My family and friends are getting pretty good about tipping me off when there are sexuality related events going on. So I was really pleased to hear about the “Shape of Us: Selections from the Kinsey Institute Art Collection” exhibit that opened in the Center for Performing and Fine Arts at Indiana State University on Thursday. The exhibit opened on Thursday and the reception that evening included a lecture by Catherine Johnson-Roeher, the curator of art, artifacts and photographs at the Kinsey Institute. It will be running through October 16th and if you have a chance to see it, I would highly recommend going.
The art exhibit is simply beautiful. It celebrates the beauty in all sorts of shapes of the human body. As I wandered through the gallery I found that each artist had captured something wonderful in their works. I also found that the exhibit challenges stereotypes about what types of body shapes are beautiful. Models in many of the photographs are not traditionally beautiful, but the photos clearly highlight the beauty of each figure.
My favorite piece was the installation in the bathrooms in the Center for Performing and Fine Arts, “Who Are You?” by Doug Kornfeld. His work is based on the symbols for men and women that are commonly found at the entrances to bathrooms. The piece in the men’s bathroom has the figures behind the urinals instead of on the mirror, but it is otherwise fairly similar to the installation in the women’s bathroom. Someone speculated that it would be interesting to study which figure people choose to stand in front of and determine if that said anything about their body image.
The description of the artwork includes the question “Do we define icons or do icons define us?”. I think this is a very interesting question. When an icon is first developed I would certainly say that people are defining it, but as it permeates popular culture, it gains more power. A picture is supposedly worth a thousand words, and it is certainly true that particular icons carry certain meanings above and beyond what they actually depict. It is certainly possible and even common to use icons to define other things but I do think it is important to question these meanings especially if one is using icons to define complicated things like people.