Six Western Connecticut State University graduate student recipients of the Master of Fine Arts degree in 2018 will present their works in the M.F.A. Thesis Exhibition running from June 19 through July 7 at the Blue Mountain Gallery in New York.
An opening reception for the artists will be from 5 to 8 p.m. on Thursday, June 21, at the gallery, located on the fourth floor at 530 W. 25th St. in Manhattan. Admission will be free to the reception and the exhibition, and the public is invited. The gallery will be open for viewing from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday.
The WCSU Department of Art organizes the M.F.A. Thesis Exhibition each year as a capstone experience demonstrating the personal artistic direction and mastery of candidates for the M.F.A. in Visual Arts, expressed in the works they present for viewing. The following M.F.A. students will show their works in this year’s exhibition:
- Jesse Navarra, of Stormville, New York, earned his B.A. in Illustration at WCSU and received the School of Visual and Performing Arts Dean’s Award in 2016 for his initiatives to bridge disciplines in the Art and Theatre Arts departments. His M.F.A. thesis work explores nostalgia as expressed through cinema, creating vintage movie posters that evoke emotion through memories. Navarra observed that his works share the common theme of story-telling: “I take my childhood love of movies, sports and comics and use that as inspiration to create my work.” He has participated in juried exhibitions and art charity events in Connecticut and New York. The winter 2018 issue of Illustrators Journal published a feature describing the step-by-step progression of his creation of the work, “Plastic Ocean Project.”
- Jennifer Oliveira-Florio, of North Haven, earned her B.A. in Painting from Central Connecticut State University, where she received the Capstone Show Award in 2016. Her three-dimensional, abstract and gestural works shown in the thesis exhibition incorporate acrylics, mixed media and encaustic, a painting technique that involves melting beeswax and resin to create a medium typically mixed with pigments and applied with heat. Oliveira-Florio has gained experience in her specialization at encaustic workshops in New England and as a regular contributor to the International Encaustic Conference in Provincetown, Massachusetts, since 2015. “As a painter, I have always been concerned with process, surface and materials,” she said. “The practice of encaustic has become an extension of my own vision, to the point where technique and esthetic have fused like the paintings themselves.” She has participated in several exhibitions in Connecticut and in the Community Central Mosaic project in New Britain, “48 Artists, 48 Feet, 48 Hours.”
- Jonathan Schreyer, of Monroe, earned his B.A. in Illustration at WCSU. He has shown his works at several local galleries and has served as a WCSU Gallery assistant as well as a studio assistant for Ross MacDonald, internationally acclaimed illustrator, graphic designer and printmaker. Schreyer uses oil paint, clay, wood, plaster and wire to create works of portraiture as well as mixed-media works in three-dimensional form. He described his creative process as based on observation of reality but also incorporating the subconscious and unreal. “We are aware of an outer world, and at the same time we exist in an internal space,” he said. “My handling of material is intended to portray the clash of dualities and speaks to the tension between these worlds.”
- Barbara Sinisi, of Wethersfield, earned her B.A. in Illustration at WCSU and has focused on painting during her M.F.A. studies. Her works in various media including acrylics, pastels, spray paint and charcoal draw upon reminiscences of her extensive travels during her youth in North America and Europe, including summer visits to Poland and spelunking adventures. “As an escape from the nonsense of reality, I create portals to other dimensions from the nonsense in my head,” Sinisi said. Her works use the organic shapes found in plants “to convey a sense of mystery and magic,” inspiring exploration of themes drawn from fantasy and cartoon storytelling, she said. “Cartoons can be mature and childish all at once, full of contradiction, whimsy, joy and darkness.”
- Alyssa Voytek, of New Milford, received her B.A. in Painting at WCSU as well as honors including the Alberetti Award for Excellence in Painting. Works completed during her M.F.A. program have included oils on canvas, gouache on board and large-scale charcoal drawings on paper. “I aim to push the boundaries of still-life painting,” Voytek observed. “I am inspired by the quiet, unstaged, usually unseen moments of beauty in our everyday lives. These moments of light, organic repetition or reflection often find their way into my finished work.” She has served as a teaching assistant at WCSU and has participated in exhibitions at several Connecticut venues including Art & Frame Gallery, the Silo Gallery and the Kent Art Association.
- Erin Walrath, of Roxbury, is an assemblage and collage artist who has participated in more than 40 solo and group exhibitions during the past two decades. A graduate of the European Honors Program in Rome and a B.F.A. recipient from the Rhode Island School of Design, she spent several years in Italy, England and Brooklyn before returning to her native Danbury in 2004 to establish her present studio. She has shown widely across New York, Connecticut and New England, and is represented by John Davis Gallery in Hudson, New York, where she also presented a solo exhibition this spring. “I see incidental beauty in the worn surface of objects, such as discarded books, that have been battered by time and will soon be rendered obsolete,” Walrath said. “I dismantle and distill them in the studio, ending up with pieces that feel to me like pixels, brush strokes or individual figures that may then be gathered together to invoke new meaning. In this way, my studio practice often feels like an homage to the comforting processes of nature.”
For more information, visit the Blue Mountain Gallery website at www.bluemountaingallery.org, or call the WCSU Department of Art at (203) 837-8403 or the Office of University Relations at (203) 837-8486.