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“Young Americans” opens at Mills Art Museum

The graduating class of 2009 will have the unique ability to say they earned their degrees during one of the most pivotal years in our nation’s history. With the election of a new president as the most indelible moment of 2009, this year’s recipients of the Master of Fine Arts degree in studio art named their final exhibition, Young Americans, in an effort to demonstrate their vision as artists in this political climate.

“My work is about the potential for growth,” said Esther Traugot, whose exhibit features agricultural products in their initial stage of development.

Seedlings from cotton, long grain wild rice, buckwheat, soybeans, Haas avocados, peaches, Bing cherries and hickory were all collected naturally or saved from foods she ate during her Fall semester of classes. Traugot purchased white yarn and thread, dyed it yellow and crocheted a wrapping for each item by hand.

“This exhibit represents three semesters of work,” Traugot said as she gently adjusted the glass coverings for the row of yarn-covered spices.

“It took me an hour to crochet one inch of this tree trunk.” She pointed to the tallest of several trees in her project, easily eight feet tall.

Traugot, who grew up in Tennessee on an intentional community called “The Farm,” feels her work represents her relationship with nature. According to her, the tree trunks and the real honeybee represent the cycle of life and the crocheted wrappings surrounding them symbolize our need as a society to protect and nurture them.

“The wrapping is about holding nature and propping [it] up,” Traugot said.

Across the hallway Kate Pszotka had recreated her family by presenting a collage-like mural of the things she remembers about them. Her exhibit, black butcher paper cutouts of items that represent her parents and grandparents, tell the story of her childhood while showing the connections between the things we carry around and the containers we use to store them.

“The green wall represents me. It’s the color of my bedroom when I was a kid,” said Pszotka pointing to the olive green wall where her art hangs.

More than one thousand cutouts of bottles, boxes, and pails complement Pszotka’s main art titled “Family Portrait.” A native of Illinois, Pszotka hopes some of her work in the exhibit will sell so that she won’t have to cart it all back home after graduation.
“All of our artwork is for sale. Buyers just need to contact the artist directly,” Pszotka said.

Modesto Covarrubias agrees with Pszotka about selling the artwork. His twenty-foot tall exhibit, “Futility Tower 1,” can be dismantled and reassembled to fit any space.

“It’s designed to address the architecture,” said Covarrubias, standing inside the exhibit made of more than a mile and a half of white tracing paper.

“Futility Tower 1” is both a play on the word utility and a real look at the purpose of towers designed to keep us safe and protected. By building a tower made of tissue paper, Covarrubias hopes to address the issue of barrier building and the futility of building cocoon-like structures that do not protect or provide access, but instead limit global awareness and understanding.

Junior Amanda Bailey, a gallery assistant in the museum, said, “Modesto’s tower is one of my favorite pieces. You walk inside of it and it’s like being in the clouds.”

Bailey, an art history major, visited the museum on her day off in order to enjoy the exhibit she watched take shape over a period of about nine days.

“[Art] students are so lucky to have this space. The whole exhibit really flows. It’s very clean,” Bailey said.

Seven other artists have similar themes to Traugot, Pszotka, and Covarrubias. The works of Andrew Witrak, Annie Vought, Brian Caraway, Gina Tuzzi, Joseph Berryhill, Leigh Merrill, and Steuart Pittman can be viewed during the museums open hours on Tuesday – Sunday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. and on Wednesdays from 11 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. Admission is free to all.

Mills students and members of the community can enjoy the final exhibit until the end of May when the ten artists will remove their artwork and head into society to share their artistic vision as Young Americans.