Hop Garage exhibit will showcase artwork inspired by bodies

by Marley Marius | 5/27/14 2:35pm

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Hannah McGehee ’15 contributed a sculpture to BARE, the upcoming exhibit at the Hop Garage.

Tomorrow evening, BARE, “an open gallery art show with nothing to hide,” will open, featuring sculptures, videos and works of other artistic media that explore different aspects of the human body.

A major in studio art, organizer Callista Womick ’13 said her inspiration for the exhibit came from a project that she had worked on as a senior in a sculpture class.

“I made an iron cast of my own vagina, and it was a really affirming experience,” she said. “After that, I reached out to a number of different groups on campus about how maybe I could create an opportunity for other people to explore their own bodies in their own or similar ways.”

Womick had previously worked with the Center for Gender and Student Engagement, which is sponsoring the exhibit, to develop a pregnancy support program for undergraduate students. In addition to offering her advice and administrative assistance for the BARE project, the center hosted a series of “making sessions” at its Choate Road offices last week, giving visitors the space, time and materials, including plaster for body casts, necessary to create work for the exhibit.

Between the sessions and Womick’s calls for art over Facebook and over email, she said she has received “a couple dozen” submissions, spanning different media.

“We have a sound piece, a video of a performance, photo, painting, sculpture,” she said. “It’s a really eclectic show.”

Although making work for the exhibit required no prior artistic experience, many who have contributed identify as artists. Samantha Freese, a private school teacher from Canaan who plans to become a full-time artist, said she will display a work called “Dressed to Form,” a portrait of a woman measuring her waist in a mirror, her body “obstructed from the viewer by a dress form.”

Often turning to the human form to explore either issues she struggles with or those faced by the world at large, Freese said that this piece “shows the struggle that nearly every woman faces to fit into what society has deemed the perfect body.”

“When I created this piece, I was feeling a little insecure — earlier in the day I was getting dressed, and none of my clothes fit me the way I wanted them to,” she said.

That day, Freese decided to face her insecurities by eschewing clothing altogether. She said she realized that her inhibitions would likely strike a chord with many women.

Ruth Cserr ’88, a landscape artist, also drew on themes relating to the female body. Taking four separate studies of a single photograph and mounting them on handmade paper, she created “Bare Knuckle Studies May 2014,” a piece that she said considers the parts of a woman’s flesh that are conventionally forbidden from public view.

“I was thinking about things like how nipples are always X-rated on women, and yet they can go out in public on men, and I was also thinking very much about how women’s bodies are so completely objectified — often, not always — but then they are policed,” she said. “So we say, ‘Oh, this nude body is so sexy and sensual, but you can’t show it.’”

What Cserr did, then, was take multiple images of the same female torso and combine them to create a pattern. The result, she said, took on a decorative quality, reminding her of a William Morris print.

“I was interested in the body as an ornament, and just playing with it and putting something out there that you weren’t supposed to put out there,” Cserr said. “This pattern of body bits becomes itself a different kind of ornament.”

Ezra Teboul, a student in Dartmouth’s digital musics program, created a piece from the noise that Pop Rocks make in people’s mouths.

In his art, he said, he works off of common concepts and methods.

“Starting with a term as ubiquitous as ‘pop rock,’ I immediately thought it would be interesting and fun to get a few people to use the candy as an instrument,” he said.

Ultimately, Womick said she hopes the exhibit fosters compelling conversation.

“I think we have a diversity of work, and some are quite provocative, so I hope that people who visit the show will come away asking questions of themselves and of one another,” Womick said. “It wouldn’t be a good show if that didn’t happen.”

Submissions will be accepted until the Hop Garage runs out of room, Womick said. The show will be on display until June 9.