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Make Yourself at Home

Stanford Department of Art & Art History presents Make Yourself at Home, the annual first-year MFA exhibition at the Stanford Art Gallery

Andrew Catanese
Tina Kashiwagi
Liz Maelane
Krystal Ramirez
Oleg Savunov

Curated by Paul DeMarinis

In Make Yourself at Home, the first physical exhibition by the Stanford Department of Art & Art History in over a year, the first-year MFA graduate cohort presents new work made during the continuing pandemic. It is, in a very real sense, a “coming together” for them. Separated by mandated distancing, geographic isolation, sometimes by continents and time zones, their interaction with each other during their first year was largely limited to seminar meetings and studio visits conducted online.

During the pandemic, many spent time away from their on-campus studios, pursuing their research at home without access to the tools and facilities of the department. This demanded ingenuity and required thinking broadly about alternative possibilities for making work. Sometimes they delved deeply into themselves, their locales, their families, or worked with materials that were close at hand or in outdoor sites still accessible during the shutdown. Despite their isolation from each other, these artists may know more about each other than grads in previous years due to the intimate and revealing nature of the work they have pursued.

–Paul DeMarinis

Broken Ritual and Scorched Earth, 2020. Acrylic on panel. 65.5" x 48”.

Andrew Catanese (he/him)

As an artist, I create work that engages with the intersections of identity, myth, and landscape. I see my paintings as a form of myth-making, but one which simultaneously engages with personal experiences growing up as a queer and othered person in the South. My paintings and sculptures typically reflect the land that surrounds me and the dense Southern forests in which I was raised. My artwork draws from existing narrative traditions that inform so much of our current culture, but alters them through the individual queer experience, often necessitating protective measures like camouflage and hybridity. These symbolic tools shape a new, somewhat utopian, mythos reflecting themes of ecological futurism, gender, and sexuality. However, the optimism of the work is tinged with tension from the possibility of violence always looming close by, reflecting the contemporary and historical threats faced by those who fall outside societal norms. For viewers, the work then becomes a space where the ties between identity, culture, myth, and landscape extend their tight embrace.

Andrew Catanese’s canvases elaborate mythological parables centering on the queer body in, and as, nature. –Paul DeMarinis

Andrew Catanese is a painter and sculptor from the American South. He earned his BFA in Studio Art at the Sam Fox School of Art at Washington University in St. Louis. He is currently working towards his MFA at Stanford University. His paintings and sculptures typically reflect the landscapes he lives in and the dense Southern forests he grew up around. His artwork draws from existing narrative traditions, but alters those through abstraction, camouflage, biology, perception, and hybridity. These symbolic tools shape a new, somewhat utopian, mythos reflecting themes of ecological futurism and queerness. However, the optimism of the work is tinged with tension from the possibility of violence always looming close by. For viewers, the work then becomes a space where the ties between identity, culture, myth, and landscape extend their tight embrace.  •  @andrewcatanese

Still from Let’s Play, 2021. Performance documentation with audio narration.

Tina Kashiwagi (they/them)

My recent series of work looks deep into the relationship with my younger brother Alan and his obsessive gaming habits. It is also about human communication and the complexities of how we are able to reach each other, both physically and metaphorically. Alan’s active resistance to talk due to his autistic behavior has resulted in us having to discover alternative ways of communicating.

In Portrait of A Gamer, I invade Alan’s personal space by capturing him on video but he does not seem to notice or care.His mind is in a different world even though his body is physically right next to me and his eyes stay fixed onto the computer screen.

Let’s Play presents a performance collaboration where Alan and I simultaneously push each other at the site of our childhood elementary school. An audio narration is included to illustrate how language, memory and gender roles have played parts in our upbringing.

Things I Wish You Would Say to Me is a sculpture using Alan’s old game controller which has been transformed into a strange object.


Closer to home, Tina Kashiwagi explores their brother’s video game obsession and comes to terms with their relationship by transferring sibling rivalry into a school-yard replica of a digital playfield. –Paul DeMarinis

Tina Kashiwagi is an interdisciplinary artist who aims to highlight the stories of marginalized folks that are often erased within current and past histories. Working with members of their family, Tina creates work inspired by personal and family narratives with a focus on Asian futurism and diaspora. In many ways they find art making as a way of healing from inherited ancestral trauma. Using experimental media and performance, they are interested in reconnecting with their cultural roots as a way to decolonize and reclaim their queer identity. Tina is from San Jose, CA ,and received a BFA in Art Education at San Francisco State University in 2016. They currently work and reside in the Bay Area.  •  @ti.michi

Still from Many Planes of There: Act III, 2021. Mixed media video and animation.

