Today’s Guest Blogger is Salina Almanzar ’13 whose exhibition, Artistic Anatomy: A Study of the Figure is on exhibit in the Curriculum Gallery in the Phillips Museum of Art, Steinman College Center through April 27, 2012.
I started this study thinking that understanding every little muscle, bone, protuberance and bulge of fat would make the moment my hands molded the clay or my brush bent against the canvas that much more deliberate. It didn’t. What this study has taught me is that anatomy for the artist is not quite the same as anatomy for the general public. The dissection I take part in may inform me intellectually there’s a jarring moment where I leave behind the artist and enter the realm of the anatomist. My personal struggle became identifying where I stood in relation to both as a student.
I became captivated by the figure in Figure Drawing and my logical next step was to break the figure apart to its minutest parts to attempt to understand it. I quickly learned that breaking something down often makes it harder to put back together. Studying too often overshadows observation. Thus this year has helped me find the happy medium between both; A dance between my studying anatomical landmarks and muscle groups and preserving the purity of gestural form.
Discovering early on that artistic anatomy analyzes the figure as an interactive body informed the way I worked. Much of my appendage studies bear the brunt of that journey. I struggled for weeks trying to figure out just how far forward the patella sat in front of the tibia. I distinctly recall the moment I realized that maybe that didn’t really matter. Maybe my job as an artist is to analyze how that specific bone interacted and reacted with everything else around it. Maybe knowing the precise shape and measurement was in fact not the be all and end all of sculpting the figure. This moment, I believe, is where I made my most productive work. The latter half of my study consisted of mostly day paintings and large scale sculptures that hinged more on gesture than static anatomy.
A year later, I can identify a slew of bony landmarks and I can measure the angle of the pelvis in relation to the rib cage yet hands still fumble. This paradoxically superficial knowledge means nothing unless I apply it in such a way that it informs my art without detracting. This, then, is balance is what defines art. It seemed counter-intuitive to me at first, but my ‘job’ is not to tell you about the figure, but to show you.