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Artist Mary Lum Debuts New Exhibition at Radcliffe Institute Lecture

Artist Mary Lum discussed her new exhibition at an online lecture hosted by the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study Monday.
Artist Mary Lum discussed her new exhibition at an online lecture hosted by the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study Monday. By Soumyaa Mazumder
By Laasya N. Chiduruppa, Crimson Staff Writer

Artist Mary Lum discussed the inspiration and research behind her new exhibition at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at an online lecture Monday.

The event celebrated the opening of Lum’s newly commissioned exhibition, “The Moving Parts (&),” which consists of fragments of images and texts created by other artists that Lum interweaves into temporary constructions.

Meg Rotzel, the curator of exhibitions at the Radcliffe Institute, delivered opening remarks, which were followed by a discussion between art historian Steven D. Nelson and Lum on her inspiration and artistic process. Speakers concluded by answering questions from the audience.

Throughout the event, Lum detailed how her work was inspired by the papers of pop artist Corita Kent, stored at Radcliffe’s Schlesinger Library.

“I took that opportunity to really dig into the eleven boxes of papers and the one big portfolio and the several books that they have, all relating to the life and work of Corita Kent,” Lum said.

Lum also discussed how her exploration of Radcliffe’s archives differed from a traditional scholarly approach to archival research.

“While I used the scholarship to inform me of what I was looking at, I didn’t want to do scholarly research, and I never really approached an archive from the point of view of a scholar,” Lum said. “I approach an archive from the point of view of an artist. I am actually more interested in what an archive looks like than what it contains.”

Lum said she never wanted to create a “linear thread” as an artist, but instead is interested in the “things that you see out of the corner of your eye and on the periphery.”

“I was trying to find the things that no one else would see, or that only I could see because only I was attracted to this orange with this pink,” Lum added.

Lum said she generated her artistic constructions from different arrangements of fractals.

“I literally had the pile of fragments here at my work table, and I put three or five of them together, photographed them, and then shoved them back and put them together in other ways,” she said.

Toward the end of audience questions, Lum described how she repurposes others’ artwork, drawing a distinction between her artistry and appropriation.

“Maybe the building needs to fall down — maybe there is no way to keep it from falling down,” Lum said. “The thing that I do is I destroy things in order to re-arrange them or reform things.”

—Staff writer Laasya N. Chiduruppa can be reached at

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Visual ArtsRadcliffe InstituteArts