June 27, 2019 | 84° F

Mason Gross graduate students showcase a gallery of mixed-media work

The exhibit featured experimental sound and video pieces, alongside photos and paintings

Photo by Wikipedia |

Currently, the Mason Gross School of the Arts is showcasing an exhibition comprised of pieces created by first-year graduate students. The collection draws inspiration from a wide array of media mediums like photography and experimental sound pieces.

The "Mason Gross Masters in Fine Arts First Year Exhibition" at Mason Gross School of the Arts, open through Dec. 13, is currently showcasing an exhibit featuring first-year graduate student pieces from a variety of media, including paintings, photography, experimental sound and video pieces. 

Valerie Suter, a Mason Gross School of the Arts first-year graduate student, has several paintings featured in the exhibit, including a large mural entitled, “A Presidential Campaign of 1872: Victoria Woodhull for President, Frederick Douglass for Vice-President.”

Victoria Woodhull was the first woman to run for president in the United States. In her time, she was famous for being a publisher of a newspaper, becoming the first female broker on Wall Street and publishing the first English translation of "The Communist Manifesto" in the United States, Suter said. 

“There were a lot of interesting things she spearheaded in her lifetime, but because of that, in a lot of ways she was completely outcast by members of society,” Suter said.

Woodhull's running mate in the piece, Frederick Douglass, was an abolitionist, formerly enslaved in the South. He achieved lasting fame through his autobiography, "Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave."

Suter's mural depicts the two in a venn-diagram-shaped frame, signing a document together. Above them are Latin phrases that can be found on the dollar bill "annuit coeptis," which translates to “he looks favorably on our enterprise,” and "novus ordo seclorum," which means “a new world order.”

“There's this idea of a utopian vision. Something that would have happened far before the time when it actually could have happened,” Suter said.

Mahsa Biglow, a Mason Gross School of the Arts first-year graduate student, incorporated  video, sound and physical objects in her piece.

Biglow, an Iran native, said that she wanted to make something that would represent the complex state of affairs between Iran and the United States.

On a table only slightly raised from the ground, there is a pattern reminiscent of an Iranian carpet. The pattern, made entirely of sand, took Biglow 19 hours to make, she said. Around it are cushions for observers to sit on. Overhead, a projector displays quotes by Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, the last Shah of Iran, in interviews with American reporters between 1955 and 1979. In the pierce, he is discussing his decision to raise the price of Iranian oil exports.

“I wanted to use the most iconic stereotype about my country as a kind of a bait for the audience, to grab their attention and make them sit and look at the quotes,” Biglow said. “Usually people are not that interested in political, complex issues.”

Mason Gross School of the Arts first-year graduate student Will Robinson's piece mostly features digitally manipulated photographs. He said that his piece focuses on redaction, a term normally used to mean a kind of literary editing.

In one photograph, First Lady Melania Trump and former First Lady Michelle Obama stand at opposite sides of a wall, each looking at the other out of the corner of their eyes. 

Robinson said that in the original photo, former President Barack Obama and President Donald J. Trump filled the empty space between the women.

“I redacted to create a conversation between the two first ladies,” he said.

The piece also includes two framed covers of Rolling Stones albums.

Robinson said that these pieces are intended to refer to a practice called "damnatio memoriae" a Latin phrase which means condemnation of memory.

“In ancient Rome, if a politician were disgraced, they would hack off the face from the stone statue that represented him,” Robinson said.

One Rolling Stones compilation album called "Rarities" features a photo including a bass player who had since left the band. But for the album's publication, the photo was altered to remove him.

In the other album cover, Robinson himself removed one of the band members, he said.

“I though it was an interesting pop-culture representation of that idea,” Robinson said.

Max Marcus

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