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event • Lectures

Mary Lum: The Moving Parts (&) Opening Event

  • Monday, February 6, 2023
    4 PM ET
  • Online on Zoom
Photo of Mary Lum's "Letter Parts 2"
Mary Lum, Letter Parts 2, temporary arrangement of cast ceramic letterform fragments, 5 x 5 x 4 inches. Image courtesy of the artist. Photo by Julia Featheringill

In this opening discussion for the newly commissioned exhibition The Moving Parts (&), the artist Mary Lum will engage in a wide-ranging conversation with the art historian Steven Nelson.

Mary Lum has created for this exhibition an artist’s book and an installation featuring photographs of temporary constructions made from a palette of broken vintage letterforms. Her work is inspired by the papers of Corita Kent at Harvard Radcliffe Institute’s Schlesinger Library. Lum’s small constructions carry ideas about language coming into being and piling up on itself. Fragments are rearranged in attempts to communicate—to form something whole and understandable—against backgrounds of varying colors. The photographs, letterforms, and artist’s book appear with a selection of sketchbooks presenting the artist's mode of working through collage. All are surrounded by a large-scale paint work that envelops the gallery, the bars of color echoing the Corita Papers that inspired Lum’s publication Moving Parts (&).

For more on the Corita Papers, visit the Schlesinger Library’s online resources.


Mary Lum RI ‘05 is a visual artist whose intricate collages, paintings, photographs, and murals explore the margins of city life, the history of abstraction, and the use of text as image. Her work has been exhibited in numerous institutions, including MASS MoCA, The Drawing Center, the deCordova Sculpture Park and Museum, and Oxford University. Recent publications in which her work has appeared include Modern Artifacts ‎(Esopus Books, 2020) and Best! Letters from Asian Americans in the arts (Paper Monument, 2021). Lum has received fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, and MacDowell, among others. She holds a BFA from the University of Michigan and an MFA from the Rochester Institute of Technology. Lum is faculty emerita at Bennington College, where she taught from 2005 to 2022.

Steven Nelson RI ‘05 is dean of the National Gallery of Art’s Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts. Previously, he served as the Center’s Andrew W. Mellon Professor and as professor of African and African American art history and director of the African Studies Center at the University of California, Los Angeles. Nelson is the author of the award-winning book, From Cameroon to Paris: Mousgoum Architecture In and Out of Africa (University of Chicago Press, 2007). His writings on contemporary and historic arts, architecture, and urbanism of Africa and its diasporas; African American art history; and queer studies have appeared in numerous publications, including African Arts, Architecture New York, Art Bulletin, Artforum, Art Journal, Documents, Journal of Homosexuality, Museums International, New Formations, and Politique Africaine. Nelson earned a BA from Yale University and a PhD in art history from Harvard University.

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