UNC Chapel Hill MFA Thesis Exhibitions

Exhibit Description
The Department of Art and Art History at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the Contemporary Art Museum of Raleigh is proud to present four Masters of Fine Arts thesis exhibitions: Mark Anthony Brown Jr, Molly English, Matthew Troyer and Vera Weinfield. The exhibitions will be on view from April 12 to September 8, 2024. The MFA Thesis Exhibition is the culmination of an intensive two-year degree program in the visual arts driven by individual research. The program encourages interdisciplinary practice and experimentation. The four graduating artists present individual thesis exhibitions that each explore focused themes and materials, utilizing mediums ranging from painting and sculpture to photography and textiles.

In her thesis exhibition, Sap, Molly English invites viewers into a candy-colored world of tufted forms. Her large, lush tapestries feature hybrid characters that violently transform from panel to panel, fusing and severing the bodies of artist, animal, and land. Part bestiary, part blood ritual, Sap seeks to excise spiritual substance from these embodied relationships, using narrative tapestry as a meaning-making form. Doing so reimagines the possibilities of a story told through fiber, rejecting the flattening warp and weft of the loom in order to embrace the wild textures of the ignoble tufting gun. In this way, English tends to Western tapestry’s history of justifying state and religious dominance both in form and content, opting instead to tell a story in which justification itself is questioned. From English’s own lived and researched understandings of Irish Catholicism, Anarchism, Feminism, and Animism, the work grapples with the fallibility and necessity of liberatory and salvatory beliefs in a nihilistic world. Sap invites guests to navigate these struggles through their sense of touch, and to experience tactility as an intimate layer of the story. Like a secret shared through tender contact, Sap guides the audience through an exploration of faith and fiber—the ways in which they hold together and fall apart.

Melancholia, nostalgia and sentimentality are just a few of the feelings that a photograph can evoke. Mark Anthony Brown Jr. ‘s thesis exhibition, reminiscer, expands on this phenomena—the potential of the physical photograph as a conduit for memory and emotion. Utilizing materials from a range of archives—his own family photos, institutional archives and “found” photos & objects—Brown Jr. upends notions of what constitutes a “proper” archival practice and expands on vernacular visual language. His work asks viewers to consider the vernacular as a visual language, that is more expensive than just the consideration of vernacular photographs, and to include notions of aesthetics, symbols and a shared experience.

In the ongoing photographic series by Matthew Troyer, The Uniformed States of America documents the commodification of military surplus garments, initially designed for warfare and financed by tax dollars, as they transition from instruments of conflict to symbols in a consumer-driven context. This visual exploration unfolds within surplus stores nationwide, capturing scenes of individuals, artifacts, and the retail environments that facilitate the peculiar life cycle of these garments. The series critically examines surplus stores’ cultural impact and aesthetic allure, offering a contemplative narrative on the commodification of war gear, and the remnants of warfare embedded in these commercialized artifacts. From depicting store interiors to individuals interacting with these repurposed military materials, this series illuminates the multifaceted dynamics surrounding surplus stores and the oddity of garments born from conflict, finding a second life in the civilian domain.

Through drawing, installation, puppetry performance and video, Vera Weinfield investigates the normalization and repression of trauma, its lingering effects and repercussions within generations of North American Jews. In her thesis exhibition, Unraveling The Threads, Weinfield uses masks and puppets to explore embodied traumas, embedding mundane domestic objects and spaces with antisemitic archetypes that ask the viewer to consider what happens when trauma becomes an integral part of one’s identity. Weinfield pieces together familial and cultural archives and myths. In these works, oral, written, and visual histories morph into an anthropomorphized time and space in which Jewish pack peddlers, matriarchs and daughters-left-behind simultaneously confront and hide from what haunts them. In collaboration with Greensboro based artist, Terri Jones, Weinfield explores how Jewish and Black North American diasporic histories collide in complex, messy and often troubling ways. Through masked performances, inspired by a deep research process into Jewish and Black southern histories, family and cultural myth, and their own internalized generational traumas, Jones and Weinfield unravel these threads and in doing so find themselves tangled up inside of them.
Artist Biography
Molly English (b. 1993) is an artist from Chicagoland. She received her BA in studio art and poetry from Columbia College Chicago in 2016, and will receive her MFA in Studio Art from the University of North Carolina in 2024. In her work, English reimagines the traditional flatness of narrative tapestry as a more abundant form—one that positions faith as both a necessary and fallible mode of relating to an increasingly nihilistic world.

Mark Anthony Brown Jr. (b. 1991), is a journeyman of sorts. Not dedicated to a single given location for too long, he currently lives and works between Cincinnati, Ohio, Durham, North Carolina and Atlanta, Georgia. Mark has received a Bachelor of Science Technology from Bowling Green State University and is currently in pursuit of a MFA from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill where also is a fellow in Museum Practice at The Ackland Art Museum. Mark’s art practice is research driven and interdisciplinary; utilizing photography, sculpture, drawing and painting with an interest in vernacular aesthetic practices & sensibilities, the manifestation of African retentions in the diaspora, semiotics and archival practices. His work has been exhibited nationally; including the Cincinnati Art Museum, Mint Gallery in Atlanta, Georgia and Block Gallery in Raleigh, North Carolina. Mark has received various fellowships and awards including an Emerging Lens Fellowship from ArtWORKS in Chicago (2022), the Nexus Grant from Atlanta Contemporary (2022), and a Visiting Researcher Fellowship at Wilson Special Collection Library at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (2023).

Matthew Troyer (b. 1988) is an American artist and former U.S. Marine Corps Combat Photographer. Serving actively for nine years, he transitioned from the military to earn his Bachelor of Fine Art in Photography and Imaging with Honors from Ringling College of Art and Design in 2022. He is attending the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where he will receive his Master of Fine Arts in Studio Art in 2024. In his work, Troyer examines the intricate relationship between war and American culture. By illuminating these dimensions of American life, he invites viewers to participate in nuanced discussions about the profound implications for society at large. In this endeavor, Troyer aims to investigate prevailing narratives, disrupt conventional depictions, and nurture a deeper understanding of the complexities inherent in the convergence of war and culture.

Vera Weinfield (b. 1992) was raised in Indiana. She graduated from the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts with a BFA in painting in 2014. Before entering the MFA program at the University of North Carolina, Vera collaborated with the Greensboro Mural Collective, in Greensboro, NC and worked for several years as a community artist with Los Muralistas de El Puente, an intergenerational mural collective based in Brooklyn. In collaboration with other artists and within her individual art practice, Vera invents mythical, political, and psychological narratives that investigate the slippages between ‘good’ and ‘evil,’ Jew and Gentile, man and woman, animal and human, victim and oppressor.

Terri Jones (b. 1992), a Greensboro native and Guilford College Fine Arts graduate, navigates her multifaceted identity as a painter, educator, community muralist, and mother of three. As an elementary school art teacher, she nurtures young talent while honing her own craft. Beyond the classroom, Jones’s impact extends to the streets, where her murals serve as narratives of collective identity.


Artist Name(s):
Exhibit Name: UNC Chapel Hill MFA Thesis Exhibitions
Gallery Location: CAM Lower Level Gallery
Current Status: Active