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Voyaging: William Bennett and Elizabeth Schoyer

February 14 to March 07, 1991

Marsh Art Gallery


For both William Bennett, sculptor, and Elizabeth Schoyer, painter, art is a voyaging: invoking, acknowledging, celebrating the forces and mysteries of life's passages.

Bennett builds up, with stone, glass, copper, lights, and wood, exquisitely crafted monumental forms: The Voyage, The Boat over Ocean over Ocean, Stigmata, Bed of Dreams, Belly Scepter among them. The titles signal the theme of quest, while axial forms draw the viewing into ritual alignment. One come to Bed of Dreams as an altar; Stigmata, part anchor and part sextant, establishes an axis mundi; the steps of Picasso's Cabana, a wall sculpture, invite, with Duchampian allure, further visual penetration along an extended horizontal axis.

This movement is countered, in another wall sculpture, in the swelling protuberant form of the pendular Belly Scepter. Practicing a continuous alchemy with his materials, heavy stone, fiery copper, watery glass, Bennett uses shifting oppositions within axis, scale, weight, and elemental sensation to effect transformation from piece to piece. Even as he pursues an ever more vital conjunctio oppositorum, witness The Birth of Miranda, he holds opposites in mysterious tension, exemplified in simultaneous sensations of resonant architecture and rippling voyage in Boat over Ocean over Ocean.

Schoyer's paintings and large-scale pastels are animated with a stream of energy that is a natural expression of felt inner states. Within this stream a striking stylistic shift occurs, starting with Miranda's Tempest in 1989, a conversation, if you will, of organic into architectonic expression. The earlier body of works evokes our empathy for the human body and the larger elemental forces that act on it and course through it: the earth-bound attendant female in The Vessel, the water storming around the devil and the rescued male in The Rescue, the cosmic fire illuminating the female figure in Waiting for the Comet. The baroque energies of these scenes, rather than releasing into deep illusionistic space, billow, swirl, and explode on the pictorial surface; brushstrokes are at once magnetized by and carriers of elemental force.

In her more recent work, sprays of painterly brushstrokes tighten into lines describing pullet wires, wheels, planks. She removes the figure, and locates dramatic tension within irrational architectural structures, presented under sometimes ominously aglow skies. In these structures movement, ever present in her work, is proposed, but subverted. In Insincere Conversations it is contradicted by disjunctive shifts in scale between the tree with root ball and the walkway onto which it is being transferred; in Space between Time by irrational alignments between rotating, sliding, and bridging elements. Thus her earlier natural dramas give way to ambitious constructions haunted by ambiguous technology.

The voyaging of Bennet and Schoyer is more than that of two individuals; it is that of a couple. Their child Miranda was born in 1988. He bears witness to this birth in Birth of Miranda; she addresses its repercussions in Miranda's Tempest. Indeed, much of the mystery of their art comes from the process of giving birth. To be allowed to glimpse, and participate in, their shared voyaging is a rare privilege.

Elizabeth Langhorne-Reeve

Assistant Professor of Art, University of Richmond

Publication Date



University of Richmond Museums


Richmond, VA


William Bennett, Voyaging, Elizabeth Schoyer, sculpture, painting, University of Richmond Museums


Art and Design | Ceramic Arts | Fine Arts | Painting | Sculpture

Voyaging: William Bennett and Elizabeth Schoyer