by Fernando Quintero
Graduate art student Madeline Nieto says it's the uniquely nurturing and stimulating environment of the Master of Fine Arts Program that allows her to express her innermost thoughts and emotions and desires using materials found at the dump.
Her stitched together, wearable "body bags" made from used bicycle tire tubes are a metaphor for many things, including the mending of the wounds and the ensuing scars left behind after the death of her father when she was a child.
"A lot of sewing and stitching in my work has to do with the sort of piecing together of my personal history," said Nieto, one of 15 graduates of the Master of Fine Arts Program whose work is on exhibit now through May 28 at the University Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive.
This year marks the silver anniversary of the museum and film archive, and also 25 years of MFA exhibitions. This year's show highlights work in painting, sculpture and mixed media by Nieto and artists Kevin Bean, Montero Black, Christopher Carter, Mark Grotjahn, Bovey Lee, Timothy Lynn, John Michellini, Maria Neascu, Martin Lam Nguyen, Cleo Papanikolas, Rachel Phillips, Dorothy Robinson, Christopher Schramm and Kyungmi Shin.
Works range from large-scale paintings to mixed media sculptures that take obsolete or discarded materials and give them new functions.
Nieto's sculptural costume pieces make modern references to classical Greek statuary and the constricting tailoring of dresses from the Victorian era.
Nieto said she gained an especially unique perspective working among the scientists and researchers at the Richmond site. "It has helped me to be in the company of other fields of study. I think art needs to be taken as seriously as science," she said.
Like Nieto, Dorothy Robinson's paintings come from within, then take on a life of their own.
"Through experience, I have come to believe in the transcendent power of painting. I bring together mounds of paint, shift it around, scrape it off, and do it again and again until it has a life of its own," she said.
Works by Robinson, who earned her MFA in 1993 and returned to campus to exhibit her art as a recipient of the J. Ruth Kelsey Travel Award, are on view at the Worth Ryder Gallery in Kroeber Hall from May 9-26.
Robinson, who works in the Office of Public Affairs, said the MFA program at Berkeley was vital to her artistic coming of age. "It afforded the opportunity to work closely with practicing artists and focus completely on the development of my painting," she said.
Following completion of her MFA, Robinson went to Italy as part of her travel award. The work she has done since then results from experiencing the sharp contrast between Italian and American cultures.
"It became apparent to me that we live in a culture of forgetting. That realization is taking me in a backward direction in my work. It's taking me deeper into my self and my own experience."