Boston is home to several strong art schools, and in April and May, most of the Master of Fine Arts degree candidates show their work. It's an opportunity to glimpse pieces by artists on the cusp of their careers. We spoke to five of this year's most promising graduates from the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Massachusetts College of Art, and Boston University.
NATHALIE JACQUELINE MIEBACH, 34
SCULPTOR | Massachusetts College of Art
Miebach's path to sculpture has been a winding one. Her father worked on the Hubble space telescope, but she steered clear of science in college, where she studied Chinese and political science. Then she taught theater in Indonesia. She finally took science classes at Harvard University's extension school, where she also learned basket weaving. There she recognized that the basket's three-dimensional grid is a wonderful axis upon which to chart scientific data, with balls and sticks.
''Art became an obvious way to explore the questions I have about science." Miebach says. ''I look at two sets of data, like when the moon rises and sets and when the sun rises and sets in Antarctica. Then the sticks are the tidal readings for each day. . . . The more and more layers of data translated, the less I'm interested in how they explain a phenomenon. An intuitive understanding develops.
''The pieces are accompanied by experiments. I'd walk the distance from the earth to the sun, using my footstep for a measurement of the diameter of the earth. How many footsteps does it take to get to the sun? I walked 8 1/2 kilometers through Boston.
''I'm looking at residencies. I want to go to Finland, to experience the absence and presence of the sun. How will the sculptures change if I have the experience of it?"
STEFANIE BRUSER-SMITH, 26
PAINTER | School of the Museum of Fine Arts and Tufts University
Bruser-Smith came to the Museum School right from college in Kentucky. Her darkly comic portraits use the icon of the Girl Scout to explore how women perceive themselves. She plays the idealized innocence of the Scout off society's deeply ambivalent ideas about body image and femininity. In September, her work will be featured in a portrait show at Emmanuel College.
''I love paint. I physically love it. I think through my paint. It helps my ideas to come through," says Bruser-Smith. ''I've always been interested in portraiture, and my own image recurs a lot. I've been working on the Girl Scouts about a year and a half now. I look at the idea of role-playing, with older women wanting to dress younger and young teens wanting to dress older.
''Clothing is a signifier. The Girl Scout uniform pinpoints a specific age group. Some of [my paintings] were so clearly in my imagination, I would pose myself and take photos. Only one is from another person's image."
CAMILO RAMIREZ, 31
PHOTOGRAPHER | Massachusetts College of Art
Ramirez photographs the forgotten spaces in the urban landscape, imbuing them with a kind of magic. He has work in the Photographic Resource Center's Student Exhibition through May 7, and he's included in the Mission Hill Artists Collective's annual exhibition, April 28 through June 3 at the Parker Hill Library.
''My parents are from Colombia, but they moved here before I was born. . . . I grew up in California, and my parents moved around a lot for work. Always a new town," Ramirez says. ''Then [when I was in high school] we moved to Miami, and we ended up staying there. . . . I felt there was not enough variation. Everything there is so saturated with color and money.
''There are so many conventional things you can see in any city. Growing up in many towns, you see the differences and similarities. I like to photograph the seemingly generic: Lines in the road, a building, a parking lot. I like how they mark out the boundaries of our humdrum routine."
RESA BLATMAN, 46
PAINTER | Boston University
Blatman, who went to art school before becoming a graphic designer, has returned to her painting roots at BU. Her paintings recall the creative ferment of the primordial ooze and the precision of Dutch still lifes. They swirl with color, like dark underwater eddies shot with sunlight and bubbling like champagne. Lemons and berries cluster over the luxuriant surfaces. Flowers and plants hover, more ghostly than the fruit. She'll take part in the Somerville Open Studios May 6-7.
''My paintings are all about reproduction and fertility," Blatman says. ''My husband and I tried to have children in vitro. It was grueling and depressing, and when it didn't work, [I thought] 'What am I going to do with my life now?' I decided to go back to what I love. I couldn't have children, but what happened was the birth of this oeuvre of work. . . . It's a celebration.
''Beauty has been an important part of my work. A lot of people make wonderful ugly paintings. I have an elegant line. I had to be honest; this is how my hand works. And a slight dark undertone makes it more interesting."
BRIAN GERSHEY, 30
PAINTER | School of the Museum of Fine Arts and Tufts University
Gershey's works are both painterly and pop-inflected. His backgrounds rush with horizontal strokes of bright color. Little rounded forms and clusters of rectangles bounce and scurry over the surface, like Pac-Man multiplied, released from the confines of a video screen into a less predictable and more beautiful world. His work will be in a group show in Columbus, Ohio, over the summer.
''When I was a kid, my grandmother took me to the Museum of Modern Art to see a Matisse. He used these exaggerated colors. I went back and started using them myself," says Gershey.
''A lot of my work centers around things I'm obsessed with from childhood, like video games or 'Star Wars.' . . . A lot represent different worlds, worlds I've made up or other people's worlds. . . . I was looking at NASA's website, images from the Cassini space probe. My colors were similar to that. Colors I'd been using my whole life. Ever since I've been a painter, I couldn't keep myself away from bright, stimulating colors."
Massachusetts College of Art
Bakalar and Paine Galleries, 621 Huntington Ave., has three shows. The first ends tomorrow. The second (with Camilo Ramirez and Nathalie Jacqueline Miebach) runs Wednesday through May 6. The third is May 11-May 22. 617-879-7333, www.massart.edu.
808 Gallery, 808 Commonwealth Ave., through April 30. 617-358-0922, www.bu.edu/cfa.
School of the Museum of Fine Arts
Tufts University Art Gallery, 40R Talbot Ave., Medford. One show (with Brian Gershey and Stefanie Bruser-Smith) runs through Wednesday. The next is May 4-21. 617-627-3518, http://ase.tufts.edu/gallery.