Christina West , Untitled (detail), 2006, 51 1/2 x 16 x 27 1/2 inches, Collection of the Burchfield Penney Art Center, Gift of Dean Spong
Body Norms: Selections from the Spong Collection
Presented in part by the Nancy and Bernard Belfer Endowment
On View Friday, March 13, 2015–Sunday, February 14, 2016
As our inaugural exhibition from a newly acquired collection of ceramics, the Burchfield Penney Art Center presents Body Norms: Selections from the Spong Collection. The idealized human form has fascinated artists—particularly sculptors—throughout history, although the concept of what marks the ‘ideal’ shifts over time. The relationship between a culture’s ideals and its norms tends to be nebulous. Ideals, often expressed through art, strive to depict an archetype of transcendent beauty and perfect form; one that is generally unattainable in practice. Norms, by contrast, claim to bear the standard of cultural functions and relations, but are these norms any more achievable and less idealistic? Every day, we encounter expectations of normative behavior on our personalities, our relationships, our body types, and beyond. The more global and interconnected we become, the more we realize that norms are relative, fluid, and often contradictory across cultures and history. The sculptures in Body Norms present a bold hypothesis for us to consider: perhaps there is no norm, and there never has been. In this context, we can find truth in fantasy, and deconstruct what norms and ideals strike us as false. These sculptures from the Spong Collection explore a wide range of imaginative depictions of the body, moving beyond norms and ideals to illustrate perceptions of the “real” and the fantastical, and perhaps leading toward a more holistic understanding of our ideals, our norms, and ourselves.