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Each year, as part of their graduation requirements, Master of Fine Art candidates display their work in the UCF Art Gallery.

The opening reception for this year's show, titled "It's About Time," will be held Thursday from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m., and is free to students and members of the public.

"The MFA thesis exhibition is a showcase for the thesis project. In a traditional graduate program, student[s] form a thesis, normally a question or a title, and then create work that investigates that question," said Dominic DiPaolo, one of the four artists whose work will be featured. "In science majors, it's normally an experiment and then a bunch of data that gets analyzed; for art majors, we actually create artwork."

DiPaolo's work includes a series of portraits featuring his wife's extended family, and an installation of a living room, replete with wood paneling, an antique record player and a mustard-yellow chair from the '70s.

"When I made the installation, I was questioning nostalgia in American identity and our preconceived notions of what Christmas is," DiPaolo said.

The instillation, which previously featured a Christmas tree, a display of cards and hung stockings, is no longer seasonally themed.

DiPaolo's thesis is titled "At Face Value: Investigating Perception through Portraiture," and through his portrait series, titled "Perception," he hopes to answer the question: How do people perceive each other in photographs?

"So for me, the work is about how much a casual viewer — someone who's never met these people — can walk into the gallery, see their portrait, how much can they know about these people from this picture?" DiPaolo said.

Masami Koshikawa, Gary Düfner and Marina Robbins are the other three artists whose work will be on display in the gallery until March 20.

"[The MFA show is] usually something that will tell a story about what they've been working on for the past three years," gallery assistant Halee Sommer said. "Really, the show is just about displaying the hard work and creativity of these students."

Koshikawa, was born in Japan, grew up in China and immigrated to the United States in 2004. As a result of her multicultural experiences, her work often deals with the themes of identity and social displacement.

"The type of art that I'm doing is multimedia art, and that includes painting, sculpting, video [and] performance art, so I use almost all traditional mediums and non-traditional mediums," Koshikawa said.

For the opening show, Koshikawa will be doing a live performance piece titled "Butterfly's Secret."

"Butterfly to me is a symbol of transformation, so in the piece I will be inside a room, creating a portrait [while wearing] crotchet gloves. The audience has to participate in this performance art. They will be asked to poke a hole and peak inside the room that I'm in," she explained.

She'll be using her hands to create an ink portrait of her 4-year-old son Andy as a metaphor for how female butterflies taste food with their feet.

"Masami's been telling me about her performance piece she's going to be doing, and I know that's going to be a really powerful, powerful performance, so I'm looking forward to seeing that," Sommer said.

Koshikawa sees the cocoon as a vessel of transformation. She feels she has had a similar transformation integrating into U.S. culture. Often, she feels isolated, but art offers her an outlet.

"Art is any form of expression; it's all about expression — human expression," Koshikawa said. "It's not just design, it's not just decoration, there is a human touch to it. Everything I do has to have my own thoughts and feelings to it, emotions, too."

Sommer, who has been helping the artists install their pieces, and who modeled in a series of photos for Düfner, is excited for the show.

"I hope that [viewers] get a clear sense of who these artists are and what they've been striving to achieve for the past three years, and also get a sense of how their brains work because I think that's a pretty interesting part of the show is [that] you can clearly see the differences in their process," Sommer said.

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Alex Wexelman is a Senior Staff Writer for the Central Florida Future. Email him at alex.wexelman.123@gmail.com.

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