Liz Maelane (she/they)

My work explores the emotionally contentious state of cultural dislocation and seeks to challenge/complicate linear time and space. I draw from my experiences as a black female who grew up, estranged from my cultural origins, in post-apartheid Johannesburg, South Africa, and operated in largely Eurocentric contexts—schools, workspaces and neighborhoods—from childhood to adulthood. I work with distortion and mixed digital media in an effort to not only create sensory narratives of these experiences but also to invite viewers to interrogate their own relations with cultural displacement—be it their own or their contribution to others’. Many Planes of There: Act II explores how one body can inhabit multiple landscapes and temporalities and what it looks/feels like to access those layers of familiarity, memory, and dissonance at once—-the comfort and discomfort of it all. This journey is witnessed through the lens of a character who has roots in rural Limpopo, South Africa—my ancestral homeland—and, although the character is set in an urban context, they make this journey across dimensions, geographies, family history, and culture. Almost like a gaming system with infinite variables, the character traverses everything and everywhere from the organic to the inorganic and the real to the imaginary.

Liz Maelane, currently located in South Africa, has telematically installed a series of media objects that realize movement across time and space, journeying between urban and rural settings. The suitcases, loudspeakers and screens beckon us to reach out and connect across space. –Paul DeMarinis

Liz Maelane is a South African interdisciplinary time-based media artist working at the intersections of video, experimental animation and sound art. Her blueprints for making often draw from her dislocated  relationship with her paternal lineage, culture, language and traditions as well as racial experiences from childhood through adulthood. These references are sometimes humorous, chaotic or traumatic, sometimes euphoric and sometimes uncertain. Whether using collaged moving images and harshly distorted sound or using more traditionally cinematic approaches to filmmaking, she works to create forms of subversion or surrealism to materialize these complex feelings and experiences. Ultimately her work strives to unpack, re-imagine, celebrate and preserve black/African narratives and histories in space and time.



Installation view of Homesick for Another World, 2021. Plastic, acrylic paint, wooden dowels, monofilament. 14’ x 8’ x 10’.


Krystal Ramirez (she/her)

"On a good day, every small thing is enchanting. Everything is a miracle. There is no emptiness. There is no need for forgiveness or escape or medicine. I hear only the wind in the trees, and my devils hatching their sacral plans, fusing all the shattered pieces together into a blanket of ice. I have found that it's under that ice that I can feel I am just another normal person. In the dark and cold, I am at peace.” Taking the title from the book of essays by the same name, Homesick for Another World brings attention to how the grotesque and the outrageous are infused with tenderness and beauty. This newest work honors the journey of surplus material that would otherwise end up in a landfill, from fossil fuel to petroleum to plastic to a towering abstract form requiring full attention to the life cycles contained within everything. The materiality and bright, fluorescent red of the work lunges towards the viewer, engaging a sensorial experience. Through the use of a color that is reluctantly tied to class and labor, the work reveals the toxically positive capitalist messages fed to us as we live through the Anthropocene extinction. Everything will be okay, as long as you believe it, our perception is our reality.


Krystal Ramirez’s soaring abstract form is created from a supply of surplus plastic bags that were close at hand. Even as they ascend, their oddly positive shopping message emerges. –Paul DeMarinis

Krystal Ramirez is an interdisciplinary artist that aims to bend perception across all applicable media. She examines language and materiality to engage with themes of class and consumption. The intersection of a first-generation immigrant background and living in a candy-colored, working-class landscape such as Las Vegas informs her work visually and conceptually. With a particular interest in continuing conversations on minimalism and formalism to include aspects of race, gender, and more complex American experiences. She investigates the power of language and material over people, both intellectually and emotionally, and creates works that explore liminal spaces between destinations that aren't meant to exist in as much as passed through. By introducing instability to language and imagery, she creates a space to explore impermanence in areas we like to think of as stable and fixed. Ramirez is from Las Vegas, Nevada, and received a BFA in Photography from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV) in 2009. She is currently an MFA candidate in Art Practice at Stanford University.  •  @krystalrmrz

Still from Departure, 2021. Four-channel video installation, sound cone.

Oleg Savunov (he/him)

Departure indicates a twofold situation. On the one hand, it is the very act of leaving, departing, getting away as an expression of the desire for solitude, abandonment of everything familiar and well known. It represents the desire to escape from reality, referencing an instinctive and ancient longing for unity with nature which currently is treated as an abstract space, isolated from human beings. On the other hand, it is the process of adapting to the current situation during the pandemic and my recent move to the US. Physically entering and dissolving the landscape, I try to master, appropriate, get used to it, and make myself at home.

Oleg Savunov used his time in Russia while awaiting a travel visa to explore wild landscapes into which he disappears into the vanishing point, a single pixel in the center of the video frame. –Paul DeMarinis

Oleg Savunov is a photographer and a lens-based artist, born in 1983 in Leningrad, Russia. In 2005 graduated from Moscow State Pedagogical University with a degree in Law. Then, he studied press photography at the Faculty of Press Photographers of Saint-Petersburg, Russia (2012). Subsequently, he continued his education in photography at the Fotodepartament Institute of Saint-Petersburg. Throughout this time, Oleg’s work was published in several online magazines, namely Amuse by Vice, The Guardian, F-Stop, Calvert Journal, GEO, and The Village. His field of interests ranges from photographic documentary projects to conceptual lens-based works which explore philosophical and existential questions of identity and self-perception by using the photographic medium. Landscape, one of the most classical photographic genres, has been his perpetual object of research and investigation which has led him to expand his work practice towards installation.  •  @somthing_happened


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