The Figurative Association Symposium opened this week at Arrowmont School in Gatlinburg. In its eighth year, the symposium began with a focus on the figure in ceramics. This year it expanded to include sculpture in all media, as well as two-dimensional works. Ten artists from around the country are featured.
Of interest to the public will be the exhibition of figurative work in the main Sandra Blain Gallery on the second floor of the school’s administrative building. The exhibition runs through Jan. 12, 2019, offering plentiful opportunities for area people to see the show while on shopping or dining excursions to Gatlinburg.
The public has typically viewed art as the process of reproducing what one can see with their own eyes. The development of abstract and non-representational art threw a kink in that perception. Many outside the world of art had the reaction to such artworks by saying “my kid could do that,” or at least thinking it.
But true art has never been about only what one can see by simply looking at the real world.
This characteristic has been recognized as far back as the ancient Greeks. Aristotle observed, “The aim of art is to represent not the outward appearance of things, but their inward significance.”
The work in this exhibition explores those inward qualities in many aspects, whether they be the psyche, the mental state or the emotional energies of what the observer is looking at.
Richard James’ “Milgram’s Call,” one of the first works one encounters upon entering the gallery, is a good example. An old couple, made of carefully carved ceramics at one-half life scale, are presented on a bench. They are wearing beautifully crafted, quilted garments. Each has a foot propped up on the bench, pushing their bodies away from each other.
She holds the base of an old-fashioned dial telephone. She has passed the receiver to the old man, clearing directing him to answer the call. He shows no interest whatsoever.
In its simple gestures, this scene captures the state of existence of many old couples whose lives have been reduced to hearing about the lives of others.
In Alanna Derocchi’s decapitated stag head, ironically titled “Still Life, Durer’s Stag,” the animal stares back at the viewer with a sort of “are you happy now” expression in his eyes.
In another head-only work, Curt LaCross’ “Effigy of the Lower Self,” a full-head portrait of an overweight man with a pleased expression on his face, his tongue partly sticking out as he looks downward at something. Just what the man is thinking about is left to the viewer. Is he a dirty old man looking at the “down there” of someone else?
Sunkoo Yuh’s large porcelain piece, “I Want to Know You Better,” has two cartoonish figures, back to back, surrounded by flowers and a strange-looking rabbit. It’s a modern take on the decorative figure sculptures that have appeared in traditional Chinese, Korean and Japanese ceramic art for centuries.
Judy Fox’s 2007 “7 Sins” made of aqua resin and casein paint, carries with it a warning sign cautioning viewers that the content of the piece may not be suitable for all ages. It is composed of seven pieces, 24-30 inches long, made of highly realistic female body parts assembled into what appears to be independent creature forms. They can be seen as the objectified, sexualized parts of the female anatomy, partly wrapped in clothing elements, with the rest of the aspects of what makes a woman removed.
The drawings and paintings in the show explore just as complex territories.
Arrowmont is involved in an extensive building project to replace structures destroyed in the Gatlinburg fire. A new entrance to the campus from Hwy. 321 is under construction. For the time being, the campus can be accessed from the downtown parkway, through the parking lot of the new Anakeesta chair lift attraction that occupies the property where the old Arrowcraft Store used to be.
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