Craft and art history graduate students join forces for exhibition

As a fiber artist, Laura Boban often uses clothing and interior textiles—like sports jerseys, bed sheets, garden flags and pillows—to explore intersections between the home and sports, and blur familiar identifiers for femininity and masculinity. In one work, abstract figures constructed from effeminate fabrics convey images of hockey fights, while another stacks objects from home and sports to form a precarious, haphazard structure.

“I’m interested in domesticity and suburbia,” says Boban, who is an MFA candidate in the VCUarts Department of Craft/Material Studies. “I started thinking about sports as a metaphor for belong and the idea of a team. And most of the textiles are thrifted, so they had a life before in [someone’s] home.”

Last spring, Boban was preparing for her candidacy show when she got a message from Haley Clouser, a graduate student in the museum studies program in the Department of Art History. Clouser was about to graduate and wanted to gain more experience collaborating with artists.

“As a new graduate, you have to find people to work with and apply the theory that way,” Clouser says. “And even though that’s a very simple thought, it was mind-blowing at the time.”

Clouser started the process close to home in The Anderson, VCUarts’ experimental exhibition and programming space. Curator Chase Westfall presented a range of ideas, but Boban’s work stood out. Clouser had been reading about craft at the time, and was interested in exploring a new area.

The two quickly arranged a studio visit as Boban was preparing for her second-year candidacy show. Soon after, Boban and Clouser began working together to plan Boban’s solo exhibition, Home Base, which opened Aug. 7 at The Anderson. Clouser partnered with Boban to develop two potential plans for the show, and identify the works that would best suit the space. Clouser also drafted a write-up about Boban and the show.

But, more importantly, Clouser became a sounding board as Boban’s work evolved.

“Haley asked a lot of thoughtful questions,” Boban says, “that helped me reflect on the work and be able to talk about it even more after candidacy.”

While the exhibition has closed, Boban and Clouser’s relationship continues. They’re already planning studio visits as Boban prepares for thesis this spring.

“This is a person who’s now seen transformations in my work in a short time,” Boban says.

Boban’s adds that her work has evolved quickly during the two-year master’s program. She’s shifted away from working with figures; instead, her interests are focused on de-skilling.

“I’m interested in using materials as they are, or objects in simple forms,” she says. “So, using furniture or clothing or textiles and not manipulating them as much.”

And with more experience collaborating with an artist and curating an exhibition, Clouser landed a position as the Kress Interpretive Fellow at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. She also launched Curatorial Consultation to connect artists and curators with exhibition opportunities, grants, fellowships and residencies.

“After working with Laura,” Clouser says, “I really wanted to help artists and art professionals like myself become aware of the vast opportunities out there, and to help them develop professionally.”

Image: Laura Boban (left) and Haley Clouser in The Anderson during Boban’s solo exhibition, Home Base.