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PNCA graduate students present mixed media work illustrating l’appel du vide (“the call of the void”)

by Linda Lenhoff,

Calling out for help when you are tired of taking care of yourself by Daniel Sundberg

Each spring semester, first-year PNCA graduate students across multiple programs come together in an annual group exhibition focused on a particular theme. “This is both an important opportunity to share their work with a wider audience, as well as a valuable exercise in developing and honing the professional practices that will serve them in their future careers as visual artists, designers, and cultural producers,” said Meghann Gilligan-Koehn, Assistant Administrative Director, Hallie Ford School of Graduate Studies.

To get a feel for the exhibit, begin by visualizing the theme in your mind: “Walking along a high cliff path, you are gripped by a terrifying urge to leap,” wrote Blue Corvidae, MFA ’25 in Visual Studies + MA in Critical Studies Candidate. “As an express train hurtles into view, you itch to fling yourself in front of it. People talk of a fear of heights, but in truth, anxieties about precipices are often less to do with falling than with the horrifying compulsion to jump. The French have a name for this unnerving impulse: l’appel du vide, ‘the call of the void.’”

“As Jean-Paul Sartre recognized,” Corvidae continued, “l’appel du vide creates the shaky sensation that even our own instincts are not always to be trusted.”

You can trust your own eyes when you admire the artwork produced by PNCA students in Applied Craft and Design, MFA in Collaborative Design/MA in Design Systems, Print Media, Visual Studies, and the Post-Baccalaureate Program. The pieces included photography, wood and fiber creations, digital prints, risographs, video and more. Abandoned Shelter, by Claire Frances Spaulding MA/MFA ‘25, who is working on her MA in Critical Studies and MFA in Visual Studies, uses embellished found objects to ask the questions: What if paved paradise is all that remains of our current era? What if the age of plastics was a self-fossilizing prophecy for the environment’s dystopian present?”

Gilligan-Koehn believes the beautiful thing about the annual First-Year Graduate Student Exhibition is that while students from several programs come together with different faculty and curricula, the overall exhibition maintains cohesiveness. “In the through lines that emerge—in terms of material explorations, thematic content, aesthetics—you can see that there is meaningful connection and cross-pollination happening amongst this community, which is really wonderful,” she added. Gilligan-Koehn credits this cohesiveness to Hannah Bakken Morris, Assistant Director of PNCA’s CCAC, who guides and supports the students through the curation process and brings the exhibition to life within PNCA’s galleries.

Check out Spaulding’s Kitsch Kreature and other fascinating artworks at the exhibition’s website here and read more here.

Image credit: Calling out for help when you are tired of taking care of yourself by Daniel Sundberg MFA'24

About Pacific Northwest College of Art

Pacific Northwest College of Art empowers artists and designers to reimagine what art and design can do in the world. Founded in 1909 as the Museum Art School in Portland, Oregon, PNCA offers 11 art and design Bachelor of Fine Art programs, eight graduate programs including Master of Arts and Master of Fine Arts programs within the Hallie Ford School of Graduate Studies, a Post-Baccalaureate program, and Community Education courses for artists and designers of all ages.

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