Looking outside yourself

Artists from all over North America come together for a new exhibit at the Nash Gallery

âÄúNorth American Graduate Art SurveyâÄù WHEN: Jan 20 – Feb 19 WHERE: Katherine E. Nash Gallery TICKETS: Free Admission North American Graduate Art Survey is an exhibition sampling graduate-level artists now on display at the Katherine E. Nash Gallery on the West Bank campus. From nearly 300 entries spanning the continent, 54 pieces were chosen for the survey by Chris Atkins, a visiting assistant professor in the Department of Art at Macalester College in St. Paul. The work covers every imaginable subject and form of media, from âÄúCommemoration of Convenience,âÄù a set of solid moldings of disposable plastic containers organized meticulously on a sprawling black plastic sheet, to âÄúUntitledâÄù by Peter Bugg, a foldout from Vanity Fair magazine of a glamorous fur and lingerie model with words punched out that address constructed femininity and self-esteem through an account of an anonymous slut. Atkins points out that though the works may not all be âÄúlinked together thematically, they share formal relationships.âÄù He and the graduate student panel working with the show organized it so the pieces seemed to be a logical flow from one piece to another. The problem with such a survey is deciding which pieces are worthy of the top prizes. Atkins said he was looking for the pieces that âÄúaddress issues outside of art [and] provide a way for artwork to look outside itself.âÄù The first prize winner, âÄúDancing in the DesertâÄù by Jason Hanask, does just that. The video shows two male soldiers laughing and slow-dancing, twirling and leaning in a way that actually doesnâÄôt seem feminine at all. The choppy film, which seems to have been captured on a low quality camera phone, first seems playful, humorous and sweet. As time passes, it becomes clear the piece addresses heavier themes. In AtkinsâÄô opinion, it tells of âÄúthe war on terror and gender and sexuality.âÄù A bright photograph depicts a leathery man stretched on the beach in a pink Speedo. It appears funny at first, but quickly reminds us of mortality and age. A thin stretch of linen embroidered with red cotton thread flaunts a kitten and announces, âÄúWhen I refuse to fight, I am called a pussy,âÄù questioning modern notions of masculinity. An eerie video called âÄúNosh-e JanâÄù (âÄúBon AppetitâÄù) follows secrets handwritten with India Ink in several languages being doused in vinegar and salt. Someone in English whispers, âÄúIâÄôm having a baby and no oneâÄôs supposed to know.âÄù The soaking secrets are then wrapped into dumplings and the voice whispers, âÄúand that is why we have so many secrets to keep.âÄù With such hard-hitting themes and aching honesty, each work stands alone as a critique on society and offers a well-deserved nod to much-needed North American artists.