School of Visual Arts presents “Phantoms,” featuring work by first-year MFA Illustration as Visual Essay students enrolled in the Book Seminar course. Curated by faculty member Viktor Koen, the exhibition is on view Friday, February 7, through Saturday, March 1, at the SVA Gramercy Gallery, 209 East 23rd Street, New York City. Admission is free and open to the public.
The work in this exhibition was inspired by Pulitzer Prize-winning author Stephen Millhauser’s short story “Phantoms.”
Chris Bonnell depicts 20 cases of phantom sightings in his series of digital illustrations.
Alexa Cassaro’s etchings display the rites, departures and disappearances of peculiar creatures gathering together for a spectacular ritual.
Andrew Craft presents a series of disjointed posters for movies that do not exist. Each faux-film focuses on an occult character, such as a ghost ship, a succubus and a haunted house.
Stephen Cup’s digital illustration series addresses themes of apathy and disregard that haunt the social conscience.
Sarah Dvojack explores phantoms haunting a family named the Walpoles through graphite and digital illustration.
Francisco Galárraga imagines scenes of war as “a ripe scenario for the birth of new souls” in his digital illustrations.
Alina Gorban depicts a spooky cautionary tale warning little girls not to go with strangers, using homemade crayon and wax pastel scratchboard.
Gregory Hedderman’s etchings convey a specific atmosphere and mood: “The world they inhabit is a place of long shadows and wind passing through the trees,” he says. “It is a place where in quiet moments you can hear footsteps trampling through the detritus of the forest floor. As you make your way through the woods, visions appear in your peripheral vision and linger just long enough to embed themselves in your memory before they disappear.”
Mike Hirshon’s web illustrations chronicle the life of an unstable, unsavory artist occasionally plagued by visions of phantoms. Viewers see the artist embarrassing himself as he ogles women, runs in front of traffic and drinks entirely too much beer. Viewers can also see each phantom sighting from the perspective of the phantoms, who have created an alternate blog running parallel to the artist's. The two perspectives can be toggled back and forth with the click of a button.
Lily Hoyda presents an eight-page mini comic, which illustrates other-ization and alienation as a supernatural experience and conceives of phantoms as a metaphor for anyone going against the status quo.
Lisha Jiang presents a graphic novel that tells the story of an ordinary young man who is bored with his unchanging daily life. However, when weird things repeatedly break into his routine, the line between reality and his dreams becomes blurred.
Allene La Spina Uhlendorf illustrates a story of people who live in a small town hidden in the Andes Mountains. The town was born from the pact between Xol (Sun) and Xuna (Moon), who gave the small tribe that lived in the valley 20 years of exceptional fertility. In the midst of this pact, magical powers trickled to the people for generations.
Michael Lauritano explores how groups react to a foreign presence and its associated habits and traditions. Employing the understated, quiet atmosphere of the source material, Lauritano renders these complicated and sensitive narratives in a collection of digitally colored charcoal drawings.
Nicholas Little depicts a fictional mountain village in two series of images, one focusing on a fortunate family, and the other on a less fortunate one.
Tianhua Mao’s colorful digital illustrations explore a game of teasing and revenge.
Amanda Moeckel presents Watch for Me, Little Heart, a children’s book about a girl who finds heart-shaped signs that her grandmother remains by her side, despite having passed on.
Zach Meyer’s graphic novel depicts an alternate dimension of reality surrounding a small town, created by spirits and visible traces of those who have died. The book illustrates how interactions with phantoms affect the lives of people within the town.
Mo Razzouqi’s drawing series tells the story of a protagonist named Roger who explores an abandoned apartment on the outskirts of town, which houses both wraiths and manifestations of his deepest fears. He braves this hell in hopes of finding clues as to where his missing daughter has gone.
Elaheh Taherian’s If I ever see you again is a book about lovers whose separation is more than just physical. The pictures convey aspects of their relationship, which is full of passion, bitterness, joy, suffering and other contradictory feelings. The book’s title was inspired by a poem by Iranian poet Tahirih Qurratu l‐`Ayn.
Yufei Zhao presents a story about a boy and his mask, which wants to exchange souls with him. Zhao combines traditional Chinese drawing techniques with digital illustration.
“Broken down to commentary sections and case studies,” Koen says, “’Phantoms’ was the perfect point of departure and reference for structured projects of inventive visual narration, but also ones of complete departure to the world of spirits and esoterics, depending on the students’ personal interpretation of the subject. The constant hide-and-seek pattern between the natural and supernatural players of these short dramas created conditions of fantasy through minimal and enigmatic information that waited patiently for the individual artists’ talents to complete the pictures in every sense.
“The range of techniques and formats used to reflect our story was surprising and brave (and even dangerous), as more than a few artists chose to reinvent their palettes and tackle the narrative in ways antithetical to what they were used to. The artists worked as far from their comfort zone as the subject demanded, thus turning the gallery into a haunted house of a different sort, one that counts on depth, ingenuity and humor to transport the viewer to a place where ghosts and the living coexist in surprising and mysterious ways.”
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 digital, print and online 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.