An art mentor is someone who motivates and inspires a fellow artist to experiment, to sketch out their goals on an empty canvas, painting their dream lives in all colors. Their creative minds blend together and connect and at Lesley University, the Art and Design school is celebrating its 30th graduating class from its low-residency Visual Arts MFA program, where mentors and visiting lecturers and faculty all encompass this encouraging, patient and driven atmosphere of artistic vision. The work of these advisors, the very people who provided creative sparks in Lesley’s students, is now exhibited in a show titled “Kith + Kin: Friends and Mentors of Lesley MFA.”
Upon entering the wide-open gallery with wall-length windows overlooking bustling Mass Ave., guests are immediately welcomed into a serene space. Along the back wall, a pear-shaped sculpture by Candice Ivy titled “Honey From ‘The Belly of the Lion’” consists of many beige clay folds with a small window in the middle, peering into a new world. Inside the window, a video plays of the rolling ocean with its shades of blue and glistening sunlight on the surface. It is like a tiny gemstone buried and hidden deep within the sand or a conch shell whispering the sounds of the ocean. Ivy expressed that for her, “materials hold stories,” and with each art material she uses, she tries to create “a kind of tactility.” Without even touching her sculpture, viewers can feel the soft folds in the clay, imagining the stories behind this crafted “shell,” where it has been, and how it rolled ashore to become mounted to the gallery’s wall.
Guests also transport to new worlds with Susan Harbage Page’s “Passport,” which is displayed in a clear case. Page’s body of artwork focuses on social issues like her “U.S.-Mexico Border Project” about immigration and “Textiles” about labor and the history of the textile industry’s economic and social effects. Though she possesses a background in photography, Page makes a significant statement with her work exhibited in the gallery, showing a passport covered in gold leaf. The passport becomes a decorative element, one of privilege, a golden ticket to a new world. All of the pages within it are also golden, but she leaves a few areas bare such as half of the passport photo of the artist herself. She questions “why goods, culture, technology can all cross borders seamlessly and bodies cannot” and her piece evokes such subjects.
On the outside walls of the gallery, Scott Listfield’s “Sunset Star,” an oil on canvas painting, pictures an astronaut in a rocky environment with their face turned away, looking towards a man-made star on the horizon line, rather than in the sky. Listfield’s realistic style allows viewers to feel as though they are the solitary astronaut exploring uncharted surroundings or our society as it is, one which puts fame and consumerism on a pedestal. He uses this astronaut figure in many of his works as a character and one “to explore the present.”
(“Kith + Kin: Friends and Mentors of Lesley MFA” remains on view through December 1 at Lunder Arts Center, Roberts and Raizes galleries, 1801 Massachusetts Ave, Cambridge, Massachusetts. For more information, call (617) 349-8800) or visit https://lesley.edu/events/kith-kin-friends-and-mentors-of-lesley-mfa-in-visual-arts.)