“ROMA” showcases art from a life abroad

The art exhibit comes from the largest cohort of MFA students studying at Temple Rome in more than a decade.

A participant at the gallery views a grid of artwork. | FERNANDO GAXIOLA / THE TEMPLE NEWS

Sculptures of Italian bread and pastries, varying styles of bright paintings and intricate prints filled the Stella Elkins Tyler Gallery for the debut of the “ROMA” showcase from Jan. 29 until Feb. 10. 

The gallery displays paintings, sculptures and prints from Master of Fine Arts students Jodi Canfield, Katharine Suchan, Alessandra Puglisi and Henry Rosenberg, who immersed themselves at Temple’s Rome campus in 2023. The artwork was made and inspired by their time abroad. 

“It’s nice to have people who have gone through the Roman experience back here, so I can talk to them about that and have that in common with them,” said Rosenberg, a second-year MFA printmaker. “Everyone’s work is amazing too, it was really amazing working with them, getting to know them, and then getting to see their work.”

The Tyler School of Art and Architecture hosts Festa di Roma, a showcase of all things Rome, every year, but this year the four students presenting the exhibit make up the largest MFA cohort who studied in Rome in more than a decade.

The ‘Roma’ art exhibit at Tyler debuted on Jan. 29, showcasing works by four MFA students who studied in Rome, the largest cohort in over a decade. | FERNANDO GAXIOLA / THE TEMPLE NEWS

The Rome MFA program has gotten smaller during the last 15 years because its curriculum has not kept up with course changes at Main Campus’ MFA program, said Mark Shetabi, Tyler’s Temple Rome director. Some students also may have already traveled abroad as undergraduates and don’t necessarily want to study abroad again.

“For Americans going [to Italy], that sense of history it’s very provocative and very interesting to see how it’s still very relevant in daily life,” Shetabi said. 

The students were given creative freedom about what they wanted to present in the showcase. Shetabi recommended each student bring any art they created abroad to the exhibition space and once they arrived, the students could determine the story they wanted their work to tell. 

“In this particular case, I would say they ended up putting in maybe 75 percent of what they brought down to the gallery and then some of the work went back to the studio,” Shetabi said. “But I left that decision to the students primarily, I was there to advise them and offer a different set of eyeballs if they needed it.”

Rosenberg presented his work, “Extra Time,” an imagined alternative history to the 2004 Roma Derby, a Roman football match interrupted by riots, and an emotional investigation of his research on Serie A, Benito Mussolini’s politically motivated reorganization of the football league in 1926. The work recognizes contemporary problems with racist and antisemitic “ultra” groups within football fan bases. 

The printmaker knew he wanted to visit Temple Rome after one of his undergraduate mentors shared his experience abroad as an MFA student.

“As soon as I got there, I realized I was part of this really amazing history and lineage of printmakers and MFA’s who were and are part of Temple Rome,” Rosenberg said. “I started to get a lot of people reaching out, they were like, ‘You’re the next printmaker in Rome, the next MFA in Rome.’”

Some students in Rome are naturally inspired by their cultural surroundings, as the city is dotted and constructed with amazing art and history. 

Two participants at the gallery discuss the artwork. | FERNANDO GAXIOLA / THE TEMPLE NEWS

“[Rome] can profoundly kind of shake young artists, it has that effect, and I think part of it is just seeing the old and the new, the ancients and the contemporary, just kind of jostling with each other,” Shetabi said.

Suchan was inspired by something as trivial as her morning commute to classes while in Rome. She typically commuted an hour to class via the walking path along the Tiber River. 

“That time really let me reflect on my ideals and painting, I didn’t really call anybody while I was there because of the time difference, so it was like a very interpersonal experience,” Suchan said. “I felt successful sticking to my goals of making work and being present in Rome, going to all the museums and just really trying to pick up what Rome has to offer in the artistic realm.”

As a painter, Suchan was also excited to utilize the art supplies in Rome, as the pigments in Italian paint are most lush. 

She has eight different pieces on display in the Roma collection. 

“The adjustment to life abroad would have been so much more difficult, and lonesome if I didn’t have those people there with me,” Suchan said. “I don’t think the conversations like we had over there would have happened and I would definitely encourage people to like to check [the exhibit] out.”

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