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Reflecting on…Myrna Colley-Lee’s Visit to the MMFA

EX.myrna2.blogLast week we were excited to welcome Myrna Colley-Lee to the MMFA. Myrna is, of course, the collector of the superb works on view in the exhibition Reflections: African American Life from the Myrna Colley-Lee Collection, which was organized by International Arts & Artists, Washington, DC in collaboration with the office of Myrna Colley-Lee.

On Thursday, February 19 we began with a reception to celebrate the exhibition. Moving into the auditorium, with about 75 people who braved the unusual cold, Myrna and I embarked on a discussion touching on many topics including her collecting process and insights into her own artistic practice as a costume designer.

EX.myrna1.blogA pioneer in the Black Theater Movement, Myrna has worked on over 70 productions since the late 1960s. In her intense research for her designs she often references works that are in her collection. In our discussion, Myrna revealed that she is attracted to works that are a celebration of African-American life. She finds that so important in this day and age when the media often focus on violence or troubling aspects of African-American experiences. Works that resonate with her love of the South, particularly with the landscape of her home in the Mississippi Delta, also appeal. Sometimes, they remind her of certain people, for example, Myrna sees Oprah Winfrey in a scene from The Women of Brewster Place in Ernest EX.reflections-blogCrichlow’s Window, 1987. Mryna went on to explain how she has formed relationships with many of the artists she collects, and that she often acquires works through auctions that support causes she believes in.

At a luncheon the following day, Myrna met with our Collectors Society to talk more directly about her costume designs for several productions. Through a PowerPoint presentation she drew parallels to works in her collection such as Eudora Welty’s Window Shopping, c.1930 that proved inspirational in her own designs. At the end, she reflected on how her collection has become such an important part of her life—and is a true reflection of her.

The MMFA was thrilled to have Myna here and thanks her for sharing her wonderful collection. In addition we would like to thank the sponsor of the exhibition here in Montgomery, Hyundai, and our co-sponsor, Max Credit Union.

Jennifer Jankauskas
Curator of Art