Arts and Humanities Graduate Students’ Work Takes Center Stage With Annual Exhibition

UC Davis Exhibition on View June 8-25 at Manetti Shrem Museum of Art

A woman sitting in a chair stares at a small white bust a few feet in front of her. The room is draped with black sheets.
Design M.F.A. student Valeria Araiza’s project displays interactive light boxes to test audience perception to changes in light levels. The objective is to develop a sustainable lighting design protocol based on Just Noticeable Difference for retail and museums. (Courtesy Valeria Araiza).

Quick Summary

  • Three prizes to be awarded on opening night, June 8

Many universities hold annual Master of Fine Arts exhibitions showing what students have accomplished during their studies. The model is more expansive at the University of California, Davis, showcasing the breadth of work from students in departments across the College of Letters and Science.

Three prizes 

The winners of the LeShelle & Gary May Art Purchase Prize, the Keister & Allen Art Purchase Prize, and the Savageau Award in the Department of Design will be announced at the June 8 opening celebration.

The art prizes enable the museum to purchase graduate student work for the university’s Fine Arts Collection.

At this year’s Arts and Humanities Graduate Exhibition, on view June 8-25 at the Jan Shrem and Maria Manetti Shrem Museum of Art, students in history, performance studies, creative writing and English as well as design and art will take part. A free, public opening celebration will take place June 8 from 6 to 9 p.m. Art history students will present their research the following day. In all, 30 Master of Fine Arts, Master of Arts and doctoral students are participating.

“The graduate student exhibition is a wonderful example of what the College of Letters and Science is all about,” said Dean Estella Atekwana. “It shows how the college is a creative, supportive environment where students can find innovative avenues to explore without boundaries. As a geoscientist, I see how the exhibition reveals the many layers of the college and how they are connected. This unique multidisciplinary exhibition is always a place to find the unexpected.”

Many students take on pressing issues of our time, including racism, the implications of artificial intelligence and humans’ environmental impact, offering both practical and idealistic ways of thinking about and solving problems. Others engage with personal experiences, memory and aesthetic practices. Many do both.

“This exhibition showcases the exciting projects and scholarship UC Davis graduate students produce and how they choose to present it,” said Rachel Teagle, the museum’s founding director. “We are proud to serve alongside the Office of the Chancellor and Provost and the College of Letters and Science Dean’s Office to promote and celebrate students’ graduate work in the arts and humanities.”

A sampling of what the public will see and experience:

Bright orange X stitches create a square pattern on transparent red fabric. Behind the stitching are painted red and yellow square shapes.
Design M.F.A. student Pachia Lucy Vang designs from a pluriversal imagination, crafting paj ntaub, or handmade textiles, that center Hmong knowledge to blur the boundaries between traditional and modern. A partial QR code, cross-stitched with yellow turmeric-dyed threads on pink madder-dyed silk organza, is overlaid onto two inverted yellow and red QR code textiles. (Courtesy Pachia Lucy Vang)

Allison Fulton and Grace Hayes (English) have created an artist’s book that interweaves text, hand embroidery and sewing to explore new approaches to literary theory. At the opening event, they will lead a hands-on workshop on making zines from 6 to 7 p.m.

Zehra Ilhan (history) will illustrate how Ottoman-era book and album paintings from the 15th through 17th centuries represented women and shed light on cultural expectations for women during the time.

Maurice Moore (performance studies) creates videos that draw on movement and voice, visual poems and music that employ and explore Black, queer and trans mark-making and theory.

Sam Rathbun (art studio) is a painter and sculptor whose art ruminates on rural life and how it has been depicted in art, often challenging those portrayals. Her work reveals aspects of agriculture that are raw and brutal, as well as tender and seductive, and the interconnectedness between humans and the natural world.

A mannequin dressed in farm work clothes. Each article of clothing is labeled in English and Spanish.
Design M.F.A. student Cristina Gomez’s thesis is a textile exhibition on farmworker uniforms. (Courtesy, Cristina Gomez)

Quinessa Stibbins (design) makes clothing that combines function, aesthetics and storytelling — in this case, garments that protect protesters and reference images connected to the murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis police.

Srđan Tunić (art history) will present his research into the work of illustrator and fine artist Mary Foley Benson, who worked at UC Davis from 1964 to 1972. Tunić will give a talk at 7:45 p.m. during the opening event.

Luka Vergoz (art studio) collects, alters and arranges items found in dumpsters and on the streets into installations that explore ideas of scale, language, physics and queerness.

Rova Cigdem Yilmaz (design) develops clothing for space travel that is aesthetically pleasing, comfortable, and has resistance capabilities to combat muscle and bone atrophy.

Art history M.A. students will present their work at a colloquium at the museum from 2:30 to 5:30 p.m. on Friday, June 9.

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