Meet our incoming Art MFAs!
We are pleased to announce the University of Minnesota's incoming MFA Class of 2026: five outstanding artists who bring a range of skills and interests to our Department this semester. Please join us in welcoming them to the University of Minnesota and Regis Center for Art, and in the meantime, enjoy a peek into each of their practices:
Aja Bond (they/them)
I am an interdisciplinary artist primarily working at the intersection of death/grief and compost/decomposition. I use iterative processes, ritual, feminist science, writing and social practice to explore the potential to be transformed by deepening relationships with the soil and the pervasive losses of the Anthropocene. Catharsis, reciprocity and wonder are the means by which I endeavor to resume a right-sized place in the web.
Rich compost can bioremediate depleted and toxified land and water. Through proximity and thoughtful engagement, it can also open human senses to the possibility inherent in death. Having an ongoing somatic engagement with the decomposers opens space for reciprocal relationships with these aspects of our world relegated to the shadows. Death has a secret and it is full of wriggling life.
Aja Bond, Rot House (detail), 2022. Emergency blankets, digital microscope photographs inkjet printed on silk, scraps leftover from making clothes and/or dyed with indigo, madder root, avocado pit, cochineal, rust, vinegar and used tea leaves, greenhouse structure refinished with spray paint, grow lights, air pump, glass jars and test tubes, small greenhouse containing red wiggler worms, Amanita Muscaria, Corpse Flower, Kelp Powder, Alfalfa meal, Molasses, Fish emulsion, stainless steel pump sprayer, box fan, compost, porcelain bones, handmade paving stones dyed with ultramarine pigment and finished with polished amethyst, decorated compost bucket, scavenged clear plexiglass, essential oil diffuser with “dirt” perfume oil, found lime green skull lamp, assorted buttons and stickers, 6 x 4 x 4’.
Mikayla Ennevor (she/her/they/them)
My work centers around the discomfort and beauty rooted in moving through trauma and grief. Clay is a wonderful medium to echo saudade (Portuguese for “a deep emotional state of melancholic longing for a person or thing that is absent”) through. It is honest, malleable, and forgiving. I strive to materialize the inner to the outer, aiming not only to confront, but to offer comfort and healing.
As of late, I have been drawn to leaving my work unfired, documenting the work wet. The ephemeral nature of unfired clay, allows me to create, and then, let go. It’s meditative to work this way. I never try to force or attempt to control, my intention is to move with the clay, respond to how it responds to me. Thus, there is never an end image of the work I have in mind rather a response to the material then and there.
Mikayla Ennevor, Did you know IT comes inside?, 2023. Unfired porcelain, 25 x 30 x 18”.
Kayla Fryer (she/her)
I focus primarily on the emotions and expressions of people in the Black Diaspora, mainly painting portraits of Black men and boys. The use of portraiture is significant because this was historically reserved for white subjects. I display vulnerability as a strength in order to dismantle outdated cultural norms within the Diaspora. With the use of a limited palette of vibrant and electrifying colors, I confront the sensitivity with boldness and intention in the Black community. My hope is that my artwork invites others to do the same, specifically to allow space in the Diaspora to heal from collective traumas.
Kayla Fryer, From the rising of the sun unto the going down of the same, 2022. Acrylic on canvas, 40 x 20”.
Mai Tran (she/her)
Born and raised in Vietnam, I moved to Minnesota as an international student in 2015. I hold an MA and a BFA with a concentration in Printmaking/Photography from Minnesota State University-Mankato. I am strongly interested in the connections between cultures, mythology, history, as well as human and animal interactions. Through my woodcut prints, I showcase dream-like landscapes, Vietnamese legends and customs blended with American culture to create unique visual narratives.
Elements such as watermelon, Vietnamese café phin, traditional clothing, mythical animals, the Ly dynasty dragon and ceramics, and the Vietnamese Nom script speak to an almost forgotten culture. In contrast, the carno-lotus (cheeseburger) plant, Walleye, Bobcat, and winter scenery reference life in the Midwest. By combining elements from the two cultures, I build parallel worlds where all living things can sustain and value each other’s differences — a place without barriers of geography, race, gender, class, or species that allows us to define our own uniqueness and purpose in life.
My woodcut prints hold true to traditional printmaking practices but deliver new narratives, linking one culture to another.
Mai Tran, The Awakening, 2022. Woodcut print, 30 x 48”.
Jenna Youngwood (they/them)
My work investigates the inextricable link between painting and drawing, and explores my native Upper Midwestern landscape under a contemporary lens. I am influenced by humanity's short time on Earth, extreme weather, our ever-changing landscape, and solitude. The intimacy of drawing in a sketchbook is something I want to capture within my paintings, creating mystery and atmosphere by translating drawings and juxtaposing them onto larger-scale surfaces including canvas, cotton, muslin, and paper. My lifelong influences include two-dimensional sources such as animated film, comic books, and my own marker and ink drawings. I received my BFA from the University of Wisconsin- Milwaukee in Painting and Drawing.
Jenna Youngwood, Primary Colors (We're All Gonna Die), 2021. Acrylic and Ink on Paper, 24 x 18”.