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A few days ago, the Asian Student Alliance (ASA) finished putting up a show called “Hunger: The Artist’s Insatiable Nature” in the Rosenberg Gallery at MICA. I acted as curator – a first for me, despite having a Curatorial Studies concentration.

The concept of Hunger came to mind almost immediately since most ASA events center around food. The club had been holding these events for some time when I joined last year. As former ASA officer Julie Cheng told me, food is a way to bring people together – an easy and enjoyable way to introduce people to another culture.

The feeling of hunger is maybe the one thing all artists have in common. Whether you paint, draw, sculpt, perform, most likely you’re making art because you have to: it’s the fourth basic need besides eating, breathing, and sleeping. When you go a long time without creating art, something withers away inside you; and the feeling of fulfillment you get right after making a work of art is not unlike the feeling of being stuffed full after a delicious meal. That feeling doesn’t last forever though, and soon enough you find yourself in the studio again, feeding that undying craving.

All of the pieces I chose for the show had a palpable feeling of excitement and involvement of the heart or mind or both. Some of the pieces spoke of hunger more specifically, for hunger can also appear in art as a particular obsession (for example with a subject or material). However, they were all visually diverse in terms of media and style, and this presented the greatest challenge in curating the show – how to make them cohesive. I felt as if I had been given a handful of magnetic poetry, and I had to make the most pleasing sentence possible instead of a jumble of words. Putting aside inexperience and time constraints, I sincerely hope I did end up saying something pertinent and cohesive.

I felt that this theme of artistic motivation – hunger – was important to address in an art school. Yes, artists are bonded together by this similar desire and need to make art, but only a small percentage of art students actually stay in the studio after graduation. Where does the hunger go? Does it lie dormant, expressing itself whenever it can, or does it die altogether? I, and probably countless others, have a gnawing paranoia that I will fall into the majority here. It would be interesting to try to predict which category the artists in the ASA show will fall into. It’s a poignant fact for art students to face, but this process of natural selection will eventually happen. Perhaps all we can do in the time being is to celebrate hunger while it’s still there.

Jennifer Tam

“Hunger: The Artist’s Insatiable Nature” will be up in the Rosenberg Gallery (2nd floor Brown) until February 8.

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