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Presented by MFA Illustration as Visual Essay

Chuck's Bucket

January 18 - February 8, 2020
Horizontal image of a pan, nude crouching towards a body of water with his back to the viewer.
Credit: Danlin Zhang


Tue, Jan 21; 6:00 - 8:00pm

School of Visual Arts presents “Chuck's Bucket,” an exhibition based on the short story of the same name by Chris Offutt and featuring work by first-year MFA Illustration as Visual Essay students enrolled in the program’s Book Seminar course. Curated by faculty member and alumnus Viktor Koen, the exhibition will be on view Saturday, January 18, through Saturday, February 8.

“‘Chuck’s Bucket’ is a complicated tale of obsession and, in our case, the perfect foundation for 21 uniquely conceived and executed projects. These visual treatments may share the exact same literary point of departure, but lead the viewer to completely different destinations in tone, approach and format. While wrestling with such a story through the scope of a developing artist, one has to decide between retaining the story’s structural integrity or only using it as a springboard to a long plunge through the myriad of subject choices that this well-crafted narrative provides.

“In the story, a case of writer’s block leads to extreme methods of overcoming it by disregarding boundaries of any kind or perspective along the way. Especially when cutting-edge alchemy can readily facilitate a plethora of scenarios to follow in the search of images to illustrate a series of voyages towards an ever-elusive ending to the story at hand. Out-of-body experiences, often trapped in Groundhog Day-scenario loops, prompt to trips where no return is never out of the question. Full-body sci-fi contraptions lure characters with nothing to lose towards voyages beyond the limits for body and soul. Working with a tale that struggles to come full circle and find its own ending is a challenge but more open to interpretation, too. And interpretation is an artist’s middle name.

“Chris Offutt’s story inspired direct and associative comics, a series of posters testing the boundaries of science and psyche, biblical parables, paranormal theories and the daily struggles to break norms and redefine an equal code of behavior among genders. Religion versus science (not to mention alchemy), Aesopian tales with a contemporary flair, artistic angst and the hunt for the perfect painting. But also an alphabet of the eccentric and an immersive restaurant where stolen memories become menu options were developed along the idea of turning the text into a gaming platform prototype, allegorical compositions and fantastical environments, much darker than they initially appear to be.

“In ‘Chuck’s Bucket,’ personal stories of loss and perseverance alter time and space where familiar environs turn into uncharted waters. Willing to repeatedly disrupt continuum towards the unknown is always better than a predictable lack of possibilities. When people realize the desperation of their predicament, consequences seem like a small price to pay. On the other hand, desperation makes for great images."

–Viktor Koen, curator

The featured artists are Oliver Allison, Ruojun Bai, Yichin Chen, Emilia Chin, Abanti Deb Chowdhury, Karlotta Freier, Carly Larsson, Noah MacMillan, Sarah K. Myers, Carles Garcia O’Dowd, Taarika Ravi John, John Rego, Arif Qazi, Sanika Phawde, Millie von Platen, Simiao Wang, Paul Michael Wright, Nadia Xu, Zhilin Yang, Danlin Zhang and Qinyu Zheng.

The MFA in Illustration as Visual Essay at SVA is designed to maximize students’ opportunities as figurative artists, from the conventional gallery wall to the full range of 21st-century media. The program fuses the development of creative thinking with technical and communication skills. Additional focus is placed on best practices in navigating the visual art marketplace while empowering students to choose making art as a way of life.

Free and open to the public