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Department of Art

BYU Art Student’s Exhibit on Grief Invites Others to Connect in Sorrow

Myleka Bevans’ choice to break artistic rules led to a variety of successes

Senior art student Myleka Bevans is no stranger to grief. In 2016, her five-day-old baby girl passed away. Four years after the event, Bevans shared her experience through her exhibit titled “Encounters with Grief.” “I was thinking about working on this exhibit nonstop for a year and a half. I collected objects like stuffed animals and sympathy cards,” said Bevans. “But when the time came to move forward with the project, I found out I had just under a month to put it together. So I cried and then I put it together in four weeks.” “In the art world, using certain readymade materials is often considered tacky and unprofessional,” Bevans continued. She took a chance when she collected the cards, flowers and stuffed animals for her installation. She had to intentionally curate her show to ensure it didn’t look like a gift shop. “Art is so fun because you can break the rules if you know what they are,” she said. “The objects from this exhibit are so silly because they are things you would never buy for yourself. But they’re very important for this specific exhibit.” The objects she selected, with their bright colors and soft surfaces, were intended to reflect the accumulation of heartfelt gifts given to those who are grieving. “When someone you love dies, it becomes vividly clear that there are people who love you,” she said. With the support of mentors from the Department of Art, including Jen Watson, Fidalis Buehler, Brian Christensen and Eric Edvalson, Bevans’ show came to life. The number of people reaching out to Bevans about their own experiences with grief was both wonderful and emotionally taxing. “I didn’t realize that other people don’t say how they feel — they don’t allow themselves to feel how they feel,” said Bevans. “My artwork was this floodgate for these people to have an outlet for their grief.”

For Bevans, the risk of breaking the rules and the hours she spent on her exhibit paid off. As a result of her hard work, she was featured on a prestigious art account @thejealouscurator that has never before featured a student’s work. She also won an award from the BYU journal Inscape, and she is going to be the Utah Museum of Contemporary Art resident later this year. Bevans is working towards her Bachelor of Fine Arts and will graduate this April. She also has her teaching license in art. As she continues in her career, Bevans has plans to collaborate on projects in Canada, Australia and Utah. She also hopes to teach art at a high school in Utah.