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Graduate Open Studio Night: Brief Recap

By Arts & Culture

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Dana Nechmad, “Full Moon,” 2016. Courtesy of the artist.

Plenty of pink, genitalia, and portraits of men were present at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago’s (SAIC’s) Graduate Open Studio Night, which went down November 4, from 4:30 to 9:30 p.m. The amount of art on view overwhelmed even the most addicted art junkie — although one was still left with a sense of disappointment when the occasional studio remained closed.

The crowd navigating the open studios was diverse; much different from the daily grind of seeing the same students and staff in the same halls. Among those in attendance were prospective graduate students, family members of current students, faculty, and elusive members of the administration.

The question of personal taste was perhaps the largest guiding force in determining the success of the art on display. SAIC’s wide range of designated (and undesignated) disciplinary offerings made for a variety of different types of work even in a seemingly straightforward department like painting.

Painting is not dead, which was clear through the hustle and bustle of the painting studios in the MacLean building. Big and small, on paper, canvas, the floor, the walls, on string, and even without any paint at all, the painting students were clearly interested in honing in on their specific attractions to the medium.

Dana Nechmad was my personal favorite of the evening. Her piece “Lonely Wolf depicted a ballerina, sans undergarments, her legs acting as arms on a clock, her standing foot on six and the foot of her attitude leg on eleven. Two animals are fighting off to the left. Nechmad’s canvases are left bare, sometimes cut into odd shapes, and are simply hung, un-stretched, on the wall.

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Brian Driscoll, “The Nude Selfie Project,” 2016. Courtesy of the artist.

This latest art-world trend of casually hung canvases continued with Brian Driscoll’s drawings of nude people taking selfies. Driscoll’s use of layered, thin-lined colored marker portraits is reminiscent of Elijah Burgher, an acclaimed now ex-faculty of SAIC. 

The main problem with Graduate Open Studio Night was the scheduling: Open studies are scheduled by their respective departments over the course of five hours. This year, additionally, the event was overshadowed by the Cubs parade and subsequent celebrations. After spending a full day in class, having to stay for another five hours on campus can be draining. The frustration is exacerbated by the fact that each department is open for two-hour increments, each overlapping each other by an hour. While this might be a good way to inspire someone to stay for the entire event, the inconvenience of it may have been more of a deterrent. 

It is better, of course, to see something than nothing. I would bet that the painting studios got the most foot traffic because they were open earlier in the evening. For members of the SAIC community not in attendance, there’s always next year. 

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