2020 Alumni Exhibition

The 2020 alumni exhibition, Long Hello, was curated by Carter Foster and assistant professor, adj., Evan Gruzis and occurred August 8 through August 29, 2020 at the Green Gallery in Milwaukee, WI. 


Curatorial Statement:

 How does an early-career artist introduce themselves in a socially distanced world? This was the question that hung over our thinking in selecting the diverse set of works for this exhibition.  Intimacy’s new regard in 2020 is both sensitive and tension filled. We both laugh and are upset by new rules that govern how our bodies move and are perceived in a present day that is filled with a yearning for a future free of protective gear and cultural division.  

To be alone in a studio carries a strange new tenderness as we are more and more compelled and compromised by our own solitude. Thus semi-figures, spatial geometries, and nervous humor trace a giddy through-line through this disparate installation. Domestic objects have been rendered strange and glitching surfaces highlight our mediated visual connections. Vulnerability and longing are felt throughout the show by way of a wounded centaur bleeding, assemblages that hang in space with fragility, a teacup bisected by a handwritten letter, and human forms that are rendered anonymous or forlorn.  

The act of introduction in 2020 is riddled with delays and distances. New layers, both physical and virtual, wait to be removed. We want to embrace, but are resigned - for now - to a long hello. 

- Carter Foster and Evan Gruzis


MFA 2020 Alumni Featured:

Dabin Ahn (MFA 2020, BFA 2016)

Dabin Ahn is a Chicago-based artist with a primary focus on canvas paintings, sculptural objects, and installations. His recent projects reference the material history of the original object they imitate through various means of perceptual deceit. Trompe l’oeil, French for a “trick of the eye,” has become one of the key foundations of the presentation in his work. Ahn is also interested in intertwining elements of humor and the context of collectible artifacts. Ahn holds a BFA and MFA in painting from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. He has shown his work through solo shows, group exhibitions and art fairs both internationally and nationally and recently had a solo show at Chicago Manual Style, Chicago, IL.

Ahn was interviewed by Judith Mullen (MFA 2020, BFA)

Read the Full Interview Here

Jose R. Aponte Bernardy (MFA 2020, PBACC 2018)

Jose R. Aponte Bernardy was born and raised in Puerto Rico, with academic formation and work experiences in Puerto Rico, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Guatemala, United States, Spain, Cuba, Ireland and United Kingdom. His topics of interest are ephemerality, transcendence, Spanish literature, art, history and geopolitics. Most of his practice is in conversation with the experiences and topics studied through his personal history in a variety of schools and work experiences within the last thirty-five years of Bernardy's life. As an artist, he began his works with stained glass, woodwork and silver jewelry, but due to his itinerary lifestyle, Bernardy choose to stay with painting and drawing due to its flexibility at the time of moving from one city or country to another. This last medium has been more demanding due to the time that is required to master it. He is just beginning…

Aponte Bernardy was interviewed by Xujun Han (MFA 2020, PBACC 2018) 

Read the Full Interview Here

Cui, Decheng (MFA 2020, PBACC 2018)

Cui, Decheng (b.1990) is a conceptual artist whose works never limited to any artistic language, from traditional oil painting to animation and more. He obtained his two undergraduate diplomas, B.F.A in painting and B.A in Industrial Design (Science), in China in 2013. After graduation, he transferred his interest from traditional painting and design to contemporary art. He has been making contemporary art at an MFA program of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago since 2017. Decheng hasshown his work through solo and group exhibitions and art fairs in many countries. Decheng Cui, “The purpose of my work is to use it to fight fear from death. Since the demise of the flesh is inevitable, then I can only find ways to plant the fragments of my soul among human civilizations, to root it to console myself. Therefore, it is unimportant to me that what kind of art language I use, and it play a whole key role in my work that what kind of my concept, my soul, in it.”

Cui was interviewed by Sahand Heshmati Afshar (MFA 2020, PBACC 2018) 

Read the Full Interview Here

Nicole Doran (MFA 2020)

Nicole Doran's work investigates spiritual practices and systems of belief through a multitude of entry points within the trajectory of abstract painting. Whether researching ancient Celtic ceremonies, English witchcraft or modern science fiction fantasy, Doran designs a vibrant comfortable zone where the viewer can uncover fragments of cynicism and speculation. The painted, stained, and dyed surfaces are often adorned with ceramic elements and additional fiber embellishments rekindling craft techniques in pursuit of new and unfamiliar compositions.

Doran was interviewed by Christine Turner (MFA 2020, PBACC 2018) 

Read the Full Interview Here

Magda Dudziak (MFA 2020, BFA)

Magda Dudziak was born and raised in Poland and currently lives and works in Chicago,IL. She holds her MFA and BFA from SAIC Painting and Drawing Department and is a recipient of the Edward L. Ryerson Fellowship.  Dudziak has participated in several group exhibitions as well as two person shows through the US. Her recent body of work occupies a space between painting, drawing, object making and sculpture. Her subjects are often pulled from her immediate surroundings and her materials arrive from everyday life. Her works evolve without any preconceived ideas but rather through the process of solving, discovery and acts of serendipity.  Driven by curiosity she explores how materials and processes respond to chance operations and the unknown. Through abstraction Dudziak formalizes the coincidental and tries to emphasize the conscious process of composition that is behind seemingly random works.

