Courtesy of Cornell University

October 24, 2018

Cornell MFA Students Showcase Work in ‘Pinch Point’

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Held in both the Olive Tjaden Gallery and the Experimental Gallery of Tjaden Hall, Pinch Point exhibits the works of various students from Cornell’s Master of Fine Arts program.

In “Take I,” salt is brought to life in the form of an animation by Egé Okal, MFA ’20. The progression of images articulates a tension which is realized by a visually shaking effect between the frames, a negotiation which reifies the blustery soundtrack accompanying the animation. In this way, sound is interwoven with the constructed landscape of the mountainous terrain. The aesthetic articulation draws heavily from a certain rawness only possessed by something as fundamental as salt. The range of vignettes within the animation is pronounced by successive forms which appear to recede from each other almost as soon as they are realized. It begins with a figure of gleaming light emerging from the darkness. The figure soon finds themself upon a mine while an eagle soars above. And when the vein of ore finally shatters so too does the world of the figure.

On a wall of the Experimental Gallery is mounted “Fevered Scape.” In this piece, Libby Rosa, MFA ’19, depicts a landscape whose form is most immediately arrested from the lurid penetration of the yellow background, terminating above in a series of undulations upon what resembles the boundaries of midnight. Below, the foreground betrays the raging fury of black currents coursing with bursts of blues, reds and yellows. The stream’s surface is rippled by frothing ridges, imbuing the recesses of the visual form with texture that is almost audible.

As mentioned, the yellow overwhelms but this is not something that detracts from the work. On the contrary, the idea of the color’s presence as an element of saturation cements the idea of the titular fever. Furthermore, the manner in which the yellow penetrates the landscape links the idea of the fever, a symptom of the body, to the cartographic implications of landscape. But for all of the vivid action tracing the work, what attracts the gaze on a secondary level are two visual interludes in particular — those which specifically serve to interrupt the yellow. In addition to the stream, on the left is a window that, through the rectangular panes, offers a glimpse at a verdant and pastoral landscape preparing to swallow once more a setting sun. However, the relationship between the two spaces — that of the river and that of the sunset — hangs unresolved.

It is unclear as to whether they exist in the conventional dichotomy of the internal in opposition to the external. But the more attention that I give to the work, another possibility is potentiated — a possibility arising from the second interruption of the yellow. The form consists of a circle supported by two lines. Emerging from the circle is a contained haze of blue, evoking the ubiquitous bubble wands which punctuate the interminable summers of youth. Perhaps it is this form which negotiates the two spaces as internalities of the same memory. Even more possible is the idea of the blue symbolizing a habitation of nostalgia, a temporal vantage of a that which could have been that invariably sublimes the boundaries of past, present and future.

Pinch Point will be held until October 26th.


Varun Biddanda is a senior in the College of Arts and Sciences. He can be reached at