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Columbus Makes Art Presents Ohio State MFA Students and Their Thesis Exhibition

Luisa Varanese Luisa Varanese Columbus Makes Art Presents Ohio State MFA Students and Their Thesis ExhibitionArtist Mitch Vicieux works on a piece for The Ohio State MFA Thesis Show, Proximity.
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Four MFA students — Dustin Brinkman, Erin Kearney, Maggie Schmiegelow and Mitch Vicieux — from the Ohio State University met with me over Zoom to give an inside look at their current exhibition, Proximity, and the different ways the past year has impacted their practice, inspiration, and community.

Luisa: How do you find inspiration for your work?
Erin: For me, it starts with a question. With this specific work for Proximity, I was thinking about what it means to care, and what happens when that care overfills the container it gets poured into. I think about parameters of the space that I’m working in, and the materials really started to happen on their own. It’s about curiosity and paying attention to what is actually in front of you.

Work by Erin Kearney. On display through March 19 during The Ohio State MFA Thesis Show, Proximity.
Work by Erin Kearney. On display through March 19 during The Ohio State MFA Thesis Show, Proximity.

Luisa: How has COVID-19 impacted your art practice?
Mitch: It broke conventions in a variety of ways, but for me, I had always been afraid of letting comic arts and pop culture come to the forefront of my practice, especially while I’m in a graduate program for art. But when you’re in a studio apartment without access to filming equipment and public spaces, what I could do was hone in on these cartoon art skills and see how they could translate.

Conventions don’t break or move forward until you have the gall to begin to push on them. And when COVID-19 shifted the paradigm our entire way of life, the rigid borders I set for myself about what I can and can’t make or can and can’t say about myself or my work, really fell away.

Dustin: Working from home has made me think about materials a lot more and made me fall in love with them a bit more, too. Even the kind of things that would be considered scraps.

Luisa: What do you think is the best thing about the Columbus art scene right now?
Maggie: Something that I’m seeing is an adaptability to this moment. And there’s just this vigor, and energy to keep going, and to be as inventive about solutions as possible.

Work by Maggie Schmiegelow.
On display through March 19 during
The Ohio State MFA Thesis Show, Proximity.
Work by Maggie Schmiegelow.
On display through March 19 during
The Ohio State MFA Thesis Show, Proximity.

Dustin: I think it also caused us to slow down for a brief moment, when everyone had to take a break for a second, or at least figure out how they were going to work then. There was this slowing down that caused us to all band together and support each other a lot more intensely. I’ve had a lot of friends, with that vigor, find ways to get shows into the public view, even if that’s online. And then supporting and shouting out each other in those moments.

Luisa: Is there anything you would like to add?
Maggie: It’s really exciting to see everyone. There are people that I haven’t really been able to see in their studio since the first year. To see everyone’s work in the same space together is really exciting. It’s such an extensive process to do this all together as a group, particularly in this moment.

There have been a lot of shifting conditions around the production of this show, so it’s really empowering and rewarding to see us all putting up this remarkable work. A lot of us scaled up, and I think there was this suggestion of possibly scaling down from the department, asking how we can adapt to this, or how we can think smaller about our work. And we were all just like “Nope, we’re going to go big.” It’s just exciting to see us all rallying together to make this thing happen.

Work by Dustin Brinkman. On display through March 19 during The Ohio State MFA Thesis Show, Proximity.
Work by Dustin Brinkman. On display through March 19 during The Ohio State MFA Thesis Show, Proximity.

The Ohio State MFA Thesis Show, Proximity, will be on view downtown at Urban Arts Space (50 W. Town St.) until March 19. This event is free, but pre-registration is required. To register in advance, visit uas.osu.edu/visit-us .

Columbus Makes Art Presents is a bi-weekly column brought to you by the Greater Columbus Arts Council – supporting and advancing the arts and cultural fabric of Columbus. The column is a project of the Art Makes Columbus campaign, telling the inspiring stories of the people and organizations who create Columbus art. Learn more about local artists, organizations, public art and events at ColumbusMakesArt.com.

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