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Photo by Gabriele Holtermann-Gorden

Looking back on the class of 2015’s thesis show, “And Then”

Have you ever had a show of your work? Seeing your efforts on the wall, or on the pedestal, or behind the glass can be delightful, but getting to that point can be a struggle — fraught with doubt, terror and sensitivity to every little thing. The days leading up to the show are a brain strain, eliciting pure joy and primal fear within seconds of each other. Several times. In one minute. Twenty four hours a day…

And when the event happens? It can be a haze. After all the build-up, your nerves settle into a flow that can’t quite see the big picture. Is it really happening? Are these people really here to see me and my work? Is that an actual stranger enjoying this thing that came from me? Somehow. Still not sure how.

In a way, your opening is a closing. It’s the point in time where those lonely stretches inside a space that’s more yours than any other space in the world gives way to a thing in a place that belongs to the world now.

So when our fourteen MFAVN graduates finished their theses and then crafted their displays for the First Annual Thesis Show (titled “And Then”) I could only guess what they were going through. I was awed by their work. I was filled with sadness that the term was wrapping up. I was giddy with excitement about what’s in store for all of them. And I was just an observer! At the gallery reception, I watched them closely. They were incredibly keyed into the responses to their work. They were present. They were soaking in as much as they could. And they looked like they could crack in two at any moment.

I watched Jacob Atom Reilly lovingly tend to his fantastic display for Aquatigraphica, taking special care to highlight the painted shells that were there to take home.

I watched Melissa Malzkuhn mingle with kids and grown-up-kids as they dived into her iPad game and ate words in The Boy Who Ate Words.

I watched as Alison Paul’s animated short, Equinox,  made an oasis of focused serenity in the hectic corner of a buzzing room.

I watched as Nadia DeLane’s haunting film, Spilt Milk, stopped people in their tracks.

I watched as people sat with Ryan Weber’s book, Journal No. 034, for loooooooong periods of time, making others tap their toes impatiently.

I watched as Ryan Ansel took in the compliments for his touching story, Beyond the Willow.

I watched as Craig Coss answered questions about his beautifully executed and ambitious graphic novel, Angelica.

I watched Anna Eveslage marvel at the line to her fantastic book of photography, Eating Alone.

I watched as people were swept up by the passion and horror of Louisa Bertman’s animated short, MANMADE about the child sex trade and the men who feed it.

I watched as Jenny Goldstick’s elegant and thoughtful THIS IS MY MEMORY OF FIRST HEARTBREAK, WHICH I CAN’T QUITE PIECE BACK TOGETHER had people double-dipping to see as much of the project as they could.

I watched as Feifei Ruan’s gorgeous comic, Sashimi, greeted visitors at the door, like an opening salvo, perfectly promising people a show with refined, compelling work.

I watched as Ivory Nunez-Medrano’s Internal Matter made people see Sci-Fi in brand new ways.

I watched as Ann Coddou’s elegant animated comic book, Visionary, had people turning the iPads in circles to see everything the story had to offer.

I watched as Steven Little’s work had people nose-first in his epic tale, Carried Interest, soaking up his unique take on the world of hedge funds and big finance.

Then it was over. The struggle, the scheduling, the preparation, all of it was spent energy. The result is exhaustion, hazy glee, a little sadness mixed in to-taste. On behalf of all the faculty and staff of MFAVN, we bid the class of 2015 goodbye.

We’re proud of you.

We’re here for you.

Don’t forget to call. Have fun storming the castle!

[Photos by Michelle Nahmad and Martin Mendizabal and Gabriele Holtermann-Gorden]