“Close But Not Touching” reminds us how connected and isolated we are – 71Bait

The Master of Fine Arts Thesis Exhibition offers second-year graduate students the opportunity to exhibit a range of works that define their artistic vision. The culminating work of each student artist is an exhibition in its own right, brought together within the walls of the Stamps Gallery. The exhibition’s theme and namesake, “Close But Not Touching”, allows each artist to further reveal their individuality through the perceived meaning of this simple phrase. Mikayla Buford, a second-year art and design student and gallery assistant, said the Close But Not Touching theme is particularly relevant today after two years of isolation. In many forms, each artist’s work deals with the complications of unity and isolation.

Entering the first room, Nick Azzaro sketches the theme of exclusion in white chalk and defines “undoctrination” as “the unlearning of whitewashed history”. His work addresses the nature of American education through the image of a torn American flag obscuring a Confederate flag and a massive sculpture designed to look like a desk. However, as onlookers approach the inquisitive desk, it becomes a mass of Ku Klux Klan hoods. The collection is an unwavering and direct inquiry into American values.

The next room continues to address the political and cultural systems of isolation and exclusion. In a documentary entitled Sanctuary, Purgatory, director Razi Jafri addresses issues of unity, exclusion and loneliness in the refugee experience. Shown in a dark theater, his work is a long and deep look into the life of a Yemeni refugee in South Korea, separated from his family in the global diaspora. The close relationship between the director and the man allows for a breathtaking emotional connection between the viewer and the film.

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