Twenty-two students make up the 2017 graduating class in the Parsons School of Design MFA program. Coming from all around the world to participate in the rigorous two year program, since its bright beginnings in the early 20th century, each year has spawned talented artists. This years thesis show, titled Second Nature, opened on April 24 at Westbeth Gallery in Chelsea, featuring selected works from students who’ve been furiously working before they’re released into the cold-yet-determined New York art scene.
Second Nature brings forth an intimate look at artistic interventions and observations of the fragile world around us. Curated by Chelsea Haines, who has previously put together shows at the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit, the Pittsburgh Pavilion at the 9th Shanghai Bienniale and The Elizabeth Foundation for the Arts, this show questions how nature itself has been fundamentally altered by human intervention.
Many of the works center around popular themes being discussed through art lately, such as sexuality, self identity, and worldly politics. The works in Second Nature do so with a humanistic view, as seen in Marija Markovic’s three channel video, Dokolica or Katie Chambers painted red tulle on canvas, ILYYLMWAHF. By asking questions such as, “Why are we here?” and “What does this world mean to me as an artist?” feelings of intimacy and closeness bring the show together.
Everything from sound, performance, video and classical painting is on view, which shows just how much variety the Parsons MFA program contributes to the art world. In Bridget Leslie’s Paradox Of The Non-Space, EDM and found sound, together with video projection, creates vibrating movement on three metal chains. The three rooms that make up Westbeth gallery have been completely transformed to bring these creatives together around a certain theme.
“One of the wonderful things about being part of this show,” experimental sound artist Bridget Leslie tells Creators, “is the ability to work so closely with a curator who genuinely wants to know about us as people and not just us as artists.” Haines made numerous studio visits, along with visiting artists who participated in weekly Wednesday night lectures at the school. By getting so close to full time working artists, the students gain an in-depth understanding of the ins and outs of a life in the arts today.
By using color and personal history as a jumping point, many of the artists in the show used their pieces as meditations on the work that they have created during their time in the program, as seen in Xin Liu’s extraordinary pink and green oil painting, Han Xi Zai. As explained in the press release for the show, together and separately, the artists’ working processes have become another type of second nature—an almost instinctual critical approach to looking at and making images—formed in the intensive learning and working environment of the Parsons MFA Program.