Figuring Out the Figure

Quinn Conklin, Opinion Editor and Quinn Conklin, Opinion Editor
November 14, 2010

Standing in the doorway of the SRJC art gallery, the eye is drawn to the brown paper with two romanistic figures. Beside it on the stark white wall is a drawing of a woman with her back turned, her muscle groups accented with different colors. This is “Figuring Out The Figure,” the new show in the gallery.

The show is a collection of images of nude, clothed and deconstructed people. The one thing these pieces have in common is that they are all drawn from life. Stephanie Sanchez teaches figure drawing on campus and curated the show.  The show was conceived to support figure drawing classes on campus. “We offer a figure drawing program in the art discipline,” Sanchez said. “We are very strongly emphasizing figure drawing. The drawings here really are supporting what our students are learning.”

The show is made up of small collections from different artists whoes varied artistic styles and different approaches to figure drawing are readily evident. From the firm, visually massive works of Hank Pitcher to the active works of Marjan Hormozi. “Her works are very gestural; they have a lot of movement in them,” Sanchez said.

The choice of subjects differs greatly as well. Harmozi is interested in capturing people as they near the end of their lives while Pitcher’s subject matter is predominantly college students. Pitcher has been producing studies to create a large painting depicting a modern bacchanal. “The surfers are like the gladiators,” Sanchez explained “you see drinking; you see carousing. He is always trying to bring mythology from the past and show how it relates to human situations in the present.”

Part of the show is made up of quick studies that capture life as it is being lived. These are sometimes nothing more than quick notes to the artist on a models body position mid action. While rough and lacking details, these pieces are as important as the finished works. Rodney Ruppert, a figure-drawing student at SRJC said, “Art is not about perfection, it is about exploration.”

Ruppert’s figure drawing class is featured in a show at the Harold Mahoney Library on SRJC’s Petaluma campus. This show allows students to contribute a piece that best shows their growth as artists.   Ruppert does not mind having his work displayed. “I think it is totally chill.” he said.

The opening of “Figuring out the Figure” was well attended, a small crowd formed outside the gallery as they waited for the doors to open. One of the students who attended opening day was Phoebe Kobabe. She plans to continue pursuing art as a career after SRJC even though the financial opportunities available to artists scare her.  Looking around the gallery she said, “the ones I like the best are the ones that pick the image apart. Like they’ll pick apart the human figures so it is in a lot of different shapes, or sometimes they will pick them out even down to the muscle and bone structure.”

The pieces she refers to are a series of drawings that show the deconstruction of the human figure. Some do it by showing the muscle groups picked out in different shades; others relate the curves of the body to simpler shapes to better understand the way light plays off the figure.

Sanchez has created a show that highlights both how different and how similar the interpretation of the human form can be. The emphasis throughout is on life as she sayes in her curator’s statement: “Life drawings, ideally, communicate a life-like energy…keeping the ‘life’ in life drawing.”

Figuring out the Figure runs from Nov. 4 – Dec. 11

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