Mills College kicked off the 2006 MFA exhibition season April 30th. Regular visitors have come to expect polished work from the Mills crew, and the 2006 class does not disappoint, but the exhibition is unusually, perhaps even troublingly, cohesive thematically. Listen to these excerpts from five of the artists statements:

Kimberly Cisneros:  “Our essential exchange with nature is often forgotten in modern life.”

Diana Guerrero:  Referring to the chemicals used in the greenhouse memorialized in her installation, she writes that “...decayed greenhouse artifacts reveal its dangers.” 

Avery Mazor:  “One of our obsessions has been to draw boundaries between humanity and technology…to me a circuit board is as organic as a leaf.”

Amy Rueffert:  “...based in nature, the forms become synthetic through reproduction.”

Misako Inoaka: ” My interests arise from the boundary between what we call natural and artificial.”

Inoaka’s installation of a myriad of miniature sculptures, Nurture Nature, is a show highlight.  If not for its delicacy, one would say it sprawled across the gallery. It climbs up, down, and into the walls, involving the viewer in a treasure hunt for the next small, strange, hybrid.

Although they don’t refer directly to questions of nature and artifice in their statements, Ilana Crispi, Tara Matheny-Schuster, and Nadol Pak all show works that could be fruitfully interpreted in relationship to those issues.  Crispi offers glass and felt “messenger” pigeons, Matheny-Schuster shows intimate paintings of decaying vegetables, and Nadol Pak displays map-like drawings in which “Morse code” marks double as vegetation and architecture.

Of the work pursuing other themes, Jesus Aguilar’s videos investigating binary code, language, and understanding stand out. The video loop ABC123, in which his finger appears to trace letters and numbers in a computer screen as if it were the surface of a pond, supports readings ranging from the fragility of encoded knowledge to the difficulties of communication generally.

As the other MFA programs in the area show their stuff in coming weeks, we will discover whether or not the insistent concerns of the Mills artists characterize their entire 2006 cohort. The Mills exhibition runs through May 28.


Image Credit:  detail from Nature Nurture (2006), Misako Inoaka, mixed media installation, courtesy of the artist

- Meredith Tromble [Sunday, May 7th, 2006]



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