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Identifier: MC 1484

Rita Myers Papers


  • 1967 - 2016
  • Majority of material found within 1967 - 2005

Scope and Contents

The Rita Myers Papers documents Myers' art career from her time at Douglass College of Rutgers University, in the late 1960s and into her professional career over the proceeding several decades.

The Works & Exhibitions series, in particular, covers Myers' art and installations. Included in this series are various aspects of Myers' work and process, including a sub-series on the various pieces of art, a sub-series of exhibition correspondence, a sub-series on press and marketing, and a sub-series of various photographs and slides of Myers' work. These sub-series do overlap, as there are documents on various specific pieces throughout, depending on the aspect of the piece or exhibition being documented.

The works sub-series contains material gathered about specific works, including those that may not have been exhibited. This includes notes, proposals, descriptions of pieces, photographs, negatives, and photo proofs. This is where the main ideas, preparation material, and documentation about a piece were collected, primarily outside of context of specific exhibition spaces.

The exhibition correspondence documents Myers work in specific spaces. This includes correspondence between Myers and the exhibition spaces, as well as floor plans, contracts, budgets, and loan agreements. Also found in this subseries are photographs of the exhibition spaces, articles on the exhibits, and artist and curator statements.

The press and marketing sub-series documents publicity of Myers and Myers' exhibitions. Included here are professionally done photographs and headshots of Myers, articles and reviews of Myers' artwork and exhibitions, press books created by Myers, and press releases. There are press clippings, as well as magazines and journals covering Myers' works and exhibitions. Of particular note are the press books that were put together by Myers. These give an overview of Myers' artwork with photographs and descriptions by Myers, providing context to selected pieces of Myers' work.

Also documented in the press and marketing sub-series are exhibition announcements and exhibition catalogs of Myers' works and exhibitions. These document Myers' career from the early 1970s through the mid-2000s.

Also documented in this collection are material related to Myers' academic life. This includes notebooks and material Myers created as a student at Douglass College of Rutgers University, as well as when Myers was a student at Hunter College earning her MA. This includes course notebooks with lecture notes as well as the thesis written by Myers in 1974 titled, An Historical Survey of Mass Communications Research: The Capability of the Mass Media to Motivate Behavioral Change. This thesis was written as part of her coursework at Hunter College. Furthermore, this series documents lectures and teachings done by Myers throughout the years. This includes lecture notes of talks given by Myers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard University, as well as lecture notes about specific works of art created by Myers.

Furthermore, this collection contains material about the community of artists who were Myers' peers and friends. This series includes primarily essays, articles, and reviews about Myers' art friends. There is limited correspondence found here, however; the majority of the material in this series are catalogs, announcements of exhibitions, and articles that were collected by Myers about her peers. Names of note in this series are Nan Hoover, Dieter Froese, Dieter Kiessling, and Mary Lucier.


22.5 Linear Feet (26 Manuscript Boxes, 7 Oversize Flat File Boxes, 6 Rolled Tubes)

Language of Materials

In English

Conditions Governing Access

No restrictions; advanced notice required to consult collection.


The Rita Myers Papers documents Myers' art career. Myers received her BFA from Douglass College, Rutgers University and her MA from Hunter College. Since 1975, Rita Myers has created a body of large-scale, multi-media installations that create highly theatrical, metaphorical spaces from a fusion of video, text, sound, and sculptural and natural forms. Juxtaposing elements of landscape and architecture, these formalized, symbolic environments function as contemplative sites that resonate with evocations of the ritualistic and the mystical. The collection contains preparatory drawings, correspondence, biographical files, and publications.

Biographical / Historical

Rita Myers is an artist who focuses on large-scale, avant garde, multi-media installations that use video, landscape, and architecture to create immersive pieces that pull on themes of mysticism, metaphysics, and mythology. Myers received her BFA from Douglass College of Rutgers University in 1969, and an MA from Hunter College of the City University of New York in Manhattan in 1974.

