Parsons BFA Photography Seniors Say Goodbye at Milk Gallery
Thanks to the contributions from dozens of graduating seniors in the Parsons BFA Photography program, we literally saw everything and the kitchen sink at the Milk Gallery last night. Well, bathroom sink (there was one featured in the show). The point is, last night the gallery played host to an incredibly diverse selection of work that featured everything from a VR queer beach scene and an exploration of border patrol K9 units to introspective portraits tackling body image through sports and, yes, that bathroom sink installation. For the students who gathered for one last exhibition before being thrust into the big, bad world of freelancing and attempting adulthood, the show last night was a celebration of their four-year journey from freshmen to alumni.
For Colin Stearns, Parsons’ Director of Undergraduate Studies in Photography, it was all of that and more because this group of seniors represent the end of an era for a curriculum that’s shifting away from practice and professionalism and toward a more tech-friendly and research-heavy basis. “It’s an interesting moment for us, as faculty, to look and see where this group is leaving off and what it is that we’ve hopefully taught them,” he explained before the gallery opened. As he looked around at the art, he noted what a wide appreciation of photography the students had shown, which was immediately evident as the gallery doors opened and a crowd as diverse as the artwork flowed into the gallery. As we waded through the sea of families and friends of the photographers celebrating their sweet escape from higher education, we also ran into a handful of the artists who explained their topics with nervous, excited jitters usually reserved for a job interview.
Ryan Duffin‘s VR escape took users into “a futuristic, post-apocalyptic view of contemporary queer identity shaped through technology and the AIDS crisis,” which sounded like just another Saturday night for Duffin when he explained it. A few feet away, Ryan James Caruthers spoke quietly through the noise of the packed gallery about a stunning self-portrait from his “Tryouts” series in which he’s bruised, sweating, and donning a wrestling cap. “It’s about the connections between masculinity, homosexuality, and athleticism. It’s inspired by my personal history of dealing with not fitting in in my body and my estrangement from sports,” he said. When we asked about his next move post-graduation, he casually said he’ll be working at Vogue before slipping into the crowd.
On the other side of the gallery, Mark Woodward walked us through his 16-month documentation of the K9 units on the Mexican border and how the project had evolved. “As much as the project is about the dogs and their human bond, I found that through the dogs, police officers and border patrol could talk to me about much more controversial issues,” he explained before noting that he plans to continue to document the units long after graduating. As Woodward and his peers celebrated the end of their time at Parsons and enjoyed a glass (or three) of wine, it was clear from their work that their future was brighter than the gallery lights.
For more on the exhibition, which is part of Parsons Festival 2016, you can visit their website. The BFA Photography Senior Exhibition is on display now in Milk Gallery until May 29.
Stay tuned to Milk for more art galleries.
Images shot exclusively for Milk by Zlatko Batistich.