2/ International Multi-Media Juried Art Exhibit
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Icebox Gallery, March 1-April
Naked people have not yet become boring to the artists of the world. When
Icebox owner Howard Christopherson put out a call for artworks based on
the human nude, he was sent so many entries- 500, from seven countries-
that he doubled the size of the show. In total, 112 artworks made the
cut, encompassing photography, body painting, watercolor and oil paintings,
sculpture, and digital media. Naturally Christopherson has included a
few items that frankly seem a bit, erm, erotic ("you have to. Thats
part of the deal," he notes dryly). But theres an impressive
range of mood on display, from Ken Weissblums Daliesque "Frames"
to J.E. Jasens "Lovers Brooch," a wrought piece
of jewelry with an eye in the middle to keep watch over straying sweethearts.
Dont miss the short but funny documentary on legally blind photographer
Flo Fox and her (ahem) "Dicthology" series, a bawdy celebration
of artfully costumed organs, and we dont mean Wurlitzers.
Published March 7, 2003
Minneapolis gallery shows 'Skin'
art about the human body
ART page 7Nudity is getting a two-part airing this spring at the Icebox
Gallery, where the first section of "Skin" is on view through
April 19. The show is the brainchild of gallery owner Howard Christopherson,
a photographer and enthusiastic appreciator of the nude in art.
He posted an Internet call for art "that approached the human body
in different ways." Slides of more than 500 works were submitted
-- mostly photos and drawings, with a sprinkling of videos and at least
one painting -- from which Christopherson picked 112 pieces to exhibit.
Entries came from 23 states and seven countries.
Because Icebox is a small basement gallery adjacent to his frame shop,
Christopherson divided the show into two sections of about 60 pieces each.
The second part runs May 3 through June 14. All 500 entries are available
on the gallery's website (http://www.iceboxminnesota.com)
Although Icebox has declared this show open only to those over 18, most
of "Skin" is pretty tame. Many of the photos are less revealing
than contemporary magazine ads, and private parts are irrelevant in some.
Missouri photographer M. Kern, for example, offers three riffs on the
show's title, "Skin." His "Identity" triptych depicts
faces of a black man, an Asian woman and a white man all covered in white
makeup. While the shapes of their eyes, lips and bones remain as ethnic
signifiers, their Kabuki-white masks neutralize skin color as a mark of
Many other images range from sex-neutral to sweet celebrations of the
"Zoe," from the "Argentine Drag Queen" series by Buenos
Aires photographer Felix Aranguren, exudes a cheerleader's joie de vivre
despite the subject's spiked dog collar. Twin Cities photographers David
M. Oikon and William Cameron celebrate the ripe fecundity of pregnant
women. In an image from her "Tattoo Series," Anne Bement of
San Francisco masks a woman's nude torso with a delicate curtain of lacey
birds and flowers. And Jim Wright of Fridley turns a beautifully gnarled
foot and tiled floor into a study of light and texture.
Many artists pay homage, sometimes indirectly, to the long tradition of
nudes in art history. Arizona artist Dale O'Dell created a surrealist
essay by using old-fashioned darkroom tricks to insert a nude woman (wearing
high-topped tennis shoes) into a rock-strewn landscape. In "Nudewood,"
John Bernhard of Texas created an even more mysterious, almost fetishistic
photo by melding a woman's torso with floorboards.
One of the most beautiful and haunting pieces is by Tamara M. Sadlo of
Minneapolis, who printed faint images of a woman's head and hands on squares
of rough linen that she stitched with metal thread. The seams and mended
rips in the fabric stand out like scars on the woman's body.
There are inevitably clichés and earnestly naive images that don't
advance the genre significantly: soft-focus girls lounging on rumpled
sheets, astride a pony, hiding in a basement. Arkansas painter M.M. Kent's
"Candle in the Window" is a kind of barroom odalisque. And Ken
Weissblum of New York is way too cute with his photo of long-haired girls
bending over picture frames against a fiery sunset.
Some of the most impressive pieces are drawings, notably the lovely charcoal
torso sketched by Anthony Austin Schrock of Brooklyn Park and Carol Slade's
"Green," a bold rendering of a fleshy nude on green paper.
Several artists obviously relish the contrast of tender flesh with rough
textures and incongruous surfaces. David Barnes' beautiful photo of a
male nude, surrounded by old doors and rough stone walls, in a halo of
light from a basement window, is both reverential and erotically charged.
Women predominate as models, but there are enough guys in the buff to
absolve Christopherson of accusations of sexism. The comic undertone of
many of the photos helps, too, introducing a disarming playfulness that
diffuses the sexual anxiety that so often clings to nudes in art.
