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The Scarlet & Black

Ella Williams ’18’s Smith Gallery show grapples with childhood tumor

Ella Williams ’18’s latest work draws on a childhood marked by a tumor. Photo by Andrew Tucker.

Smith Gallery will host an exhibit by Ella Williams ’18, titled, “Beans, Bone Tumors and Baseball: A Study in IM/Mobility”, until Oct. 18. On the walls hang circles and ovals, spaces that, to Williams, are both empty and filled.

“At age 5, I was diagnosed with a massive tumor in my right femur, near the growth plate. I spent the next four years in and out of casts and wheelchairs, undergoing several surgeries and literally hundreds of x-rays.”

Williams vividly remembered seeing the x-rays of her tumor, a recollection so strong that it inspired her art even over a decade later. “On the x-rays the tumor looked like an empty circle, or not empty, but full of some  transparent material that was undoubtedly not bone,” she wrote. “I remember being moved by this image.”

The exhibit features pieces that reflect her own experience dealing with the tumor. “Part of the ripeness of the idea of the ‘tumor’ is that it references both my own body and corporal memory,” she explained.

The pieces in the exhibit are a collection of Williams’s work from 2015 to today. Over these past few years, painting with health as a sub “has been a process of remembering and unpacking … of uncovering memories and images,” wrote Williams.

Williams says she enjoys mixed media work. “The work in the show is made of both acrylic and oil paint, embroidery floss, canvas, wood, metal wire, nails, fabric paint, beads, ironing board, plastic trophies, glitter glue.”

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