February 10 - March 3, 2012
Reception: Tuesday, February 14, 6-8pm
School of Visual Arts (SVA) presents “My Last Attempt to Explain to You What Happened with the Lion Tamer,” an exhibition of book projects by students in the MFA Illustration as Visual Essay Department based on a short story of the same title by Brendan Mathews. Curated by faculty member Viktor Koen.
Explaining the assignment he gave, Koen says: “Clowns and circuses in general have the privilege of being passionately loved or hated by children and grownups alike. Few visual clichés come to mind that are stronger than that of a clown, especially a sad one. Predicting the conceptual and visual havoc such a cliché would wreak in the minds of my students, I chose ‘My Last Attempt to Explain to You What Happened with the Lion Tamer’ as the basis for the exhibition projects. The title was long, but the story realistic, demystifying and rich with visuals: beautiful trapeze girl steals clown’s heart, dates the lion tamer, cheats with the strong man and gracefully leaps to her death. The action, both on and off stage, provided students with endless subjects and situations in the dark but also in the limelight. Series of images or sequential treatments in a wide range of mediums made good use not only of the fast pace of the narrative, but also of the usual suspects and animal kingdom we find in such settings. In our case, the big tent functioned as a background and a metaphor. The circus cliché worked as a source of inspiration and a challenge.”
Natalya Balnova created a series of silkscreen prints comparing animals eating humans to eating animals. She did this by depicting acts of violence from a social, emotional and at times absurdist perspective in order to convey the cyclical nature of life.
Jonathan Burkhardt’s project Clown Noir recasts Mathews’ story as a classic film noir using scratchboard.
Matthew Burrows drew inspiration from the story’s characters to develop a series of character studies to exaggerate their underlying emotions, and to emphasize the darker side of circus life.
Rovina Cai’s The Circus Grimm re-imagines a circus of fairy tale characters based on stories by the Brothers Grimm, which mirror the dark nature found in many of those tales.
Hye Jin Chung’s illustrations correspond with the final scene of the story, depicting the eventual ruin of the three main characters: the lion tamer, the clown and the trapeze girl. Chung reinterprets the story in a surrealistic way, connecting the character’s interwoven tragedies through a series of transformations.
Maëlle Doliveux’s A Cage Full of Beasts is a series focusing on the duality of pleasure and pain within the circus world. The artist seeks to bring to light the often cruel reality traditionally masked from spectators in pursuit of diversion.
Dave Casey takes a candid look at the domestic lives of circus performers with his work.
Che Min Hsiao focuses on circus animals, believing them to be the essence of circus performance.
Federico Infante’s The Morning Haze is meant to capture the atmosphere surrounding the relationship between the trapeze girl and the clown. Infante’s work combines drawing and painting with digital textures to depict a moment when the clown observes the trapeze girl as she prepares for her act.
Hyunyoung Kim’s Under the Big Top seeks to go beyond the circus tent with its bizarre characters and exaggerated costumes and provide a glimpse into the humanity among the performer.
Sarah Klinger’s circus-themed allegories draw on the 22 Arcanes Majeures of the Tarot de Marseille.
Keith Negley’s A Muse takes the professions of the clown, the lion tamer and the trapeze artist as metaphors in an attempt to give the reader a better understanding of their motives and relationships to one another.
Jade Schulz attempts to portray this story’s classic love triangle in ways that are both unexpected and amusing, that go beyond the clichés usually tied to circus performers.
With Playing the Oddities, Keren Steinecke tells the clown’s tale of love, loss and lions through a deck of cards.
Andrea Tsurumi’s Zoötrope departs from Mathews’ story to bring to life a children’s story in three acts featuring a troupe of strange animal performers, a mysterious note, a missing title card and a small love story.
Other participating artists include Molly Brooks, Boyeon Choi, Keren Katz, Cnaan Omer and Yue Wang.
The MFA in Illustration as Visual Essay is designed to maximize students’ opportunities as figurative artists, from the conventional gallery wall to the full range of 21st-century media. The program fuses the development of creative thinking with technical and communication skills. Additional focus is placed on best practices in navigating the visual art marketplace while empowering students to choose making art as a way of life.