Archives for the month of: September, 2011

I have another artist interview for you! A few weeks ago, I had a fascinating talk with Emily Erb. She had some really thought provoking things to say about the MFA. Check out an excerpt below and don’t forget to read the full interview on our Artists Talk page.

Q: Tell me a little bit out the ideas behind your work and what you hope to convey to your audience. 

EE: Well it’s on silk and generally politically driven, generally very colorful. I’m influenced by maps as well as political imagery.

Q: How has the MFA influenced your development as an artist and as a person? What have you learned? What skills have you developed?

EE: Of course, having my work seen by fresh eyes helps to influence it and steer it in directions it may not have gone.   Hopefully, it helps me make some of the connections that I need to make as an artist. I have switched up my process a bit. They wanted me to not paint on silk, so I tried painting on something else for a while and then went back to silk. I am working on new project that I am excited about.

This question of the value of the MFA has been on mind. I don’t think I would be a different person if I hadn’t gone for my MFA. Before talking to you, I was looking into what the MFA is supposed to be in society. What is it supposed to mean? It’s so unquantifiable. I was looking up articles about the MFA program as a whole, and found an article in the Huffington Post. It was focused on the MFA in creative writing, but I think creative writing and painting are comparable. The author sited few solid arguments for the MFA and against it.  He claimed that the reason we have the MFA isn’t for the benefit of each individual artist but for society to be able to maintain a standard of excellence and provide a living history of the craft, but I don’t know if it’s doing that.

Q: Why not? 

EE: Because a school is a business, because there are people who are there just to pay tuition. That doesn’t matter to the school, money and art don’t mix as nicely as we wish it would.  Maybe it would be different if the government funded MFA programs, but that would never happen. I don’t know what the solution is, but I’m going to finish my MFA degree and see what effect it has in my ability to achieve the goals I have as an artist.

 Guernica Revisited, Emily Erb, Dye on Silk, 2010


I’ve been thinking about exhibits. Not about what is in them, but how we approach them. What do we think about when we go to an exhibit? How do we look at them? How do we interact with them?

Check out what Towson artist, Joseph Cypressi thinks about how we should look at the Masters of the Visual Universe in this video.

After my last post, I wanted to post the following question to our readers.

What do you think is the purpose of the MFA?

Please comment with your thoughts!

Because of all the research I’ve been doing for this exhibition, I’ve been thinking about this question a lot lately. The College Art Association, which was founded in 1911 in order to promote excellence in the scholarship and teaching of the visual arts, says this about the MFA:

“The master of fine arts (MFA) degree in studio art and design is the recognized terminal degree in the visual arts. It is considered by the College Art Association (CAA), the National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD), and the vast majority of institutions in higher education in the United States to be equivalent to terminal degrees in other fields, such as the PhD or EdD.”

If that was a little too dry for you to read (I don’t blame you). Basically, according to the CAA, having an MFA is on par with having a PhD. The CAA also says this about the MFA:

“The MFA degree demands the highest level of professional competency in the visual arts and contemporary practices. To earn an MFA, a practicing artist must exhibit the highest level of accomplishment through the generation of a body of work. The work needs to demonstrate the ability to conceptualize and communicate effectively by employing visual language to interpret ideas….”

This definition stirs up a lot of questions for me. Such as, what is “the highest level of professional competency”? How do we decide if an artist’s work “effectively” communicates ideas? I find this explanation of the MFA to be very vague. Although maybe that’s the beauty of it. Often, I find the word “art” to be very hard to define because our notions of art and art itself are always changing. The way that the CAA has explains the MFA allows for the constant reinterpretation of excellence.


I realized that I never formally introduced myself. I’m Mollie Armstrong, curatorial intern at the DCCA. I’m a junior Art History major with a minor in Material Culture Studies at the University of Delaware. Today, I want to share with you one of my favorite things about working on this Biennial. Can you take a guess?

The artists of course!

In preparation for the Biennial’s opening next week (its Friday, October 7th, in case you forgot), I’ve been talking to several of the artists about their work. They’ve all had some pretty interesting things to say, especially about the MFA. Over the next few weeks, I will be adding their interviews to our Artists Talk page. Although, you won’t have to wait long for a little taste of what’s to come. Here’s an excerpt from my conversation with Erica Prince.

Q: tell me a little bit about the ideas behind your work and what you hope to convey to your audience. How would you describe your art to someone who had never seen it?

EP:A lot of the ideas behind my work are focused around the idea of the utopian society. I think it’s important for art to be able to explore utopian ideals because that’s the only place they can exist. The primary piece that I am showing, Permission Granted, has 35 images in a grid installation. It contains imagery of architecture, landscape, invention, monument, celestial bodies, alchemical devices, etc. …..

Q: How has the MFA influenced your development as an artist and as a person?

EP:I’m still in the midst of it so it’s hard to have a completely clear perspective. It’s given me the opportunity to focus on my work without having a billion distractions. It has allowed me to figure out what I’m truly interested in, and I’ve started pursuing these things more intensely. I’ve developed a lot of respect for different types of work that I was never interested in before. When I came to Tyler I thought I knew what I liked and what I didn’t like, what was good and what was bad. But now, I am more curious about the wiggly line between “good” and “bad”. I’ve discovered that what I like and don’t like might be a little less concrete than I thought.

Find out what else Erica Prince has to say about Temple, the MFA, and her work on our Artists Talk page!

Supernova and Tower,  Erica Prince, 2011, Mixed media of paper

Hi again,

I mentioned earlier that 22 artists are exhibiting in the DCCA’s 2011 Biennial, Masters of the Visual Universe. Here’s an update on who those artists are…

The MFA artists include:

  • Emily Erb (Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts)
  • Jill Fannon (University of Maryland, Baltimore County)
  • Sean Glover (Carnegie Mellon)
  • Elizabeth Hamilton (Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts)
  • Guy Loraine (University of the Arts)
  • Jeffrey Moser (University of Delaware)
  • Erica Prince (Tyler School of Art)
  • Steven Riddle (Towson University)
  • Ted Walsh (Pennsylvania  Academy of the Fine Arts)

The MFA artists from Towson University who have created a special exhibition for the Masters of the Visual Universe include:

  • David Armacost
  • Jordan Bernier
  • Kelly Brady
  • Yong Jea Cho
  • Joseph Cypressi
  • Elizabeth Donadio
  • Peter Eide
  • Keith Lea
  • Zeke Luman
  • Ursula Minervini
  • Andrew Snyder
  • Rachel Timmins
  • Vincent Valerio

If you’re reading this, it means that you’ve stumbled upon the Delaware Center for the Contemporary Arts’ blog for the upcoming 2011 Biennial. Curated by Maiza Hixson, the Biennial runs from October 7, 2011 to February 5, 2012. This year’s Biennial, entitled Masters of the Visual Universe, is a juried group exhibition featuring emerging artists who are enrolled in Masters of Fine Arts programs throughout the Eastern Atlantic region. The show received over 50 hundred artist submissions from MFA students! Out of those 50+ submissions, 9 artists from 7 schools were chosen to exhibit their work. 13 additional artists were chosen from Towson University to create a special exhibition in response to the Masters of the Visual Universe. The work of all of the artists represents a wide array of media including photography, painting, sculpture, collage, and even an interactive video installation. In addition to representing up and coming artists, the Master of the Visual Universe explores the role of art education while asking the question: What does it mean to have an MFA?