Skip navigation links

Feb. 23, 2024

Internationally recognized MSU art faculty explore imagination beyond fantasy in triennial exhibition

An apron made of woven ceramic fingerbone, royal glitter portraiture, a radiochemical painting and 19th-century photographic processing techniques are some of the works from internationally recognized faculty in the Michigan State University Department of Art, Art History and Design, or AAHD, on display at the MSU Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum as part of the department’s triennial exhibition.

People viewing artwork in a gallery.
Attendees at the opening reception of the Art, Art History and Design Faculty Triennial exhibition view the artworks on display. Credit: Trystan Guerrero.

On view through June 21, the exhibition offers a comprehensive sample of works from 22 AAHD faculty members that explore what it means to engage in imagination beyond the realm of fantasy.

“The core belief that drives me as an artist, educator and, now, arts administrator is that the acts of scholarship, design and art are acts that heal and repair a damaged world, acts that recover human wholeness and restore our capacity to empathize and to imagine,” said Tani Hartman, AAHD chair. “Each artist acted from the committed, brave choice of believing that they will be heard. The art world is not easy, nor is the solitude of creativity, but each time we believe that the human voice and heart matters, we act to repair a world in tatters.”

The 2024 AAHD faculty triennial exhibition is supported by the John and Susan Berding Family Endowment and was guest curated by Asha Iman Veal, associate curator at the Museum of Contemporary Photography at Columbia College Chicago, along with Dalina Perdomo Álvarez, assistant curator at the MSU Broad Art Museum.

Faculty members featured in the exhibition include:

Thomas Berding, professor of painting, has fifteen paintings from his “Everyday Elsewhere” series on display. This series, which uses paint and collage, presents viewers with a haunting and speculative image of the world that draws on the history of abstract painting, digital and postindustrial refuse and observations on contemporary life.

Rebekah Blesing, an assistant professor who teaches art foundations courses, created a resin print of an adult dragonfly titled ‘Tympanum.” Spending most of their existence as immature nymphs and only a few weeks as an adult, dragonflies’ imbalanced lifespan and limited existence have symbolic meaning across many cultures. Blesing draws upon this, using the dragonfly as an expression of grief, thinking of it as existing in a realm between life and death.


Four radiographic images of sunflowers sit on display in square frames.
Adam Brown’s reimaginings of Vincent van Gogh’s famous “Sunflowers” paintings. Credit: Molly Wright.

Adam Brown, professor of electronic art and intermedia, working with Chemistry Associate Professor Gregory Severin, a researcher at the Facility for Rare Isotope Beams — a world-class research, teaching and training center on MSU’s campus — remediated Vincent van Gogh’s famous “Sunflowers” paintings using biology, radiochemistry and heavy metal contaminants to explore the intersection between science and art. Instead of hand-painted sunflowers, this work is composed of radiographic data taken from a sunflower that had absorbed metal contaminants to produce a visual trace of the data and a portrait of the flower.

A grid of abstract paintings hang on a wall.
Candice Chovanec’s “Iterations” are inspired by koans, Zen Buddhist prompts used during meditation that consist of unanswerable questions or riddles. Credit: Molly Wright.

Rebecca Casement is an assistant professor of ceramics and sculpture. Casement’s clay, steel and resin sculpture, “Sublime,” uses the vessel form as a symbol of the body in an imperfect state, looking to express emotions and experiences — instead of using sculpture as a representation of a perfected human form. Imprinted in the art is how we use our bodies and our words to harm and heal. It asks the question of what our role and responsibility to society is as individuals and collectively.

Candice Chovanec, an assistant professor who teaches art foundations and integrated arts and humanities courses, created a series of abstract paintings, titled “Iterations,” which are inspired by koans, Zen Buddhist prompts used during meditation that consist of unanswerable questions or riddles, such as “How does the flower perceive the bee?”

Ryan Claytor, assistant professor of comics and graphic novels and coordinator for the comic art and graphic novel minor, produced a comic book for the exhibition. The comic is a visual adaptation of a poem by his late grandfather. “A Hunter’s Tale: A Comics Poem by My Grandfather” tells the story of an unlikely encounter between a hunter and his prey that becomes a lesson in empathy.

