We know that B.O.D.Y. is an art exhibition. By the title, we can figure out the theme. But ask what the acronym stands for, and you’d better be ready to hear a variety of lewd, rude, crude and purely nonsensical responses, none of them serious—"Butts, Orgasm, Dick, Yo-Yo,” for instance. Candace Nicol, artist and B.O.D.Y.‘s organizer, could offer only this to clarify: “It’s open for interpretation.”
Nicol, 40ish, with an abundance of giggles and a warm, chipper demeanor, teaches art at Truckee Meadows Community College. She’s married, has a daughter, and creates mixed media art incorporating photos of the male nude. In recent exhibitions in which she’s been featured, the artist’s recurrent theme has become obvious: She wants us to see more naked men.
With B.O.D.Y., Nicol invited sculptors, painters, performance artists and printmakers who she knows to exhibit here in Reno with her. Five of the artists are from Boise, Idaho, where Nicol studied art. One is from Maryland, and one is from Lake Tahoe. Three, including Nicol, are Renoites.
Nicol’s two photography and resin works feature the only naked men on view, though a frighteningly giant testicle-like wax and latex ball hangs from a frighteningly sharp steel hook gracing the center of the exhibit space. Across the room from this piece is a work made of 35 clear resin blocks hung from hooks with what looks like bloody smears and violent red gouges on 31 of them.
Sue Latta made both of these pieces, and she explains that the inspiration came from seeing “suspension,” where people pierce their skin with hooks and hang their bodies from the ceiling while the skin’s stretching accommodates the weight. The big hung ball renders this practice quite realistically.
Latta says the resin blocks on the wall are a “calendar reference,” and the piece is called “Only Women Bleed.” Titled after an Alice Cooper song, the artwork clearly refers to menstruation, but more pointedly, it deals with “cutters,” or those who make slices on their arms, legs and other bodily locations with a razor in an unhealthy effort to cope with stress. The artist indulges that her daughter is/was a cutter.
Also gripping the audience’s attention is a life-size cast-iron Buddha draped in saffron fabric and a cast-iron gas mask. The Buddha, created by Samuel Stimpert, is a reference to our current state of the world, in which countries such as India have taken over the iron industry. The United States, with fairly strict environmental protection laws, can no longer compete with other countries that host lax pollution laws. Iron production is dangerously pollutant. For this reason, there is only one iron foundry left in this country.
Conceptually tight, the India/Iron theme carries over in the form of a wall-mounted manhole cover halo with an Indian mandala design.
Poison, pollution and war are points Stimpert explores with two other works included in the show that present gas masks, in the words of the artist, “as a symbol of triumph and defeat.”
B.O.D.Y. isn’t an erotic display of the human form or a macabre exhibition of flesh. The varied meanings and analogies in the art point to our ongoing fascination with the human vessel. It is a high-minded display that deals with our curiosity.
But damn it, would somebody please explain what B.O.D.Y. really stands for?