This online exhibition brings together the diverse works of current national and international graduate students working and dreaming across mediums within the visual arts. Daydreams are an escape from reality – an escape that gives us room to breathe, to create, and to hope. In daydreams, the present melts away and the possibilities of the future feel as real as the here and now. For many, artists included, daydreams can be launchpads for new ideas or soft places to land when the world gets loud.

MFA students from the University of Montana, Lexie Loader, Lilly Bennett, Megan Foster, Emily Mulvaney and Montana State University, Morgan Kemp, Nicholas Kraus, Tiana Godfrey, Kristen Hedge.

Videos in Exhibition:

‘World’s End’ Marie Lauren Drake
Massachusetts College of Art & Design

The dead sun/ black holes within my animations for this series represent the “world’s end” which is inspired by the name of a Boston park I visited upon moving here. They are meant to signify the end of all things, the sun going out, the end of the world as we know it- not literally, but figuratively. Life can sometimes feel full of dread and this fear of a looming disaster on the horizon has become part of everyday life post-9/11 and post-covid. Every generation/individual has its/their own version and fears of the apocalypse……The viewing of these imagined endings in time is meant to represent moving past endings/trauma/change by memorializing these stages and separating them from the present to view them as a part of the past. I am representing these animations as if they are in a Museum of History or Science 80,000 years in the future, as if the viewer is looking back at several catastrophic “endings”. ….The main objective is to represent past “endings” and manifest them into a physical thing (a container of sorts). By placing these images into this video collage, I am ruminating on the idea that the death of something (ideas, relationships, worldviews) can leave room for a new beginning. A paradigm shift. Ultimately, I am thinking about this idea of quelling the fear of the end and reframing time as a holder of all endings, an infinite museum of ends…..This is a digital version of a video project that is also part of a 4 channel video installation being exhibited at MassArt this December.

‘Fragments of Eternity III’ Lia Embil
Queens College, CUNY

Fragments of Eternity was a large-scale multimedia installation exhibited in Klapper Gallery (New York), in April of 2023, as my MFA thesis exhibition. The exhibition was comprised of a hanging installation of 600 found objects collected over the span of a year, a sound installation of recorded sounds, instruments, and my voice, as well as 600 poems, with each poem corresponding to one of the hanging objects. The exhibition created a space for visitors to experience stillness and wonder amongst floating objects of our every day, or not so every day. Floating at eye level, these objects from our world ultimately allowed the visitor to turn their eye inward and reflect on their own being and consciousness. The space served as a dreamscape, outside of the increasingly mechanic world we find ourselves in, inspiring memory, beauty, and contemplation.

Juror Statements

Jurors Choice Award - Rana Tiba _Glaucoma_ Iowa State University

Lexie Loader, MFA, the University of Montana
Jurors Choice: ‘Glaucoma’ Rana Tiba, Iowa State University

It was an exciting process to jury the online mfa exhibition, I was in awe of all the artwork that was submitted. I saw mediums and materials being pushed in ways I’d never thought of or imagined and pieces that left me speechless from the content and vulnerability of the artist. While there was such a huge range in mediums, media, and content, it made me actually feel closer to other mfa students from around the county and globe and left me extremely inspired.

For my jurors choice award, I knew I wanted it to be one of Rana Tiba’s paintings, it was just a matter of which one. Rana Tiba is an Egyptian Painter and Illustrator who is pursuing their MFA degree at Iowa State University. Rana entered three incredibly powerful oil paintings that all had an impact on me making it very difficult to decide which one to select. I chose the painting titled Glaucoma, because I couldn’t stop thinking about it. This portrait is so intimate and Tiba shows such intensity and intention in her marks, but also a lot of restraint and empty space that leaves room to really contemplate this portrait. I really enjoy and appreciate the way Tiba paints; her figurative work is representational yet slightly skewed, manipulated, and exaggerated to push the emotional impact of them even further. Her application of paint and use of materials is impressive, full of texture, color and emotion.


Jurors Choice Award - Behnaz Fatemi

Lilly Bennett, MFA, the University of Montana
Jurors Choice: “Voices of a Revolution” MFA Behnaz Fatemi, University of Waterloo

Voices of a Revolution” made by Behnaz Fatemi, is a wearable sound sculpture dedicated to the ‘Woman Life Freedom’ revolution in Iran. The large pyramid-shaped “helmet” plays sounds documented during Waterloo Region protests that occurred in response to the devastating death of Mahso (Jina) Amini, which sparked mass outcry all over the world. Bahnaz Fatemi says, “the installation is a personal tribute to the bravery and resilience of the protesters, especially women in Iran who have risked taking to the streets in the face of extreme adversity.… The cement-looking helmet sculpture made of paper mache represents a solid and safe place of refuge through its evocation of concrete, a refuge from the extreme stress, tension, and trauma I and many in Iran experience daily while loved ones are lost or in danger. The interactive installation welcomes participants into its isolated atmosphere, facilitating a space where the wearer can immerse themselves into an auditory world of chants and slogans evoking these mass protests worldwide through a soundtrack of resistance. Through this installation, I endeavor to shed light on the experiences of those who live under oppressive regimes and to raise awareness about the importance of protecting civil rights and social freedoms, amplifying the voices of the revolution.” Behnaz has brought together form, function, and the urgency for social freedom in a way that is brilliant and effective, and I am honored to be able to represent Behnaz Fatemi as my Jurors Choice.

Juror Choice “Imprinted” Monica Hamilton, University of Connecticut

Emily Mulvaney, MFA, the University of Montana
Jurors Choice: “Imprinted” Monica Hamilton, University of Connecticut

Monica Hamilton’s “Imprinted” struck me. I had an emotional response to this photograph. Visions and memories of my grandparent’s farmhouse in rural Minnesota flooded my mind. The mark, or index, of someone’s physical presence in a space begs the viewer to fill in the absence. There is a sense of longing here. Hamilton has beautifully captured the relationship between routine and time through showing this glimpse into an intimate interior environment.”

