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Henry Gallery showcases graduate student final projects

Graduate students from the School of Art + Art History + Design present thesis exhibitions

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Basseporte Pastel Shells

Picture of pastel shells by Madeleine Françoise Basseporte - Courtesy of Tori Champion

Nine Master of Fine Arts (MFA) and four Master of Design (MDes) students showcased the culmination of their work at the UW in the Henry Art Gallery from May 29 to June 27. The exhibitions were also made available online to include the work of two graduating Master of Art History students. 

One MDes graduate, Solji Lee, showcased her autonomous vehicle (AV) taxi designs using her expertise in UX design and strong conviction to help others with disabilities. 

“What I really want to do is make the future robot taxis accessible for people with disabilities,” Lee said. “Which means I need to provide and cover the interfaces in physical and digital ways.” 

Lee was able to secure funding from ACCESS, a UW program aimed at individuals aged 60 or older taking classes on campus. 

“[ACCESS] told me it was the first design project they considered,” Lee said. 

Graduate students in MFA such as Xiaoyi Gao also pioneered technological feats during their program at the UW. 

“Everyone has different interpretations [of memories]… [it’s the] same when you describe a memory to others,” Gao said. “I wondered how that would work.”

This concept inspired Gao’s interactive MFA exhibit at the Henry. 

“In the installation, I invited people to tell one of their memories and then ask another participant to draw or visualize the person’s memory,” Gao said. “This work is kind of like my experiment because I have never done anything like this before.” 

Gao said she has a website for interested participants to record their memories and have other people visualize the experience from their perspective.

The groundbreaking work by MDes and MFA students should not, however, detract from the work of art history students. Students like Tori Champion explored the barriers women artists faced in 18th century France in her master’s thesis.

“What I tried to do in my thesis was excavate all of the known details of these two women artists, Madeleine Françoise Basseporte and Marie-Thérèse Reboul Vien, in 18th century France whose lives overlapped and intertwined, but we don’t know exactly to what extent,” Champion said. 

Champion noted that women artists faced obstacles in acquiring the resources needed to pursue a career in the arts, and were also barred from drawing nude models — an essential aspect of learning human anatomy for historical and mythological paintings.

“They made extraordinary careers with the opportunities they were given, limited as they were,” Champion said. 

Champion will continue her work studying women artists in her Ph.D. program at the University of St Andrews. 

In spite of the challenges these students faced in researching and creating their exhibitions during a pandemic, they remained hopeful for the future. The graduating masters students shared invaluable advice for undergraduate students exploring similar academic fields.

“There is always a way to overcome challenges if you keep trying,” Lee said. “I’d say never give up and just learn from failure.” 

Reach writer Julie Emory at Twitter: @JulieEmory2 

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