Ruprecht von Kaufmann
Throughout our residence on planet Earth man has made images of the human body from Paleolithic stone fertility figures, to Egyptian tomb sculptures, to Renaissance painting of religious themes, to African carvings, to Persian miniatures, to Japanese erotic prints of the 18th Century. Man has adorned his own body with jewelry, paint, scarification and tatooing for centuries, using himself as the essential work of art. The body is the physical vessel for human experience and arguably serves as the temple of the soul.
Over the span of time which emcompasses man's history, attitudes towards representation of the figure have varied tremendously. The figure frequently embodies the philosophies and mores of the time and additionally reflects beliefs in what is fashionably considered ugly and beautiful. i.e. Ruebens' fleshy females of the 17th Century were subjects of great sensuality, spirituality and beauty in contrast to the ideals of the late 20th Century in which one can never be too rich or too thin.
In the restoration of Michaelangelo's Sistine Chapel it was discovered that the originally nude figures had been given painted clothing in a later period of time when human nudity was considered immoral. The restorers of the chapel meticulously removed the clothing to expose Michaelangelo's work and simultaneously demonstrated the fickleness of moral fashion.
Compositional choices such as how and where the body is placed within a frame or the size of the figure in relationship to what is around it have great impact upon the feeling and meaning of an image. In 19th Century Romantic landscape painting the tiny human figure against a huge landscape or sky is used to demonstrate the smallness of people in relationship to the divine. Stylistic choices in depiction of the body likewise influence feeling and interpretation of the art work, from the controlled elegance of figures in early Greek vase painting to the wildly expressionistic women of William de Kooning.
The nine painters represented in the TALETELLER exhibition are brought together as a group because all employ the human body to tell a story. Their styles, techniques and issues vary but each painting or drawing contains a unique narrative which reflects the concerns of the artist and perhaps, obliquely, the views of society at large.
SUZANNE BOTHWELL'S exquisite Family Reunification Series which contains her musings upon family relationships, are charged with a curious intensity brought by the fusion of formal technique and raw emotion.
WES CHRISTENSEN'S remarkable miniatures, done in a mixture of colored pencil and watercolor, function as tiny morality tales with figures posed, often at the crossroads, trying to decide between the path of virtue or vice. The outcome is often unclear.
STEPHEN DOUGLAS' powerful paintings of dramatically lighted, isolated figures explore the relationship of artist and model through use of apparent studio devices such as tape markers, platforms and light cords. He also employs carefully controlled distortion (The Artist Asvances Towards Middle Age) which illuminates the bounds of censorshop and harkens to the works of Francis Bacon. In Dawn, the figure reflects the passage of life on Earth as evidenced by the affects of experience, time and gravity upon the human body.
CYNTHIA EVAN'S small scale collage paintings reveal personal and wry commentaries on the nature of contemporary life. Her mysterious portrayals seem not to convey a specific narrative but rather to provide a form with which the viewer can ponder issues of desire, loss and alienation.
Self Portrait As Mandrill by MOIRA HAHN, a dazzling tour-de-force in watercolor, depicts the artist with a woman's body and the head of a mandrill. The ape's head is thrown back with mouth gaping in an excruciating scream reminicent of Edvard Munch's The Scream. Hahn's works range from figurative social commentary to self-portraiture.
In the vibrant paintings of RICHARD LOPEZ, the figures are in constant motion�even the bushes fairly rustle. His dancers sizzle and turn in the darkened space around them. Lopez brings to life the legendary quality of the tango and the life of the Hispanic harvester.
JON SWIHART'S carefully painted canvases of quasi-religious themes such as undetected saints in modern households, walking through ordinary rooms, their sanctity in tact but unnoticed by indifferent friends. (Gerald M Ackerman) The paintings are imbued with a sense of quietude, yearning and sadness.
German born RUPRECHT VON KAUFMANN makes paintings which, in his own words deal with religion, or rather spiritualism as a spark of hope in a series of paintings that deal with disrespect for life and abuse of faith. His classically painted canvases concentrate primarily on themes of life and death and are reflection of his Lutheran background.
MARIAN WINSRYG'S drawings and paintings pose questions about where the human race is headed and hint pessimistically about the future through juxtaposition of people, animals and 20th Centurey gadgetry. Her later works are layered with contemporary figures from the media, blow-ups of insect and plant materials and carefully rendered animals.
As long as man has been alive he has been fascinated by images of the figure. The body has been idealized and villified, feared and worshipped, loved and loathed. Because the body is the physical container for the experience of life, it is a natural symbolic vessel for human spirit, emotion and ideas. The artists in this exhibition have generously disrobed themselves and others to tell tales of beauty, sadness and longing. By masterfully representing the body they lead us easily, through identification with the human body form into unexpected realms. For perhaps the most compelling fact about the body is that we all have one.
�SUSANNA MEIERS, Curator
El Camino College Art Gallery