‘Raw’ is an online exhibition epitomizing the brave work of graduate students. It represents work from a vast array of content, material and approaches. Graduate school strips us bare, allowing for clarification and analyzation that rebuilds and refines our artistic practice. ‘Raw’ is the broken skin of 2020, while simultaneously being the vibrant nourishment.

MFA students from the University of Montana and Montana State University: Brooke Armstrong, Amanda Barr, Alex Botelho, Laurel McKay, Michelle Postma and Peg Wen.

Fall 2020

Videos in Exhibition:

‘Essay on Homage to Failure’ by Esteban Perez
Emily Carr College of Art and Design, Tied for Second Place

‘So called Elements of Time’ by Emily Gordon
University of California, Davis

‘Well, if you weren’t so stupid’ by Emily Gordon
University of California, Davis

‘Box’ by Ben Craigie
University of Notre Dame

‘Artist Book April 2020’ by Adam Fulwier
University of Arakansas

Juror Statements

Brook Armstrong
“We would like to thank all of the students who applied to this years MFA Exhibition Online titled Raw. There were 575 submission that were pared down to 50 selected works. The seven jurors from Montana State University and The University of Montana reviewed applicants individually and then met as a group to discuss notes, concepts and eventually decide on the final works that would be included in this exhibition.

The jurying process was difficult. There were many artworks of outstanding quality that did not make the cut. Our jurors pool had vastly different tastes. However, our differences in opinion contributed to a well rounded representation of the work that was submitted. As an abstract ceramic sculptor, I was aware of my own bias towards the medium of clay, large scale works, sculpture, and abstraction.

Brook Armstrong
MFA candidate University of Montana

Amanda Barr“Jurying this show was no simple task: to choose only 50 out of 574 images of work created by our peers, during one of the most difficult moments to be a graduate student in memory, felt monumental. Although the internet has given us unusual access to each other’s work, this was such a unique opportunity to look at what other students are creating right now, not just what has been curated into my Instagram feed. Such a view across mediums is rare and special, and I am grateful to everyone who extended themselves to submit their work. You were all seen, you were all appreciated- I needed a reminder of why we MAKE, of what can come of all that studio time.

My juror’s choice is “Have an Average Day” by Caitlin Daglis. The instant attraction I felt with this piece was to the text; I adore the snark directed at hollow social banalities. That this piece isn’t aggressive or nasty, not “Have a terrible day!” or “Have a shit-tastic day!” but so utterly banal and innocuous, which struck me as even more hilarious. Upon second and third look, I began to ponder the deeper layers captured in the materiality of the work. Embroidered upon a dyed tea towel, this piece becomes a commentary on femininity, women’s work, emotional labor, and the repetitive nature of social constructs- such as rote expressions of politeness. Too often overlooked as merely ‘craft’ (aka the feminine), subtly profound work like this truly is the kind of expression I imagined when we put together the prompt for RAW. Brava.”

Amanda Barr
MFA Studio Art, Candidate, MA Candidate Art History, University of Montana, Missoula

Alex Botelho“When going through the volumes of images and videos that were submitted for “Raw”, what stood out to me was vast array of possibilities individuals found to express what raw meant to them. It was inspiring to see work that was so brave and honest in its highly personal and emotional rawness and to see the work that was so imaginative and inventive in its highly experimental form of rawness. I want to say thank you to everyone who submitted to the show, and congratulations to everyone who was selected, all of you were courageous in sharing your work. Whichever interpretation of “Raw” the artist used, it’s clear to me that graduate school and the particular circumstances in this era of Covid, that we find ourselves in 2020, has challenged us to find ways to express our bravery, our innovation, and our determination to make it out the other side. It is this brilliant display of work that gives me optimism that brighter days will come and we will be more embracing and appreciative of those successes because we have gone through this struggle and prevailed.

