Stephens exhibit focuses on human form

Sunday, November 26, 2006 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 2:06 p.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 22, 2008

The 24 depictions on the pristine white walls of the Davis Art Gallery at Stephens College serve as examples to students who are learning to draw the human figure.

“We try and aim towards educational displays,” gallery director Robert Friedman said, “ones that are going to enhance the learning experience in Stephens classes and the community.”

Friedman said the exhibit focuses on the human figure because “with human beings it is the most universal you get.” The drawings focus primarily on the solitary human figure. Most are of women, most are nude, but they vary in approach.

“Body Image: Drawings from Life” features the work of Columbia-area artists Patrick Muck, Jane Mudd, Jeff Rogers, Byron Smith, Frank Stack, Carolyn Thompson and Fred Unterseher. Each artist picked a few pieces to display.

Smith’s three pieces are from his sketchbook, something he said he rarely shares. However, he said by showing his sketchbook work, it allows other artists to see how he draws the figure.

“Once you present it to a viewer in a frame it has some kind of romantic feel to it,” he said.

Smith also said seeing work in a gallery instills confidence in newcomers to draw. Sketchbook studies can also be finished works of art presented in a gallery, he said.

The drawings were done in various mediums including pen, graphite and pastels. Unterseher’s “Chromadepth Study,” when viewed through chromadepth glasses, is holographic. Chromadepth is a technique based on the apparent depth perception of specific colors next to each other.

“The chromadepth stuff says ‘look around, try and explore,’” Unterseher said. “‘Don’t be locked into a style so quick.’” He and his wife, Rebecca Deem, had an art holograms show at the Davis gallery earlier this fall called “Tranceforms.”

From his other work done in ink, Unterseher said that students and visitors can learn not to focus on making a perfect drawing but on catching the essence of the pose.

Mudd drew “Rest Assured” with conte, a hard pencil or crayon made of graphite and clay. In the portrait, a woman sits casually on a chair, her legs crossed with her arms resting on them. Mudd chose conte for the drawing because she wanted a more precise and objective approach to capture the emotion in the pose.

“Many times we let the model just get in a comfortable pose,” Mudd said. “Sometimes they assume one that speaks volumes visually. I just hoped I could capture how she was feeling by the more careful approach with the conte.”

Muck said the human figure is one of the most challenging subjects because if it’s drawn out of proportion, it’s very apparent.

“When looking at a drawing or painting of the human figure,” Muck said, “there is something about her posture or expression that gives us an emotional response based upon our experiences.”

Friedman said that although the gallery’s mission is to further the art education of students, exhibits such as this serve the community. “All our art is extending their awareness, their experience, and their understanding of the breadth of artistic expression.”

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