March 30, 2021

MFA thesis exhibition
Friends Forever

Carnegie Mellon University College of Fine Arts

Photo: Charlie White.

The Miller Institute for Contemporary Art is pleased to present Friends Forever, the 2021 MFA thesis exhibition of the School of Art at Carnegie Mellon University. Members of the general public are invited to view installation images and a video walkthrough of the exhibition on the Miller ICA’s website.

Each of the artists in this graduating class touch on themes of hardship, escapism, the things that unify groups of people across difference, and the things that tear us apart. By examining the bonds that form across generational divides, digital platforms, and through frustration and desire, this cohort has identified and parsed the myriad ways human connections take shape and cohere.

Lau Hochi’s video installation examines contemporary feelings of confinement, isolation, and anxiety through projected 3D renderings of closed doors in a darkened gallery. Swapping out the red glow of an Exit sign with more whimsical and playful options including Moon and Well signs, the work ruminates on the liberating possibilities of whimsy and humor when confined to situations with no foreseeable exit.

Jackson McKeehan: Sheila
Testing the boundaries between real life and the imaginary and between autobiography and the stories of others, Jackson McKeehan’s short film Sheila presents a fraught psychological landscape. The film identifies the distinction between the liberating and revelatory possibilities of fulfilling suppressed desires in contrast to violent and more destructive manifestations of our darker urges.

Nathalie Moreno: El Viejo
In an installation of video and works on paper, Nathalie Moreno imagines a fictional woman who falls in love with San Lázaro, the second most popular saint in Cuba. The installation explores Moreno’s personal relationship to the material culture and lived experiences of the Cuban diaspora and reveals the complexity of this multivalent community.

David Noel:
Drawing on his research of an emergent online “warrior culture,” defined by an extreme interest in firearms and tactical equipment, David Noel’s work contrasts a current apocalyptic view of the world with the optimism of the Internet pre-9/11. Noel’s work demonstrates the effects of America’s never-ending Global War on Terror and of a world shaped by the US military’s dominance.

Max Spitzer
When the deteriorating gravestone of his great-great-grandparents were replaced, Max Spitzer came into their possession, using them as the centerpiece of his sculptural installation. Stripped of their original context, these grave markers transform from objects of devotion into images of contemplation and enter into a new systems of meaning.

Huidi Xiang
Through a collection of sculptures based on the life-simulation game Animal Crossing: New Horizons, which gained wide popularity during the COVID-19 pandemic, Huidi Xiang melds the “personal paradise” the game promises users in its virtual world with her physical world. By transforming the play of the game into the labor of her studio practice, Xiang reflects on a world in which the boundary between play and labor is increasingly blurred.

Miller Institute for Contemporary Art
The Miller ICA is Carnegie Mellon University’s contemporary art institute providing transformative experiences with contemporary art through exhibitions, conversation, and exchange in a free and open public space.

MFA at Carnegie Mellon’s School of Art
The MFA program at Carnegie Mellon University’s School of Art is an interdisciplinary, experimental, research-based program that provides its students with a challenging and supportive context in which to expand and develop their work and thinking as artists. The Program views art making as a vital social, critical, and intellectual pursuit. Graduate students are encouraged to employ a comparative and intersectional approach to critical and cultural theories, and to allow this inquiry to inform and expand what it means to be an artist and to make art within our contemporary condition.

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