Director’s Note

 

“Inside the word “emergency” is “emerge”;
from an emergency, new things come forth.
The old certainties are crumbling fast,
but danger and possibility are sisters.”

— Rebecca Solnit, “Hope in the Dark”

 

IN TIMES LIKE THESE

This online publication celebrates the creative work of twenty emerging artists, each of whom has created a mature body of work using a wide variety of visual, poetic and conceptual strategies.

You, the MFA Class of 2020, arrived at Parsons under sunnier skies and are exiting into a new paradigm defined by great precarity and uncertainty. You are bearing witness to a historically monumental moment and collectively your work will represent the voice of a generation as you enter the next stages of your professional careers. Yes, the future feels daunting, but this is a moment to stop and reflect. Few of the older, established rules will be left standing in the wake of this crisis; instead, new inroads will be made and new opportunities will open up. In times like these, artists are needed to imagine the future and pave the way.

Many of us in the artworld have been yearning for a revolution, or a ‘re-set,’ for a long time. Too much within our profession is driven by money and real estate developers, with too much inequity, too much catering to the 1%. Well, maybe the revolution is knocking at our door. Maybe now is the time for something more substantial, more relevant to this time. I, for one, look forward to this challenge. But the real leaders will be the next generation of artists and thinkers.

I decided to attend graduate school in 1988, at the height of the AIDS epidemic, because I knew that as an artist I would be investing in a life of meaningful creation. My community was being devastated by a new and mysterious virus — HIV. It was an agonizing and uncertain time, marked by the fear of dying and coupled with gross political injustice. Art school gave me a sense of clarity and purpose, along with a set of rigorous tools that would sustain me over a lifetime of artistic production. So much around me then felt utterly hopeless and empty but making art provided a space for my curiosity and intellect to flourish in relation to an even wider and more diverse community of people, and I am grateful for that.

One day perhaps you will look back at this time with similarly bittersweet emotions.

The best art helps us heal. It is a means to an end, a conduit for greater understanding and empathy. What we make matters and it can make a real difference when we focus not on what we can get from this life but on what we can give. This is our social responsibility as cultural workers.

Continue to take risks and use your collective voice to agitate, provoke and inspire those around you and do it with humility, generosity and empathy. Stay strong, stay connected, and show us the way forward. Take the baton that is being passed to you and go out and build a new world. In the process, a new art-world will emerge.

Congratulations to the graduating Class of 2020!

Anthony Aziz, Professor, Fine Arts
Interim Program Director, MFA Fine Arts