Wednesday, March 09, 2005

"Interpretations of the Figure" - Christel DeHaan Fine Arts Center - March 9, 2005 - 4 stars

The human form is one of the most prominent subjects in all of art history alongside, or in conjunction with, sex and religion. Take, for example, the 25,000-year-old "Venus of Willendorf" or Jan van Eyck's "Ghent Alterpiece." Building from mask and skull foundations, societies throughout the ages have developed their own ideas about the human condition reflected through artworks. In this exceptional University of Indianapolis gallery exhibit, Davida Shulman starts, however, with her flesh. Obese, her nude "Self Portrait with Postcards" is beautiful and grotesque at once with her voluminous skin being a focal point for this great painting. Overt and well expressed influences aside, this painting hits many marks successfully. Depicting a body at rest or in motion, with hyperrealism or abstraction, is a necessary component of every artist's training. Adding emotion and meaning, as the majority of works do in this show, kicks the significance up a notch. Pamela Deaton's life-sized "Plant Sacrifice," an abstracted female representation suspended from the ceiling, arms outstretched, is composed of dark brown earth with tree roots, acorns, leaves and Silver Maple seedlings packed into earthy putty. The meaning (connectedness to the earth and all that entails, the life of the female body) is profound. Every single work in this regionally juried show is deserving of mention
and should be seen. There are bronzes (a fine piece by Pat Mack, for instance), glass works, with sculptures staggered through the space on 12 white pedestals. Everything worked together. Fortunately, the U of I gallery space, a square room with high
ceilings and light parquet floor, has effective lighting - an asset for this art. Through March 18; 637-4574. -Mary Lee Pappas

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