The Next Gen: Meet the Bay Area's Most Promising MFA Grads This Year

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The Bay Area is home to some fine masters programs for artsy types, all working to be the next generation of masters in their fields. Each Spring, we get a look at the best and brightest graduates via fashion shows and various exhibitions. Here we've selected our favorites from this year's graduating pool. The winners were chosen for their concepts, execution, and general awesomeness. Join us in wishing them luck in their next adventure! 

Sienna FreemanCalifornia College of the Arts

Can an art piece portray something both bleak and joyful? Sienna Freeman toes the line with scuptures that manage elegance while also evoking images of internal organs. Her large resin assemblages with bits of butterflies may sound like an item you could buy at Paxton Gate, but there's something about the sense of shape and texture that renders the pieces vaguely menancing (which, come to think of it, also sounds like something you'd see at Paxton Gate). CCA is known for producing great concepts with clean precision. This showing is worth exploring. // 1111 8th St, San Francisco, until May 23

Jessica SmithMills College

If you blink, you might miss Jessica Smith's film in the Mills College Art Museum. It would be too bad—Smith's showing is the funniest and most current work there. What began with the moment Smith found a pet carrier on Amazon, the film is a collaboration of the internet age: She outsourced the process using Fiverr.com, selecting seven user reviews of the pet carrier, which were turned over to character developers whose work was sent to script writers and eventually played out by actors. Smith's film feeds off our obsession with internet humor, strangers' lives, and plays with the general concept of creative control.  // 5000 MacArthur Blvd, Oakland, until May 31

Paulina Susana Romero ValdezAcademy of Art University

AAU fashion school students get the rare honor of showing their final collections at New York Fashion Week. Of the many talented designers, Valdez stood out for her combination of Mexican-meets-Baroque embroidery and strong, feminine silhouettes. Dubbed "It's Only Heritage," the collection evoked the designer's cultural roots while feeling entirely fresh.  // AAU Spring Open House, 2225 Jerrold Ave, San Francisco, on May 30

Tanja GeisUniversity of California, Berkeley

The first thing you might notice about Geis is her range: The artist's graduation exhibit includes mesmerizing paintings and sculpture, all made of mud from San Francisco Bay, as well as video. The sculptural installation is especially haunting and beautiful, hung with items dug up from the littoral zone closest to the shore. Shadows on the wall mimic an underwater play of light, while audio of kelp floating around in the current lends a sense of timelessness and reminds us to take responsibility to preserve the beauty of our water. // 1275 Walnut St, Berkeley, until June 14

Jialuo WuSan Francisco Art Institute

If you love the intimacy of an Instagram photo but the composition of fine art, Jialuo Wu's crisp shots of life will render you a voyeur into the mundane and the divine at once—take for example his accordion photo book, developed over the course of a year. // 2 Marina Blvd, San Francisco

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