The challenges and rewards of art

A St. Louis native, Sarah Weinman writes a weekly visual arts blog for the Light (


I have to admit that I didn’t understand most of the pieces in the 2012 MFA Thesis Exhibition at Washington University’s Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum. But I also know that knowledge of art comes slowly. I studied the artwork, made notes, and eventually came to my own understanding of what some of the pieces might mean. A little patience and online research never hurt, either.

As an amateur photographer, I’m partial to the medium so it seemed natural to start with Untitled by Kelly K. Wright. This is a thought-provoking series of five archival digital inkjet prints which seem to tell a story about a girl. The photos were taken in a house and show the girl standing naked in front of a window; sitting on a bed; occupying a chair. The girl is interestingly absent from one image: that of a bathroom with a shower curtain and a piece of hanging clothing. All five prints present an unclear tale about what’s happening and what has happened. Most prints are murky and lit from behind. We don’t get a clear sense of context, perhaps because there is no context except for the other photos. Our mind struggles to create a narrative where none may exist.

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Jieun Kim’s piece St. Louis Dreamscape is a fun three-dimensional work. Five wooden panels arc between two walls and depict a painted scene that looks like Japanese animation. Girls with blue hair play among green trees, multicolored geometric buildings, and pink bushes. On the fifth panel, which touches the opposite wall, a girl holds onto yellow and green balloons that lift her into a white sky. The balloons “touch” the opposite wall where a cascade of yellow paint drips as if spilled. One long drip extends to the floor where a geometric square pattern runs across the floor to the lowest panel where the painted scene begins. Kim’s work explores ideas about identity, traditional landscape, culture, and memory.

Untitled (The View) by Lauren Cardenas first struck me because of its similarity to Mark Rothko’s color field paintings. A digital print on vinyl, the piece is 84” x 141” and envelops the viewer because of its sheer size. Almost all of it is black. At the bottom runs a grayish-white strip which looks like a headlight-illuminated road that continues into darkness. The piece is quietly contemplative and yet a little disturbing.

Nigerian artist Ifeoma Ugonnwa Anyaeji fashioned Oche Onodu (Sitting Chair) entirely from repurposed plastic bags, bottles, and cans. She created a loveseat, “lamp,” pedestal for the TV and DVD component of the piece, and an elaborate wall hanging. The piece comments not only on the waste people produce but also on the positive act of repurposing. Visitors can sit on the loveseat, which is surprisingly sturdy.

The 2012 MFA Thesis Exhibition at the Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum is on view through August 6 at Washington University, One Brookings Drive, St. Louis, 63130. Gallery hours are Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday 11:00am – 6:00pm; Friday 11:00am – 8:00pm; Saturday and Sunday 11:00am – 6:00pm; and closed Tuesdays. For more information, call 314-935-4523 or visit