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Life narratives on display

Recently finished master’s students put on own exhibit

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Posted: Monday, February 28, 2011 12:00 am | Updated: 11:24 am, Fri Apr 5, 2013.

Dozens gathered at Wayne State’s Art Department Gallery to discuss the work displayed on the gallery’s grand white hall.

The WSU Master of Fine Art Thesis Exhibition, which opened Feb. 25, includes the work of Deborah Kingery, Chad Riley and Josephine Hazen, three graduate students who just completed their master’s program.

“Our students always end up with more than enough work,” interim Gallery Director Thomas Pyrzewski said. “It’s an opportunity for them to create an exhibition and try to find a balance between all of their work.”

The gallery’s walls were plastered with a vast array of media showing architectural beauty, the human body being built as a machine and a cancer survivor story.

Hazen, who was diagnosed with breast cancer on Sept. 11, 2008, created moving self-portraits and lithographs to show the process she went through to fight the disease, which she says is gone as of this month.

“It’s given me a really good outlook on life,” Hazen said. “You make a good thing out of a bad thing. My art became the way to express my personal narrative.”

Hazen was the recipient of the Thomas Rumble Graduate Fellowship from WSU. The award made it possible for her to finish her degree.

While Hazen’s part of the exhibition featured numerous media, Kingery and Riley’s were centered on photography and painting.

Riley, like Hazen, drew inspiration from personal experience in dealing with a serious health issue.

His “Body Parts” photo series showed individuals standing in front of a tall, white backdrop holding a framed picture of an engine or mechanical gears in front of a necessary component of the human body.

“The photos are a way to relate how humans are a machine,” he said.

Riley has been battling cystic fibrosis, an inherited disease that affects the lungs and digestive track since he was 14.

“I had a double lung transplant almost a decade ago,” Riley said.

He said the photos were a way to personally show how his body was like a machine.

Kingery spent most of the evening bouncing around to each individual eager to ask questions about her inspiration.

Her pictures, mainly of architecture and scenery, displayed in the brightly lit hall, gave off an intentionally bleak demeanor.

“It’s a way to show how things might not be as good as they seem,” Kingery said. “Everyone has the attitude of, ‘Oh, everything will be all right.’ But in reality things don’t look too good.”

Kingery started teaching at WSU after completing her bachelor’s program here as well. She felt compelled to complete her master’s after realizing she thoroughly enjoyed teaching.

“I honestly had no idea until I did it the first time,” she said. “That experience basically became the catalyst that eventually created all of this work and made me want to finish my degree.”

The MFA Thesis Exhibition runs from until March 25 and precedes the 2011 WSU Undergraduate Exhibition that opens at the gallery April 15.

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