Highlights from MICA Thesis II: MFA in Graphic Design and Illustration

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Highlights from MICA Thesis II: Post-Baccalaureat [...]

MFA Thesis Exhibitions in Graphic Design and Illustration by Amy Boone-McCreesh

On March 27 MICA’s Graduate Thesis show number two opened its doors across campus. This exhibition features work by over fifty students, receiving MFA degrees in Illustration Practice and Graphic Design. Also showing in this exhibition are the Post Baccalaureate certificates in Fine Arts and Graphic Design.


This year the Illustration Practice exhibition, held in the Lazarus Center, skewed towards a Fine Arts approach, with candidates displaying installation art, sculptural forms, and animations, while fulfilling the expectations associated with developing each of their personal illustration practices. Many in the illustration group fleshed out strange yet believable worlds that included custom languages, esoteric characters, books and maps.

Emily Joynton created hand-painted maps of Miami, Florida and San Angelo, Texas on the walls in the Leidy. Joynton also created small books that incorporate the locations specific to the illustrated stories. This year Joynton was awarded one of MICA’s Graduate Research Development Grants to further her practice.

Beautiful and delicate painted birds on silk by Jieyu Zhang. She created this work, Lamentation, to memorialize the over 100 million birds that collide with windows annually and bring awareness to the harm done by human interaction with birds.

Reigning Heads thesis by Luyi Wang, presents a futuristic hand-painted world that depicts a civilization controlled by “The Heads”. Wang’s section of the exhibition is guarded by Omni-present floating paper Mache heads. “Reigning Heads” the book includes illustrations by Wang that reflects the ways in which modern society has become increasingly self-serving, narcissistic, and apathetic.

Jia Gao’s thesis Spotted Banana revolves around creating a world where apes mimic a social structure strikingly close to those in human structures. The apes live in social castes where golden bananas act as unfairly distributed currency. Gao’s story unfolds through a book, works on paper, custom-stickered bananas, and a coded sheet for the language she created for this body of work.

Aditi Damle’s Say Hello to My Brain is a wonderfully bizarre combination of paper mache people, animals, and plants presented in front of a hand-painted wall mural. Damle also shares porcelain characters that mimic those depicted in the sculptures and paintings. Damle heightens aspects of daily life to become comical and visually pleasing vignettes. Damle is also a 2017 recipient of MICA’s Graduate Research Development Grant.

Jasjoyt Singh Han is an Indian illustrator working through a self-proclaimed Queer voice. He creates comics, zines, and illustrations in his thesis Up to Bat. Singh uses autobiographical content to present his funny and endearing run-ins with social media, pop culture, and his relationship with his parents.

Ephemeral Island – Book and Installation by Sena Kwon

American Dream by Tiffany Lin. Lin is a Taiwanese-American whose family history is entangled with U.S. Casinos and the idea of chance. Lin hacked a slot machine to create idyllic word machinations like “Truth Take Clarity” the machine also plays “Ring of Fire” by Johnny Cash after every handle-pull. American Dream includes a small book of prints by Lin, found school tables a board of chance game, and a custom flag- all speaking to the mythology and subjectivity of American life.

Yiran Guo, installation and projected animation. Yiran Guo’s beautifully hand-drawn animations dreamily capture the uncertainty of daily life through the lens of Chinese folklore.

The Stranger by Fang Fu presents a series of haunting charcoal drawings of a world where dogs parallel the lives of humans in desolate suburban neighborhoods. Fu was born in Shanghai and expresses the ideas of displacement and home as being primary catalysts for the work. Fu has a background in sociology, this knowledge perhaps enhances the dark undertones of the worlds she has created for the drawings that appear in the book.


The Graphic Design thesis show, held in the Fox galleries Decker and Meyerhoff, holds all of the staples of Design; featuring work in typography, product campaigns, and experimental interactive and conceptual pieces.

It seems there was an increased effort to integrate technology with design; many candidates presented models for apps and other modes of interactive exploration alongside their designs. A comforting trend in much of the work was an awareness of personal mental and physical health and the desire to help others. This group of MFA candidates, soon to be working in design fields across the world, have addressed head on many of the stigmas associated with personal health and wellness and obstacles within our society and culture.