Dudziak was interviewed by Linan Su (MFA 2020) 

Read the Full Interview Here

Cassidy Early (MFA 2020)

Cassidy Early is a nonbinary artist from Worcester, MA. Early received their BFA in Painting and Drawing from Boston University in 2016. Early's work considers autobiography, the landscape, and color.

Early was interviewed by Leasho Johnson (MFA 2020) 

Read the Full Interview Here

Liza Eilers (MFA 2020, PBACC 2018)

Liza Jo Eilers, despite popular belief, did not name herself after Lizzo, RZA or SZA but is rather just a nickname her brother gave back in the day that stuck. The spelling is suspect, so she will willfully answer to anything remotely close to Liza. Her work explores personal narratives and concepts of everyday experiences/objects through various mediums in an effort to connect through moments of pleasure and comic relief.  It is somewhere between seriously casual and casually serious. She has a hungry hand and curiosity for all things contradictory, snacks, being a woman, identity through things/objects, uncomfortable comfort, the everyday and humor.

Eilers was interviewed by Dominique Knowles (MFA 2020, BFA 2017) 

Read the Full Interview Here

Xujun Han (MFA 2020, PBACC 2018)

Xujun Han grew up in Beijing being influenced equally by Eastern culture and Western culture. The ethereal utopia described by the Chinese poem The Peach Blossom Spring, the Buddhist Paradise of the West, and the Biblical Garden of Eden has inspired her landscapes and their narrative connotations. Exploring a harmonious blend of the real world and the ideal world —as embodied in both Eastern and Western culture— through her painting and drawing, is at the core of her creative practice.

Han was interviewed by Jose R. Aponte Bernardy (MFA 2020, PBACC 2018) 

Read the Full Interview Here

Sahand Heshmati Afshar (MFA 2020, PBACC 2018)

Sahand Heshmati Afshar is a Chicago-based interdisciplinary artist from Tehran, Iran. Sahand was born in Bandar Abbas and then moved to Tehran. Sahand has graduated with Bachelor of Science degree in Pure Mathematics from Shahid Beheshti University, and Master of Fine Arts in Studio from the School of the Arts Institute of Chicago. Sahand had solo exhibitions and performance in 6018NORTH, Kolombeh, 2019, Azad Gallery, Sahand Bijeh [Kalam] Zanjani, 2017, Azad Art Gallery, Percussive Planes, 2016. He had performed in Chicago Cultural Center and Mana Contemporary, 2019, Links Hall, Nem Blood XII, in 2018. Sahand is a member of the Association of Iranian Painters (AIP) since 2018.

Heshmati Afshar was interviewed by Cui, Decheng (MFA 2020, PBACC 2018) 

Read the Full Interview Here

Leasho Johnson (MFA 2020)

Leasho Johnson (b.1984) is a visual artist working primarily in painting, collage, sculpture, and some digital medium. He was born in Montego-Bay but raised in Sheffield, a small town on the outskirts of Negril Jamaica. Johnson uses his experience growing up black, queer, and male to explore concepts around forming identity and the post-colonial condition. Johnson is inspired by Jamaican Dancehall street culture, psychological interiorities, gender politics, Caribbean mythology, and trauma. He uses cartooning as a mode of abstraction to blur the distinction of stereotype and representation, geography and memory, to reveal or hide western contentions with the black body. 

Johnson was interviewed by Cassidy Early (MFA 2020) 

Read the Full Interview Here

Dominique Knowles (MFA 2020, BFA 2017)

Dominique Knowles (Bahamian, b. 1996) lives and works in Chicago, IL. Knowles received both his MFA in Painting as a New Artist Society Award full scholar in 2020 as well as his BFA in 2017 from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Awards include the 2013 Dean’s List of Columbia College, the 2012 Collegiate Presidential Inauguration of Barack Obama, 2011 Global Young Leaders United Nations, 2011 S.F.H.J.A. Jr. Hunt Seat Medal Finals Champion and The Winter Equestrian Festival. Knowles is a current nominee of The Leslie Lohman Museum Artist Fellowship. Recent solo exhibitions are comprised of invitations by Soccer Club Club (Chicago, IL), Goldfinch Projects (Chicago, IL), The Green Gallery East (Milwaukee, WI), The National Art Gallery of The Bahamas (Nassau, Bahamas) and Popop Studios (Nassau, Bahamas). 

Knowles was interviewed by Liza Eilers (MFA 2020, PBACC 2018) 

Read the Full Interview Here

Youra Lee (MFA 2020, PBACC 2017)

Youra Lee (b.1990) is a Chicago-based artist. Youra received a B.F.A in painting at South Korea and moved to Chicago in 2016. And she recently graduated with her M.F.A in Painting and Drawing from school of the Art institute of Chicago. Her paintings are filled with analogous color relationships and wavering horizontal marks that imagine an impressionism derived from video tape distortion. Chronologies warp, and figures of the present are juxtaposed with those from the past in her painting. Her work has been exhibited internationally including Chicago and Seoul.

