‘Agency’ showcases senior’s art

On any given day at Williams, art fans are lucky if they can catch studio art major Eliza Myrie ’03 for a cup of coffee. She is usually running off to the art studio, where she is the teaching assistant for the Sculpture Studio, or to one of the yoga classes that have her excited this semester.

Myrie’s interest in sculpture can be traced back to her freshman year Winter Study, when she took Professor Amy Podmore’s “Figure Modeling” class. Since then, she has done an independent study with Podmore, in addition to working with her this past summer, helping with installations and learning more about her craft of choice.

“When there’s the necessity in your personality for creating, you have to do it,” Myrie said. “Once you grasp that and know how it functions. . .you can’t not do it.” Her philosophy on her relationship with art is influenced by all aspects of her existential understanding of herself, she said.

Most recently, Myrie’s travels to Ghana this past summer have shaped this self-awareness. There, her notions of private versus public space were challenged as less clear borders existed between the two worlds. “In Ghana there are no lines [signifying] ‘this is art,’” she said. “Everything has aspects of craft.”

In response to these and other lessons she learned while in Ghana, Myrie is currently doing an independent study with Professor Ed Epping of the art department, entitled “Art After Ghana.” She hopes that this will help in preparation for her honors project in the spring, as well as help her express some of what she gleaned from her time in West Africa.

For Myrie, seeing the art and culture of Ghana reinforced the importance of layering; layering of personal history and cultural influences and how they interact with each other are crucial to Myrie’s art work.

Another major break-through for Myrie took place last semester during her bookmaking tutorial with Barbara Takenaga, professor of art. In preparation for her final project, which consisted of crafting six different books using a variety of conventional and untraditional materials, Myrie began to examine the theme of lynching.

“Because of my own history, I became interested in the lynching photos,” she said. “It’s hard to explain, but there’s a beauty in them.” Myrie struggled with the photos she found in the book Without Sanctuary – photocopies from which she incorporated into her books – to find a sense of beauty amidst the abject.

The first installation, entitled “Agency,” which Myrie is preparing for “Art After Ghana,” is to be the largest realization of her interaction with the theme of lynching – something that she sees as a “people’s history, as my history.” The installation, which goes up on Oct. 30, contains a series of drawings as well as a sculptural form. The piece bespeaks the notion of a charged space and the place of the viewer in a physical, temporal and emotional sense, while they are a part of that space.

Myrie hopes that the viewing of her installation will spark conversation between the people that come to see it and hopes that they will feel comfortable enough to share their opinions with her as well. The open-forum quality of the viewers’ response to “Agency” is a crucial element that Myrie hopes will further enrich and inform her art.

“Agency” will be hosted in Spencer Art Studio from Oct. 30 until Nov. 3. An opening will be held Wednesday night at 7:15 p.m. on the first floor of the Spencer Art Building. It will be a chance for students and faculty alike to discuss the installation with Myrie herself, as well as hear the differing ways in which other students interpret the piece.