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The man behind the masks

According to Jamal Thorne, everyone is wearing a mask — and prob­ably more than one.That’s the premise of Thorne’s inau­gural solo art show, “Frontin(g),” on dis­play through June 3 at Northeastern’s Gallery 360. The large char­coal draw­ings on dis­play are the final works cre­ated by Thorne, the first recip­ient of a master of fine arts degree from the Art + Design depart­ment in the Col­lege of Arts, Media and Design, a 3-​​year-​​old pro­gram oper­ated in part­ner­ship with the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston.“It’s this idea of acting or ‘per­formed iden­tity’: the dif­fer­ence between you when you’re in class or pre­senting some­thing at a formal event and how you are when you go out later on that evening with your friends and family,” Thorne said. “Your speech pat­terns change, your behavior pat­terns change — you wear a dif­ferent mask.”

Thorne’s work, which layers images of faces made up in dif­ferent styles or based on dif­ferent public fig­ures or arche­types, seeks to ask which iden­tity — which mask — is most authentic to an indi­vidual. His work is based in part on research by gender researcher and queer the­o­rist Judith Butler, whose ideas of iden­tity con­nect to pop­ular cul­ture, new media and cul­tural symbiosis.

“Car Dashin” by Jamal Thorne.

Thorne, who grew up a graf­fiti artist in the Wash­ington, D.C., area and studied drawing and pho­tog­raphy at Morgan State Uni­ver­sity in Bal­ti­more, said the coop­er­a­tive pro­gram offered by North­eastern and the SMFA pro­vided him the oppor­tu­nity to take advanced class­room courses at one campus while cre­ating art under the guid­ance of top-​​notch fac­ulty artists at the other. With this unique approach, his work in the class­room informed his art, and vice versa.

“It’s a very valu­able pro­gram because we are two dif­ferent insti­tu­tions that com­ple­ment each other,” said Xavier Costa, Founding Dean of Northeastern’s Col­lege of Arts, Media and Design. “They pro­vide the oppor­tu­nity to delve into studio art and fine art while we are focused more on inte­grating new media and technology.”

Costa said Thorne’s exhi­bi­tion showed off the best of both insti­tu­tions, dis­playing high tech­nical apti­tude in work based on thor­ough per­sonal and aca­d­emic research.

“Though the use of drawing, he is able to explore and dis­cuss iden­tity in a very com­plex way,” Costa said.

Thorne received his MFA on Friday after­noon at the grad­uate com­mence­ment cer­e­mony at Matthews Arena.

Gallery 360, open year-​​round, dis­plays col­lec­tions and unique works by North­eastern stu­dents, fac­ulty and staff, as well as noted artists from around the globe.

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