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Friday, October 18, 2019

Art Exhibit Examines the Human Figure

When you step across the threshold of WCC’s Gallery One now through Feb. 24, you are struck with the unsettling feeling that a subtle layer of humanity has been deftly peeled away. That feeling draws you farther into a labyrinth of three-quarter walls and oddly shaped spaces, as you pause thoughtfully at the striking pieces of artwork on display.

The exhibit, “Considering the Figure: Four Points of View,” features the paintings of Margaret Davis, prints of Nancy Diessner, drawings of Robert Hanson, and sculptures of Louis Marinaro. An opening reception and gallery talk are scheduled for Feb. 10 from 5:00pm to 7:00pm in the gallery. Diessner will discuss her work at 6:00pm.

“They all come at their work from such different points of view,” said Anne Rubin, gallery director. “The figure is a vehicle in which to express those points that other people can relate to. Take for example the sculpture, ‘Woman with Two Rocks,’ by Lou Marinaro. It’s based on a Mesopotamian myth that tells of a great deluge and the two lone survivors of it. They pleaded with giants to allow them to people the earth. The giants told them to loosen their clothes, cover their heads, and drop the bones of the earth—rocks—on the plains. The sculpture depicts that woman with her head covered and the rocks of new life in her hands.”

“If you’re going to talk about human issues, what else are you going to use?,” asked Marinaro, a professor in the School of Art & Design at the University of Michigan. “So that’s what I do, meaning if you’re going to tell a story about humanity I don’t know why you wouldn’t use the figure. It seems to me to be an obvious choice.”

The drawings and photographs of Hanson and Diessner have a lot to say about the emotions of their subjects and our emotions as voyeurs. “The figures in Robert and Nancy’s work are very expressive and very psychological, each having something unique to say about the body,” said Rubin.

Hanson’s portraits are more of an echo than a true likeness of his subjects. They’re accented with a gentle stroke of color, and your eyes travel slowly along the silhouettes until they rest gently on each face.

“In most cases, I approach a drawing with nothing particular in mind,” Hanson told an interviewer in 2009. “Openness, airiness, transparency—I love those qualities! Drawing is the best way for me to get at them. When a work of art has these qualities, my feet move directly across the museum floor toward that image.“

The figures in Diessner’s photographs are seen through layers of color or a network of lines and tangles and are sometimes in the company of animals, leaving an observer with the disquieting urge to reach out and remove the veil that subtly covers them.

In her artist’s statement, Diessner, an associate professor of interdisciplinary arts at Chester College in New Hampshire, said: “My work is about the conflation of the animal and the human, and about the longing—both immediate and eternal—for the ‘other.’ The figure, for me, is the expressive form for that longing and for the life-force and presence that I want to connect with.”

Davis, too, brings other elements into her work, visuals that imply abstract ideas like time and evolution that she portrays, for example, through fossils in her painting, “Carriers,” or in the implied architectural form in her painting titled “Column.”

“The human form is a key subject matter in our lives; I can use it poetically or I can use it literally or in a lot of other ways,” said Davis, a professor in the art department at Eastern Michigan University. “The figure can be portrayed as specific as the viewer, and at the same time play a role outside the norm.”

Gallery One is open Monday and Tuesday 10:00am-6:00pm, Wednesday and Thursday 10:00am-8:00pm, and Friday 10:00am-noon. The exhibit and the gallery talk on Feb. 10 are free and open to the public. For more information call 734-477-8512.

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