New exhibit at Ackland gives MFA students chance to display year-long projects

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The new "Time Will Tell" exhibit at the Ackland opened Thursday. The exhibit features art from MFA Students at the university. 

A new exhibit at the Ackland Art Museum combines the works of seven master of fine arts students at UNC to explore the concept of time. 

The exhibit, entitled “Time Will Tell,” opened Thursday evening. It is the next part of an annual effort by the University and museum to display every graduating MFA student’s individual work as one cohesive piece at the end of the spring semester. 

Each year’s exhibit is organized by a different curator representing a different topic. Jeff Bell, the curator of this year’s piece, let the year develop before deciding on the topic of time. 

“I tried not to select an overall topic for a long time. I wanted to really get to know the artists and their work and then start thinking about what I see as things that tie them together,” Bell said. “I really thought about time and sometimes sort of deliberate time, and then it just built from there. I saw that as a thing that ran through a lot of their work.” 

All of the student work on display is their own individual creation. Some works are part of schoolwork or thesis projects, and other works are not connected to UNC at all. Bell, currently museum manager at 21c Museum Hotel in Durham, stopped by campus to view the students’ work throughout the year and selected content for the exhibit based on that. 

Joy Meyer, an MFA student at UNC, contributed a series of digitally manipulated photograms and a video piece to the exhibit. The photograms will also be exhibited at the Los Angeles Center for Digital Art. 

She said each students’ piece relates to time, but not all in the same way.

“The video piece is about the first five minutes of falling in love, so I think that time does thread its way through the work,” Meyer said. “For me, I think time relates to the work in this more narrative way, whereas in others it might unfold in a different way, like through process.”

Louis Watts, another MFA student whose work is included in the piece, said the responsibility of making works that specifically fit the theme of time did not fall on the students themselves. 

“Every year there’s a different curator who is supposed to curate the show, so we sort of assumed the classic role of artist or maker and just made our work,” Watts said. “Then Jeff would just talk to us and sort of brain build it together in a thematic way.”

The idea of combining so much individual work into one piece may seem like a tall task, but Meyer said he sees it as a valuable display of the hard work the MFA students have endured together.

“We support each other and talk to each other and hang out and go to barbecues together,” Meyer said. “So during this really intense, pressure-cooker two years, we also influence each other. And the best way to view that is all of our work, side-by-side.”

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