KCAI, End of Semester Show Highlights
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KCAI, End of Semester Show Highlights

KCAI, End of Semester Show Highlights

At the end of every semester, the Kansas City Art Institute (KCAI) has the End of Semester Show, a series of shows organized by each department/major. I want to highlight a selection of artists and works from the most recent edition. I went to the final two days of the show, Saturday and Sunday.

I find the KCAI campus confusing. Stairs are in strange places. Dark hallways lead to unknown rooms. It’s a disorienting place with a hodgepodge of architectural styles. New buildings are being constructed around old ones. It’s been almost ten years since I went to college (Occidental College, not KCAI). I feel more removed from the experience than I have before.

On Saturday afternoon, I drove me and mom to KCAI after having breakfast with her at You Say Tomato. My belly was full of veggie bierock and coffee, and I was wearing my newly acquired green jacket, camera at my side (to take pictures for this review). We started at ceramics, a usual favorite for both of us.

My mom is a ceramicist, and she collects American pottery. I think she started practicing ceramics fifteen years ago as a response to her and my dad’s marital problems.

We started to the right, in the room where they always show the self-portrait busts (I assume this is a regular assignment for first year ceramicists).

Note: This is by no means a comprehensive analysis of all of the works in the show. I did not cover certain departments, and I spent more time in some areas as opposed to others.


Highlight no. 1

All images courtesy of the author.

Jada Patterson

What comes off and what stays on?

Patterson’s thick, textured wall hung sculpture is similar to Sterling Ruby aesthetically, but it has a more personal quality. The representations of soap, and the use of hair, remind me of showers, or rather a memory of showers. Patterson layers the sculpture on itself, genuinely expressing the non-linear temporality of memories and their joining of emotion and senses (in this case visual).

Highlight no. 2

Debbie Magyar

Nostos Algos

The title is a reference to the etymology of “nostalgia”. In Greek, nostos means “homecoming”, and algos means “pain”. Magyar’s vision of nostalgia is one of scattered memories, floating amongst leaves, flowers, and shells. Like crustaceans, these pictures (maybe of family and/or friends) attach themselves to sea weathered architecture. I like how Magyar framed the ovoid installation. It helps me approach the work, and it feels protective, like a barrier (for or from these memories I am not sure).

This work reminds me of a pole that was in my grandparent’s basement. My mom had decoupaged the pole with pictures and objects. My mom lives in that house now, but I don’t know if the pole is still there.

Highlight no. 3

Nicole McLaughlin

De su Cocina a la Mía

De su Cocina a la Mía is a cookbook of McLaughlin’s grandmother’s recipes. McLaughlin made all of the vessels for the food, which are laid out on a table next to the book. The vessels are in two distinct styles of ceramics, that of Puebla and that of Michoacán, representing her grandparents differing backgrounds. This confluence of styles also responds to the colonialist history of valuing Puebla’s ceramics above Michoacán’s. McLaughlin tied a variety of different shaped and colored tassels onto the edges of some of the vessels.

The vessels are masterfully crafted, and the combination of personal and sociological content is simultaneously relatable and educational. McLaughlin told us that she is excited for her grandmother to see the book, and I feel excited for her too.

Other Notable Artists/Works in Ceramics

Eleanor Foy/It’s the real thing

Roberto Gomez/Basin

Hunter Saxton/Join Table

I’m having trouble remembering the rest of the chronology of our path that Saturday. The rest of the highlights are in an order unrelated to the order in which I saw them.


Highlight no. 4

Jamie Novak

One Rug

One Rug is actually three amoeba shaped rugs hung on the wall. These tufted rugs remind me of being a young kid, playing in some weird basement in suburbia with stained and bleached plastic toys that mimic functioning objects. The feeling is uncomfortable for me, but I like its overwhelming quality. Memories this intense usually stem from olfactory sensations as opposed to visual.


Highlight no. 5

Melissa Goldberg

If you left a place, does it feel abandoned by you?

Goldberg presents a series of three photographs framed in and obscured by clear glass. The glass acts like a lens. The titles of the works:

If you don’t have the memories of a place, does it remember you?

If you left a place, does it feel abandoned by you?

If you’re still discovering a place, is it discovering you too?

personify place, specifically focusing on memory. I like that the titles are questions. I feel invited to start a dialogue with the work. The structure of the glass feels both new and old, further strengthening the exploration of memory and place within the work.

Highlight no. 6

Meranda McDermott

Bug Gallery

Bug Gallery is one of my favorite works in the End of Semester Show. Following small hand-written signs, my mom and I find the bug-sized gallery above a staircase. McDermott has built the exhibition space in miniature. Track lights are made by putting small paper cones around LED string lights. Sculptures rest on tiny podiums, and the steel structure has been wrapped in drywall and painted white. Prices range from one cent to $10,526.30. McDermott creates a conversation on scale between viewer, space, and work.

I like the mimicry and intimacy.

Other Notable Artists/Works in Sculpture

Zac Comstock and Catherine Lynott/Walls


Highlight no. 7

Kaylee Cox


I listened to an interview with Shirin Neshat on my way home from work the other day. When asked about her interest in portraiture, Neshat, talked about the ability of portraits to venerate a subject. I feel that Cox has done that with Paige (who is a friend of mine). The picture is humorous without being flippant, and it genuinely honors the subject.

Other Notable Artists/Works in Photography

Izsys Archer/Mommy, Me and the Heirloom of Depression

Aaron Mason/Enneagram 4

Scout Dearth/Untitled #2


Notable Artist/Work

Haley Bray/Positive Negative

Graphic Design

Notable Artist/Work

Katherine Sharmer/My Dumbass Cats


Notable Artist/Work

Kevin Heckart/Dreams in the Wire


Highlight no. 8

Madison Bender

Untitled Objects

A show, in and of itself, Untitled Objects is a series of colorful sculptures on a platform. I enjoy walking around the work, crouching at various heights to take in all of the potential perspectives. It reminds me of Marco Maggi’s Great White Dialogue, but Bender has used materials and colors that feel more familiar and optimistic. These objects are like characters or tools that will help me in an unknown future, or maybe they are a snapshot of the aesthetic present, an archive of a collective visual feeling.

Other Notable Artists/Works in Painting

Katharine Suchan/Metamorphic Flowering



Highlight no. 9

The artists’ work in the Foundations show is that of a collective. By responding to specific assignments as a group, the artists and curators have created a show that is cohesive, engaging, and immersive. The artists take risks, and, for the most part, they are successful. Their work is not burdened by functionality. There is tape and glue. Sculptures rest on the floor, and interactions are invited and undirected. Fans blow up and around inflatable sculptures, and light tables are used to display drawings. Parade floats are gathered in a room, surrounding and watching a monitor of videos in which they are the featured cast. I’m excited to see these artists’ future works, and I am hopeful they will maintain some of this freedom and spontaneity.

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