MFA Portfolio Critique

This video is a critique of an MFA portfolio by Michelle Eisen. A detailed critique is provided of the overall portfolio, explaining overall strategies that are recommended to the artist. This is followed by critiques for each individual artwork in the portfolio, considering the factors many MFA programs are looking for in potential candidates. Critique led by Art Prof Clara Lieu and Teaching Artist Lauryn Welch.

Featured Artist

Michelle Eisen

Throughout my work, I explore the nature of queerness, transfeminine issues relating to womanhood, the human body as it exists throughout gender permutations, and the racial diaspora of living in America as a coloured Zambian. My work also employs the use of religious symbology and iconography as a secular means of further interrogating these topics. My work is largely biographical, documenting my experiences as an African transwoman as a transgressive act.

Visibility within the trans and queer communities is of the utmost importance to me and is the end goal of all my pieces.
The “trans body” serves as one of the most striking acts of defiance and protest imaginable, a visual testament to the malleability of the human vessel, but also a document of the multiplicity of the trans experience. I depict the “trans body” in a variety of ways to further capture this multiplicity, illustrating the variety of states the “trans body” exists in.

My work relating to this subject varies from printmaking and drawing, with each capturing a specific idea or topic. My drawn work explores the form of the trans figure and the inherent eroticism of trans bodies imposed by our society’s depictions of these bodies as deviant or fetishized. My prints concerning the “trans body” explore the process of transitioning and the intangible aspects of living as a trans person, such as gender dysphoria and societal expectations of performative presentation.

I moved back to America in 2016 and immediately became aware of my blackness in a way I had never been asked to before when living in Botswana and South Africa. Race, similar in a way to gender, is far more binary in America than it is in Southern Africa, where due to the legacy of Apartheid, race manifests as more of a caste system.

My work exemplifies these feelings through its unapologetic visual ‘blackness,’ stylistically leaning towards the layered, heavy applications of South African street art, as well as the Neo-Expressionist period.

I work in a variety of media, opting to work in a manner that compliments the subject matter of my work. I employ a combination of silkscreen, intaglio, lithography, digital imaging, and oil pencil drawing in my practice and create works that are typically larger format or installation. .

I am an MFA candidate looking to apply to graduate school in the winter and am interested in exploring the critical aspects of my work as I work towards this new chapter in my life. My career goals include setting up a communal studio practice that empowers BIPOC queer artists and fosters a greater sense of presence amongst ourselves within the art community, as well as teaching at the college level within the realm of state schools and HBUs to help further enrich the pedagogy amongst these institutions, as too often teaching artists are laser-focused on teaching at prestigious, predominantly white institutions.”

Michelle Eisen