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GladRags: Sketches, Swatches, and Costume Designs by Myrna Colley-Lee

By February 5, 2008General

 Myrna Colley-Lee


"Gwendolyn Fairfax" from The Importance of Being Earnest and Myrna Colley-Lee

Delta State University is pleased to announce the exhibition– GladRags: Sketches, Swatches, and Costume Designs by Myrna Colley-Lee.  The exhibition will take place in the Fielding Wright Art Center Gallery and be available for viewing through Tuesday, Feb. 26 with a closing reception to be held from 6-8 p.m. in the Gallery.
In this exhibition, the art of costume design is explored through the work of costume designer Myrna Colley-Lee of Charleston, Mississippi, who is known largely for her work in the regional theater circuit. The exhibition consists of nearly 100 works by Colley-Lee, including working sketches and fabric swatches and production photographs that represent a portfolio spanning three decades. The beautifully crafted sketches show great detail and extensive historical research. She attributes the quality of her design sketches to her graduate school days, when students designed in great detail knowing the costume would never be realized. “The value,” she says, “is the exercise of learning to design and the processes of design through rendering. It’s a chance to develop your skill.

Colley-Lee always incorporates research into her designs. She says, “A play is always a world, a complete and concise unit; the more you research, the more informed the production and the more it assists the actors, and, therefore, makes it a more valid experience for the audience.”

A native of North Carolina, Myrna Colley-Lee completed her B.F.A. in art education from the Women’s College of the University of North Carolina (now the University of North Carolina at Greensboro) and studied scene painting and properties at Brooklyn College, N.Y. In 1980 she received her M.F.A. in scenic and costume design from Temple University, Philadelphia, Penn.

As a young designer, she designed for the play, Long Day’s Journey into Night, by Eugene O’Neill, which for the first time ever had an all-black cast. Colley-Lee described the idea of doing the play with color-blind casting, saying, “If a man could play a woman’s role a few hundred years ago, why can’t a black person play a role that was written for a white person? Why did it matter? Theater is all about the suspension of disbelief, and creating your own world. We didn’t see how this was any different.”

Colley-Lee’s most recent costume design work was featured in the productions Relativity at the Black Rep, St. Louis, Mo., The Piano Lesson and Forest City at the Cleveland Playhouse, Ohio, and Wedding Band: A Love/Hate Story in Black and White for the Steppenwolf Theatre Company, Chicago, Ill., among other projects. This year she will assist with the premiere of Till, a new work by Ifa Bayeza in conjunction with Rites & Reason Theatre at Brown University, Providence, R.I.

Colley-Lee serves as a commissioner for the Mississippi Arts Commission and is on several boards, including the Charleston Arts and Revitalization Effort, Inc., a local civic arts organization; the Rock River Foundation, a philanthropic organization for the arts; the Mississippi State University Department of Art; and the Gertrude C. Ford Center for the Performing Arts at the University of Mississippi, University, among many others.

GladRags: Sketches, Swatches and Costume Designs by Myrna Colley-Lee is organized by the Mississippi Museum of Art and supported with funds provided by the Museum’s statewide Traveling Exhibition Endowment, a fund made possible through significant private contributions matched by the National Endowment for the Arts, a federal agency.

The exhibit is available during the weekday hours of 8 a.m.-8:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 8 a.m.-3:30 p.m. on Friday, closed weekends. The exhibit and closing reception are free and open to the public. For further information, please call 662-846-4720.