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The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

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    Slice of Life – Heifferon at Alloway Gallery

    Just inside the library’s main entrance, four glass-paned doors stood covered with black garbage bags. One was open just a crack, spilling out throbbing music.

    Behind them, Elizabeth Heifferon was lying on a wooden platform in the dark. She was nervous but excited. She lay completely still, except for when the door would creak open, flooding the dark room with harsh light, and she would turn her head in curiosity.

    She wore a pair of white shorts and a white midriff top that glowed bright under the black light bulbs shining down on her. The vibrations that the low frequency music sent through the platform reverberated through her.

    Onlookers sat around the platform, becoming shadows against the white walls. They watched the still body, which was covered in thick scraps of paper. Five miniature castles rested in piles of sand near the edges of the platform. Hanging above them were wing-like loops of wire wrapped with shredded paper.

    Elizabeth, a Fine Arts student, was enveloped in her solo exhibition at the Lawrence Alloway Memorial Art Gallery, one of four galleries on campus. Each academic year, about a dozen graduate art students present a one-person exhibition in the gallery; each runs for about two weeks. The students have access to metal and wood shops and a ceramics studio to construct their projects.

    “I’m a yogini,” Elizabeth explained later. The exhibit, titled “Maya Kosha,” was inspired by the Kosha system in yogic philosophy. Each castle consisted of five rings, which symbolized the five layers of being. “The outermost layer is the skin. Then there’s the emotional, mental, vital. The inner-most is the bliss that we all share.”

    At 6:59 p.m., Elizabeth’s body began to move. The scraps of paper — covered in a mixture of cornstarch, rice flour and water — rustled against each other as they tried to remain stuck to her skin. With jagged movements, she lifted her legs over her torso in a balancing act.

    Five minutes later, a rush of latecomers flooded the room. Art students, clutching giant portfolios. A skateboarder wearing a hooded sweatshirt.

    About 40 people were watching now. Elizabeth stretched and rocked her body back and forth as if trying to hoist herself up.

    A girl in the corner lifted her video camera off of its tripod and held it to her eye. Elizabeth was crouching, moving, pulsating with the music.

    The scraps made sounds against the platform. She stood for the first time, swinging her upper body in circles. Her hand banged against a hanging purple bulb.

    A cell phone went off. Someone standing against the wall slid to the floor. Somewhere, a pen clicked.

    Elizabeth slathered her arms across the platform before lying still. The music faded away. Everyone waited.

    The photographer moved across the room for a better angle. The viewers began to shuffle in their spots. The anticipation in the room seemed to subside; they expected nothing more.

    Someone coughed. A bottle cap twisted open.

    But the music began once more, sending Elizabeth into her crouch, her arms extended like a bird’s wings. Then she got up and climbed off the platform, circling it twice before pausing.

    She bowed. “Thank you everyone for coming.”

    The crowd applauded, then rushed toward the platform. They inspected the wings hanging from the ceiling.

    “Tears,” Elizabeth said. “They represent the body; the outer layer.”

    The viewers ran the sand through their fingers. They pressed their hands on the platform to feel the vibrations of the music. Some took off their shoes to walk across it.

    “Oh my God,” exclaimed a short girl with facial piercings. “I love this.”

    Elizabeth explained her work to visitors who waited around to speak with her.

    “Stoneware,” she said of the mini-castles.

    “Bamboo,” was what the platform was made of. “I built it myself, yes.”

    Someone asked about her inspiration.

    “Through the body we experience suffering and we forget that our universal body is one of bliss.”

    As Elizabeth spoke, a staff member screeched out to the thinning crowd, telling them to sign the guest book — a brown notebook with the word “imagine” on its cover, sitting atop a short column by the door.

    Miranda Karla was the only one to scrawl a comment on the otherwise blank page.

    “Primordial, continuous, everflowing,” she wrote. “Thank you for being — for expressing. For understanding.”

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