MCAD’s MFAs focus on Sustainability


MCAD’s MFA Thesis Exhibition is the culminating exhibition of graduating Master of Fine Arts candidates. As promised, visitors could see “work that encourages contemplation and conversation while surprising and delighting in the mastery of materials”.  I was lucky enough to get a sneak preview of the work of two artists: Sishir Bommakanti and Sherry Muyuan He, both of whom chose to focus sustainability, though in very different ways.

Sishir’s exhibit was a series of 3 captivating paintings drawing on Indian mythology to colorfully illustrate the self-inflicted abuses, curses, and consequences of the anthropocene. Accompanying postcards share compelling poetic text explaining what the viewer is exploring and experiencing. Upon learning about the ravages of sustainability, Sishir felt compelled to use his talents to share this information with the world, especially those who might not be able to “see” it.

Sherry’s exhibit was a set of cleverly constructed yellow and white modular furniture made out of cardboard, set up next to a set of plain cardboard boxes used for shipping (e.g. the kind you might received from Amazon).  Sherry explained that she was distressed by the incredible numbers of brand-new cardboard boxes that are shipped every day all over the world that, at best, get recycled. Sherry used her talents to create instructions for crafting the furniture — everything from a chest of drawers to a dining room set with stowable chairs to a stand-up computer table — from the shipping boxes.  The instructions, which were almost completely graphic, were printed right on the boxes.

Both of these exhibits so perfectly express MCAD’s tagline:

I was amazed and inspired as well as surprised and delighted — and this brief encounter will certainly encourage more contemplation and conversation!   

[The image is Sherry Muyuan He’s business card — made from cardboard!]

Denise DeLuca / Former Director

Denise DeLuca is the Director of MCAD’s Sustainable Design program. She was co-founder of BCI: Biomimicry Creative for Innovation, a network of creative professional change agents driving ecological thinking for radical transformation. Denise is author of the book Re-Aligning with Nature: Ecological Thinking for Radical Transformation, which was illustrated by MASD alum Stephanie Koehler. She also teaches with the Amani Institute.

Denise’s previous roles include Education Director for the International Living Future Institute, Project Manager for Swedish Biomimetics 3000, and Outreach Director for The Biomimicry Institute. Denise is a licensed civil engineer (PE) and holds a master’s degree in civil and environmental engineering with a focus on modeling landscape-scale surface and groundwater interactions.  In addition, Denise is a Biomimicry Fellow and a member of the Advisory Council of The Biomimicry InstituteBoard Member of the International Society of Sustainability Professionals (ISSP), on the editorial board of the Journal of Bionic Engineering, and an Expert with Katerva. Denise is based in Oregon.

contact:  [email protected]