University gallery delivers impressive work in ‘The Figure Now’

Part of the 2013 Figure Now Exhibition at Fontbonne University’s Fine Arts Gallery.

By Sarah Weinman

I’m consistently impressed by shows at Fontbonne University’s Fine Arts Gallery, including the current show: The Figure Now Exhibition, whose pieces depict the human figure in a variety of styles and media. Below are three of my favorites. 

Joseph Lauer’s oil on canvas painting Body and Soul depicts an aged man (a farmer?) inside a big yellow machine.  We see green fields and blue sky in the background.  I was struck by the title of the piece, which can work on many levels: the machine as the body and the farmer as the soul, for example; and the farmer puts everything he’s got – body and soul – into the farm.  The painting’s monumental size of 3’ x 4’ suggests the great importance of work and the land, evoked by the piece’s rough texture that provides a rustic, earthy feel. 

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Pieces in this show can be small and impactful as well.  The 12” x 14” oil painting Wave by Joseph Miller is a very detailed, naturalistic depiction of three girls in bikinis at the edge of a green, roiling sea.  One girl crouches on black rocks and points to the two other girls who face her, stand waist-deep in the churning water, and grasp hands.   The image feels claustrophobic: we can’t see the horizon and we worry the water will swallow up the girls.  Despite their calm expressions, they may be in danger; there’s a sense of unease, risk, and drama, of things on the verge of collapse.

We move from seaside excitement to indoor solitude with Dean Fisher’s Portrait of a Photographer, a life-size graphite-on-paper depiction of a young man with his back to us, wearing jeans but no shirt, and looking in a mirror where we can see his face.  We see a room with windows down the hallway beyond him.  A camera on a tripod points at his shoulder, not up at his face.  Fisher’s use of graphite softens the quiet, introspective scene, while the black and white effect distances us from the subject like an old photograph.  This piece also interested me because the photographer ignores his equipment in favor of his own reflection: a true self-portrait, so to speak.

 

The Figure Now Exhibition runs through March 1 and is on view in the Fine Arts Gallery, located in the Fine Arts Building off Big Bend Blvd.  Gallery hours are Mondays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays from 9:00am – 4:00pm; Tuesdays from 9:00am – 7:00pm; Fridays from 9:00am – 3:00pm; Saturdays from 12:00 – 4:00pm; and closed on Sundays.  For more information, call the university at 314-862-3456 or visit www.fontbonne.edu.  A campus map is available here: http://www.fontbonne.edu/infocenter/mapslocations/campusmaps/