Born in Hammonton, NJ in 1947, Myers has exhibited around the world and, for many years, was based in New York City. Myers has had shows in New York at museums and galleries such as The Kitchen, the Whitney Museum, and the Museum of Modern Art. She has also had exhibitions and installations at the Carnegie Museum of Art in Pittsburgh, the Kölnischer Kunstverein in Cologne, Germany, the Berlin Film Festival, and the Videobrasil International Festival in São Paulo, Brazil.

Myers' artwork plays with ideas of space and time, using the camera and the physical space to explore these themes in an interactive manner. For example, in an early piece from 1972, called Following, Myers chose random individuals on the streets of New York to follow and document their day and their movement around New York City through photographs, walking a line between invasiveness, capturing a random day of errands, and art.

Another piece, Slow Squeeze, from 1973, examines the frame of a camera shot as a physical space. The camera opens with a large frame that can easily accommodate capturing Myers fully in frame. As time progresses, however, the camera zooms in, tightening the frame, with Myers adjusting and contorting her body in order to keep fully within the frame of the shot. This examines the camera as a dominating force, making Myers react and shrink based on the movements of the camera lens.

Myers' work examines landscapes and architecture, particularly in works from the 1980s on, using video and cameras as part of the world creation of her installations. She explores ideas of real versus imaginary, decay and regeneration, and examines spaces where the physics are different and integrated with technology. She explores the physical space, the physical body, technology--specifically video technology--and how they all interact and the metaphorical ways they can influence each other. Juxtaposing elements of landscape and architecture, these symbolic environments function as contemplative sites that resonate with evocations of the ritualistic and the mystical.

For example, an installation from 1993, Resurrection Body, features a large bed with a nude figure--a live model--lying on their back. A tree is suspended just above the figure, the roots exposed and spread, as though reaching, over the body. There are sensors attached to the figure and connected to monitors. This piece was inspired by Christoforo Simone dei Crocefissi's painting, The Dream of the Virgin, from around 1350 CE, and influenced by the death of Myers' father in early 1993.

Alongside her work as an artist, Myers has also been an art educator. From 1975 to 2005, Myers taught at institutions such as Douglass College at Rutgers University, MIT, Hartford Art School, Carnegie Mellon University, and the Cooper Union School of Art.

Rita Myers has been working as an openly gay artist since the late 1960s. In 2014, Myers married her wife, Bonnie Strahs. The two had met in 2000, started dating in 2001, and moved to Philadelphia together in 2003. The fight for marriage equality for LGBTQ couples progressed in the following years, and as soon as same-sex marriage was legalized in Pennsylvania in 2014, Myers and Strahs immediately obtained their marriage license and were married in a private ceremony the following month, with a more public celebration a few months following.


Fletcher, Kanitra, "Rita Myers," Landmarks (University of Texas).

Gates, Kellie Patrick, "Love: Rita Myers & Bonnie Strahs," Philadelphia Inquirer, Dec. 26, 2014.

Verona, Carole, "Mt. Airy Lesbian Couple, Both 67, Now Legally Married," Chestnut Hill Local (Chestnut Hill, Pennsylvania), Mar. 26 2015.


This collection is arranged into three series, the first of which is further arranged into four subseries:

  • Works & Exhibitions
    • Works
    • Exhibition Correspondence
    • Press & Marketing
    • Photos & Slides
  • Academia, Notebooks, & Funding
  • Art Community

The arrangement is largely based on the original order of the material, as MPLP was used to process this collection. The Works sub-series is arranged in roughly chronological order. The Exhibition Correspondence sub-series is arranged in reverse chronological order. Press & Marketing sub-series is arranged in rough chronological order, with similar material being arranged together (ie, announcements are together, as are catalogs, magazines, and books. Academia, Notebooks, & Funding is mostly arranged in chronological order, however there are exceptions based on the original order of the material. The Art Community series is largely arranged alphabetically, however, there are a few exceptions to preserve the original order of the material.

Guide to the Rita Myers Papers
Kate Van Riper
Special Collections and University Archives, Rutgers University received an operating support grant from the New Jersey Historical Commission, a division of the Department of State.