By Michael Wright, Student, MA Theology and Art
An impressive array of creative projects was on display at Fuller’s Pasadena campus on Friday, May 14, at “ArtVentures”—an exhibition of the master’s thesis presentations of this year’s Worship, Theology, and the Arts graduating students. Through music, film, painting, and dance, these gifted students explored unmapped territories of life, God, and self through their work.
One master’s thesis—titled “Up From Ground,” by student Michelle McCreary—actually took the form of a collaboration of artists, coming together to offer a special exhibition in Los Angeles on Saturday, May 8, in the evening. Featuring the work of several artists, the event drew more than 250 viewers. Attendee Michael Wright offers a review, below.
Where’s the “the”? That’s the first question I asked Michelle McCreary about the title of her master’s thesis project, “Up from Ground,” an art exhibition of both Fuller students and local artists at a warehouse in Silver Lake. She said that the word ‘the’ put too much emphasis on the literal earth; this exhibition was pointing to “something much bigger in all of our lives—those experiences that level us and the things that undo us. But hope can come out of those places.” And honestly, she liked the way the words sounded. But regardless of what you think about the grammar, with the help of eight other artists (seven of whom attend or graduated from Fuller), Michelle was able to create an exhibition for artists and viewers to explore themes of life, suffering, and the place of hope in the midst of pain.
Displaying works that ranged from photographs of people flying above pavement to body casts of human scars, all the artists used their particular medium to express their own understanding of “the tension between hope and suffering within the human condition.” And by placing the artworks in La Founderie, a warehouse with exposed ceilings and crumbling, graffiti-covered walls, “the ruggedness of the space really worked with our theme,” Michelle said. “It was really cool to work with the raw beauty of that.” But the placement of the show was not only for aesthetic reasons; Michelle wanted the show to be on “neutral ground” that “would not feel confined to Christian spaces” so that the viewer could be met halfway, regardless of his or her religious convictions.
What Michelle didn’t plan for were the connections people made among the different works of art. Many commented on how their experience of one piece in the room would resonate with their experience of another. In fact, The Afterward, a work by Fuller alumna Olga Lah, seemed almost iconic of the evening: hung precariously from the ceiling, torn strips of burlap converged into a woven center. No matter the starting point, every work of art became a part of one fabric, combining in ways that no one artist could have planned alone. It was almost as if the whole show was its own piece of artwork: a movement of consonance and dissonance coming together in one aesthetic symphony.
Although Michelle curated the show herself, she was quick to remind me that these unexpected revelations were from the artistry of the Creator and not her: “If anybody experienced that, even on a subliminal level, I feel like that was his orchestration—not our mastermind.” Whether it was the professional quality of presentation or the wounded hopefulness of the works, Up From Ground brought together a community of diverse voices all speaking in their own way the mystery of Good Friday: Hope is found not in escaping suffering, but by entering it.
Read the transcript of Michael Wright’s full interview with Michelle McCreary here.