Living in a coastal city, we are accustomed (some might say numb) to seeing bodies clad in bikinis and board shorts. "Physique," a group show at Sparks Gallery in the Gaslamp Quarter, pulls us out of our visual apathy and brings a mindful clarity to our most prized personal possession.
The exhibition is an impressive review of the human body, in isolation and within varied environments. As we move from sculpture to photography to painting, our eyes alight on contours and angles we may not normally consider in our day-to-day lives.
Our minds begin to unravel postures, examining a curve of the torso, the indentions of a lower back or the fullness of hip flesh. As a yoga practitioner and former student of ballet, I found myself having a visceral experience, feeling sensations of the twists and turns I saw cast in bronze or depicted on canvas.
A wonderful example of this came in Maidy Morhous' beautiful "Expectations in the Wind," where the body sweeps away in elegant curvature, reminding the viewer of classical sculpture and kinetic energy.
Kyle Trudelle's curvaceous, bodacious bodies draw the eye like a tractor beam to their luxurious reclines and protruding derrieres. Orbs of rainbowed color highlight hips, breasts and buttocks.
"Our society is submerged in heavy does of negativity, fear and darkness," Trudelle said. "If we choose to see light, beauty and positivity, we are given an opportunity to be filled with living color."
Linda Litteral's sculptured leaf busts seemed to float in the gallery space, but I was particularly drawn to "Storyteller," her stoneware bust, depicting only the mouth, shoulders and a half chest. The back of the sculpture was filled with children's drawings creating a visually arresting dichotomy. The viewer sees a child crying, a man with a mask, a headstone with RIP, and happy faces intermingled with sad faces.
"Past traumas from childhood need to be looked at," Litteral said. "These images give the viewer an opportunity to look at something that is uncomfortable to look at in a beautiful and nonconfrontational way."
Fascinated by the array of body imagery represented in "Physique," I spoke briefly with manager Jessica Amaya about the genesis of the show:
Q: How did "Physique" come together as a group show?
A: It was really the vision of the owner, Sonya Sparks. We wanted to bring more of the human element to art. She wanted all different mediums, because we all have unique ideas of beauty, and showing it through those different paths gives you that feeling that everyone is beautiful in their own way.
Q: How did you select the artists?
A: We have artists we have worked with in the past, so the invitation goes to those first. But we are always accepting new submissions, and we've always got our eyes open. We only represent San Diego artists here at the gallery.
Q: Any pieces people were particularly buzzing about?
A: Everyone was raving about an oil painting by Ryan Thomas titled "Night Terrors," a work he calls "an exploration of the space between conscious and unconscious." Some other popular works were Bryan Tipton's "A Quiet Moment," Lucia Ferreira's "Human Nature" series of hand-painted photographs, and Linda Litteral's sculptures. Anna Van Fleet brought 10 prints of her "Victoria's Lotus" and we've sold all but three.
"Physique" runs through Nov. 6. Sparks Gallery is at 530 Sixth Ave., San Diego. (619) 696-1416, sparksgallery.com.
Laurie Delk is an avid art historian, holding a master's degree in art history, with concentrations in the modern and postmodern movements. She has taught classes at Tulane University, and has been published with several art publications including Sculpture Magazine and New Orleans Art Review. Send ideas for art stories to firstname.lastname@example.org.