11th Annual Visual Arts Symposium and Open Studios Explore Issues Shaping Culture Today
The Department of Visual Arts opened its galleries, studios and lecture hall Saturday, giving an inside look into the practice and research of art students at UC San Diego. Held annually, the Graduate Symposium and Open Studios showcase the groundbreaking work of Ph.D. student art historians and MFA artists. Organized by the graduate students themselves, the event gives them the opportunity to share their work with the campus and greater community.
“The Ph.D. Symposium and Open Studios are highlights each year of our graduate programs,” said department chair Jack Greenstein. “They give the MFA artists and scholars in the Ph.D. in Art History, Theory and Criticism program a chance to share their exploration of the issues shaping culture today.”
This year’s symposium, titled “Sensory Disruptions: Confronting the Primacy of the Visual,” focused on the knowledge, productions and practices derived from vision and the other senses. There were three panel discussions, with papers presented by Ph.D. students from the UC San Diego departments of Visual Arts and Communication, with additional speakers from University of Southern California, MIT and University of Washington. Faculty professors led the discussions.
“There is no better introduction to the depth of research, the range of practices, and commitments to using art and art history to understand the world, than these events,” Greenstein said. “We are proud of our students. This year, we saw some truly ground-breaking work in progress.”
The 11th annual symposium closed with a keynote from Georgina Kleege of UC Berkeley titled “Blind Self-Portraits: Remaking the Image of Blindness.” Kleege, who teaches courses on representations of disability in literature, explored how blindness is represented by a selection of sight-impaired artists.
She is the author of the forthcoming title “More Than Meets the Eye: What Blindness Brings to Art” that looks at how sight and blindness is represented in art, how blindness affects the lives of visual artists and how museums can make visual art accessible to people who are visually impaired.
“I would like to praise the panel discussions today,” Kleege said in closing the conference, organized by Ph.D. students Erika Barbosa, Shoghig Halajian, Marianna Hovhannisyan, Alexis Hudgins, Yiquing Li and Yi Liu. “It was really a very rich program, and the potential for conversations could go on for years. I’m just in awe of everyone.”
For Open Studios, artists were present to discuss their work, interests and practices, as well as the state of art in the region and country today. Held on two floors of the Visual Arts Facility, select highlights include:
Jessica Buie's work examines the body's role in contemporary culture through an exploration of gendered desire and posturing. Queering representations of gender, Buie questions how bodies are reflected and refracted in the world using photography and video, among other medium. A 2015 San Diego Diversity Fellowship awardee, Buie said she is in part interested in the definition of queer in relation to digital experiences and identities.
“My work operates within the understanding that users produce more genuine action and opinions while their online identities remain anonymous,” she said in her profile. “I investigate how digital moments can lead to clearer understanding of physical gender and sexuality.”
An artist with a degree in History, Guillermo Estrada said a fundamental part of his work has been recuperating and documenting present-day art and music scenes, primarily through personal interviews. He works in audiovisual recording and video production, and said growing up in the San Diego-Tijuana region has shaped his view of a thriving, border art scene.
“Living on the border has given me the opportunity to observe the cultural exchange that is so distinctive of this area,” he said in his statement. “To narrate what is happening now and put it into video is to generate and contribute a historical document that, with the passage of time, can become a virtual library with immediate and open access to all.”
Focusing on site-specific installations, John Dombroski works with sound, experimental music composition, performance and cinematography. Creator of the ongoing work “The Broadcast Project,” Dombroski is in part interested in questioning the ways in which audiovisual, neurological and cognition produce a sensory experience.
As a prompt for Open Studios, he urged visitors to move through any space opening everything they encountered—doors, blinds, windows, closets, bottles—saying “performance resolves when everything is open.” He received his BFA from Virginia Commonwealth University, and is an alumnus of Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture, Ox-Bow School of the Arts and Wave Farm.
dana washington is a multidisciplinary artist whose work explores existence, agency and the imagination through experimental film, portraiture, text and narration. washington examines personal history, fiction and memory, as well as the condition of black and queer persons, centering on oppression, representation and healing.
The artist presented the short film “UNDER BONE,” a work inspired by washington’s late grandfather. Written and directed by washington, the film was selected for the 2018 Toronto Short Film Festival, Outfest Fusion Film Festival: On the Queer Horizon and Black Radical Imagination 2018 Showcase.
A full listing of participating graduate students and their work is available on the Open Studios website.