At first glance, The Figure Reframed exhibit at Pikes Peak Community College's Downtown Studio Gallery seems merely to illustrate the human figure in various media and states of abstraction. But it's also a celebration of connections and juxtapositions in the works.
"I want the gallery exhibit to invite the viewers to consider a topic from a new angle," says Laura Ben-Amots, the gallery director of 2½ years. "Because we are a place of higher learning, many of our viewers are college students, and not all have necessarily had a lot of exposure to contemporary art. So as I stumble upon artists whose work I fall in love with, I start playing in my head with some of the unexpected connections between their work."
And Ben-Amots' methods are paying off: The Figure Reframed will be the first PPCC exhibit to travel to the Colorado State University-Pueblo Fine Art Gallery.
Ben-Amots became acquainted with CSU-Pueblo gallery director Caroline Peters via e-mail over the summer. When they met face-to-face recently, they firmed up plans for what could become an annual exhibit exchange between the schools.
Starting next summer, an expanded version of Figure, adding pieces from each of the five artists and enlarging Ben-Amots' own work (the "reframe yourself" video booth, which shoots people sitting in the booth while they listen to music), will travel to Pueblo. Plans include gallery talks and a closing reception before the art heads home in early September.
While touring this exhibit, the 48-year-old Ben-Amots responds emotionally to the works. Pausing before Marsha Gold Gayer's energetic portraits of erotic women and eerie drawings of genderless faces, she says, "One of my gallery assistants says that the drawings feel like they come from someplace so private that you're not supposed to be looking at them, and yet you have to look."
Robert LeDonne's sculpture includes halved bowling balls festooned with found objects, such as typewriter keys and gold shavings. "He's a believer that the forces are out there," Ben-Amots says, "offering these amazing things for him to stumble upon that come together just perfectly."
Catherine Porter-Brown most literally interprets the reframing theme, with "magic realism" paintings that place photo-realistic figures in unreal situations, such as an Ophelia-like woman floating among koi. Larry Terrafranca's stone carvings pay homage to ancient Egypt and Native American culture.
And moving on to Mary Vandezande's lively, abstract combinations of sculpture and painting, Ben-Amots muses: "From an emotional standpoint, it can signify anything. There's something vulnerable about the lines and, at the same time, a powerful and very effective development of space beyond them."
As Ben-Amots says, it's a huge show in its breadth and depth, one that's worthy of being shared.