Visual Art Graduate Students put up American G*rl Exhibition

Gaku Tsutaja’s piece, “The Research Project of the National Museum of Parakeet History." Photo Credit: Elizabeth Colombini

by Elizabeth Colombini

The opening of the Annual MFA Group Exhibition, American G*rl, took place on Wednesday Nov. 29 at the Ross and Dolly Maass Gallery in the Visual Arts Building at SUNY Purchase.

The show consisted of first and second year Visual Art majors in the graduate degree program at SUNY Purchase. The exhibit is a culmination of a work these students completed over the course of a semester.

“A lot of times in this program, students are encouraged to experiment and do new things or try out multiple kinds of mediums,” Curatorial Manager of the gallery Eleanor King explained. “Some of the projects hang on walls, while others are set up throughout the room.”

Artist Gaku Tsutaja’s piece, which is part of a larger collection called “The Research Project of the National Museum of Parakeet History,” used the drawing of a white parakeet against a black canvas and then placed it into a black suitcase filled with stones. Tsutaja explained that each element represented a part of a story.

The use of the stones symbolized the earthquake that devastated Hiroshima in 2011. The parakeets and the suitcase represented immigration. “The parakeets are like immigrants because they came from Argentina to New York,” said Tsutaja. “They are not native species.” Tsutaja, who is originally from Japan explained that she enjoyed using animals in her work because, “They are universal. You don’t see race. You feel sympathetic if they die.”

Artist Kelsey Brod’s piece titled “In the Hot Seat” was a video that juxtaposed images of Ivanka Trump with images of 50’s designer and architect, Ray Eames. “I’ve always had this interest in the banality evil,” explained Brod. “I thought it would be this sort of humorous parallel to look at these modernist aesthetics that we all enjoy on Instagram or Pinterest or other social media and how that aesthetic has come from these modernists, and architects who design them to be these mass products that in the end became this luxury good that people like the Trumps also propagate.”

Michael Barraco, a Purchase alumnus who attended the exhibition watched Brod’s video.  “I thought it was an interesting comparison,” said Barraco. “Sometimes you felt sympathy towards them.” He pointed specifically to a part in the video where Ivanka Trump and Ray Eames are being pushed out of the frame whilst standing behind the powerful men in their lives, Donald Trump and Charles Eames. “This part right here,” said Barraco, “Whatever she is, she’s second fiddle.”

Another piece in the exhibition titled “Vessel (Portrait of the American Dream)” by artist Emily Culbertson, resembled the sitting area of a real estate office. It consisted of two chairs alongside a table which was set up with a functioning Keurig machine placed in the center of it. Displayed in the background were listings of homes for sale in the poorest areas of America. Not realizing that it was an installation in the gallery, some attendees made themselves comfortable in the chairs or brewed some coffee. “I’m really impressed by it,” said White Plains resident Fadi Hajal while examining the piece. “Some of it is so unusual.”

American G*rl will be running from Nov. 29 through Dec.15 in the Richard and Dolly Maass Gallery Visual Arts Building.