It’s the season of graduate-thesis shows — the best time to discover up-and-coming artists. Local art schools have launched the careers of luminaries such as Ellsworth Kelly, Ellen Gallagher, and Sam Durant. Here’s a peek at some of the outstanding artists from Boston University, Massachusetts College of Art and Design, the School of the Museum of Fine Arts at Tufts University, and the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth who have work on view this spring.
Massachusetts College of Art and Design
“What does it mean to be seen as a threat?” asks Bashezo, a gender non-binary person of color.
Bashezo’s work honors the dead, stakes territory for the displaced, and removes scales from people’s eyes. It’s anchored in sacred rituals drawn from Lucumi, an Afro-Cuban religion.
The artist also critiques institutional rigidity.
MassArt workers’ uniforms hang on a line in Bashezo’s thesis installation. “They’re people who don’t have the resources or the access to attend,” the artist says.
Visitors walk through a narrow black corridor. Bashezo requested four black walls and got three; gallery staff initially resisted any paint, due to time and space limitations.
“This is the amount of space I feel I have within an institution,” says the artist. In performances, Bashezo paints the walls white — a condition of having blackened them.
“Painting the walls white,” the artist says, “is contributing to my own erasure.”
“Home, A Pop-Up Show” Distillery Gallery, South Boston, May 26-27
Andrew Leo Stansbury, 30
“I grew up believing I was a monster,” says Stansbury. Gay and closeted, he was a Baptist boy in small-town Texas. “I didn’t come out until I was 25. I’ve been making clay longer than I’ve been out.”
His ceramics walk the line between ornate and grotesque. They stand on their own, but he also photographs himself wearing them. His inspiration: nightmares. For instance, Stansbury says, he might dream his face is “boiling over and mutating into growths.”
When he wakes up, he heads to the studio. The clay pieces — glossy, often color-saturated — are strangely alluring.
In the stark, tender photographs, the ceramics reveal as much as they hide; they are at once a burden and a badge of honor.
Stansbury predicts his work will get wilder. “How far can I take it?” he asks. “Post-election, I realized: Now is the time. Don’t hide. I’m a big, beautiful gay man.”
“Game of Chance,” Freight Gallery & Studios, San Antonio, through June 7
“UMass Dartmouth MFA 2017 Thesis Exhibition,” Bromfield Gallery, Boston, May 31-July 2
Samantha Bates, 26
How is a drawing like a textile?
Tiny pricks, dots, and hash marks accumulate across Samantha Bates’s drawings. Her work is obsessive, probing, complicated by arbitrary systems.
Then, she started sewing on paper.
“That was the opening that allowed my work to explode,” she says.
Ink marks and stitches live in different worlds; conflate them, and traditional boundaries between fine art and craft disintegrate.
Bates’s large-scale drawing “Reclaimed by Nature” interleafs two landscapes: a beaver dam and storm-tossed logs bobbing at the end of a dock. She applied a weaver’s eye to the work.
“When I learned about taking the weft thread and setting it through the warp,” she says, “the trees became the warp, the blue the weft.”
Up close, the busy, absorbing drawing resembles an ant colony: Every bitty increment has purpose. Step away, and the landscape coalesces.
"Stitch: Syntax /Action/Reaction," New Art Center, Newton, Feb. 16-March 31, 2018
“Neither Here Nor There (or And),” at Cape Fear Community College, Wilmington, N.C., Feb. 19-March 23, 2018
Laine Rettmer, 32
As resident stage director for New York’s LoftOpera, Rettmer grapples with a classical form starched with tradition.
“I want more control over telling stories,” she says.
Video struck her as the natural next step. She wanted to play with opera’s history with drag — specifically, of women playing men. In Handel’s “Serse,” a soprano plays the titular king.
Her thesis project, “Irregular Pearls,” features women playing men.
“There’s desperation in having to play something that is not you, the discomfiture of being a female playing a male,” Rettmer says.
“Irregular Pearls” explodes hoary notions of gender in opera. At the same time, it celebrates the uncanny power of performance.
“My philosophy,” Rettmer says, “is that performance is as much reality as real life.”
Video installation, “Gabriel Canal at the Kelly Ranch,” Mountain Time Arts, Bozeman, Mont., Aug. 23-25
Isabel Beavers, 27
After college, Beavers did field work in forestry and wetlands. Then a John Singer Sargent show drew her to art school.
Her thesis installation marries those two passions. She fills a darkened space with animation, a James Turrell-style light piece, and prints and sculptures on light boxes. The work addresses the effects of ice melting in the Arctic Sea.
“Trying to understand an ecosystem is difficult. You have to poke and prod from different angles, and piece together an idea of what’s happening,” says Beavers. “I’m trying to mimic that here.”
The animation depicts burgeoning algae blooms. The light piece documents noontime in winter, when the Arctic sees no sun.
Sounds of water dripping and ice cracking make the installation seem real, yet ethereal.
“The space slips between lab and landscape,” Beavers says, “entering a space of wonderment.”
“Thinking About Water: Artists Reflect,” Metropolitan Waterworks Museum, Chestnut Hill, through June 30
“2017 Student Art on the Marquee,” Boston Convention & Exhibition Center, Mondays through June 9
“Upstream,” Mountain Time Arts, Bozeman, Mont., June 16-30
2017 Student Art on the Marquee runs through June 9.
Kayla Suverkrubbe, 25
Suverkrubbe’s squirmy, giant, shaped canvas bubbles off the wall, which makes sense, given the gyrations of the people depicted on it. It’s a comic marvel of sex and gore, with hearts bursting from chests, knobby, tangled limbs, and jutting penises. Each of seven scenes boils down to an unsettling relationship between the characters.
“It’s about my fault in my relationships with other people. Not necessarily romantic or sexual,” says Suverkrubbe. “It’s about interpersonal conflict.
The painter’s neurotic, graphic style recalls R. Crumb. She spices her Pepto-pink palette with fiery reds and yellows. One figure wears a huge grin and cuddles up to another with coins covering eyes. In another, a pigtailed figure feasts on the heart of a character munching on an apple.
“In some [scenes], there’s a willingness on the part of the other person,” says the artist. “I’d like to get to the point where it feels like they’re both aggressors.”
2017 Massachusetts College of Art and Design MFA Graduate Thesis Exhibition. Through May 10. Bakalar & Paine Galleries, 621 Huntington Ave. 617-879-7166, massart.edu/exhibitions/galleries/mfa-thesis-show-2017
The Cyclorama Show: MFA Thesis Exhibition, School of the Museum of Fine Arts at Tufts University. May 18-21, Boston Center for the Arts, 539 Tremont St. 617-369-3656, www.smfa.edu/cyclo-show
University of Massachusetts Dartmouth 2017 MFA Thesis Exhibition. Through May 13. University Art Gallery, 715 Purchase St. 508-999-8555, www1.umassd.edu/cvpa/universityartgalleryCate McQuaid can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @cmcq.