A grid of photographs of ancient architecture are mounted on a wall.
Through “Fragments of History: Turkey,” Laura Cloud aims to present new viewpoints and fragments of architecture from the ancient world to remind us that the historical past is still relevant to our present. Credit: Molly Wright.

Laura Cloud, associate professor of sculpture, has a series of travel photos, titled “Fragments of History: Turkey” in the exhibition. Through these photos, Cloud aims to present new viewpoints and fragments of architecture from the ancient world to remind us that the historical past is still relevant to our present.

Lorelei d’Andriole, assistant professor of electronic art and intermedia, created a “Heel Toe Express,” sculptural and audiovisual installation consisting of 10 pairs of shoes that function as instruments. Using sound and recorded performance to represent feelings d’Andriole experienced early in her transition around clothing inclusivity for trans women, the shoes and other salvaged objects in the installation produce unique sounds and functionally to tell their story to encourage audiences to move away from imagining themselves in someone else’s shoes and toward letting the shoes speak to them.

A circular mixed-media work of art hanging on a wall.
“omphalos” and “euthymia II” by d’Ann de Simone. Credit: Molly Wright.

d’Ann de Simone, professor of painting and printmaking, has two mixed-media works in the exhibition, titled “omphalos” and “euthymia II.” Inspired by her Italian upbringing, these works employ the Tondo style of circular painting, popular during the Italian Renaissance, while also incorporating materials and techniques that are often associated with “women’s work,” such as textiles, needlework and sequins. Many of the materials were collected by her late mother, others were acquired secondhand.

De Simone considers herself a collaborator with all these women, decontextualizing and building upon their initial labors to recontextualize and honor their legacies. In creating this work, de Simone advances the conversation regarding the hierarchical division embedded in the practice of craft and fine arts. She also seeks to dissolve the hierarchical division between craft and fine arts. Yet, she believes that breaking of “the canon” to include those practices coded as “feminine, domestic or vernacular” still remains elusive.

Benjamin Duke, an associate professor who teaches art foundations classes, created two oil paintings depicting stories of adventure, tragedy and survival from the crew of the Essex, an American whaling ship that sunk in 1820, leaving the crew stranded at sea for several months. One of the paintings, “The Sailor’s Wife,” is a portrait of the wife of the first mate of the Essex. And “In the Land of Nod, Episode 1: The Fearful Tale of the Essex, Duke paints himself as the captain of the ship and includes pop culture and political figures as crew members.

A large-scale painting depicting Black and Brown women in various poses and actions hangs on a wall.
Teresa Dunn’s large-scale oil painting, “Long Line of Women.” Credit: Molly Wright.

Teresa Dunn, professor of painting, created a large-scale oil painting, titled “Long Line of Women,” that visualizes the narratives of marginalized experiences, especially those of Black and Brown women. Dunn’s work often features people in her life whose experiences inspire her while drawing from her experience as a brown Mexican woman from the Midwest. Themes of isolation, belonging, joy and hope emerge in her canvases. At the same time, she encourages viewers to linger in the tensions that arise when confronted with questions of race, identity and gender. 

Xia Gao, associate professor of apparel and textile design and studio arts, created a sculptural installation titled “Vanishing.” Vertically hanging rope, heat-changing paint and a programmed heat lamp combine in this piece to present the silhouette and story of an upside-down tree. As the thermochromic paint reacts with the heat lamp, the appearance of the tree changes in reference to the temperature data since 1850, demonstrating human impact on the earth.

Laurén Gerig, an assistant professor who teaches art foundations courses and serves as AAHD’s interim outreach coordinator, created “Something it cannot name,” an oil painting depicting the shores of the Great Lakes. Her brushwork explores the emotional and psychological attachments created by daily interactions with landscapes and the sense of urgency experienced when trying to capture your natural surroundings.

