From Reference City to No-Man’s-Land: IU’s MFA Printmakers

Jeremy Sweet’s freewheeling vernacular stands in stark contrast to the cryptic language spoken in his William McMahan’s cryptic "Figure Studies".

  • Love Flash

    Image 1 of 6

    Photo: Jeremy Sweet

    Love Flash, 2009, 18x24, silkscreen and watercolor

  • Pay Up

    Image 2 of 6

    Photo: Jeremy Sweet

    Pay Up, 2009, 30x22, silkscreen and watercolor

  • Figure Study

    Image 3 of 6

    Photo: William McMahan

    Figure Study, 18x 24, Drypoint and aquatint on copper

  • Figure Study

    Image 4 of 6

    Photo: William McMahan

    Figure Study, 18x 24, Drypoint on copper

  • Figure Study

    Image 5 of 6

    Photo: William McMahan

    Figure Study, 18x 24, etching and drypoint on copper

  • Kid Slug

    Image 6 of 6

    Photo: Jeremy Sweet

    Kid Slug, 2009, 18x24, silkscreen and watercolor

Event Information

MFA Exhibition

The work of William McMahan and Jeremy Sweet, along with other graduating MFA students, is currently on view at the SoFA Gallery and at the IU Art Museum.


Opening receptions for the exhibitions take place this Friday evening, April 30.

Hope School of Fine Arts

Jeremy Sweet

William McMahan

Every spring, graduating MFA students at Indiana University’s Hope School of Fine Arts exhibit their work in thesis shows at the IU Art Museum and the SoFA Gallery.

Printmakers Jeremy Sweet and William McMahan are among those whose shows open this Friday.

The Midwest Gets A Visit From The Wild West

In his silkscreens, Jeremy Sweet layers vintage movie posters and comic books, on top of which he arranges an inventory of classic tattoos. A native Californian, Jeremy is particularly drawn to tattoos that reference the legends of the wild West: cowboys, Indians, snakes, and snake-oil salesmen.

‘More is more’ is the operative aesthetic in Jeremy’s work as well as on a tattoo flash sheet. “Being able to pick that many stories and ideas out of one sheet was so interesting to me,” Sweet explained. “I was looking to find a lot of different stuff for the viewer to enjoy, and also to create those different layers to the story.”

Although he transfers found comic book pages and movie posters directly into his silkscreens, he draws the tattoo images freehand. “They are not completely original ideas,” Sweet acknowledges. “A lot of these tattoos have been done and redone many times over by each new artist. I reference certain stories, certain symbolism and then I make it my own.”

Such notions as originality feel fairly hidebound in Sweet’s carnivalesque studio, where Mayan masks brush shoulders with King Kong and Annie Oakley.

Figures, Flora And Fauna

Sweet’s freewheeling vernacular stands in stark contrast to the cryptic language spoken in his colleague’s nearby studio. William McMahan’s thesis show is called Figure Studies, but one would be hard-pressed to identify the figures that populate his etchings as flora or fauna.

The fungus- and polyp-like shapes grew out of successive experiments in dislocation and de-familiarization. McMahan’s research led him from the local mall—where he produced sketches that evoked Dawn of the Dead—to Venice, and eventually back into his studio. There, he took up drawing with left and right hand simultaneously.

That was when the disturbing multi-appendaged globules started to emerge. In an effort to get more physical in his approach, McMahan began carving his strange figures directly into the copper plate with the drypoint tool. The results were the first examples of the work he’s exhibiting.

A World Unknown

The artists’ determination to venture continually farther into terra incognita is manifest in the flight of works in the show. The clearly delineated figure/ground relationship evident in the first etchings William made evolved into more expansive landscapes, or galaxies.

Yaël Ksander

WFIU's Arts Desk Editor, Yaël seeks out and shepherds the stories of artists, musicians, writers, and other creative people. In addition, Yaël co-hosts A Moment of Science, writes essays for A Moment of Indiana History, produces Speak Your Mind (WFIU's guest editorial segment), hosts music and news hours throughout the week, and lends her voice to everything from accounting courses to nature documentaries. Yaël holds a MFA in painting from Indiana University, an MA in art history from Columbia University, and a BA from the University of Virginia, where she studied languages and literature.

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