Murphy Waggoner reflects on life through art


by Jonathan Facio, Layout Editor

INDIANOLA, Iowa — Murphy Waggoner, professor of math at Simpson, has art on display in Willis Gallery above Kent Campus Center. The art is based on the sense of touch. Many of the pieces are collages of objects representing family, her own life and views on society like the use of prescription drugs.

Two pieces were portraits of her mother and father. The title of the piece representing her father is titled “Lifelong Learner.”

“He read anything he could about machines or fabrication, or electronics,” Waggoner said. “Dad was always learning something new.”

Waggoner said she was able to reflect on her relationships with her family while working on the exhibit. “He was building and making new things until the end of his life,” she said.

“That’s probably where I got part of my love of reading, learning and making things like that,” she said about her father.

Some pieces serve as reminders of the flawed nature of humanity.

“The piece with my mother has things in it about her alcoholism and it allowed me to think about that and how it affected my life,” Waggoner said.

She looked at a faded, sepia-toned photograph of a young man and woman against the backdrop of a quilt made by Waggoner’s uncle Arthur that ‘looked pretty much like that’ when she was a child.

Waggoner told the story of how she would look at the photograph and her mother would say, “That’s Uncle Arthur, but that is not aunt Florence.” The piece is called “Faded Ideals”.

Three of Waggoner’s works were autobiographical.

One is a quilt for her 55th year depicting different social medias with a border of extension cables at a time when Waggoner was examining connections in her life.

Another is a collage of souvenirs for her 56th year about her memories of travel.

The third piece was a medicine box for 57th year, “At a time when I was thinking about how we use medicine to shorten and extend our lives,” Waggoner said.

The collage is named after the three Greek fates who play a major role in Greek life according to the ancient Greek religion. But Waggoner’s collage has a name added in.

“I added Pharma in there. The fates spun the thread of life, measured the thread of life and cut the thread of life, but we try to intervene by using pharmaceuticals to either extend or end our lives. I don’t know how to feel about that,” Waggoner said.

The way people use prescription medication affects Waggoner currently and in the past with her mother.

“One of the quotes on one of the bottles is from my dad and it was when my mother was close to the end of her life and we were sitting at the kitchen table and all her pills there in front of us and he just looked at them and said if I could give her too much of one of these to end her suffering now, I would,” Waggoner said. “And so those pills were there to extend her life but her life wasn’t great for her. She was bedridden. She was in pain.”

Waggoner has plans to continue working with textured art and shares a little about her creative process.

“I have a habit of going around campus and looking through peoples’ recycling bins,” she said, which lead to a collage piece compiled of all the different event posters she collected.

“I either do one of two things. Either I get an idea and I want to represent that idea, or I just want to play with art materials that Zen,” Waggoner said.

Waggoner is currently working on art journals and her exhibit will be on display until Oct. 23.