Rebecca Lauffenburger
Staff Writer

Last Friday, the Art, Design & Architecture Museum (AD&A) was unusually animated, as students and visitors to the University of California, Santa Barbara campus gathered for a reception honoring the graduates of UCSB’s Master of Fine Arts program. The event showcased the work of this year’s graduates: Rose Briccetti, Marcos Christodoulou, Yumiko Glover, Sunny Samuel, Scotty Wagner, and Peter Sowinski.

Each artist used their allotted space to create an entirely unique display showcasing their labors over the two-year program. A diverse variety of sculptures, murals, and digital media within the bustling museum space made for an eclectic, maze-like atmosphere. As they weaved their way through each part of the exhibition, visitors had a chance to admire the diverse collection, as well as speak with the artists themselves.

The museum’s entrance was occupied by the work of Peter Sowinski, whose artfully crafted sculptures and installation pieces drew a considerable crowd. His and skill eye for detail, was apparent in the wooden sculptures hung around the space, which played with symmetry and form. The far corner of the room was occupied by an elaborate piece which utilized wooden blocks arranged in ladder-like structures and stacked haphazardly on top of each other to evoke what looked to be a floor-to-ceiling game of pick-up sticks.

The large open space in the next room housed works by Christodoulou, Glover, and Samuel. Christodoulou employed oil and mixed media to create surreal paintings that, according to him, comment on “contemporary politics and culture,” and “try to make sense of its contradictions.”

Across the room hung some of Glover’s paintings, which play with clean lines and blocks of solid color in order to create dynamic, larger-than-life scenes. Her pieces, which range from simple geometric figures on small canvases to elaborate and sizable murals, are created using a distinct color palette composed of romantic pastels. Glover draws inspiration from her experiences growing up in Hiroshima, Japan, and her work addresses issues within Japanese culture with a particular emphasis on the devastation of war.

Samuel takes a more unconventional approach with his work, which explores symmetry within abstraction. Acrylic paint is poured over plexiglass to create unique patterns reminiscent of specimens on microscope slides. Slightly tinted translucent blocks of glass were arranged on a shelf in order to evoke a disjointed, yet cohesive, landscape of sorts.

Briccetti chose to create a cozy atmosphere by decking out a corner of her exhibition space with furniture, rugs, and a lamp. The centerpiece of her homey space was a large mural examining “feminine and personal identity” through natural themes of fertility and labor. Her interest in taxonomy, collage, and the art of curation are reflected in overlaid illustrations arranged in surreal and aesthetically pleasing ways.

As I moved through the gallery, I noticed a small crowd lingering around one of the more entertaining pieces on display, a multimedia project by Wagner. As visitors stepped into his exhibition, they left the museum setting and crossed into a reality entirely of Wagner’s creation. The central piece of his project was a roughly 8-by-15 inch set piece constructed of wooden boards painted green, orange, blue, and purple. The room itself was furnished with surreal imagery, such as an oversized television remote and martini glass. Visitors were encouraged to sit on the set furniture and watch the bizarre scenes (most of which were filmed on the set) playing out on a television screen mounted on the wall. Wagner, who wrote the script as well as directed the film, played both artist and actor.

Inhabiting the room in which Wagner’s narratives took place was somewhat similar to stepping into a shoebox diorama. Behind this miniature universe was a physical “backstage” area creatively set up to display props, costumes, and prosthetics used in the creation of the film. The overall effect of Wagner’s creativity was an interactive and immersive experience that definitely left a mark on viewers. While people streamed past, Wagner stood in front of his set, chatting with visitors who laughed and praised him for his comedic antics on-screen.

This year’s MFA graduate exhibition features a diverse group of artists, each with a unique vision and means of expressing their perspective, culminating in a varied, thoughtful, and utterly beautiful body of work. The exhibition will be on display until June 4.