Students' art is exhibited at 'Persona' at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts on March 16. (Courtesy Christina Godfrey)

‘Persona’ gives SMFA students the chance to exhibit their art

From March 9 to April 30, a group of 10 students from the School of the Museum of Fine Arts (SMFA) at Tufts will have their artwork on display in an exhibition titled “Persona” at the RSM Art Gallery, located at 80 City Square in Boston. Working with the Sunne Savage Gallery, a Boston-based business that specializes in fine arts, the pieces revolve around different interpretations of the genre of self-portraiture — hence the name Persona.

All of the students are currently enrolled in a year-long seminar taught by Professor Julie Graham called “Intermediate Painting Seminar and Studio.” According to Graham, students’ interpretations of the show’s theme vary.

“Persona is the title that the students selected for this particular show. It’s meant to address a broad understanding of self-portraiture. Some students did more literal interpretations of the theme, others worked more metaphorically,” Graham told the Daily in an email. “Self-portraits are classic throughout art history, but its meaning takes on new proportions in the age of technology and ‘selfies.'”

The students, all of whom are second-year students or above at the SMFA, each had access to a studio for a full year, according to fourth-year SMFA student Nika Korchok. They were heavily involved in the entire process of establishing the exhibition, with a large bulk of the planning and preparation of the show falling on the students, as part of the course.

“The goal of the show was to create an exhibition experience for the students. They had to come up with the theme, create the work on a deadline, market it, install it and critique it,” Graham said.

She feels that the planning for the show has so far been a success, thanks to the help of the Sunne Savage Gallery and RSM.

The show will be especially notable for the 10 students, she added, because most of them have not had prior experience with an art show. The show will offer the students the unique opportunity to potentially make a profit off their art.

“Of course if there are sales, everyone will be delighted, but that will be the icing,” Graham said. “Most of the students have never had work displayed that also has the chance to be sold, making this exhibition in particular very thrilling for the students.”

Korchok said that while the students are given the option to price their work, the gallery is entitled to a small commission from their profits. However, RSM plans to donate all of the commission it receives back to the SMFA.

Most of the featured pieces are paintings, with a few other mediums on display as well, according to Graham.

“It’s a painting course, so most of the work in the show is painting,” Graham said. “There is one sculpture and a sculptural wall-piece. Both were created for this show to address the theme.”

Given that the SMFA offers a multidisciplinary program and encourages the exploration of a wide range of content and materials, she said it is common for students to work across mediums, even within a single course.

Korchok, who is also a computer science major at Tufts, submitted an oil painting, “Arith,” that was inspired by an assignment she worked on in her COMP 40 class at Tufts.

“For each of us in the show, we addressed the topic of persona, or what does it mean to create a self-portrait in the 21st century,” she said. “All of the pieces are in a way self-portraits, but using each person’s interpretation.”

Korchok added that an important component of the show is collaboration.

“It’s been a really great collaborative process among all of us,” she said. “We came up with the idea for the show, the theme, and we did group critiques, so that we could all create our best work individually.”

Graham is particularly excited about the artist reception, which will take place on March 30 from 5:30–7:30 p.m. and revolve around the students, who will also be in attendance. The show will remain open to the public during business hours until April 30.

Christina Godfrey, who helps artists display their artwork through the Sunne Savage Gallery, noted that their events often attract people beyond the artists’ immediate friends and family.

“I’ve repeatedly overheard visitors to the office rave about RSM’s gallery program. The receptions are a great place for employees, clients, artists and collectors to network,” Godfrey told the Daily in an email.

She also said that student displays, which typically take place at the RSM Gallery every two years, generally garner the most attendees. Student artists also have strong support from their school and their families.

“Plus, our employees and clients really enjoy the numerous and diverse work exhibited in the student shows,” Godfrey added.

Additionally, she attributed the popularity of students’ shows to student artists’ often personal contributions to their shows’ planning and layout.

“The students assisted laying out the show and they installed their own artwork … Viewers [in the past] have really enjoyed the diverse styles and media in the exhibition,” Godfrey said.

She further emphasized that the show will offer students the chance to network with attendees.

Although “Persona” will only be on display for one month, Godfrey said that the RMS Gallery regularly hosts exhibitions. The next show opens in May, and will feature the work of a group of female artists titled “Sirens.”

Graham expressed excitement about the coming reception for her class and the viewing period as well, noting that the students all dealt with the subject matter in unique and individual ways.

“I think they all addressed the complexities of self, and [the] multiple ways a person feels, or is perceived,” Graham said.

While this will be a one-time event for these students, next year’s Intermediate Painting Seminar and Studio class is set to feature another exhibition as well.

Those interested in attending the gallery can register online.

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