Lee was interviewed by Irene Wa. (MFA 2020, PBACC 2018) 

Read the Full Interview Here

Judith Mullen (MFA 2020, BFA)

Judith Mullen is a Chicago based visual artist working primarily in painting and sculpture. She holds her BFA and MFA from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago and she has shown her work nationally in solo and group shows. She is the recipient of an Illinois Arts Council Fellowship along with numerous scholarships, grants and awards. Her work can be found in both private and public collections.

Mullen was interviewed by Dabin Ahn (MFA 2020, BFA 2016)

Read the Full Interview Here

Ricardo Partida (MFA 2020)

Ricardo Partida is a painter whose work largely critiques and illuminates depictions of gender and desire in the Western Art Cannon. By using the visual language of figura serpeentina, his works create surrogacies of seduction that question conventional power structures. Through the use of surface treatments, mark making, and the quality of line attributed to Carol Ockman’s 1995 text ‘Retracing the Serpentine Line’, his work explores carnal desires through the push and pull of menace and allure. Born in Mexico City, Mexico and raised in the borderlands of South Texas, Partida’s work has been exhibited nationally including Texas, Chicago, and New York.

Partida was interviewed by Dabin Ahn (MFA 2020, BFA 2016)

Read the Full Interview Here

Yongxuan (April) Shao (MFA 2020, PBACC 2017)

Yongxuan (April) Shao (b.1990) is an artist  originally born and raised in China, and currently lives and works in Minneapolis. Her works have exhibited both in the U.S. and China.  Shao’s works are not only presented as the traditional paintings on canvas but also extended to the painting reliefs. The focus of her current practice is about depicting or recreate the distance sense that is caused by the individual’s bystander perspective. She picks the ordinary moments from her daily life and reproduces them on the various kinds of media. She is always trying to figure out her social-role and delineate the appearance surrounding the world by creating her works.

Shao was interviewed by B'Rael Thunder (MFA 2020) 

Read the Full Interview Here

Linan Su (MFA 2020)

Linan Su often contemplates her own situation with paintings. She has found that she was held in gaps: the gap between mainland China and Hong Kong, and the gap between her hometown, a newborn city composed mostly of immigrants, and herself, the first generation who actually called that place “home.” There is also the undeniable gap between Chinese and American cultures.  She is constantly under these push-and-pull forces.  Her paintings don’t usually point to a specific event.   She choose to hide from that exposure. To her, painting is a very loud media that can be heard from very far. However, when she is painting, it’s more like collecting pieces of a puzzle. She compress events from real life, languages, and experiences of herself and others to distort, destroy, and disguise them with a world of patterns. They are isolated, rootless, fragile, and almost photophobic.

Su was interviewed by Magda Dudziak (MFA 2020, BFA) 

Read the Full Interview Here

B'Rael Thunder (MFA 2020)

B'Rael Thunder is a painter, poet, dancer, curator, and educator from the South Side of Chicago. In his art and collaborations across platforms, one medium inspires another, forging connections across traditional boundaries through rhythm and dance. The organizing principle of the universe is essentially rhythm it is what connects his paintings, to poetry and dancing. Dance is the physical cultivation of the spirit through mental release and rhythmic processes.  Thunder uses rhythm to curate his multi-discipline performances and creative arts events.  He works for Illinois Humanities Envisioning Justice as a teaching artist, gear toward creating programming that is responsive to the school to prison pipeline, and the youth's experience with violence.

Thunder was interviewed by Yongxuan (April) Shao (MFA 2020, PBACC 2017) 

Read the Full Interview Here

Christine Turner (MFA 2020, PBACC 2018)

Christine Turner's investment in abstract painting comes from her embodied experience of abstracted vision. Growing up, she wore an eye patch and was legally blind in her left eye. This disruption to Turner's vision came in the form of overlapping perspectives, blurring, and blindspots leaving her investigating what’s missing and unaddressed in her viewing of the world. Making work in systems of ambiguated truth, disembodied memory, and distorted vision, Turner explores literal and metaphorical blindspots.

Turner was interviewed by Boru Sun (MFA 2020) 

Read the Full Interview Here

Irene Wa. (MFA 2020, PBACC 2018)

Irene Wa. (1991) is an interdisciplinary Mexican artist. She has a bachelor degree in Graphic Design and an M.F.A. in Painting and Drawing from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC). She has exhibited in various collective shows, and participated in social engaged projects in Mexico and abroad. Recently, Irene Wa. exhibited “Smell of awakening soil” , solo show at Goldfinch Gallery (Chicago), and she recently participated in the International Virtual performance Art in Karachi, Pakistan; presenting her last performance “Becoming the insect”.

Irene Wa. was interviewed by Youra Lee (MFA 2020, PBACC 2017) 

Read the Full Interview Here