Artists in Conversation: the Body reveals unique narratives, art works

Onlookers listen to English faculty member read about the Body works

From hands to cancer cell depictions: Artists in Conversation: The Body featured art works exploring aspects of the human body.

Art and design professor Laura Strand said it was a successful day for SIUE artists.

“It’s a celebration of the diverse creativity at SIUE,” Strand said.

The Artists in Conversation event, the first of an annual exhibition meant to cross disciplines and bring a wider audience to the gallery, focused on creative responses to and was in conjunction with celebrating the department’s newest faculty member and artist Aimee Howard. Visiting artist Lauren Kalman was on hand at the exhibit to explain her art work.  Other artists – some SIUE alumni and others from the region– were also exhibiting their work as well. The reception featured readings from members of the English department who were invited to view weeks ahead the art works and offer their responses to them.

Luanne Rimel used quilting to depict intimate hand gestures on old-and at times worn away- stone sculptures captured in images.

An astronaut figure laying in packing peanuts in the corner of the gallery was in the pose of making an imaginary snow angel. The figure according to alumna artist Christine Holtz, was a meditation on the “isolation of being in your own mind” and experiencing “motherhood.”

Associate dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, William Retzlaff said he thought the exhibit was wonderful.

“I like that all the pieces were related to conversations about the body,” he said. “As a biologist, that’s very interesting.”

Visiting artist Laura Kalman looks on during the exhibit Photo courtesy Theresa San Luis

Howard said the overall concept for her body of works comes from a second hand experience with cancer in which women in her family have had or are predisposed to breast and ovarian cancer.

“I’ve grown up seeing the results cancer has had on the body, both physically and psychologically,” Howard said.

She said the act of fabricating metal to create her work is personally cathartic. Through the manipulation of metal she is able to govern one small part of an environment “otherwise laden with the uncontrollable events cancer produces.”

“This work seeks to recognize the emotional trauma that intrinsically accompanies physical maladies. For when left unattended, these unresolved emotional disorders can prove as destructive as their physical counterparts,” Howard said.

Thus she created metal pieces to be worn or manipulated such as a piece called “Empathic Swelling Affecting Bones of the Shoulder Region.”

“When my mom was going through cancer treatment, my family all wanted to alleviate her pain,” Howard said.

According to Howard, they wanted to shoulder part of her burden so she wouldn’t have to bear the full weight. As a response, she imagined their bodies intuitively reacting to these emotions: “with shoulder blades and collarbones uncontrollably thickening to feel the weight necessary for true empathy.”

Onlooker views guest artist Lindsay Obermeyer's works based on the theme of cancer.

Guest artist Lindsay Obermeyer presented works also based on the theme of cancer titled Leucocyte I-IV.

“Luecocytes are white blood cells with the responsibility of fighting off infectious diseases and other foreign materials” Obermeyer said.

Her pieces were displayed as framed pink beaded circles with cell-like designs.

Obermeyer said the word bead derives from the Latin word “bede” which means prayer. According to Obermeyer, oncologists are delivering nano-sized beads of medicine as part of chemotherapy treatments.

“These beads target just the cancer cells, doing little harm to healthy tissue,” Obermeyer said. “This technology is the answer to many cancer patient prayers as chemotherapy can be as debilitating as the disease.”

Obermeyer said she has had cancer twice and her work pertaining to the body “deals with the abject body and making beautiful objects out of our general horror and disgust for that which lays below our skin.

“I find the patterns of the human microcosmic world to be fascinating,” Obermeyer said.

For more information about the exhibit or gallery hours, call 618.650.3183.



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