Essential Work: MFA in Studio Art 2020 Exhibition | SACI College of Art & Design Florence


Alumni & Exhibitions

Essential Work: MFA in Studio Art 2020 Exhibition

Video by OnArt Gallery director Giacomo Ferdani

Essential Work: MFA Studio Art Exhibition

SACI MFA students present virtual explorations of their research MFA fall 2020 exhibitions, hosted on virtual and on-site platforms.

SACI MFA in Studio Art, MFA in Photography, and MFA in Communication Design students continue their artistic research in Florence while respecting Italian government regulations. As they finish up the fall 2020 term, our students have decided to demonstrate their works and research from this semester through a combination of in-person and virtual viewing on SACI’s platforms. 

Essential Work, works by students in SACI’s MFA in Studio Art program, will take place virtually on SACI’s website and social media platforms, as well as in-person OnArt Gallery in Florence. During the second part of December, it will be possible to visit the in-person exhibition by appointment only. View images of the individual works and the gallery installation below.

Email us to set up an appointment to visit the exhibition in person.



Essential Work is the collective exhibition that reunites the works of Joe Cimino, Eric Frey, Arais Meteyard, Melissa Morris, and David Neal. The exhibition presents works conceived and realized in 2020. 2020 was a year in which all of us faced uncertainties caused by the Coronavirus pandemic, requiring us to rethink important aspects of our lives. These works live in our present time, even if they are not a direct response to the Coronavirus crisis.

In this prolonged time where relations (both economical and social) and space (intended as the social sphere acquiring a more digital invasive dimension) are changing rapidly and are confronting us with new and difficult models to rethink, art is, in our opinion, becoming more and more Essential Work. In times where 'essential' jobs have been reshaping our society, we strongly think that artistic research is becoming even more important, because it faces us with a continuous radical questioning of visual and conceptual structures. Artists offer the possibility to deepen aspects of visual language that, in spite of seeming detached from the essential needs of human beings, are at the core of them. Art is an Essential Work because it poses questions that can be articulated and transformed in ordinary aspects of everyday life for all of us. Art is the symbolic realm that deeply influences everyone. In our times, increasingly dominated by a visual culture, we cannot avoid a deep reflection and critical questioning of all aspects of the visual language. And art is the essential tool with which to do it.

The show explores concepts like tension, crisis, possible balance, displacement, human destruction, the opposition of nature and digital consumption, and the definition of objects in their changing nature. All of these concepts resonate in the works of the artists: abstract paintings of collapsing grids that question the crisis of structures (Morris); readymade objects where the artist intervenes by changing the ontological status (Frey); video and photography seeking an equilibrium and portraying a silent cry for help (Cimino); drawing, photography and video that seek to find an exit strategy, observing the world from a higher or apparently distant point of view (Neal); collages and animation that play with a humanity in pieces and reflect on destruction and question our perceptions of nature (Meteyard). All the works have been born in a profound dialogue with each other, and this is visible also in the exhibition space where they find a vital and essential dimension.

- Daria Filardo, Curator and MFA in Studio Art Instructor

Participating Artists

View the included works in the image carousel below.

  • Joe Cimino


    Balance Exercises

    Digital Photographs and Video
    Varied sizes

    View the video piece.

    In order to balance objects, one must be emotionally balanced themselves. In order to find the center of gravity for which will balance the object’s, one must intuitively feel it out while concentrating and being hyper focused. Considered a Zen practice, The act of balancing allows you to process your own emotions and ground yourself, all the while creating something that will stand until It is acted upon.

    For me, this is a ritual of self-care.


    S O S

    Video performance

    View the video piece.

    Originally used on maritime ships as both radio sounds or a flashing light, the term SOS has been appropriated into popular culture as a worldwide distress signal. Given that light travels at long distances, it is primarily used by ships virtually, creating an easier way of communicating at long distances. Both the term and the act of the SOS signal signifies distress and most normally, isolation and abandonment. The artist performing is in an unknown location with an unknown emergency. All the audience is shown is the artist in the corner next to a bed, flashing a light to spell out SOS in Morse code. Leaving them to decide what this narrative is and why they might need help. This work looks to explore the extraneous toll an emergency can take on one's own mental health and feelings of displacement, through the act of shining a light in order to call for help.

  • Eric Frey


    Emergent Objects are a series of responses to objects and their qualities based on statements by the philosophers Heidegger and Kant. If an object’s real qualities change does that create a new sensual object?  This series plays with metaphor and semiotics, where the use of language can alter our own perceptions of what is presented. These works ask the audience to question their own reality, is what we perceive visually truth, and if you read the name of the object does the truth change?


