“Base-level, my work displays the human body in a way that isn’t ideal,” said Detroit-based artist Lauren Kalman.
As a contemporary American artist, Kalman uses video, photography, and performance to comment on beauty, body image, and consumer culture. Her recent photography pieces feature her own body up close, its imperfections exaggerated with gold foil.
In one photograph, a drooling tongue is covered in shimmering gold, in another a tumor like growth completely covered in gold exudes from the model’s nose. They’re beautiful, but also grotesque, as upon closer examination you see the gold exposes cracked lips, growing mouth sores, and grimacing expressions.
“I work quite often with the face. It’s a sort of charged area of the body, a place where the interior and exterior meet, where voice and protest comes from. It’s also a sexually charged area of the body,” she explained.
Her pieces will be featured in Frost Art Museum FIU’s Pierce, Mark, Morph exhibit, which explores the use of body modification as an art form across contemporary and Pre-Columbian cultures. It opens October 22.
Your pieces are tied together with a strong use of gold. Why gold?
Gold has historical significance. It’s … been associated with the sun and purity, because it doesn’t tarnish. It’s been affiliated with power, wealth, beauty, monetary systems, so I think it’s interesting to combine and convert this kind of material with the human body — something that morphs, bleeds, and ultimately degrades over time.
Your art experiments with modification to reflect ideas related to sex and gender. Can you speak a little to how and why these pieces do that?
Base-level, my work displays the human body in a way that isn’t ideal — Doing so is an act of protest in itself against contemporary expectations of the human body. It also presents the female body in a forceful way. There’s a lot of room for conversation on female empowerment.
How do you think these pieces will translate in Miami, a city famous for morphing the human body through surgery, fitness and tattoos?
Not just in Miami, but in so many places there’s this pressure on the body to be perfect. Gold in itself represents an ideal, so I think my pieces work to critique and comment to challenge those ideals and connects on a contemporary level.
Pierce, Mark, Morph explores the piercings, markings and cranial modification in Pre-Columbian sculpture drawn from the Jay I. Kislak Foundation Collection juxtaposed with work by contemporary artists who are utilizing the body as canvas. Exhibiting artists include Lauren Kalman, Carlos Martiel, Hiromi Moneyhun, Tatiana Parcero, Cecilia Paredes.
Pierce, Mark, Morph will be on display through February 12.