Creativity Explored, a premier nonprofit visual arts center for artists with developmental disabilities, presents Exposed, a six-artist exhibition exploring and celebrating the human form.
Gallery and Exhibitions Manager Amy Auerbach and Gallery Associate Stephanie Rudd co-curated the exhibition, which highlights the work of artists who routinely represent the nude figure in various media. The exhibition’s theme was particularly inspired by Antonio Benjamin, whose extensive work in the genre was recently recognized with a book, Book of Nudes, published by Books for All Press. The exhibition also includes artwork in a variety of media by Andrew Bixler, Camille Holvoet, José Nuñez, Thomas Pringle, and Kate Thompson.
Benjamin first began to create his iconic nude drawings – most often in chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry “flavors” – “because I wanted to show people what bodies look like without clothes on them.” In conjunction with the exhibition, Creativity Explored will introduce a new product, a set of enamel lapel pins featuring Benjamin’s “flavored” breasts.
Rudd points out that while historically, art has been a vehicle for idealizing mainstream notions of female and male beauty, much of the artwork in this show challenges those norms. “I don’t draw people skinny,” Benjamin explains, “I want to make people just how I see them.”
One of Benjamin’s large-scale works in the show features a woman “with huge legs and these thick ankles,” Auerbach describes, “There’s a fascinating sense of scale and weight.”
Benjamin’s work, like that of all of the other artists except for Thomas Pringle, is created without using models or reference images. Bixler, whose set of ceramics depicting vintage naked ladies” was also a major inspiration for the show, explains, “I’ve already seen [live nude figure models] before, when I took a college art class. I just draw from my head.”
Camille Holvoet’s artwork perhaps most closely reflects the curators’ vision for a show that considers the vulnerability of being naked. Describing the wooden cut-outs she created, including one based on an earlier self-portrait, Holvoet says, “I made a male and a female just by my imagination – and a fat goddess from my [self-portrait] from January 2013. I want to make another one that is 180 [pounds], a skinny one of me, Camille.” Laughing, she adds, “Maybe 170 [pounds], like a little, little skinny one!”
While the exhibition is not overtly sexual per se, Auerbach and Rudd do hope that audiences will consider the experiences of people with developmental disabilities vis-à-vis nudity and sexuality. “People might not necessarily expect artists with disabilities to think about this topic, but there’s no reason why having a developmental disability stops you from thinking about sexuality and nudity,” Auerbach says.
For Thomas Pringle, the reason to paint nudes is clear, “I like to paint naked women because they’re prettier than men,” he says. “I don’t know why so many artists have done naked women, but I have an idea: I think they have the same reason as me.”
Exposed is a robust exhibition that is sure to provoke thought – “Just don’t expect to see figures like the statue of David!” Auerbach advises with a smile.