Juror’s Choice Statement: What immediately caught my eye when looking at the work of Ji-Min Hwang was the appreciation of seemingly banal moments that could have easily been over looked and instead found beauty. In this particular piece I found optimism in the observation of a weed growing through the cracks of the pavement. A seemingly cliché metaphor for adversity and beating the odds, but it hardly feels cliché. Through the muted colors, the full range of value, and logical composition, I’m compelled to believe in the authenticity of this moment. To find life and hope in the most desolate of places seems like the rawest form of optimism. We have all be experiencing so many challenges in the last year, to be able to find reprieve on the sidewalk truly brings me joy.”

Alex Botelho
MFA candidate at Montana State University

Laurel McKay“My name Is Laurel McKay and I’m a third year MFA candidate at Montana State University. In my own artwork I focus on printmaking and metals, emphasizing in my current body of work, an exploration of identity that is free of gender, sexuality, class or race, in the hopes of opening up space for conversations around these systemic oppressions that affect us all.

I was so pleased to be asked to participate with an art show for grad students organized by grad students. The level of work being produced in such uncertain time really speaks to the perseverance, creative spirit and dedication of graduate students across the country. As artists we process life through a filter of creative expression, which, now as we live through a global pandemic couldn’t be more important. I was also, impressed with the wide variety of conceptualization and materials presented, around the theme of RAW.

For my Juror’s choice I picked Forrest Lawsons piece titled, “What Are We to You.” Narrowing down my choice for was hard, however, this work really spoke to me and I felt that it epitomized the theme of raw. The works use of blood (and specifically Queer blood) as medium, especially during a pandemic, make it that much more impactful for me. The use of a grid layout helps to organize and unify the artwork while highlighting the petri dishes as vessel or almost a reliquary. This piece was well constructed and displayed in an intriguing manner, using backlighting to emphasize and highlight the material.”

Laurel McKay
MFA candidate at Montana State University

Michelle Postma“It was a great treat to look at the works my peers are making. There are amazing artists out there taking risks and offering infinite reflections of the way reality can be. When considering the works I enjoy thinking about the story the artist is telling through their choices. The stories we tell ourselves inform how we show up in the world. Art is a powerful form of storytelling that can reach beyond words.

One performance caught my attention, Hymn, by Whitney Vangrin. This still shot from Hymn exemplifies the inward gaze and external ecstasy of Vangrin’s performance. Her total immersion in the performance/experience combined with the invocation of archetypal images and ritual give the viewer a timeless connection to the experience of being in one’s own body, through her unabashed kneading of dough. Vangrin goes through many relationships with the dough – expressing internal states with the physical handling. She pushes the dough into her body, so she is both the material and the maker as she desperately kneads the second skin of her torso. Raw energy. Raw dough. Vangrin exhibits power and vulnerability – power in allowing oneself to be vulnerable as a player in the great drama of the human condition. Her performance implies a spirituality inherent in embracing the gross physical aspect of existence. The thing about living is that it can’t be done second hand. As an artist, Vangrin is taking risks and exploring her identity, mental landscapes, and what it means to be present in an experience. 

Michelle Postma is a ceramic artist, painter, educator, and adventure enthusiast living in Missoula, MT. She received her BFA in ceramics from the University of Georgia and is pursuing her MFA at the University of Montana where she is focusing on large scale mural esque paintings and ceramic sculpture inspired by neural networks. She currently teaches drawing for the University of Montana and as a teacher Michelle has found her enthusiasm for storytelling to be infectious.” 

Michelle Postma
MFA candidate at the University of Montana, Missoula

“This has been an amazing opportunity to see the vast range of interests our fellow peers have during their time in graduate school. It was incredibly challenging to narrow down our impressive number of submissions to only 50. But with the help of the graduate students at Montana State University and University of Montana, I think we were able to create an amazing online exhibition.

My juror’s choice was Brandy Green’s “Norepinephrine of Annunciation”. This submission immediately stood out to due to the use of light and shadow. Light is a tricky medium to use and Brandy did a beautiful job of creating a work of art that is not only visually stunning, but conceptually very intriguing. The apertured torso of the figure and the title allows the light to create a sense of reflection and contemplation. The way the figure sits and is sprawled out, creates a calming, yet enlightening conversation.”

Peg Wen
MFA candidate, University of Montana, Missoula

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