Showcasing new artistic talent at UM

Photography by Sidney Sherman on exhibit at the University of Miami Gallery in Wynwood. 

By Amanda Perez

Photography by Sidney Sherman on exhibit at the University of Miami Gallery in Wynwood. 

Showcasing new artistic talent at UM

By Amanda Perez
A new exhibition inside the University of Miami Gallery in Wynwood is unveiling the innovative work of several 2018 incoming MFA graduate students.

The University of Miami’s Art and Art History Department is making dreams come true for four talented graduate students. The department has provided the incoming students the opportunity to showcase their work inside UM’s art gallery, located in the heart of the historic Wynwood Arts District. 

Courtney Schmidt, Sidney Sherman, Ileana Tolibia and Melissa Tychonievich are all very unique artists who come from different walks of life, but they have one thing in common: The four students are grateful to have their work featured inside UM’s exhibit hall located in the art mecca of South Florida. 

“It means everything to have my work displayed so early on in my studies. I think it shows how much the art department values incoming students and the work that they have already produced,” said Tychonievich. 

Tychonievich, a painter from St. Louis, Missouri, is featuring six works of oil on canvas. She created her artwork the year after she completed her bachelor of fine arts degree at the Kansas City Art Institute, all while working full-time and trying to decide her next career steps. 

“I would say my inspiration came from my own personal struggle to find meaning in my work without peers or teachers to critique me,” said Tychonievich. “These paintings are evidence of my daily life for the past year and how I processed living outside of school.” 

Tolibia is another painter who utilizes oil and canvas, along with charcoal, pencil and paper for her artwork. 

“They are all inner portraits,” Tolibia said. “The charcoal drawings came into being during a period of psychological transformation that I was experiencing at the time.” 

Tolibia believes she was born to be an artist, and began pursuing her career when she was 12.

“I inherited it from my mom, my grandma, and my great uncle. They inspired me along with my dad and my grandfather to pursue a career in the arts back in Cuba,” she added.

Her journey entering the program at UM is just the beginning of a long artistic road ahead.

“I already feel inspired by all of the teachers and fellow painters in the art program. I’m looking forward to seeing how my art grows under the guidance of my instructors,” said Tolibia.

Exhibit director Milly Cardoso, who curates the gallery, said the show is a fascinating exhibit because it marks the inception of a transformation for each artist.

“We like to give them a spotlight to highlight their current artwork because three years into the program, the work will probably change completely,” she said. “It’s nice to see what the graduates come in with, and what they will leave with.”

Entrance into the MFA program is highly competitive, with both national and international applicants. The program is a 60-credit, three-year curriculum that both prepares students to enter the professional, studio art world and qualifies them for college teaching. This year, the program consists of 10 students.

The other two artists featured, Sherman and Schmidt, look forward to having their work flourish during their studies at UM. They are both photographers who received their undergraduate degrees at the U.

Sherman is currently pursuing her MFA in photography and is featuring seven photographs in the exhibit, all representing different stories. The portraits “Nigeria” and “India” represent the different colors and beauty that come along with each nationality. There are also two black and white photos that are from a series called “Uncomfortable Portraits,” along with another series of up close vibrant shots of mouths. Lastly, she included a portrait of “Ali,” one of a series of low-key black and white portraits of girls.

Sherman's goal in her art is to capture as much interesting content as she can, with as much detail.

“I love things that are different and I wanted to create an untraditional portrait series that is both weird but interesting and beautiful enough to keep you looking at it,” Sherman said.

Schmidt is another skilled photographer who decided to a take a risk and push the boundaries by creating understated nude portraits. She worked with only one angled light source and further diffused it to create a “tenebrism” lighting effect made popular by the painters of the Baroque period, including Rembrandt and Caravaggio.

“I was very drawn by the dramaticism, yet tastefulness of the compositions and wanted to achieve something similar through my pieces,” said Schmidt. “The two pieces on display work individually, but I like them together for the viewer to experience the contrasting portrayal of the sexes.”

She too is looking forward to the journey she has ahead of her.

“I am very appreciative for the opportunity to be in the exhibit as well as the program for the next three years,” Schmidt said. “I know I will be able to grow and develop myself as an artist with my accessibility to the resources and the critiques of my fellow colleagues and advisors.”

Cardoso, who has been part of the UM art community for eight years, has one piece of advice for these ambitious students.

“Your professors have a plethora of information. Learn from them and listen to what they have to say. Ask them questions. It’s so important because these are mentors you might not get later on in life when you graduate.”

The 2018 Incoming Graduate Student Exhibition will be on view until September 23 at the University of Miami Gallery located inside the Wynwood Building at 2750 NW 3rd Avenue, Suite 4, Miami, Florida, 33127. 

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