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OCA exhibit explores body-landscape connection through feminine eyes

By Deann Armes - Special to the Standard-Examiner | Dec 2, 2021
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Chelsea Call's "Muley Memory 1" will be on exhibit as part of "LAND BODY" presented by Ogden Contemporary Arts from Dec. 10 through Feb. 20.
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This still taken from the video shows a scene from "Wasl" by Sama Alshaibi, part of "LAND BODY" presented by Ogden Contemporary Arts from Dec. 10 through Feb. 20.
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"Ridgeline" by Al Denyer will be on exhibit as part of "LAND BODY" presented by Ogden Contemporary Arts from Dec. 10 through Feb. 20.
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"Desert Frottage" by Jill O'Bryan will be on exhibit as part of "LAND BODY" presented by Ogden Contemporary Arts from Dec. 10 through Feb. 20.
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"Untitled" by Jaclyn Wright will be on exhibit as part of "LAND BODY" presented by Ogden Contemporary Arts from Dec. 10 through Feb. 20.
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The new winter exhibit at OCA, "LAND BODY," opens Friday, Dec. 10, 2021, from 5-8 p.m.

“LAND BODY” is a new winter exhibit at Ogden Contemporary Arts that explores the connections between the human body and its landscapes from the perspectives of 11 female-identifying artists, opening on Dec. 10 from 5-8 p.m. at OCA Center in Ogden.

It is the debut curatorial project at OCA for Kelly Carper, an independent art consultant, curator and art writer currently based in Ogden. OCA Center is a vast space to fill but Carper brought the concept and artists for “LAND BODY” together with ease over the past two months, an impressively short time for a dynamic, group art show.

The exhibited works are woven together with themes including environmental issues and climate concerns, female identity, human impact on nature and more, with a focus on desert environments by artists from Utah, New Mexico and Arizona in a variety of mediums. Carper said that working with a nonprofit like OCA has been a wonderful experience that has enabled her to bring in out-of-state artists for the project.

Carper’s idea for the “LAND BODY” concept was sparked by Utah-based artist Wendy Wischer’s multimedia installation “Battleground,” which will be displayed for the first time at this exhibit. In the large body of work, Wischer compares land ownership and management, and policy within the ownership, around women’s bodies.

“The body and the landscape have been comparatively explored throughout art history, particularly with feminine connotations and from the perspectives of male artists,” Carper stated in a media release. “‘LAND BODY’ is a contemporary exploration of this inherent relationship featuring female artists of various cultural backgrounds. The exhibition draws metaphorical and physical connections between desert landscapes and women’s bodies, while broadly reflecting on the interconnectedness between humans and the natural world.”

Carper added comment to her concept for “LAND BODY,” based partly on the idea that the body-landscape connection has been explored throughout art history, mostly from male perspective, from “life-giving Mother Earth imagery to reclining nudes in the garden during the Renaissance, and the land art movement in the 1970s” citing Utah’s Spiral Jetty as an example of male bravado and strength expressed through art. “But female artists were important to that movement too,” she said.

All of the exhibited works respond to the landscape from female perspectives and diverse cultural lineages. Some bring in the body directly, Carper said, while others use it as a metaphor or in the process of making the work. Jill O’Bryan’s “Desert Frottage,” for example, traces her body’s interactions with the desert in large scale drawings. Chelsea Call’s exhibited photographs capture her immersive experience in Bears Ears National Monument, and Brazilian-born artist Josie Bell’s paintings connect human emotion with the landscape using natural materials “to depict the earth’s beauty as well as its scars, often through abstracted figurative forms.” These artists connected directly with the natural world in the process of creating their works.

Others are cultural history narratives told through photography and film. Nikesha Breeze speaks to the African diaspora in her exhibited film piece “Stages of Tectonic Blackness” that “points to the paralleled processes of dehumanization and extraction, emergence and rebellion, as sustained by Black bodies and rock bodies.” Native American photographer Cara Romero, a Sante Fe-based artist, conveys the hyper-sexualization of Native women in the histories of photography and the environmental destruction of Native lands in her images.

Desert landscapes of the Middle East and North African region are represented in Sama Alshaibi’s video piece “Wasl (Union)” that brings to light the “connections between cultures under threat of displacement due to increasing water scarcity and rising ocean levels.” Galician filmmakers Sonia and Miriam Albert-Sobrino, known together as the Also Sisters, bring an immersive digital installation housed on OCA’s second floor galleries that uses “dreamy and disorienting” imagery of the female body moving through shifting landscapes.

Utah-based artist Jaclyn Wright also explores the exploitation of the land and the female body through her photographic work, while Al Denyer, another Utah-based artist, originally from England, displays work in a new medium for her using thread and yarn to bring attention to traditionally feminine arts and crafts and classic ideas of femininity in art and its relation to the landscape.

In addition to the multimedia installation “Battlegrounds” that inspired “LAND BODY,” Wischer also brings to the exhibit “Shattered,” a large floor sculpture on the main floor of the gallery in the form of a shattered, mirrored tree shape. “You’re literally seeing your body reflected back to you through a tree,” Carper said. “The minute you walk into the space, you see yourself in the exhibition.”

It is just one of many interactive and engaging installations that Carper hopes for visitors to immerse themselves in — and “being more integrated with nature and bringing more awareness of the interconnectedness of our bodies and the earth” will be the takeaway.

“LAND BODY” presented by Ogden Contemporary Arts is a free exhibit made possible by Weber County RAMP, the Utah Office of Tourism, the Utah Legislature and the Utah Division of Arts & Museums. It opens to the public at OCA Center, 455 25th St. in Ogden, on Dec. 10 and will run through Feb. 20, 2022.

For more information, visit ogdencontemporaryarts.org.

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