MFA Thesis Exhibition: ‘Skin: America in Black & White’

Posted: November 25, 2008 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

Mason’s Art and Visual Technology Department will present “Skin: America in Black & White,” the MFA thesis exhibition of Solomon Wondimu.

The exhibition will be in the Fine Arts Gallery on Mason’s Fairfax Campus Dec. 1-11. The opening reception will be held Monday, Dec. 1, from 6 to 8 p.m.

“Skin: America in Black & White” features large new media pieces, including digital prints, wallpaint on canvas, sculpture and video documenting the art creation process. The colors in the artworks were extracted from pixilated images of hundreds of participants’ forearms.

“I have always been puzzled by the signifying system which references the human race,” Wondimu says. “And I questioned why are people identified or classified as ‘black’ or ‘white’ when skin color is neither of these two colors; why does language describe an opposition that does not exist in nature?”

Wondimu’s work examines the conflict between the eye and the perceiving mind over the color of human skin. The eye observes without bias, while the mind takes the information from the eye and translates it into social, political and religious master signifiers in order to further agendas, particularly the subjugation of the “other,” Wondimu explains.

“In my view, the mind abuses the noblest sense of all: the eye,” Wondimu says. “The conflict is not limited to the individual person or to the tiny space that exists between the retina and the brain; it is a universal problem that can lead to prejudice, disharmony and atrocities. My work describes and exposes this conflict as it exists in both the micro and macro levels.”

“These works are the synthesis of perception with social and political questions and enigmas,” says Walter Kravitz, director of the Fine Arts Gallery. “There is always a dialectical tension between what is simple and what is complex once the images are shifted outside their original connects and seen in a new light through magnification.”

Wondimu came to the United States in 1992 from Ethiopia. He received his associate degree in communication graphic design in 2000 from Northern Virginia Community College and his BFA in painting in 2004 from Mason. He has been working in Mason’s Art and Visual Technology Department as exhibition specialist since 2005.

Wondimu is a MFA candidate for May 2009.

The exhibition and reception are free and open to the public. The gallery, located in the Fine Arts Building, is open on weekdays from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., and weekends by appointment.

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