On the Road: Spring is MFA Season

Amy L. Powell

Spring is MFA season for university art museums. Shortly after we finished installing our annual Master of Fine Arts Exhibition at KAM, I traveled to the Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum at Michigan State University to serve as guest juror for a cash prize awarded to one outstanding artist among their six graduating MFA candidates from the School of Art, Art History, and Design.

This trip was my first visit to the Zaha Hadid-designed building completed in 2012. The timing was bittersweet, coming soon after the death of the museum’s founding director Michael Rush, who guest curated Balance and Power: Performance and Surveillance in Video Art (2005), At Fifty: Krannert Art Museum, 1961-2011 (2011), and Global Groove (2014) at Krannert Art Museum and recommended several of the museum’s outstanding acquisitions in contemporary art.

At Michigan State, graduating artists meet with museum staff over two semesters to prepare to show their work in the museum, discussing installation logistics, refining their writing, and learning how to work with a curator—my fabulous colleague Yesomi Umolu. The result this year is a beautiful installation of thoughtful socially engaged work. Exhibiting artists included Mary Curtis Fritz (ceramics), Kiel Darling (painting), Julie Johnson (sculpture), Lane Kaufmann (ceramics), Sarah Odens (painting), Keri Weber-Davies (sculpture).

Keri Weber-Davies was awarded the prize. Her installation The Alterationist’s Ambitendenciesconsidered the history of museum’s site on campus, which was formerly the ground of the Home Management House. There in the 1940s and ‘50s, women students carried out research on domestic tasks and materials, which Weber-Davies honored by reproducing photographs of some of them on muslin and using salt—beginning as liquid in a large flask and becoming solid as it drips onto a sculptural dress form—to stand in for experimentation, historical preservation and corrosion.