Typescapes by Daniel Frumhoff are located at the beginning of the Graphic Design exhibition. Frumhoff offers expolorations in type in physical and digital mediums. On the floor is a large sculptural piece that reads like a topographic landscape, and in context, type. Frumhoff expresses interest in architectural landscapes, elevations, plans and applies this to his approach to typography.

Ashes to Ashes a campaign in The Absurdity of Unlearning to Smoke by Ninad Kale

Paula Baver’s thesis titled Baltimore’s Unspoken Past, uses infographics to show Baltimore’s history and involvement in the slave trade in the U.S. from 1816-1861. The piece shares powerful information in an effective format. Each take away card offered at Baver’s did not only have her information but that of the slaves traded through Baltimore. The card I picked up was for Ann Good, an 8-year-old slave that set sail for Baltimore on April 14, 1828.

FretPet is a model for an interactive app for children that aims to relieve anxiety by allowing children to guide their pet through virtual calming exercises. The therapeutic mechanisms in place to help the virtual pet can be translated to the struggling child. Brittany Baker created the piece with the help of a therapy consultant. Baker’s thesis location showed the app’s features on a large monitor, offered stickers and pins, and a giant wall mural of the cat and dog stars highlighted in FretPet.

Miles Holenstein’s campaign for the benefits of weeds in urban areas.

Weeds rarely look as appealing as in Holenstein’s beautiful photographs of weeds he has collected in Baltimore during his time in the graduate program. Reading the large-scale booklet Incidental Greening reveals his longtime love of nature and experience with plants.

Jean Gray, Act On, a politically passionate thesis that encourages others to become active and offers way for the public to do just that. Gray offers postcards for your local reps (with effectively designed messages) signs, and an app for action.

Shenrik Ganatra Amateurism, a campaign inspired by music

AMPT! The campaign by Gurleen Saini highlights a collection of professional football players that are also amputees. Three players are featured with trading cards that hold their names, ages, stats, and where they play. Saini’s tagline on the striped wall at the entrance of the show reads, “Think you need two legs? Think again.” Saini’s thesis highlights an unexpected but important need for design in areas beyond those most glamorous. This work encourages the belief that good design should live in all places.

Brooke Thyng used her thesis space to create a tiled wall outfitted with bathroom scales, trash can and custom paper towel dispenser. Each wave of the hand offered a new set of phrases, which was really popular at the opening reception.

Increased knowledge of the benefits of probiotics is becoming more and more relevant in pop culture. MFA candidate Yihan Wang used her thesis as an opportunity to increase this knowledge in the public through inventive characters, a video, and soft sculptural gut bacteria that provide statistics on the benefits associated with probiotics.

Underline by Claire Moore is a complete and believable campaign for underwear that subverts cultural norms. The work is beautiful and features people that look and feel like those we see around us, not the hyper sexualized versions. Moore presents large photographs that could act as ads for the line but also provides a history of underwear from the 1800s to today and the gender gap in how underwear is marketed as well as bought.

The graphic argues that women’s underwear has become a marker of femininity while men’s underwear often focus on function. Another example of women being expected to do the same as men while dealing with discomfort in process or women wearing garments that present the female form to men in a way that pleases their societal notions of the ideal silhouette.


ILLUSTRATION: Sheila & Richard Riggs & Leidy Gallery, Open: Mon–Sat: 10AM–5PM, Sun: 12PM–5PM

Aditi Damle, Emily Joynton, Edon Muhaxheri, Fang Fu, Hannah Glaser, Jia Gao, Jasjyot Hans, Jieyu Zhang, Luyi Wang, Mengyang Wang, Sena Kwon, Tiffany Lin, Tianxing Wan, Yiran Guo

GRAPHIC DESIGN: Meyerhoff Gallery, Open: Mon–Sat: 10AM–5PM, Sun: 12PM–5PM

Brittany Baker, Christopher Fodge, Daniel Frumhoff, Jarrett Fuller, Jean Gray, Linka Lin,
Miles Holenstein, Ninad Kale, Paula Baver, Shrenik Ganatra, Brooke Thyng, Claire Moore

March 27th–April 9th

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