by Andi Liao

The Masters of Fine Arts thesis exhibition is always a great opportunity for art lovers to be treated to a showcase of the best up-and-coming talent that our art department has to offer.

There is always an overabundance of amazing artwork to look at so it’s sufficed to say that this semester’s exhibit, “Bound,” is no different.

The gallery space itself isn’t occupied by much in terms of artwork. The installations themselves are spread across the gallery floor and the amount of negative space is startling at first, but once you make your way around the gallery and get a good perspective and handle on the works, it makes sense.

Each artist’s piece inhabits its own very unique space and despite the varying styles and media present, everything meshed together very well. The overarching theme became the driving force in understanding and interpreting the show and it managed to bring incredible cohesiveness to what would have otherwise been viewed as a disjointed exhibit with no discernable theme or message.

I suppose for those laypersons and philistines who just don’t “get” art or simply like “pretty paintings,” they obviously wouldn’t get it. I remember speaking to several people who criticized the exhibition simply because they failed to grasp the ideas that permeated beneath the surface.

Their loss, I guess.

Immediately upon viewing Pancho Westendarp’s piece, I was greeted by this sense of profound familiarity. There was just something that struck me and made me feel like I was in a warm, welcoming and comfortable space. It was like I was in my own living room.

The piece itself was just simply unflappable. The fact alone that he managed to arrange these seemingly unrelated objects together into a unified body of work is awesome. Adding to that, he was capable of creating a self-sustaining electronic space with a guitar that plays itself. It was remarkable and looking at it from a geeky point-of-view, the cool-factor is simply undeniable.

It was interesting the way he explored the way in which us humans interact with the world and the objects around us. The presence of humans, or the lack thereof, influences and shapes the environments that we inhabit. For me, his choice to use the guitar was a natural one because it really encapsulated the idea behind the human identity and the way in which he drew upon the interrelation between who we are and how we affect the world around us. The ambient sounds that emanated from the installation really put me in the right mood to contemplate the ideas that are being presented.

Another artist’s work that stood out to me was Dan Hess’ “Swallowed in the Sea” series. I was particularly drawn to these images because of how much it reminded me of some of my own printed works and unique feelings of comfort and curiosity mixed with this underlying sense of dread.

These images also evoked thoughts of H.P. Lovecraft’s work, especially At the Mountains of Madness, which I personally think is his most triumphant work.

Throughout the book, the explorers venture forth into the dark, unforgiving Antarctic with a piqued curiosity coupled with a looming sense of danger. The feelings that pour forth from the book are echoed in Dan Hess’ images. The most obvious parallels I noticed between the two were that Hess’ swirl-like lines reminded me of the Old Gods of Lovecraftian lore, most evidently, in the tentacled behemoth Cthulu.

Hess even states that these works are his representation of the space that occupies the difference between realities. It makes sense. We still don’t really have a full grasp on what we see as reality. Sure it may be a little farfetched to think that there are indeed alternate or parallel realities but thinking about it, we can’t help but acknowledge that the human brain’s capabilities have near-limitless potential and the way that Lovecraft’s work, and through extension, Hess’ work, plays on our innermost and untapped thoughts, dreams and nightmares is truly outstanding.

Thus by delving into the human subconscious, Hess successfully manages to hit the proverbial nail on the head. He set out to extract from his viewers their interpretations based on their own inner desires and fears, and he did it.

The exhibit is only open until February 29, so if you have not yet taken a look at it, you should check out “Bound” before it’s too late.