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UNC MFA candidates find global implications in personal stories for Ackland exhibit

micro macro.jpeg
Minoo Emami, Iranian, born 1963, Andaruni, 2021, acrylic on canvas, projected video, fabric, fluorescent light, and wood support, 84 x 120 x 10 inches. Lent by the artist. Photo courtesy of Ariel Fielding.

No muted microphones, no screen-sharing and no chat box — starting on Friday, the “Micro/Macro” exhibit at the Ackland Art Museum will be in person and open to the public. 

From April 16 to May 22, guests at the Ackland will be able to peruse the works of the five artists who will be graduating in the fall with a Master of Fine Arts from UNC’s studio art program. In media ranging from pencil and oil on canvas to fluorescent light and projected video, the selected works of the students illustrate that, in the words of Audre Lorde, the personal is political.

Students Sheyda Azar, Minoo Emami, Alena Mehić, Vonnie Quest and Krysta Sa make arguments about humanity through personal stories, guest curator Fred Joiner said. 

Joiner was selected as guest curator after contributing captions to the Ackland’s 2019 exhibit “Lost and Found.” As the poet laureate of Carrboro and an experienced curator of visual art, he brought a literary lens and a collaborative approach to the project. 

After sitting down with each of the artists and deciding which works to include in the final product, he found a through-line that he felt could unite all their visions into one exhibit: “Micro/Macro.”

“In literary terms, I think about it like this: As a structure, you think about it like a reverse funnel. You start at a very fine point, but as things flow through it, it expands,” Joiner said. “All of these artists are working on personal things that make larger statements about communities that they may be a part of or larger human concerns.”

The fact that the MFA candidates graduating this year spent much of their career separated from others makes the “Macro” theme uniting their work more incredible, Lauren Turner, the assistant curator for the Ackland, said.

“It goes to show that even in the pandemic, we’ve had this really incredible interconnectivity that we’ve been able to nurture and that they’ve been able to mature within their practices,” Turner said.

Some of the themes covered in the exhibit include immigration, addiction, healing, Black culture and inheritance, as told through the artists’ personal experiences. 

Iranian multidisciplinary artist Minoo Emami has two pieces in the exhibit: one that portrays the interior of a courtyard, and one which portrays the exterior. Together, they represent multiple generations of Iranian women in the courtyard, a place that Joiner said can be both freeing in terms of freedom of expression while also functioning as a controlled or contested space.

“Life is more difficult for women and children who are more vulnerable in domestic areas, for example, in the kind of close or isolated domestic space,” Emami said. “This is an example that I think we all are experiencing during the pandemic, with isolation and losing our community access at some physical level.” 

The museum is requiring participants to buy tickets in advance to avoid reaching capacity. 

You can hear more about from Joiner and the artists at the virtual curator-artist conversation on April 23rd at 7:30 p.m. 


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