Constellations is the final thesis exhibition of the fourteen 2023 graduates of the Leroy E. Hoffberger School of Painting at the Maryland Institute College of Art. Each year, MICA’s second-year MFA students present an exhibition showcasing their thesis work. This spring, the 2023 MFA graduating class presents their thesis exhibition at the Peale Museum, the first purpose-built museum in the United States. It was commissioned in 1813 by Rembrandt Peale, a member of the famous family of American artists and museum pioneers, and originally housed his studio and gallery.
The LeRoy E. Hoffberger School of Painting at the Maryland Institute College of Art is unique among top MFA programs in the country in its intense focus on painting, as distinct from the cross-disciplinary programs that dominate the field. The Hoffberger School is known for its high level of intellectual discourse, diverse visiting artist roster, and communal yet rigorous critical environment.
Artists include: David Ayala, Lina Elmalik, Sydney Guzman, Heejo Kim, Jack
Koppert, Elena Kovylyaeva, Xyl Lasersohn, Huaqi Liu, Jacob Sechter, Mary Smith, Emily Stroud, Mariah Williams, Emily Wisniewski.
The fourteen artists in the graduating class will exhibit paintings produced between spring 2022 and spring 2023. While each artist represents a distinct approach to painting, the title of the exhibition, Constellations, suggests not only the diversity of their practices, but also the collaborative nature of their artistic relationships. Working together in a shared space has resulted in often surprising visual connections and influences.
The conversation within this cohort is founded on a mutual agreement that painting is not a matter of choosing between abstraction or figuration, but of understanding that one does not exist without the other. Moreover, there is a shared understanding of painting as not only as an image but as a material object that should speak effectively in both registers.
In Constellations, the materiality of painting is explored in substances as various as oil, acrylic, fabric, plaster, paper, mud, glass, beads, as well as in digital painting. These artists’ perspectives both acknowledge and resist art-historical precedent. While their individual voices take diverse forms, each artist contributes in some way to timely conversations: the examination of identity and personal history, intercultural connectivity, the exploration of gender and sexuality, and the meaning of painting in relation to the digital age and our rapidly changing climate. The artists come from places as distant as Taizhou, China and Belovo, Siberia, and as close as Baltimore itself. None of the artists is easily defined within a specific genre or style, rather, they question lines between categories. Despite their diversity, their bond as a community is evident in the work, in their shared conversations, techniques, and content.