A video of New Yorker Flo Fox discussing her long-term project of photographing
men's penises is utterly hilarious. And gallery owner Christopherson allowed
himself to be the butt of a joke-portrait fabulously executed by Walter
Albertson. With the aid of a computer, Albertson cast Christopherson as
a camera-toting satyr in lusty pursuit of a bevy of Boucher's bare-bottomed
The prize for best male nude goes to Terry Donovan of Coon Rapids, whose
color diptych "Model vs. Photographer #1" pairs a self-portrait
with Donovan's photo of a female nude, both of them nonchalantly facing
front. In a wall label, Donovan explains how he hit on the idea of photographing
himself imitating his models.
"The idea of a bald, beer-bellied, middle-aged man posing in the
mirror image of younger, more attractive women struck me as hilarious,"
Donovan was motivated in part by a desire to prove that he wouldn't ask
a model to do anything that he wasn't willing to do. He soon discovered
that the more feminine the models' poses were, the funnier his self-portraits
became until ultimately "it becomes one big joke with me as the punch
You have to love a guy like that, paunch and all.
IF YOU GO
What: More than 60 photos and drawings, plus videos and paintings of and
about the human body by artists from 23 states and seven countries. Although
restricted to adult viewers, the show is never raunchy or disrespectful.
Many of the images are infused with art-historical references or have
a comic undercurrent that defuses the sexual anxiety that sometimes clings
to nudes in art.
BY THOMAS O'SULLIVAN
Special to the Pioneer Press
Posted on Sun, Mar. 16, 2003
Icebox gallery explores
how deep skin can go
Skin is showing this season at Icebox Quality Framing & Gallery in
Northeast Minneapolis, in a two-part juried exhibition that explores the
human body as seen by 46 artists. From chaste nudes to challenging videos,
"Skin 2003" presents a freewheeling overview of art about the
body by artists male and female, traditional and eccentric, familiar and
Icebox proprietor Howard Christopherson conceived the exhibit as a way
to celebrate his 15th year in the trade an achievement for any
small business but a near-miracle for an art gallery. Through a global
call for entries on the Icebox Web site, Christopherson received slides
from artists in seven countries and 23 states. The quantity, quality and
variety of submissions led him to book two "Skin" shows back
to back, with Part 1 running through April 19 and Part 2 opening May 3.
The subject is universal and versatile. We all have bodies, Christopherson
observes, and society's changing attitudes about morals, politics, technology
and gender influence the artworks that each generation and any artist
may produce. Christopherson's big-hearted selection taps into classic
figure drawing and straight photography, feminist visual rhetoric, allegorical
images, surrealism and digital image manipulation.
While selecting the 50-plus artworks to fit into his snug basement exhibit
space, Christopherson kept an eye out for intriguing pairings of images.
This curatorial matchmaking led to juxtapositions that allow works to
resonate with each other in unexpected ways.
The senses are summoned by Robbinsdale photographer Matthew Scherfenberg's
large print of an "Ear," perfectly centered and relentlessly
focused to show every pore, as well as by New Yorker June Jasen's spooky
glass eye in a hammered-silver setting. Texan John Bernhard's "Nudewood"
renders a torso in stripes like the grain of a carved figurehead, while
the shadows of "Stripes #4" in a photograph by William Cameron
of Minneapolis accentuate the curves and symmetries of his model. Black-and-white
photographs by Owen O'Meara (Colorado) and David Barnes (Massachusetts)
present female and male models, respectively, in the perfect tonalities
and artificial poses of studio nudes.
Plenty of images are erotic, carnal and just plain sexy, though Christopherson
is quick to point out that skin, in his show, is not only a four-letter
word: "The beauty of art is that it's not confined to the standards
of society." Models who are far too ample for Hollywood's
anemic taste sit perfectly comfortable in their flesh, as in a sumptuous
pastel by Carol Slade of Winona, or in Californian Ted Williams' photograph
"Jan as Rocks."
Cliches are unavoidable where the body is the theme KenWeissblum
(New York) packs a sunset and a trio of pinup girls intoone digital print,
"Frames" but the many fresh takes on real people outweigh
them. In her black-and-white study of "Amorous A.," clothed
only in jewelry and a devilish grin, Chicagoan Jen Scholz portrays "an
everyday woman; a mother, a sister, a friend."
The body politic is implicit wherever nudes are hung, and it's in your
face in some Icebox selections. Britta Hallin of St. Paul accompanies
her video of a woman shaving herself with a challenge to the viewer: "How
does watching this make you feel?" Missourian Mitch Kern's trio of
color prints depicts individuals of three races, all smeared withwhite
pigment. Terry Donovan of Coon Rapids offers a diptych of "Model
vs. Photographer," contrasting a young nude woman with himself in
the same studio posture: "one big joke with me as the punch line."
"Skin 2003" is boisterous in its variety and uneven in quality,
showing the pros and cons of any art exhibit that is open to all comers.
Christopherson has instituted an 18-and-older policy and a modest admission
charge, to help pay the bills and avoid riling concerned elders.
But for two bucks less than the price of a Happy Meal, he notes
visitors will find a refreshing playfulness that is all too absent
from museum shows and theory-driven installations that treat this touchy
Thomas O'Sullivan is a St. Paul freelance writer and curator.
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