.

When asked about the inspiration behind the piece, Woldstad described it as a representation of re-appropriation in Native pop culture and food culture.

“[Food culture] is very diverse but a lot of the aspects of food incorporates pilot bread,” said Woldstad, “which you buy at Fred Meyer or sodas as well you buy from a store and you eventually use it as a supplement to traditional foods like salmon and other aspects.”

Along the front wall is a long table. On it is food for the reception, including home-smoked coho and sockeye salmon dip that Woldstad had provided. Guests dig in as they peruse the gallery space. Among them is Agnes Lawson, a digital art student.

Lawson was viewing Ancheta’s photography when asked what had drawn her to the gallery.

“I know a lot of the artists as friends through different classes, so I was excited to see what they had been working on over the last semester,” said Lawson.

One of Lawsons favorite pieces included the denim mugs by ceramicist Wendy Connelley. Lawson had met Connelley in an art class prior to the Spring semester.

Every few weeks throughout the semester, the gallery will host exhibitions for future BFA and MFA students as a part of the students’ final thesis project. The MFA Student Exhibition will be on display through Feb. 9.

Indi Walter’s “Borealis” (left) and “Aluminum Wolf Skull” (right) on display at the MFA Student Exhibition. One reason that draws Walter to using bone in her work is because it’s biodegradable.

For more information on future exhibitions visit, or like their Facebook page at UAF Art Department.

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