The Department of Art & Art History presents Let Them Eat Cake, the 2022 MFA Thesis Exhibition, on view May 10 through June 10 at the Stanford Art Gallery. Join us for the opening reception on Thursday, May 12, 5–7 pm.
The 2022 MFA Thesis Exhibition brings together the most recent projects by five promising artists: Amy Elkins, Gabriella Grill, Joshua Moreno, Miguel Novelo, and Gregory Rick. The group was admitted into the Stanford MFA program in 2019. As development and exhibition were delayed due to complications surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic, the university granted the artists a one-year extension in addition to the normal two-year program to compensate for these losses. Elkins, Grill, Moreno, Novelo, and Rick suffered seemingly unending dark days as the pandemic raged across the country, witnessing a tumultuous period of political polarization and public outcry over racial injustice. These experiences contributed to their psychological, emotional, and artistic development. Their powerful work demonstrates resilience, persistence, confidence, and remarkable originality.
The cohort titled the exhibition “Let them eat cake.” The title refers to their first and second-year MFA shows, “Layer Cake” and “Lava Cake”, creating a sense of continuity. The ironic quotation from Marie Antoinette, the queen of France during the French Revolution, is reflective of a society characterized by inequality and a monarchy insensitive and indifferent to the troubles of the people for whom it is responsible. Working with this extraordinary group of artists, I was impressed by the diverse range of their concepts, themes, methods, and approaches but also by the sense of connection and overlap permeating the group of distinctive works. Engaged with the history of violence and war, Gregory Rick’s raw and agitated narrative paintings and drawings featuring varying “archetypes” sharply contrast Amy Elkins’ meditative and poetic installations and mixed-media works based on the life of a family member traumatized by his experiences on a Navy training vessel before World War II. Joshua Moreno employs video sequencing to combine pieces of found footage from YouTube documenting various explosions. The resulting video work serves as an uncomfortable reminder of our helplessness in a world defined by ubiquitous violence. His complex photo collage articulates a layered history of the universe, as told through scientific and artistic visual renderings. Gabriella Grill uses various recycled materials in her work, transforming discarded fabrics and cardboard into abstract sculptures, fragile monuments, and precarious structures. Miguel Novelo, “a child of the internet,” shares Grill’s concern for the environment, creating deceptively light-hearted but thought-provoking narratives of a dystopic future seen from the perspective of a pelican.
These artists explore related themes using different mediums, expanding their artistic vocabulary and engaging in visual dialogues. Energized by passion and resistance, this exhibition poignantly illuminates the fragility of memory and existence, the fleeting nature of life, anxiety and trauma accompanying environmental destruction, war and violence. The collaboration between Art Practice MFA graduates and PhD candidates in Art History offers a great opportunity for critical feedback and intellectual exchange. In-depth discussion and analysis of each artist’s work is found in essays written by a distinguished group of scholars.
It has been an inspiring experience to work closely with the talented artists of the class of 2022, and I offer them my proud and sincerest congratulations. My heart-felt thanks to my colleagues who helped to guide their artistic development over the course of three years, to our PhD candidates who contributed to the catalogue, and to our dedicated staff—particularly Gabriel, Garth, and Yuri—for their unwavering support of this exhibition.
Xiaoze Xie, exhibition curator
Paul L. & Phyllis Wattis Professor in Art
Amy Elkins is a visual artist currently based in Palo Alto, California. She works with archives, photography, video, installation and sculpture and has spent the past fifteen years researching, creating and exhibiting work that explores the multifaceted nature of masculine identity as well as the psychological and sociological impacts of incarceration. Her approach is series-based, steeped in research and oscillates between formal, conceptual and documentary. Most recently Elkins' work pivots to explore notions of self as well as her family's deeply rooted and complex relationship with the military, the sea and the land along the Pacific coastline.
Gabriella Grill (b. 1993; Columbia, MD) is an interdisciplinary artist working primarily in sculpture. She studied Printmaking at the Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore, Maryland, and received her BFA in 2015. She is currently a 2022 MFA candidate at Stanford University in Stanford, California. Grill's work investigates material culture and the cycle of life. Embedding found objects in hard materials, weaving objects together into webs or nests, and giving dimensional body to soft articles of clothing, Grill contemplates the temporality of existence through simulated fossilization and soft monuments.
Joshua Moreno is an artist from Watsonville, California. In 2011, he graduated from the University of California San Diego with a BFA in art practice. Since 2012, he has been working in art education, teaching courses in art history, filmmaking, and studio art. In his work, he examines the overlapping relationship between the natural and human-made environment and highlight patterns and systems of efficiency that exist within them. Through installation, drawing, and film, he re-evaluates the everyday spaces and objects that surround us, with added attention to elemental phenomena.
Miguel Novelo is an experimental media artist, filmmaker, and cultural event creator from Campeche, Mexico. In his work, Miguel explores shapeshifting perspectives, scars of landscape, and the space in memories. He relies on time-based new media that holds and juxtaposes expanded cinema, sculptures, performances, and interactive installations. A humorous invitation to be at peace in mistranslations, uncertainty, and simulations. His work pays close attention to the geo-diverse narrative, the broken landscape, the here and there—a never-ending resolution in examining identity and space—meaning in foreign environments. Miguel has exhibited pieces and short films internationally at museums, galleries, and film festivals including the De Young Museum in San Francisco, Museo Universitario Arte Contemporáneo in Mexico City, Festival Internacional de Cine en Morelia, Sheffield Doc/Fest, and others.
Greg Rick was born in 1981 and grew up in South Minneapolis. Rick received his BFA from CCA and is currently pursuing his MFA in art practice at Stanford University. Developing a historical imagination, and a fondness for drawing stories, Rick collapses history while confronting personal trauma. Rick’s works exist as reflections of his personal experience while being in dialogue with the wider world. Rick has received the Combat Infantry Badge, the Yamaguchi print making award, the Nathan Oliviera fellowship, and the Jack K. and Gertrude Murphy Award and has shown in museums and galleries in both Minneapolis and California.
Stanford Art Gallery
May 10–June 10, 2022
Monday–Friday, 11 am–5 pm
Opening reception on Thursday, May 12, 5-7 pm.
See the full curatorial statement here.
Stanford Art Gallery is located at 419 Lasuen Mall, Stanford, CA 94305.