Articulate: Alumni artists

Author: Gina Costa

The Snite Museum of Art is currently hosting the exhibition “ND Alumni: Sculptors and Professors,” which highlights the work of the graduates of Notre Dame’s Department of Art, Art History, and Design once they leave the university with a Master of Fine Arts degree.

In the world of advanced degrees, an MFA is concerned a terminus degree for artists and creative thinkers. With this degree, graduates expect to find teaching positions in art departments of colleges and universities across the country. Many choose to pursue a career supported by their studio activity but can also explore other areas of work.

Each of the 21 Notre Dame alumni selected for this invitational exhibition have graduated since 1988 and have held positions at higher education institutions as practicing artists. Their sculptural methods, materials and strategies vary greatly, but this variety showcases contemporary sculptural practices and some of the concepts that artists utilize to address themes and issues through three-dimensional forms.

The environment offered by the Snite Museum’s large exhibition space offers the rare opportunity to place artwork in a setting where each piece stands on its own, to command individual attention and to speak directly to its audience.

“I have always been drawn by sculpture’s dynamism, by its capacity to challenge our understanding, and by its ability to shake us up or to calm us down. Diversity and excitement are characteristics of sculpture as a discipline,” says Rev. Austin I. Collins, CSC, ’77 a sculpture professor at Notre Dame and guest curator of the exhibition.

One of the sculptors in this collection, Irina Koukhanova ’96, was born and trained in Russia before bringing her inspiration and creativity to South Bend.

Iron Enclosure, 2012, Irina Koukhanova, mixed media installation

“My body of work presented in this exhibition is an assemblage of individual but connected works in varying media. Viewed singly, they’re stirring, frequently jocular, and potent. Taken together, they image a society where rebellion confronts subjugation: meeting it head-to-head, subverting it behind its back, delighting in success, and grinning at
failure as it never stops kicking against the pricks.”

Koukhanova’s work “explicitly references her native land while drawing from German Expressionism and classical Greco-Roman sculpture. The trappings of industry and the machinery of war are depicted together with a suggestion of architecture.”

She was educated at the Moscow Institute of Art and Industrial Design and received her bachelor’s degree from the University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth. Her devotion to using a wide range of materials emphasizing their inherent symbolism was developed into a body of work that bridges the gap between installation art and object making. She is currently the head of the sculpture program at Cleveland State University, and she has been teaching in that capacity since 1999.

This exhibition is on view at the Snite Museum of Art through November 30.

Gina Costa works in marketing and public relations for the Snite Museum of Art. For more information on events and exhibitions, visit or call 574-631-5466.