Graduating MFA students from Cal State San Bernardino will discuss their body of work and culminating thesis exhibitions at RAFFMA’s MFA Art Talk on Thursday, April 5, at 2 p.m.

Johnny Shield, Heath Rössler, Mariah Armstrong Conner and Daniel Schmidt will be the fifth class of MFA students to present their thesis exhibitions. The CSUSB Department of Art is in its seventh year of offering a three-year master of fine arts in studio art.

The work of this year’s graduates ranges from the more traditional mediums of sculpted glass and paintings to taxidermy and carefully collected plastic marine debris. Thematically, the work is equally wide-ranging, examining death and spirituality, the concept of white privilege, selfie culture, and the environment.

In “Selfie-Portrait,” which was on display at CSUSB’s Robert and Frances Fullerton Museum of Art in March, Shield explored the self-portrait through various hand-sculpted glass busts based on his own selfies as well as a self-destructing sculpture examining the fleetingness of moments that selfies often attempt to preserve.

Shield uses performance along with other mediums to convey concepts relating to the body as an individually inscribed surface of events, and the new emergence of a new non-real digital self. He earned his bachelor’s in three-dimensional media from Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Va., and a graduate diploma in conservation of metal from West Dean College in the United Kingdom.

In her exhibition “Existential Flux,” Rössler explores ideas of existentialism, death and spirituality through painting, photography and the use of organic materials. Influenced by childhood and life experiences, she pulls from psychology, philosophy and other cultural practices related to these concepts. In an effort to transcend the burdens of the mind and the conditions of the body, all of her work is a means toward a creative and meditative space, in attempts to grapple with the nature of things and the uncomfortable experiences that come with it. “Existential Flux” will be on display at RAFFMA April 5-18, with an opening reception immediately following the MFA Art Talk.

Rössler received two bachelor’s degrees in psychology and studio art at Cal State San Bernardino in 2015. She has been involved with the Community-based Art/Prison Arts Collective program at CSUSB since 2014, of which provides access to art as rehabilitation for those incarcerated.

Armstrong Conner is inspired by biological forms and the disciplines of archeology, geology and anthropology to make pieces that can be seen as time capsules, pseudo-artifacts or imagined archaeological discoveries of the future. Her recent work, on display April 26-May 10, incorporates anthropogenic polymers or plastic detritus collected from coastlines around the world. This material has become so ubiquitous in the past century that marine scientist Sylvia A. Earle declared: “Future geologists will be able to precisely mark our era as the Plasticozoic, the place in the sands of time in which bits of plastic first appeared.”

Armstrong Conner lives and works in Southern California where she creates artworks in a wide variety of media, including glass, metal, marine debris and found objects. She grew up in the mountains of the Pacific Northwest and on the beaches of Baja California, Mexico, and Southern California. Her experiences snorkeling, scuba diving, beachcombing and exploring the outdoors have created an appreciation for the natural world that inspire her concern for the ecological degradation of the Anthropocene and her examination of the detritus of contemporary society.

Schmidt's thesis show, on display May 17-30, is a dissection of identity in relation to (white) American masculinity and the binary divisiveness of our society. His works are about internal struggle and external observation, serving as a confrontation of white male privilege and those who continue to benefit from it.

Schmidt received a bachelor of fine arts degree from California State University, Fullerton in 2013 with an emphasis in crafts. His work has been privately collected and shown at the Desert Daze Music Festival in Joshua Tree, Los Angeles County Fair and San Dimas Festival of Arts.


The Robert and Frances Fullerton Museum of Art is a nationally recognized museum accredited by the American Alliance of Museums. The only accredited art museum in San Bernardino, RAFFMA has accumulated a permanent collection of nearly 1,200 objects focusing on Egyptian antiquities, ceramics and contemporary art. Located at Cal State San Bernardino, RAFFMA houses the largest permanent and public display of Egyptian art in Southern California.

General admission to the museum is free. Suggested donation is $3. Parking at Cal State San Bernardino is $6 per vehicle and $3 on weekends as of April 4.

The museum is open Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Thursday from noon to 8 p.m.; and is closed Friday and Sunday. For more information, call (909) 537-7373 or visit the RAFFMA website.


Heath Rössler, "I am the Rat Queen"

Heath Rössler, 'I am the Rat Queen.'