Artist Ligia Bouton talks aspiration and inspiration

Steve Yang

yangstev17@grinnell.edu

Ligia Bouton, an associate professor of interdisciplinary foundations at the University of New Mexico, gave an overview of her work titled “Conversations with the Dead” in Faulconer Gallery on Thursday evening. Bouton discussed her aspirations, inspirations and different galleries she has worked on in the past, showing off colorful exhibitions and pieces that characterize an interest with the intersection of narrative and function. Her work has been featured around the world in places like Prague and Colorado, and the audience reacted well to her talk.

Bouton calls British designer and social organizer William Morris her “artist ancestor,” and considers herself a “direct descendant” from the artist’s cultural imprint. In homage, Bouton created a feminist comic book superhero named “William Morris Man” which takes on the reality and literality of past and present. She also created “Understudy for Animal Farm,” where people were put into pillowcase pig heads in an exhibit that was designed to be portable and to “blind” people.

“Literally, we put this pillowcase over people’s heads. It was very playful, they had all these choices,” Bouton said. “It’s something about desire, and there was something familiar about the feel and structure of the pillowcase.”

Gallery visitors who volunteered to have the pig head pillowcases placed over themselves then had their photos taken in front of a country diorama, a far cry from the urban setting of the museum itself.

“People got their photograph taken, to displace them from New York into a bucolic country scene,” she said.

In her art, Bouton draws heavily from her childhood in London, England. She explained that at prestigious public schools like Eton, which generate what she calls “among the worst places in British culture,” one’s sense of behavior can often be distorted to produce particularly bad results, which also produces opportunities for artistic examination.

“This kind of a school is a good example of propriety, that stands in the way of common sense,” Bouton mentioned. “People don’t act the way they should, help when they should, and it’s because that’s not proper.”

Life in London also inspired illusion-based pieces like “Tea and Table Tilting,” which combines Victorian outfits with Ouija boards, and spirit imagery and glasswork sculptures.

The College also owns a large drawing and glass wall sculpture created by Bouton, which are featured in the Print and Drawing Study Room in Burling Library.

Photo by Helena Grunsteidl