Master of Fine Arts: Are They Really Masters?


The Museum of Art at WSU is currently exhibiting the works of seven artists, each of which has submitted the works as proof that they deserve a Masters Degree in the field of Fine Art. Some of the works truly suggest creation by a master, still others make you wonder if we remember what it means to be a master. Of course, like all works of art, everyone has an opinion and the old adage applies more than ever: one man’s trash is another man’s treasure.

The first treasures come right as you enter the exhibit. Eric-Alain Parker uses latex on canvas to express his inner vision. He places blocky shapes, loud vibrant colors, and abstract arrangement to fill his large space. The work is suggestive of urban environments - obnoxious. The shapes and figures stand at impossible angles and make improbable intersections. Parker has placed order in the chaos of his paintings. These abstract expressionist pieces would really be magnificent if they were taken from the paper and transformed into larger than life sculptures. As they are, they would go well in a hipster bachelor pad, but not many suburban homes would sport these in the living room.

The next artist, Brett Lynse, tried something a little different. It didn’t work. While Lynse displays great talent with graphite and paper, here he puts emphasis on words and relations of words. Lynse put together a dictionary of sorts, drawing lines from one word to the next, leading the viewer down the same line (literally) of thought as the author. The work is clever, but it fails as an aesthetic display. You won’t see these in anybody’s hallway.
Nicholas Flatley was more successful with his compositions. Flatley constructs landscapes, mostly mountains. He has an unadulterated fascination with mountain landscapes. Flatley composes with acrylic, graphite, and metallic leaf on wood panels. The pieces approach the abstract. His most attractive work is an untitled triptych on unequal panels. The colors are bright against a silver leaf background. The abstracts shapes at a quick glance might describe a crude map of the planet earth. After the first half second, your mind tries to rearrange the shapes to the correct positions and to reconcile the holes and extra pieces. It almost makes sense, but the longer you look, the less you recognize until eventually you give up and decide it’s just a piece of abstract art. Flatley has a gift for that. This is a piece to put in your summer home, for sure.

If you are looking for a little darker composition, Mariah Boyle will have your fix in the other corner. She works in charcoal and conte on paper. Her Dust Series is exhibit here. The muted colors and murky charcoal fill the space on the paper. The work expresses something dark, foreboding. At the same time, shapes reminiscent of flowers and braided hair are scattered across the canvas, suggesting childish pleasure and joy. Are these the result of some childhood trauma with which Boyle is subconsciously trying to come to terms? The whole collection is a mixture of beauty and danger. It elicits response from the primeval parts and makes you stare; the fascination is not unlike a trainwreck. That isn’t to say the pieces are a disaster, on the contrary, their ability to catch and hold your gaze is amazing, but there is this presence of something dangerous which makes you want to turn away, but you can’t. The work is genius, a perfect mixture of darkness and light these pieces would be great in your study.

The last Artist of note is Eric Norman. Norman is a sculpture. His work could fall under the category of pop art, in the vein of Andy Warhol, but his pieces are so much better than Warhols. Sure, his material is mundane (Pendulum is made of bowling balls and string) but the presentation is beautiful. The crowning work here is called From Here to There. It’s a common chalkboard drawn on with chalk. Very Warhol-like. Unlike Warhol, the drawing is brilliant. Norman used the edge of his chalk to make short, straight lines. The lines create paths which wind all over the board. The paths draw you in in a very abstract manner. You want to find something in it, a path, a connection, a journey. Your eyes will search, looking for the way from point A to point B. Whether that path exists is unknown. Take a look, take your time. Find out. While this piece is wonderful, it would not go very well in many houses. Maybe in the library at your Hampton Estate. Just maybe.


Self intro:

I believe in art as entertainment. The only thing that matters for art to be great is aesthetics. If some work which has been labeled as "art" appears to you ugly or distasteful, it is useless. Some artists are experimental, some are emotional, some are traditional, some are downright crazy. None of that matters as long as the piece gives you pleasant feelings. Whenever I view art, I always ask myself, "How would this look in my living room?" If I can't imagine I would enjoy having it in my home, it must not be very good art. The great thing about art is that you can do that, every single person on this earth can have an opinion about a work of art, and they are all valid, but what it really comes down to is whether or not the viewer values the work.
Brody Teare
R&D Technician
Decagon Devices, Pullman WA, USA