A black and white photograph in a frame.
Peter Glendinning’s photo from the “Le Fantome d’Atget” series. Credit: Molly Wright.

Peter Glendinning, Beal Distinguished Professor, presents a photographic print from the series “Le Fantome d’Atget,” or “The Ghost of Atget.” The work originally was formed as a Polaroid SX-70 image, which was then scanned to create a full-sized negative for printing in the platinum/palladium process in his darkroom. The series is not a rephotographic survey of Jean Eugene Atget’s corpus. It is rather an attempt to work within the same tradition, toward the same goals as the master, in the same place, Paris. As John Szarkowski described Atget’s metier: “. . . he practiced photography not to express what he knew and felt, but to discover what he might know and feel.”

Rebecca Gonzalez Cifaldi, assistant professor of graphic design, contributed two works to the exhibition that combine handwriting and gum bichromate photographic portraiture, which creates a painterly effect. The series serves as a visual accumulation of the days after a crisis, where the uncertain nature of grief and trauma still lingers.

Two framed portraits hang side-by-side on a wall.
Rebecca Gonzalez Cifaldi’s work in the exhibition serves as a visual accumulation of the days after a crisis, where the uncertain nature of grief and trauma still lingers. Credit: Molly Wright.

Alisa Henriquez, professor of painting, presents a mixed-media piece, titled “Her Regal Bearing.” The piece combines popular culture and art history to create a contemporary, abstract portrait. Using paint, vinyl, fabric and glitter, her work integrates figuration and abstraction in a kaleidoscopic and near dizzying fashion, suggesting we are in the midst of a cosmic, mysterious and radiant presence.

Paul Kotula, associate professor of ceramics, created an art installation piece, titled “Harvest,” which consists of fragments from our commodified world that the artist unearthed while gardening. He contrasts these scraps and objects with a tree root and a series of his handmade bowls to question industry’s impact on our environment while reanimating craft’s rejection of industrialization.

 A painting featuring a set table and two figures exiting a room
Robert McCann’s “Death Star” painting. Credit: Molly Wright.

Robert McCann, associate professor of painting, has a painting “Death Star” in the exhibition that was created from oil paints on linen cloth. This maximalist work presents a seemingly ordinary domestic scene whose surrealist, epic and uncanny elements reveal themselves to the viewer with time.

Nathan Prebonick, assistant professor of drawing and printmaking, presents two works, an acrylic painting, titled “Palisade,” and a lithograph with screen-printed additions, titled “Rotary.” With inspiration drawn from his experience as an urban explorer and avid fisherman, Prebonick’s painted works, like “Palisade,” are geometric and topographic to represent passageways, while his print works, like “Rotary,” are hazy and translucent, like residue accumulating over time.

Kelly Salchow MacArthur, professor of graphic design, has two printed posters in the exhibition. Titled “ONE planet and ONE choice,” Salchow MacArthur’s exhibition pieces combine analog and digital methods to serve as both a representation of the artist’s connection to the natural environment and as a call to action.

Embroidered data visualizations hang on a wall.
Rebecca Tegtmeyer’s hand-embroidered data visualizations, “Restricted Reproductive Rights” and “Workplace Decline During the Pandemic 2/20-1/21” Credit: Molly Wright.

Rebecca Tegtmeyer, an associate professor of graphic design, created two hand-embroidered data visualizations titled “Restricted Reproductive Rights” and “Workplace Decline During the Pandemic 2/20-1/21” that are part of the exhibition. The materials and techniques used in these works provide a feminist retelling and analysis of familiar statistics.

Blake Williams, associate professor of ceramics, created “Secret Recipes,” a mixed-media sculpture that explores the senses as catalysts for memory with hundreds of porcelain thumb bones woven into an ossified apron. Digital decals of her mother’s handwritten recipes were fused to the back of the piece. She believes that family recipes link us to the past, mark moments of our lives and create human experience. They provide glimpses of familiar tastes, smells and textures, which become anchors for identity.

By: Kim Popiolek

Media Contacts


more content from this collection

Diversity and belonging