Women artists focus on the male
October 3, 2007
Judith Roth has played an important role in the annual ArtWalkRavenswood since its inception in 2002, but none more interesting than the role of artist in the powerful "Sum of the Parts, a Woman's Perspective of the Male Figure," to be held Oct. 6 and 7.
The exhibit is one of dozens in this year's Tour of Arts & Industry in Ravenswood's art studios and galleries, museums and cultural centers, schools, theaters, restaurants, and industries.
"Sum of the Parts" - which will be on display at Prudential Preferred Properties, 2156 W. Montrose, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. both days - is an artistic interpretation of the male figure from the perspective of artists Roth and Sandra Bacon and a comparative view of the male figure as photographed by David Rosenthall.
Both the drawings and photographs focus on key muscle groups displayed during requisite poses by James Wise, a 57-year-old Chicago competitive body builder and personal trainer, who originated the idea.
According to Anatomically Correct Art in Alternative Spaces, a Chicago non-profit organization dedicated to showcasing work by visual artists in alternative spaces and sponsor of the exhibit, the concept of "Sum of the Parts" is that "bodybuilding is a competition sport that demands months of training culminating in a 15-minute demonstration or display."
The physical training and pressure on human endurance that happens in the preceding months is a process in reduction - much like the act of creating artwork. The artist too must reduce visual language to the essential elements that will resonate with themselves as the viewer as being a revelation of some greater meaning. All acts of creation are therefore more than the 'Sum of the Parts.'"
Noting the comparison of the muscle dynamics and muscle fatigue in the drawings vs. photographs, Bacon explains, "Drawing from life offers a layering of shifting perceptions. A model's pose is in flux. Definition of muscle isolations change in time and present a myriad of nuances for the visual artist to perceive. The resulting drawing creates a intuitive reality that exists independent of the recorded [via photography] moment."
Bacon, recognized more for her murals than drawings, says Rosenthall's photographs were able to capture Wise's muscles in the second of their "peak perfection," while the women's drawings - accomplished during extended sessions with Wise every Saturday throughout the winter months - capture beyond that peak moment. "The drawings are very gestural and emotional; they are very powerful. They try to get past what you think you know and what you will see. It's all about intuition," Bacon stresses.
Bacon and Roth, both members of the Chicago Women's Caucus on the Arts, are awaiting reaction to the exhibit. "These are not nudes, but there will be observers who are still not comfortable seeing these bodies in a show," Bacon states, adding, "We're very used to seeing images of the body done in a certain kind of way. When it comes to real people, we're not used to that. That's why figure drawing is so important - you're never going to get that sense of intuition without it."
Asked if she was intimidated or apprehensive about participating in the "Sum of the Parts" project, Bacon replies, "Not at all. I have a classical background and years and years of figurative painting. It was only intimidating working with Judith because she's so incredible."
Roth, who notes that it was not socially acceptable for a woman to view a live model in the study of art until the last 50 years or so, has been involved with the Ravenswood art walk since she led efforts to gain seven venues for its initial year. "It's been phenomenal. It's great for the artists, for restaurants, for buildings, for industry, for the community," the Ravenswood resident notes.
ArtWalkRavenswood will not be the last opportunity for the public to see "Sum of the Parts." Future plans call for it to appear in Anatomically Correct Alternative Spaces.
For a list of all walk venues, visit www.artwalkravenswood.org. For more about "Sum of the Parts," visit www.anatomicallycorrect.org/sumoftheparts.htm.