Tyler's 2021 MFA Thesis Exhibitions

During a year of distance, disruption and social turmoil, Tyler’s MFA Class of 2021 found inspiration in introspection and the provocative to create poignant works that explore identity, familial bonds, political constructs, and the fragility of nature.

Vatina Cangelosi, Openings, 2021, Video still with handmade paper, gloves, trowel, soil and clover.

The Tyler School of Art and Architecture at Temple University is pleased to announce a special fall 2021 cohort of its annual MFA Thesis Exhibitions, the culmination of two years of intensive artistic and critical development for the school’s Master of Fine Arts candidates.

These solo shows, which run weekly until December 18, present the works of eight graduates whose interdisciplinarity reflect the distinctive attributes of Tyler’s MFA programs. The shows will conclude the thesis exhibitions for the Class of 2021. More than two dozen graduate students exhibited works in solo and group shows during the spring 2021 semester. See all participating students here.

Two values critical to the Tyler MFA experience are adaptability and resilience -- qualities magnified by the pursuit of creative expression throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Tyler students bonded as a close-knit community despite challenges, and found ways to support and witness each other’s progress in the eerie quiet of often solitary practice.

The works they produced engage with personal, social, political and environmental issues, as well as “the paradox of ubiquitous absence—the absence of physical contact, the presence of longing, and the experience of feeling alone,” wrote Tyler’s Dean and art historian Susan E. Cahan in Intersections, Tyler’s annual catalog of graduating MFA students’ work.

With extensive overlap across mediums and disciplines, the artists present an eclectic collection of work—from video performances digging in mud to debris-flecked ceramic columns and vessels, animations translating woven forms for digital display, and small-scale sculptural installations that function as narrative tableaus.

Brian McNamara, The Diner, 2021, Ceramic, wood, paint and prints.

Their visual lexicons unfold through two-dimensional, three-dimensional and time-based formats, some interweaving all three to create sharp juxtapositions and powerful metaphors regarding environmental disaster, kinship and the desire for human connection.

“Besides ubiquitous themes that have heightened saliency today, we’ve seen a blending of materials and practice that speaks to new ways of seeing and interpreting how art can function for personal and political expression,” said Tyler Associate Dean Chad Curtis.

“We have also witnessed the force of our community this year— with the MFAs sharing their expertise with each other to deepen and amplify individual practice. This has strengthened the quality of their work and resulted in a community with special connections.”

The exhibitions will be installed on the ground floor of Tyler School of Art and Architecture on Temple University's Main Campus in Philadelphia, at N. 12th and E. Norris Streets. New exhibitions featuring the work of one to five students will be shown every Wednesday through Saturday, 11 a.m.–6 p.m. All events are free and open to the public.

Tyler’s MFA Class of 2021 joins a distinguished alumni community that includes Barbara Chase-Riboud (BFA ‘57); Hannah Wilke (BFA ‘62); Albert Paley (MFA ‘69); Moe Brooker, (BFA ’70, MFA ‘72); Dennis Adams (MFA ‘71); Laurie Simmons (BFA ‘71); Allan Edmunds (BFA ’71, MFA ‘75); Martha Jackson Jarvis (BFA ‘75); Polly Apfelbaum (BFA ‘78); Jean Foos (MFA ‘78); Edgard Heap of Birds (MFA ‘79); Harriete Estel Berman (MFA ’80); Lisa Yuskavage (BFA ‘84); Lisa Sigal (BFA ‘85); Angela Dufresne (MFA ‘89); John Hatfield (MFA ‘89); Carl Fudge (MFA ‘90); Anoka Faruqee (MFA ‘97); Trenton Doyle Hancock (MFA ‘00); Will Villalongo (MFA ‘01); Jennifer Packer (BFA ‘07); Doreen Garner (BFA ‘09); Erin Riley (MFA ‘09); Amber Cowan (MFA ‘11); Erica Prince (MFA ’12); Jeffrey Meris (BFA ‘15); Kara Springer (MFA ‘17); and Ayana Evans (MFA ‘00); among many others.

Tyler’s Fall 2021 MFA Thesis Exhibitions participants:

October 20–23
Isaac Scott

October 27–30
Marilla Cubberly

November 3–6
Charlotte G. Chin Greene

November 10–13
Brian McNamara

November 17–20
Matt Witmer

December 1–4
Liz Ashley Martin

December 8–11
Melanie Bernier

December 15–18
Leah Frances