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Lyall Harris’ Interior Landscapes

Lyall F. Harris is further continuing to prove the wonder of the Mills College’s renowned Book Arts program with her magical work, which presents her thoughtful and rich imagery depicted in Interior Landscapes.

Interior Landscapes is on view until Feb 6 is beautifully exhibited in the Heller Rare Book Room. (Bridget Stagnitto)

Harris is the first Book Arts and Creative Writing MFA graduate (the Book Art program was inaugurated  in 2009) at Mills College and her newest exhibition Interior Landscapes can be viewed in the Heller Rare Book Room located in the Olin Library until Feb 6.

Harris has an impressively extensive background in the realm of fine arts.Growing up, her mother nurtured her creative interests and beyond as she started formally training in the various spheres of the arts since she was five.

Her undergraduate career was spent at Northwestern University where she graduated with a BA in Art History. And it’s no surprise that with her extensive training she has been a fine art painter who has been widely recognized for twenty years.

Interior Landscapes is a rich experience that not only showcases Harris’ mastery in book arts, but also engages her viewers with deep cerebral narratives that leave the audience thinking long after viewing the exhibition.

Even with her plentiful accolades and colorful résumé, Harris is immensely modest and gracious; she was kind enough to answer some questions for The Campanil via email while on her trip abroad in Italy during this past weekend.

The Campanil: How did you initially decide to pursue your MFA at Mills?

Lyall Harris: After having thought about graduate school for years, one day in November 2008, I sat down and wrote out what my “ideal” MFA degree would be if I could study anything I wanted. I wrote down: book art and poetry. I googled this and found the Mills program. The article said that the program was being inaugurated in 2009, with an application deadline three months from that November day. I already lived in San Francisco with my family. The coincidence felt like destiny.

TC: Where did your inspiration come from for your show?

LH: Interior Landscape began as a response to Sylvia Plath’s journal entries on the subjects of writing and motherhood. As an artist-mother myself, I have been looking at the inherent difficulties in this dual role, or, rather, in striving for excellence as both of these things — artist and mother — contemporaneously. Interior Landscape grew to encompass not just Plath’s story, but artist-mothers everywhere who seek to accomplish but who wrestle with myriad infringements on their thinking and doing.

TC: You dabble in various practices of art including painting. How have other practices inspire your book art or creative writing?

LH: I have been a fine art painter for 20 years, have exhibited widely, won awards and fellowships, etc. Over the years, I have also taken many book art classes (mostly at the SF Center for the Book) and poetry workshops (UC Berkeley). The idea to pursue an MFA in the new Mills program came out of both an artistic “need” and an intuitive sense that this medium — the artist’s book — could be a sort of alchemy for me, a way and a place to unite my different “vocabularies.” All of my artistic practices inform one another as they come together in book art.

TC: Do you have any advice/tips for individuals who may be thinking about pursuing an MFA in Book Art or Creative Writing?

LH: I think the question one should ask oneself is if her/his interests lie in more or less equal parts in the writing and the book/visual art. In my case, this program was a perfect match.

Lyall F. Harris’ Interior Landscapes will have a closing reception on Monday, Feb 6 from 12:15 p.m. – 1 p.m. with a special Artist’s presentation at 12:30 p.m in the Heller Rare Book Room.