Boston Sunday Globe

For artist and her school, defining images: Grad’s prints grace new UMass center

By Edward B. Colby

On a recent Thursday morning in UMass-Boston’s gleaming Campus Center, artist Mya Royal runs into two men she knows. She had worked with them a few summers before, docking a UMass harbor cruise boat.

“I had a shaved head and big power tools, and it was fun,” she recalls of the earlier event.

That image is surprising given the stylish black cocktail dress Royal is wearing today, but the change in form perhaps befits her exhibit, “Transfiguration,” a series of 18 monotype prints she sold to her alma mater for $9,000.

When a silver plaque was added to the atrium wall in December, “Transfiguration” became the first art to be permanently mounted in the Campus Center, which opened in 2004.

Royal is versatile: She devised her own fashion design curriculum in high school in Kingston and was an art major at UMass. Following her 2006 graduation, she studied at the Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum, and interned at Versace in New York.

“Transfiguration” focuses on the physical and spiritual spheres, and is influenced by her practice of yoga and vipassana meditation.

The prints are based on tracings Royal made of friends sitting on the ground, and she uses textural elements, such as hair and rose petals, and a wide-ranging color scheme.

The sixth print uses cardamom pods, eggshells, and green tomatillos to create an image somewhat like a broccoli tree, while the 10th features “an exploding leaf” on a light pink background.

The result is a subtle sequence of organic images – though not everybody realizes they are bodies, Royal says.

After a series of negotiations and presentations, Royal persuaded the Student Senate to put up most of the funding for “Transfiguration,” with the Campus Center and the Graduate Student Assembly also contributing.

“It just seemed like the piece was created for the space,” said Campus Center director Geoff Combs, calling her work “a wonderful piece,” and the installation a nice opportunity “to showcase a new piece of student art” in the new center.

The images are embellished by textural elements. The work of Royal, a 2006 graduate, focuses on the physical and spiritual, influenced by her practice of yoga and vipassana meditation, which explores mind and body connections. Mya Royal’s installation of 18 monotype prints, “Transfiguration,” which she sold for $9,000, is the first art to be permanently mounted on UMass-Boston Campus Center walls.

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