Skip to content

Mason Gross Galleries exhibit graduate student artwork

Students attend "Catch and Release" at the Mason Gross Galleries at  Civic Square, an exhibit showcasing the artwork of students pursuing  Master of Fine Arts degrees.
Photo by Collin PietersStudents attend "Catch and Release" at the Mason Gross Galleries at Civic Square, an exhibit showcasing the artwork of students pursuing Master of Fine Arts degrees.

Just a year and a half ago, the graduate students at Mason Gross were beginning their journey toward a Master of Fine Arts at Rutgers, said Aubrey Kauffman, manager for Mason Gross Galleries.

Last Thursday, these graduate students showcased their artwork to more than 50 visitors at the Mason Gross Galleries in Civic Square located in downtown New Brunswick. The MFA thesis exhibition’s reception, entitled “Catch and Release,” aimed to demonstrate the breadth of their practice over the past year.

Kauffman, who received his MFA from Mason Gross School of the Arts and has taught photography at the school, said when he was in the program, him and his fellow classmates had to start working on art projects before the first day of class began. 

“I would imagine that any incoming student is looking at the end game,” he said. “It is less than a year and a half after you enter the program that you propose your thesis and then enter the exhibition.”

Aside from the faculty and staff, Kauffman said many former MFA students like himself return to support the current graduates in their artistic endeavors. 

Pareesa Pourian, a second-year MFA graduate student, had a series of paintings displayed in a back room of the exhibition. She explained the process of creating those paintings.

Pourian starts with a large square canvas and fills the space with drawings of flowers, then, she “[works with] the space and composition of the painting” to slowly see how the painting will be formed. 

She said this process leads her through a range of emotions, from boredom and rage to excitement and joy.

“All of these emotions going back and forth are what I hope the viewer will see and I hope is produced in the end result,” she said. “I hope to be recording an emotion that is then conveyed to the viewer as a visual experience.”

The amount of time Pourian spends on each painting varies.

Some of the paintings involved a very intense week of spending all day in the studio, she said. 

“Others I spent a week on, let them sit for two months and then went back to work on them later,” Pourian said.

Anthony Sylvia, a second-year MFA graduate student, also had his work showcased in the exhibition. He explained the meanings behind how a trip to Atlantic City inspired his paintings.

In addition to photographs he took on the trip, Slyvia said he was inspired by German artist Max Beckman and the psychological qualities of his paintings. 

“The paintings aren’t about anything more than creating a quiet situation or letting the viewer into a quiet memory of sorts,” he said. 

He said his paintings have themes of intimacy, quietness and the subtle psychological qualities of inhabiting a space.

Sylvia said Rutgers was a good place to develop his practice because it was a low pressure and “down-to-earth” environment. 

“[Rutgers] was a good place to explore my practice and be pushed in directions I wouldn’t have gone otherwise,” he said. 

Pourian said that at her time in the MFA program, the greatest thing she learned was the importance of utilizing time in the studio. 

She also was grateful for learning how to speak about art on a deeper level.

“There were a lot of one on one critiques, a lot of group critiques,” she said. “I really learned how to talk about art in a way I hadn’t known before.”

After graduating from the MFA program, Pourian said she plans to move back to Brooklyn, where she lived before coming to New Brunswick. 

She said many professors and graduates of the MFA program at Rutgers are connected to the art world in New York City, which will make it easier for her to start her career there. 

“There’s an art world in New York City, as you may have heard,” Pourian said. 

Kauffman said that while art history graduates tend to fill positions as museum curators, an MFA degree in studio art may lead to teaching or any number of related positions in a gallery or museum setting. 

“Most MFA graduates continue to create work and seek out venues to show their work,” he said.