‘Hang in there, Baby’ exhibits artwork created by first-year MFA students

The “Hang in there, Baby” exhibition features works created by 13 first-year MFA students in the school of art and art history. It will be the first student-organized exhibition for first-year MFA students. There is no chosen theme for the show, but rather the art in the show reflects the individual style of each artist and how they contrast against each other.


Olivia Augustine, Arts Reporter

Art manifests itself in several ways. It can be paint on a canvas, an object hanging by a thread from the ceiling, a video on a television screen, it can even just be dirt on the ground. The “Hang in there, Baby” exhibition offers artwork presented in many ways.

“Hang in there, Baby” is a gallery featuring the work of the first-year MFA students in the school of art and art history. In the Levitt Gallery at Art Building West, there is conceptual art lining the wall by 13 students, using several artistic outlets including sculpture, painting, and intermedia.

Jordan Ismaiel, who proposed the idea for a first-year gallery, said that a big part of creating this exhibition was to introduce the first-year MFA students to the other cohorts in the school of art and art history.

The idea originated when Ismaiel was looking into other graduate programs that do first-year galleries. They proposed the idea for “Hang in there, Baby” in September, learning that UI used to do a first-year student exhibition that has since faded out. Ismaiel said this will be the first time at UI that the first-year gallery is completely student organized.

All of the art in the gallery is work from this semester, some since the beginning of August.

Ismaiel said that there’s not necessarily a chosen theme throughout each individual artist’s work. The exhibition is also organized to facilitate individuality through colors, contrast, and texture.

“We wanted to showcase our most individual studio practices in a way that collectively, we could share together and also individually in the studio,” they said, “It’s designed in such a way that the work that is right next to each other, kind of works off of each other.”

In the gallery, Ismaiel has an oil on canvas painting that is 72 inches by 84 inches, titled Take me here someday soon. The painting is a colorful display of pinks, yellows, and reds that centers around an illustration of two black and white characters facing forward.

Ismaiel said that they use composite photos as a starting point to base their work from, and then explores queer theory within their work to “satisfy feelings of longing and desire.”

Gracie Baer, another first-year graduate student with work in the exhibition, said that Ismaiel was the common thread to bring all the first-year students together, and the exhibition would not have gone on without them.

Baer studies sculpture and intermedia art, which is well-represented in her work in “Hang in there, Baby.” Her piece, Lobotomy, uses several materials that aren’t always associated with art.

“My piece, Lobotomy, in this exhibition utilized nearly all organic materials such as wild clay I dug up, moss, found cocoons, a moth, found wood, and hair,” Baer wrote in an email to The Daily Iowan. “I plan on allowing this piece to decompose outside after the exhibition, and I will photograph this process.”

The “Hang in there, Baby” exhibit began on Nov. 15 and will run through Nov. 28. The exhibition is open to the public between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m.