“The jurying process was difficult, yet so delightful. Seeing the work of other current MFA students/artists was exciting. The level of dedication and contemplation is clear. As a panel, we looked for pieces that were conceptually and formally strong while being conscious of representing a variety of media.

Jurors Choice “Tick Tock Tick Tock” Lolo Gem, Towson University

Megan Foster, MFA, the University of Montana
Jurors Choice: “Tick Tock Tick Tock” Lolo Gem, Towson University

I chose Tick Tock Tick Tock by Lolo Gem as my Juror’s Choice. I immediately fell in love with this painting. The composition feels alive. All the energy of an act of frustration and exhaustion captured at once. The clock and the tick, tick, tick, of time explode across the canvas. The drama is being delivered in classic cartoon packaging – an aesthetic that is filled with nostalgia and comfort. It’s a thoughtful and expertly executed piece that walks the line between charming humor and complex emotion.

Jurying this exhibition was an absolute pleasure. It was exciting to see the breadth of work being created by fellow graduate students and the tenacity with which they explored their subject matter. The most challenging part of the process was narrowing down the submissions to our final selections. It was hard saying goodbye to so many incredible pieces. To all those that applied, thank you for sharing your work, and know that it was very close.

Jurors Choice “Night Dress” Angeles Salinas, University of Texas, San Antonio

Morgan Kemp, MFA, Montana State University
Jurors Choice: “Night Dress” Angeles Salinas, University of Texas, San Antonio

Night Dress is a delightful mixed media piece, crafted by Angeles Salinas. The moment I saw it I was captivated, and the only word I can properly use to describe it is delicious. Angeles pulls on their childhood, Mexican heritage, and domesticity to create whimsical work layered with deeper meaning and designed through a female perspective. Every single element is so thoughtfully integrated from the repetition in the form of the telephone poles, to the gradient of black through the transition of materials, to the small glow of light, and the contrast of dreamy memory above to ominous takeover below. The extravagance of the fabric and fibers cascading from the wall to the floor, like a dramatic ball gown, feels like it is inviting me to try this memory on. By doing so this painting is pushed into the sculptural world and creates an immersive environment which I find absolutely enchanting. It enveloped me from the start and has only gotten better and better the longer I have had to enjoy it.

There is a beautiful significance to this show, bringing together applicants from MFA’s all over the world, culminating in the reflection of a mutual experience of art in grad school. The best part of the jurying process for me was feeling connected to such a plethora of artists through their work, and realizing what an extensive community of us there are out there. We can get so laser-focused on our own work that we forget to look up and see what others are doing, and I tell you what, there are some incredible things being done by MFA’s and I am so glad that I got to see some of it. There were specific works that resonated with me on a deep level, and it’s amazing that, even in an online space, art can have such an impact.

Jurors Choice “Eyehole for a Shapeshifter” Nicole Crozier, Concordia University

Tiana Godfrey, MFA, Montana State University
Jurors Choice:“Eyehole for a Shapeshifter” Nicole Crozier, Concordia University

I fell into Eyehole for a Shapeshifter by Nicole Crozier. There’s an immediacy to its bright reds and warm yellows and a patient, revealing quality to the textures and details. It feels uncomfortable and frightening, but also expansively worth falling in love with. I’m not sure if the dream is good or bad. And I’m not sure if the dream is good or bad! Always. So seeing a painting that allowed me to explore that through another’s imagination encouraged me to also select this as my #1 juror’s choice.

I had no idea what I was getting into with the jurying process––it required diplomacy and an ability to articulate what I appreciated about a piece, as well as the equal ability to let that go for the sake of another’s appreciation. The discussions around the artworks, many that had several strong defendants, allowed me to see how other juror’s look, and that aspect is something I’ll take with me while creating and looking myself.


Jurors Choice Award - Sarah Faith Strait
Kristen Hedge, MFA, Montana State University
Jurors Choice: “White Horse with Yellow” by Sarah Faith Strait, Miami University

It was an honor to jury this show and see artworks from MFA students nationally and internationally. Thank you to everyone who submitted! Jurying this show was no easy task, we had many discussions about the artworks and the artists statements that impacted how we viewed the piece. I am grateful for this opportunity to view another artist’s work and to understand what this process is really like. I think what stood out to me was at the end when we had to get down to the final artworks that would end up in the show. To curate a show based on “Daydreams” can in a sense be widely interpreted, however the works we picked I think are a great representation of a daydream. These works represent identity, the body, societal and class stigmas, and political divides. The artist’s interpretation of these subjects resonated with us in impactful ways. I am grateful for the level of vulnerability and insightfulness represented.

For “Juror’s Choice” I picked the artwork “ White Horse with Yellow” by Sarah Faith Strait from Miami University. I found this piece alluring with the two white horses going between representation, to being fragmented and abstracted with thick brush strokes. The color is soft yet sublime. I find the body posture to be relaxed and also radiating that these animals are kind. Horses bear the brunt of human behavior in many ways. As artist Sarah Faith Strait describes “The story of the horse and its history with humankind is a complex and tragic one, where its agency and spirit have been harnessed and exploited for the advancement of human endeavors.” They reflect upon us what we give to them. We see many horse paintings in Montana. They typically show stoicism, independence, and a strength in masculinity in some way. I was drawn to this painting because it takes the overdone ego out of it. She continues with “In my work, the integrity of the horse is broken down, fragmented, and re-imagined, suggesting potential movement and the passage of time.”