GSU’s Welch School artists thrilled by international attention

Exhibit of “pre-emergent” at Aqua11 Art Miami spotlights work from GSU
graduate studio

Near the middle of blue and green lies the color aqua, and masters of fine arts students from Georgia State University’s Ernest G. Welch School of Art and Design found themselves in the middle of the art world at the Aqua11 Art Miami show.

Held in Miami Beach each December during Art Basel week, the Aqua Art Fair features innovative galleries from the across the nation and abroad, with an emphasis on emerging and early mid-career artists. Students from the MFA in Studio Program at GSU put on an exhibition, entitled “pre-emergent,” that attracted attention from art collectors and gallery owners.

“One vision that the Welch Enrichment fund makes a reality is our desire to launch our MFA in Studio graduate students into careers as serious, practicing professional artists, and our experience at the Aqua Art Fair/Miami did this on an international scale,” said Cheryl Goldsleger, director of the Welch School. “Our graduates successfully presented outstanding works to sophisticated collectors, curators, galleries, and art connoisseurs from all over the world. This wonderful experience reaffirms our deep commitment to continue offering the highest quality visual arts graduate programs in the country.”

Welch (B.F.A., 1999) was a lifelong learner and dedicated photographer who died in 2009 at age 103 and left a $4 million bequest to the School of Art and Design. The Welch gift funds graduate fellowships, symposia, artists-in-residence and faculty research.

The pre-emergent artists “epitomize a struggle between private expression and public discourse,” art critic Cinqué Hicks wrote in the show catalog.

“Is it possible to know the world collectively as a public, or are we each now irrevocably alone in a private bubble of personal vision? That tension resonates like a drumbeat in the work of these artists, each of whom arrives at a different conclusion.”

In their own words, the following four MFA in Studio students reported how the Aqua11 exposure impacted them. (Other “pre-emergent” artists include Bethany Joy Collins, Meta Gary, Laura Martin, Christina Price Washington, James D. Vanderpool, Calvin Burgamy, Jim Chapman, In Kyoung Chun, Candice Greathouse, Jane Gillian Morrow, Kelly O’Brien and Myrna Lee Pronchuk).

Christopher Walker
(Kudzu 1, 2011, acrylic on panel, 8 x 1 inches; or Kudzu 2,2011, acrylic on panel, 9×12 inches)
“I went into the Aqua Art project a little naive to its prestigious standing in the fine art community. When I arrived I was blown away. I felt like I was in the middle of a high stakes art stock market. Collectors on phones yelled at clients. High-pressure deals went on left and right. Money and extravagant outfits everywhere. While I have never been on a Wall Street trading floor, I would assume Aqua is similar. I was humbled by the quality work throughout Aqua, but at the same time I was very proud to be a graduate student at GSU and to show with all my other classmates. We looked really good. Our work looked like it belonged there next to artists who have been practicing for decades. The exposure we received was greater than I could ever imagine. I made contacts I would have never been able to approach on my own, which with any luck will carry me far. I feel very lucky to be part of the Welch School of Art and Design and to have participated in this event.”

Maryam Alainati, interior design
(Exploring Islamic Geometry, 2011, wood, 11 x 14 x 2 inches)
“I had the opportunity to speak about my work with several artists and received great feedback about my artistic creations; this was an invaluable exchange. I gained a potential commission for similar screens to be installed in a library in Atlanta. I also got the opportunity to get to know the rest of the ‘pre-emergent’ artists in a different context. I am very grateful to have had this chance to display my work and have it seen in an international venue. I thank Georgia State University and the Ernest G. Welch School of Art and Design for providing this opportunity. The outcome was great.”

Jim O’Donnell, drawing, painting, printmaking
(More than our hearts can hold, 2010, single channel video, 5 minutes)
“Delicious tostones, sweet plantains, and Cuban coffee; rows of enormous palm trees popping against colorful art deco backdrops; vibrant streets buzzing with Spanish language and Latin music — these were all things I expected having grown up a few hours north of Miami. What I did not expect, after carefully packing my artwork in bubble wrap, was the excitement, anxiety, joy, and exhaustion that accompanied the total art immersion during Aqua11. Everything is still a blur. Eccentricity and opulence reached dizzying heights as Miami exploded with art, artists, and collectors. Enthusiastic patrons busily hustled from one gallery space to the next. Eyes were saturated with ever more impressive work spanning every media, from two-dimensional to video, from sculpture to live performance — and my responses encompassed every emotion from ecstasy to irritation.

“To even absorb a portion of what this experience had to offer, it soon became obvious that sleep and feet would have to be sacrificed. Being able to say that my work is now included in the collection of New York art dealer Sandro Bosi is something I would never have expected before my trip and would not have happened except for the commitment of faculty like graduate director Joe Peragine and assistant professor Craig Drennen, as well as the support of the Ernest G. Welch School of Art and Design as a whole. While it will take some time to truly digest the overwhelming experience, I can say for sure that what I gained was fresh exposure, new connections, and memories that I won’t soon forget.”

Cat Normoyle, graphic design
(That Was My Idea, 2011, snow spray, stencil, 40 x 36 inches)
“It was really exciting creating ‘That Was My Idea,’ an art installation for Aqua, a location that I had never visited before, and see it come to life. A lot of my work is inspired by public environments, so it was admittedly a bit challenging to work via photos and blueprints of the space in Miami. This installation is part of my ongoing attempt to create interesting contradictions by working with highly public spaces to display private thoughts and ideas. Inspired by a project I conducted in 2009, slogans such as ‘that Was My Idea,’ are written from an introspective place, bringing to light the many countless thoughts that run through our brains on a daily basis. My work is a way to publicize ideas in an anonymous manner. The Aqua piece really blossomed and actually resulted in some unexpected surprises, such as interesting shadows and reflections. This very neat result has already influenced my next projects!”

—By Michelle Hiskey; Contact Kim Cretors, (404) 413-3424