CURRENTS Presents: Artist Talk with Nyeema Morgan

McMullen Student Ambassador Sunny Lee reflects on the meaning of artist Nyeema Morgan’s work during a CURRENTS Presents virtual lecture.

On February 18th, 2021, Boston College’s Art, Art History, and Film Department welcomed American interdisciplinary and conceptual artist Nyeema Morgan to share the thoughts and meanings behind her work during a CURRENTS Presents virtual lecture. 

Although Morgan works with sculpting and print-based works, she mainly identifies as a drawer. The Chicago based artist defines drawing as the delineation of space. When Morgan looks at the world, instead of spaces, she sees distinct edges, contours, and lines. She shares that this is her way of organizing and perceiving information. Her creative process begins with using observations of the world and questions that help her brainstorm meaning, prompting her to make diverse artworks. 

One of the works she shared is Forty-Seven Easy Poundcakes Like Grandma Use To Make. Morgan began this series during her time as a graduate student at California College of Arts in 2007 and completed it in 2012. This series consists of forty-six pound cake recipes, including her grandmother’s, typed up and drawn over with lines. The lines negate certain parts of the recipes in what she described as a “rule-based process.” Each drawing took her around six to seven hours to create. Her observation that inspired this creation is that her grandmother’s “easy pound cake is the quintessential pound cake. All others are of a lesser quality.” This observation led her to inquire how our lives mold our understanding of the world and the extent to which one thing can change before it becomes classified as another. 

In Morgan’s most recent show, THE STEM. THE FLOWER. THE ROOT. THE SEED, she presents works that examine power dynamics, specifically the relationship between gender and identity. Morgan began her creative process with the observation that women’s right to vote, as a result of the suffrage movement, did not secure the right for all women. She thus asked herself “how do I make a work that embodies offense and defense,” and “how do I implicate the viewer?” The result is her sculpture installation, The Flower (No. 4), where sculpted hands protrude from the museum’s wall holding staffs. The pieces are positioned in an arc to make the viewer feel surrounded. Morgan’s intention is for the viewer to take an identical newsprint sheet which is draped on each staff. Printed on each sheet are stories of women, both fictional and nonfictional, concerned with how the lives of BIPOC and queer women vary from mainstream perceptions of women. The majority of the stories are contrived from Morgan’s own memory. 

In Morgan’s career, she has found herself contemplating her role as an artist, specifically what she wants from her art and the art world. She ponders her place in art history as a Black female artist and how her contributions are rewarded or not rewarded in the field. To learn more about Morgan and her art, you can check out the CURRENTS Presents: Nyeema Morgan recording on the McMullen Museum’s YouTube channel or visit her website at https://www.nyeemamorgan.com/.

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