CCBC Dundalk art gallery invites viewers to “Figure It Out”
Wednesday, 04 June 2014 15:08


In “Park Bench,” Heather Boaz portrays the human form as a landscape rather than a focal point.

Exploration of human form open till June 20

by Nicole Rodman

    The human form has been depicted in art for thousands of years.
    In “Figure It Out,” the latest exhibition at the CCBC Dundalk art gallery, meaning is derived by turning that well-known form on its head.
    When CCBC art student Katherine Miller, curator of “Figure It Out,” sat down to plan the exhibit, she began by looking at works by some of the area’s most prominent artists.
    As Miller explained last week, as she pored over the pictures, one theme stood out in her mind — “the human form disguised as something else.”
    Miller chose three professional artists — Ashley Milburn, Lauren Frances Adams and Heather Boaz — whose work incorporates elements of the human form to make points about society and humanity.
    Ashley Milburn describes himself as a “community artist and social change artist.”
    Working primarily with cardboard, Milburn creates works that delve into issues of racial relations in America.
    In his piece “Hoodie with Dying Rose,” Milburn used cardboard, metal acrylic paint and glue to create a hoodie (hooded sweatshirt).
    Though the hoodie is without wearer, it is posed with its arms behind its back, as if being arrested.
    As Milburn explained, his piece examines the “hoodie as a conversation of how we look at certain things.”
    The hoodie has become a point of contention in recent years as many African-Americans (especially young men) feel that they have been singled out as suspicious or dangerous simply for wearing the garment.
    In the wake of the 2012 shooting of Florida teenager Trayvon Martin — shot to death while wearing a hoodie — the controversy over hoodies and their role in racial profiling gained new prominence.
    According to Milburn, he had begun exploring the hoodie as a “visualization of racism” years before the Trayvon Martin shooting.
    “It’s only when you put people of color in certain things it becomes negative,” Milburn said.
    By presenting his “Hoodie with Dying Rose” sans wearer, Milburn aims to remove the negative racial connotations of the hoodie by showing that it is simply a garment.
    Milburn does not just work with hoodies. In most of his pieces, the artist seeks to deconstruct racial and racist images in order to “take the venom out of it.”
    “What I try to do is understand the nature of racism — what it is, what it looks like,” he explained. “It’s all image-based.”
    For her part, artist Lauren Frances Adams seeks to explore issue of class and status.
    In her series “The Lost Colony Project,” on display at CCBC Dundalk, Adams used images from the Elizabethan era (late 1550s to early 1600s) to explore the politics of the age.
    In her piece “Cloud,” Adams took images of jewelry worn in portraits of Queen Elizabeth I and juxtaposed them with paintings  of Native Americans of the same era.
    In this way, Adams explored the political implications of England’s forays into the “New World” and the settlers’ treatment of the Native Americans already living there.
    As Adams explained, her work deals with “the decorative intersecting with the political.”
    “You can understand a lot about politics through deconstructing the ornament for polticial understanding,” she said.
    As she noted, everything — from the clothes we wear to the way we decorate our house — reflects class and status.
    A well-known local artist, Adams is currently a finalist for the Janet & Walter Sondheim Prize.
    Baltimore’s most prestigious art award, the Sondheim prize is a $25,000 fellowship awarded to one Baltimore-area artist during Artscape each year.
    In addition to being featured at CCBC Dundalk, Adams’ work will be displayed at the Walters Art Gallery in Baltimore and at the Maryland Institute College of Art during Artscape this July.
    For artist Heather Boaz, the human body is not a focal point but a landscape.
    Boaz alters perceptions of the human body by photographing toy figurines and furniture posed on various body parts — from knees and mouths to ... parts less often displayed.
    In “Debate,” Boaz photographed two empty chairs, each balanced on a bare knee, while in “Ladder” a small wooden ladder leads into a person’s open mouth.
    Though there may be an implied meaning in the photographs,  Boaz leaves it up to viewers to construct their own narratives.
    Featuring three artists with three radically different takes on the human form, “Figure It Out” is on display through Friday, June 20.
n“Figure It Out,” featuring work by Ashley Milburn, Lauren Frances Adams and Heather Boaz,   runs through June 20 in the  College Community Center (formerly Building K) at CCBC Dundalk, 7200 Sollers Point Road. For more information, call 443-840-4326.