Student art speaks from body and soul

“Embodied,” a student art exhibit at the Multicultural Center, features the artwork of Maya Lama ’09 and Stefan Elrington ’09, as well as the poetry of Donald Leungo Molosi ’09. Through various artistic mediums, the exhibit explores the relationships between the skeleton and flesh, body and mind and colors and emotion. The show will run until June 7.

Some of Molosi’s poems accompany the artwork directly, while others are set apart and meant to stand alone. Molosi wrote some of the poems independently and others in reaction to the artwork created by his peers, revising some of the independent poems for the purposes of this exhibit.

While Molosi’s poems pursue similar themes of the divisions of body, mind, heart and soul, they span a range of topics and cultures. Some draw on his experiences at Williams, while others take the reader away to Africa or India. “I have lived on every continent at some point in my life and that is why my work crosses borders and I have poems about Hinduism, Botswana and America,” Molosi said.

In exploring the theme of the exhibit, Molosi draws distinctions between the various influences on the body. In several poems, he examines the sway of what he calls the “hormonal inferno” over one’s emotions. In one work entitled “Habibi,” Molosi delves into the idea of the separation of the spirit from the body and the enduring power of the former over the latter.

“The body is a product of the mind as far as I am concerned,” he said. “How we think, feel and hesitate shows in our body, and so by virtue of that causal relationship, they ought to be separated in order to see what happens in the void between thinking something and seeing it show in the body. The heart and the soul are also separated in my poetry because I see a heart as part of the soul, the part that holds passions. This is what the exhibition is about – exploring the forces exerted on the body and the body’s diverse reactions to stimuli like war, sex, religion and even response to art.”

As for the artwork, some of Elrington’s contributions were created without this particular exhibit in mind but still fit the same themes, while some were made intentionally to match Molosi’s poems. While he was abroad in England, Elrington used Molosi’s poems as source material in a class that focused on the creation of artwork in response to literature. Elrington combined the ideas of Molosi’s poetry and knowledge from an anatomy class he was also taking at the time to explore the human form from a visual standpoint. “Donald and I were e-mailing back and forth about some of his poetry that I would want to use as source material, because even though his poems aren’t necessarily autobiographical, they were very personal, sensual, emotional and all dealt with feelings I thought I could express or respond to in my work,” Elrington said.

The two drawings in the exhibit that were created in response to Molosi’s poems consist of sketches of human bodies in various positions – one is right side up and the other is upside down, both featuring a band of blank space at the bottom of the paper. Two more drawings that are part of the set are on display in the Ashmolean Museum at Oxford, where Elrington won the Vivien Leigh Prize, an undergraduate award in drawing

Lama’s contributions to the exhibit consist of works she originally created for drawing and printmaking classes at the College. Two of her prints specifically depict the human form of a woman and an old man, all in blue. In the print of the woman, she added in a horizontal bar of white dividing the top and bottom after reading Molosi’s accompanying poem. “His work is about emotions and body, the separation of the mind and the emotions, and so the white divide was meant to signify that disjunction between our mind and the body,” said Lama.

Her other two works in the exhibit, which depict patterns of safety pins and blades, are not quite as obviously connected to the theme of the show. While they do not directly depict the human body, Lama wished to convey a certain contemplative, emotional quality through more abstract terms that are amplified in meaning by the accompanying poetry. “I think forms and colors have the potential to bring about the same feelings that a figurative painting can. Sometimes I think it is more effective to experience something rather than see it being represented,” Lama said. “In this show particularly, the poems that are juxtaposed with the paintings add a whole new way of looking at the paintings. The poems let you see the paintings a little differently, and the paintings do the same for the poems.”

The show highlights each individual’s expression and the results of the interaction between the different pieces. Reflecting on the collaborative element of the exhibit, Lama said, “There is always a relationship between images and words, each giving and taking something from each other.”