    Heidegger's Hammers

    Mixed Media Installation
    Dimensions Variable

    The Heidegger’s Hammers are a series of hammers that defy their name and definition through their transformation either physically or semiotically. Is a hammer still a hammer if it can no longer function as a hammer? A hammer in the toolbox requires no discussion, no thought, no theorizing, yet when the hammer is out of place, it transforms to an object of discussion, and questioning.


    Decadent Society 

    Tin, Plastic, Enamel, Clay, Paper
    22 x 15 x 12 cm


    Schrödinger’s Economy

    Tin, Plastic, Enamel, Steel Wire, Clay, Paper, Flour 
    22 x 15 x 12 cm


    Creative Confinement

    Tin, Plastic, Enamel
    22 x 15 x 12 cm


    The Kant’s Cans are a series of Olive Oil Tin Cans that that focus on the eidos of an object, and the kronos of interaction, the form as it is perceived by the observer, based on the philosopher Kant’s discussion on understanding form and experience, through space and time.

  • Arais Meteyard



    Digital prints, drawing ink, bronze pigment

    Through collage, I interpret human destruction to themselves and the environment. I pair this with the
    sacralized perceived ordinary of the fungus. The choice is theirs to kill, feed, repair or enlighten.



    Animation HD

    View the animation.

    A past not controlled by machines.
    A child content in nature.
    A rarity in the face of that prized virtual dimension.
    Do you know what you have lost?
    Your world has gotten smaller, but now you can’t even find yourself.
    The popular choice with fake importance.
    Real experiences and adventures only serve the end goal for the Apple throne.
    By animation, I work in the duality of an upbringing emerged and pleased with nature as opposed to the
    consumption of the radiated screen. One’s goal was to work on your own humanity and the other’s
    serves to commodify yourself.
    The irony is that I show this message in digital dimension.

  • Melissa Morris


    Untitled (Wide open spaces devoid of any sense of 'mine')

    oil on canvas, 50x50 cm


    Untitled (Were there a trace of something)

    oil on canvas, 50x50 cm


    Untitled (Unfixatable by fixations)

    oil on canvas, 50x50 cm


    Untitled (Having stripped awareness naked)

    oil on canvas, 50x50 cm


    Untitled (Without any irritable reaching after fact or reason)

    oil on canvas, 50x50 cm


    Untitled (Subtracting day by day)

    oil on canvas, 50x50 cm


    This series of paintings is a meditation on systems and structures, using the grid as an organizational tool and subject.  By bending, breaking, or collapsing the grid, what happens to the whole system of measure upon which it is based, with the eye/I at the center? The disturbed grids are an alternative to the grids of Modernism and Modernity--rooted in rational and logical systems of knowledge--and suggest irrational dynamic systems with their own nature and inner logic.  Following the lineage of artists who have used the grid, the work queries how the language of art can speak to our current crises of breakdown and collapse.  

  • David Neal


    Prince Prospero’s Abbey from Edgar Allen Poe’s The Masque of the Red Death

    Acrylic and marker on paper
    250 x 100 cm

    This work addresses that there are several ways to cope from a situation. The colored planes are spaces for people to create coping strategies for themselves or amongst each other. This drawing gives the viewer seven possible coping spaces based on Edgar Allen Poe’s The Masque of the Red Death. Prince Prospero had seven rooms; each room was a different color starting from right to left: blue, purple, green, orange, white, violet, and black. Each room also had a different form of entertainment and decorum to distract the one thousand guests from the Red Death pandemic outside the abbey. In case a space does not help one mange their troubles, the person may move into another one following the right angular path. What are your coping strategies and how many rooms have you walked through?



    Digital photograph

    Centaurs are Greek mythological creatures with an upper human torso and a horse body. They are known to be barbaric and destructive, but their chaotic nature comes from excessive alcoholic consumption. Alcohol abuse disrupts the social sphere during gatherings and there is a chance that someone or an object will get hurt or damaged. I embody a centaur about to strike a lamp with a pillow, while the lamp embodies both the person and object. There were higher reports of domestic abuse because families were confined in the household with little to no privacy and the victim was unable to leave the space due the lockdown.


    Via nuova de’ caccini


    View the video piece.

    The viewer is surveying the street below my apartment balcony where I was isolated during the Italian lockdown in Florence, Italy. It involves my relationship and adjustment with the altered public sphere and limited public space. Rather than seeing each other in-person, we began interacting via online for telecommunication, remote learning, and social relations. Before the quarantine, I rarely saw activity leaving and returning to my place whereas there were bursts of activity happening on this street during the lockdown. I was observing the people, and where they were walking on the road. I gathered a few subjects, paired them, and alluded a collision at the central point. Throughout the video, the surveyor is pouring water at the street bystanders as a prank, but they miss because they were hitting their target too early or late. This practice correlates with a student faintly playing the Italian national anthem on the recorder in the background sound; they are disrupted by the street noise, and proceeds playing to the end.

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