PHOTO COURTESY JOHN SAINZ/THE SAINT
By John Sainz
The Saint Reporter
Last Sunday, the Aquinas College Arts and Music Center hosted a compelling art exhibit, brought to us by celebrated Dallas-based artists Dana Younger and Felice House. The installation is a combination of Younger’s wooden sculptures and House’s oil paintings.
Women are often used in art to edify the beauty of their bodies. From chic modeling enterprises to selling cheeseburgers on a billboard, is no secret that the sexual exploitation of women in artistic realms is alarmingly prevalent in our society. House aims to redefine the traditional depiction of women as art subjects, relocating the female power center from their sexuality to her work’s thematic focal point: their heads. When asked about her portraits, House stated that she “wanted to stray away from the typical male-gaze we see so often in painting, denying access to these women’s bodies and focusing on where their true power lies.”
The recurring structure of House’s paintings are contrived of a frontal female portrait, or profile view, with intuitive nature themes that occupy the background. “It certainly plays a lot into binaries,” said House, continuing “the faces themselves are intentionally more confrontational, while the background is indicative of the emotional state within the person.” House’s paintings marry the physical person with the subliminal provocations of their intuition as a natural soul. The sheer emotional provocation of the landscape, and the truly powerful portraits are coupled in such profound, organic unity that leaves the viewer in a startling state of liberation.
Younger, on the other hand, offers up his wood sculptures of two human extremities—an arm and a leg. Simple enough, we may think, but Younger’s pieces are actually the humble sculptor’s self-portraits. Additionally, Younger’s attention to each limb’s individual personality shines through in their respective characteristics. The leg is disjointed, and when observed more closely, depicts a twisted ankle. “I’ve twisted my ankle many, many times,” joked Younger, adding, “I think the importance, though, lies in our exhibit’s namesake. We are the sum of all that has happened to us in our lives, every triumph, failure, and every twisted ankle along the way.”
While Younger’s leg strikes a more cantankerous feel, the arm is set in a posture of such grace and gentleness that one may think it resembles the hand of God himself. “I often get asked if I was going for Michelangelo and the Sistine Chapel,” said Younger. “It was not intentional,” he affirmed, “but the fact that people are making some kind of personal connection to it like that is exactly what I wanted to do,” stated Younger.
What brings the exhibit into such organic unity is simple: as House’s canvas work captures the raw truth of the individual person, Younger’s sculptures contrast both the discomfort, and the elegance of being human. Art is often used to tell a particular story, but House and Younger’s approach is much more along the thread of show, don’t tell. “Just like the mind, arms and legs are among the most narrative parts of the body,” stated Younger, going on to say, “what I love about art is the accessibility of it. People can come, enjoy it, and bring with them their own story to apply. And in each individual person, the piece finds its meaning—and that is so important.”
Initially, this show may seem like an unlikely combination of mediums—an arm here, a leg there, and a vast range of colorful portraits will permeate the walls of the AMC until Friday, February 12. Walking through the corridor, however, the pieces are in sublime unison, rendering the two contrasting mediums harmoniously coupled, in a marriage of mediums that invokes a moving rediscovery of the human experience.