‘Tideland’: Studio Art Master of Fine Arts students celebrate creativity and creation

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A photo of one of Olivia Baldwin’s art pieces for her thesis. Her practice involves interweaving both sculpting and painting.  Image via    @bentonmuseumuconn

A photo of one of Olivia Baldwin’s art pieces for her thesis. Her practice involves interweaving both sculpting and painting. Image via @bentonmuseumuconn

The shift to virtual learning has caused the School of Fine Arts (SFA) to adapt their usual practices to the current circumstances, including the annual exhibition for students’ work moved to an online website. Normally housed in the William Benton Museum of Art at the end of the school year, the 2020 Thesis Exhibitions for graduating students in the Studio Art and Digital Media and Design (DMD) Master of Fine Arts (MFA) programs are now being presented on the museum’s website. Yesterday, I featured the DMD MFA candidates’ “Square One,” and today, I’ll be looking at the Studio Art MFA candidates’ “Tideland.”

“When artists find their passion, and pursue it relentlessly, delving deeply in an unknown, the creative spirit is challenged and invigorated,” Judith Thorpe, art professor and MFA program director, said as she offered her congratulations in the exhibition’s description. The MFA Studio Art graduating class that have contributed to “Tideland” include Olivia Baldwin, Elizabeth Ellenwood, Shadia Heenan Nilforoush and Chad Uehlein. “With this exhibition, we see the culmination of an exhaustive dedication to the studio by these young artists. We see their explorations and visual inquiries, and from them we learn more about our world.”

Combining painting and sculpture, Baldwin utilizes various mediums, like acrylic paint and colored pencil, for the colorful pieces featured in her installation

“Anchored in abstraction, my paintings dialogue with the body,” Baldwin’s artist statement reads. The patterned and draped canvases were created with “dipping, tearing, cutting, rubbing,” with natural gestures apparent in her work. The sculptures presented, created with plaster and polystyrene, are reminiscent of colorful meteorites. “Recurring shapes pool into one another; marks echo across the work, coaxing language … sensation presses forward.”

Ellenwood brings attention to the issue of climate change with “Fading Reefs,” a series of anthotypes of the titular subject. The images were created using materials from plants like blackberries and red cabbage, depicting a somber view of the ocean’s plant life.

“Beach walks act as anchor and inspiration, offering me space to question, think and create,” Ellenwood says in her artist statement, describing how her work combines a respect for the ocean with “research-driven photography” to promote environmental awareness. Her exhibit also includes over 40 photos to represent her sand and plastic collection, showing the pollution present in the world’s beaches. “Each work is distinct in process and intent yet my need to be by the water remains constant.”

Ellenwood’s photography features unique production techniques that are inspired by nature.

“Whether depicting marine debris, bleached coral reefs or cephalopod defense mechanisms, I choose specific photographic techniques to complement my subject matter,” Ellenwood’s statement says. Over 240 cyanotype prints, the blue from the process reminiscent of Ellenwood’s subject, are compiled for her Nov. 3, 2018 collection, with selected specimens such as a green lighter and water bottle, shown. Books of field notes are also included on her exhibit’s page.

With photo, video, performance and installation, Nilfourish explores her personal identity and history in her work, which includes “Mother of Blueness,” an experimental short film.

“My work considers how identities are formed and performed through multiculturalism, religion, geography, gender, sexualtity and the residue of trauma,” Nilfourish says in her artist statement. Selected stills from her film and archival pigment print round out her exhibit, which seeks to “reconcile adaptive and evolving identities.” “Mother of Blueness” features a series of abstract and eccentric images for the viewer to explore.

Already eye-catching through the photos on his exhibit’s page, Uehlein’s mixed-media installation is only one part of his multidisciplinary work that includes performance videos, inked prints of birds and a “codex of clovers.”

“My work embraces the do-it-yourself mentality as a starting point to devising solutions of opportunity,” Uehlein says in his artist statement, citing his creation of mechanisms, such as his “Nest Cam” that serves as the subject of one of his performance videos and his codex that is composed of glue bound glassine envelopes with individually pressed clovers. “I see the endeavor to overcome obstacles as optimistic, searching for every resource available in desperation to win. I build tools to increase the chance for success … There’s hope in being in the right place at the right time, feeling your day move from bad to good, spirits uplifted, ready to take on the world.”

Monica Bock, art professor in charge of the MFA project seminars, also offered her congratulations to the graduating class on the “Tideland” introduction page.

“Olivia Baldwin, Elizabeth Ellenwood, Shadia Heenan and Chad Uehlein have mastered the challenges of an intensive multidisciplinary visual arts graduate program,” Bock said. “With Tideland they share the culmination of three years’ creative investigation and collaboration.”

Related Content:

‘Square One’: Digital Media and Design Master of Fine Arts students explore culture, identity and fantasy

School of Fine Arts Still Flourishing: How departments have been adjusting


Hollie Lao is a staff writer and the social media manager for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at hollianne.lao@uconn.edu.

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