MFA Prize-Winning Exhibit Explores the Meaning of Value

Jazzmyn Barbosa is this year’s winner of the Master of Fine Arts Prize, which was presented during the closing reception for the Department of Art, Art History, and Design’s 2018 Master of Fine Arts Exhibition.

Barbosa earned the MFA Prize for her MFA thesis exhibit, The Things You Choose. Presenting her the award was guest juror Nabila Abdel Nabi, Art Historian and Assistant Curator at the Power Plant Contemporary Art Gallery in Toronto, Ontario.

“Winning the Masters of Fine Art Prize was a complete shock,” Barbosa said. “When you work on something for as long as I worked on this show, you are so exhausted and almost disconnected from the finished product to really see it as the achievement it really is. So to receive this award was really validating and said to me that the work I put into my show was worth it. And to be recognized by Nabila Abdel Nabi, a curator whose work at the Power Plant I really admire, was just the icing on the cake.”

Barbosa’s exhibit, The Things You Choose, explores the meaning of value.

art exhibit
‘The Things You Choose’ interactive installation by Jazzmyn Barbosa

“My MFA thesis exhibition questions the authorship of value and looks for a new democratic definition of the word,” Barbosa said. “My studio practice revolves around the need to preserve fleeting, digital images that inundate my life, specifically from the free section of craigslist.”

Barbosa decided to utilize craigslist to create her work because the objects listed show the different sides of value. Craigslist is used to get rid of items that are no longer valuable to the owner but still hold value, so they are given away for free or sold.

“I started collecting the images of free objects. I then repurposed and reused those images as postcards, newspapers, wall decals, and in a handmade book, not dissimilar to how I imagine the new owners of the free objects would,” Barbosa said. “This process allowed the images to become ‘valuable’ again.”

Part of Barbosa’s exhibit was interactive and kept growing the longer it was at the Broad. It included worktables with pencils and postcards that asked visitors to draw and write down the most valuable thing they own as well as what they would save in a fire.

The MFA program has given me so much. I’ve had the pleasure of working with so many wonderful and brilliant teachers.


“This interactive space allowed museum visitors of all ages and backgrounds to express their personal ideas of value,” Barbosa said. “Once submitted, every single postcard was hung on the wall to be viewed as a growing archive of what value means and hopefully gave shape to that idea.”

The annual MFA exhibit, which took place March 17-April 7 at the Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum, featured not only Barbosa’s work, but also the creative work of each Master of Fine Arts degree candidate graduating in May.

“Having my art on display at the Broad was unreal. The space, designed by Zaha Hadid, really is in a dialogue with any work that is displayed there. I found myself thinking a lot about how my work was going to fit in the space and how that space would help facilitate meaningful participation with the people who entered it,” Barbosa said. “I’d like to thank Jacquelynn Sullivan for her constant thoughtfulness and organization as well as Georgia Erger, our curator, and Morgan Sego, our preparator, with whom this show would not have been possible.”

Upon graduating, Barbosa plans to move back to Denver, Colorado, where she will apply to residencies and set up a personal studio.

people clapping at gathering with two women hugging at podium
Jazzmyn Barbosa accepting the Master of Fine Arts Prize.

“The MFA program has given me so much,” Barbosa said. “I’ve had the pleasure of working with so many wonderful and brilliant teachers, Zach Kaiser, Paul Kotula, Karin Zitzewitz, Candace Keller, and Adam Brown, just to name a few. It has also given me so many opportunities to exhibit my work at places like (SCENE) Metrospace and Lansing Art Gallery and to collaborate with other universities such as Ohio State University in the annual Big Ten Printmaking Exchange.

“I feel very supported by the faculty to try new things, just this last year Tom Berding and Alisa Henriquez hosted our first-ever Idea Night where graduate students, faculty, and staff were encouraged to show informal ideas and talk to one another outside of school, and it was a huge success! I also should say that my biggest teachers are my fellow graduate students, who critique me, share ideas with me, and always support me.”

Barbosa plans to use the MFA Prize to pay for a workshop she will attend this summer on bookmaking at Frogman’s Printmaking Workshop.