Ceramic artist Arlene Wood's mesmerizing display at Commonwheel Artists Co-op Gallery "is a way to make people aware of what I am thinking and praying about," Wood says. Her work anchors Corpus Et Natura, a collaborative show she organized.
Where a woman's soft eyes should be, "Burka" reveals only a metallic beekeeper's screen, speaking to the defacement of women better than any political text. "Tsunami" looks at female experience in last year's Indian Ocean tragedy. "Garden of Adversity" expresses an Eden gone awry, down to a human visage dedicated to 9/11: Unlike other raku clay pieces, it was finished, not in glaze, but smoke.
While Wood, who once counseled rape victims as a social worker, admits that "deep anger" about the treatment of girls and women around the world inspired her totem of unique faces, not all of them are female. In "Rainforest," a man's face, shrouded by a jungle leaf and shielded by his hands, peers out as if afraid to see surrounding devastation.
Wood says art led her to personal healing and the Business of Art Center's studio artist program. She joined the Commonwheel Artists Co-op 25 years ago and recently graduated from the Clay People Community, a group of dedicated pottery, clay and stoneware artists who share kilns and retail space in Manitou.
Wood put out the call for art celebrating the connections between body and nature one year ago. Perri Tyler, a painter inspired by her life drawings and hikes in the Garden of the Gods, responded with nudes composed of loose brush strokes that manifest the body's "movement and change," ephemeral qualities paralleled in nature.
Her "Blue Woman in the Grass" and "Green Woman in the Grass" appear alive with an "emerging consciousness of growth." At home at the Cottonwood Art Academy, Tyler also collaborated with Wood on clay and acrylic casts of pregnant women's bellies, dazzling and bejeweled in wordless witness to the magic of fertility.
Mystery and sensuality also dance together in the painterly canvas photographs of contributing artist Judith Kimbrell, who takes the essence of her landscape photography business, Mother Nature Photography, to sublime heights with realistic images of Roman goddesses Diana, Ceres and Vesta.
Kimbrell, whose traditional landscape photography is exhibited permanently at Commonwheel, also is on the Pikes Peak Community College art faculty. She was the model for her black-and-white photographs of a pregnant belly dancer and the fecund goddess "Flora"; the image of her ripe contours is garlanded in chaste white flowers and applied to tile.
Kimbrell's focused photographs of a belly dancer's evocative eyes, her sinuous hands or her feet tattooed with henna designs offer an admiring viewer sly glances at her exotic charms.
So, what if women and nature were cherished and respected, rather than repressed and exploited? Using eclectic art media, Corpus Et Natura reminds us that, regardless of our culture's appreciation -- or lack of it -- for women's bodies and nature, both persevere in generously giving us life.
-- Rebekah Shardy
Corpus Et Natura
Commonwheel Artists Co-op Gallery, 102 Cañon Ave., Manitou Springs
Through July 18
Call 685-1008 for info.