On the MSA Select 2024 Exhibition - Styx Farris for the Young Art Writers Project

Published March 6th 2024
By Styx Farriss

Installation view of the MSA select exhibition courtesy of Todd Art Gallery

Every year, the Mid-South Sculpture Alliance (MSA) selects sculptures to create a curated experience for viewers to enjoy. The MSA Select 2024 Exhibition was shown in the Todd Art Gallery at Middle Tennessee State University from 8 February to 23 February 2024.

The exhibition has its own profound way of sparking interest in part due to its layout. Pieces from each of the featured artists are scattered throughout the gallery in such a way that they seem almost randomized, with only two artists having all of their featured works together in one area. These works are meant to be displayed together in order to better highlight their shared themes. The room itself is painted a bland off-white to emphasize the forms and colors of the sculptures therein.

There are many things to be said in favor of the exhibition itself. First and foremost, the selections chosen are unique in their creativity. For example, Christina Vasquez’s Chrome Baby is a sustainably sourced mixed media vessel for the music within. The sculpture itself contains a device that plays ambient music that gives it an air of futurism. Vasquez incorporates abstract form and open spaces in her design to create a multi-sensory experience. Other artists in the exhibition include found and upcycled materials in their work, revitalizing what was once old or wasted and reshaping them into profound and striking works of what can only be described as genius.

Chrome Baby, Image courtesy of Todd Art Gallery

One key detractor is, however, the randomization of many of the placements. For example, Nicole Scannell’s three featured sculptures, Fukc, Sory, and Bok would be better understood and received by viewers if they were placed together. They can be described as a cohesive study on the artist’s own struggles with dyslexia, a condition that causes difficulties with spelling. With the singular, cohesive theme, the randomization of the placement of her works is entirely illogical and unreasonable. It may leave viewers more confused than a more unified approach would. The sculptures themselves intertwine cardboard, resin, gold leaf, and wood into something unexpected and beautiful. The appearance of each is most comparable to a sheet of paper crumpled into a ball to be thrown into a waste basket after an error is made, highlighting the themes of emotional trauma caused by the judgement that the artist receives for the misspellings of words. They should, however, be viewed in succession in order to make the most sense of their message.

Furthermore, the exhibition includes one nearly incomprehensible and altogether unflattering piece. Esra Kanisicak’s Dire Straits is merely a singular, irregularly shaped piece of poplar wood mounted perpendicular to one of the gallery’s walls. The artist’s goal with the piece is to call attention to the pollution and destruction of Earth’s marine ecosystems, but this piece does not live up to the artist’s mission. Instead, it is made more baffling by its relationship to the subject matter it is meant to convey. Poplar wood is not grown in oceans. The carving of the wood, by its very form, is not conducive to the artist’s goals.

Installation view of the MSA select exhibition courtesy of Todd Art Gallery

This collection is full of beautiful and well-made works of art that are unique, whimsical, and pleasing to the eye, but it is awkward in its layout. Some of the pieces featured are more well-suited to exhibition than others, but this collection is altogether relatively well-curated and will delight and intrigue viewers, inspiring them to learn more about the various social and emotional challenges that the art conveys.

Styx Farriss is a current student at Middle Tennessee State University in the Art department.