Mina Loy was a pioneer in the feminist and modernist movements and within the visual art and literary worlds. An exhibit of her life’s works, “Mina Loy: Strangeness is Inevitable,” has been brought to the Bowdoin College Museum of Art (BCMA) and is set to stay open until September 17, 2023.
The exhibit puts Loy’s wide-ranging work on display, from sketches and collages to poems and stories. Voice memos from her interviews are included to immerse viewers further into her life story and psyche.
Anne Goodyear, co-director of the BCMA, spoke on the importance of Loy’s work in reminding audiences of the many ways art can take shape, especially within the greater context of life.
“One of the things I hope is really apparent to audiences is that the visual arts never exist in a vacuum,” Goodyear said. “It’s an exciting ode to creativity above and beyond anything that we might be able to fit into one category.”
Loy certainly defied the idea of fitting into one category. Throughout her work, she constantly practiced different forms of art and defied expectations with a myriad of creative interests beyond what was expected of her.
“[Loy] was doing poetry. She was also interested in hat design, and she was also very much interested in the development of lamps and lampshades,” Goodyear said. “She was interested in the development of fabric and plastics, and, [as a result], we begin to realize that the range of creativity goes in many different directions.”
Loy’s extensive artistic profile is on display under a cohesive theme of rebelling against the norm.
Both Goodyear and art historian Jennifer Gross, the exhibit’s curator, labeled Loy as “peripatetic” due to how frequently Loy moved around and traveled.
“Mina Loy herself was born in London, educated in Paris,” Goodyear said. “Then she moved to Florence for a few years, and then she came back to the U.S., and so on.”
This extensive travel may have played a part in why Loy’s work is largely unknown. She didn’t develop her image entirely in one place, instead scattering her body of work across the globe.
Her continued work in many art forms and refusal to fit into one box further reflects her rebellion against norms of the art world.
“I think the thing that [Loy] rebelled against her entire life was the idea of convention,” Goodyear said. “I think she resisted the idea that there was an assigned role for women and that there was an assigned role for creative practice.”
Gross hopes that this exhibit prompts people to ask questions about Loy and about the broader art world.
“What is the symbiosis between her use of language in her writing and her poetry and what is she trying to achieve in making visual art and how are those two things distinct?” Gross said.
Bringing together all of Loy’s work did pose some challenges at times, especially during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic. In terms of research, it was difficult for Gross to obtain all of the existing scholarship on Loy in order to paint the most accurate portrayal possible.
She did happen to encounter many letters which helped her understand the life of Loy much better.
“When you do research on [artists] like this and start to understand the part of them that’s beyond the first level of what we know about a time period in the art world, it’s very personal,” Gross said. “You get to know their families, their struggles, the joys of their friendships—literally down to the receipts for buying their clothes.”
Much research was done over the past three to four years of putting this exhibit together. Gross and Goodyear hope viewers will recognize Loy as a visual artist as she herself wanted and that, in doing so, the label of artist can be redefined.
“What excites me is the idea that maybe we’re able to be an audience to Mina Loy a century later, in a way that perhaps was not possible for some of her contemporaries to be an audience,” Goodyear said.