Five Local Artists Who Celebrate the Human Form
You may have seen these artists at local pop-ups, exhibits or festivals like the Print Bazaar on Cherokee Street. In these bustling commercial settings, their works stand out for its empowering representations of femininity—but it’s not always easy to have conversations during events. Read on to learn more about their unique personal perspectives and approaches to making art that celebrates the human form.
Sonya Williams illustrates women of various shapes in varying seasons and settings with a refreshingly simplistic style. Her series of women portraying their respective zodiac signs is made to evoke the color and personality of each horoscope, setting each woman apart. Williams’ work celebrates the inherent power and autonomy of women and is inspired by living in a society that works to smother that feminine energy. Williams believes that the body-positivity movement must stem from personal freedom, in a way that places less value on physical appearance and more value on empowerment. Her work is available for sale at Future Ancestor and online here.
Jessica Bremehr illustrates the female form in order to reclaim her own body and personal sense of femininity. Our culture’s obsession with the female form and the stereotypes that come with it foster themes of control and power and can create low microaggressions, self-esteem, and sexual abuse among women. “My work is a way to sift through my own experiences while interweaving themes of identity, female sexuality and emotional turmoil,” she says. The bodies she paints are an extension of herself, often twisted around or tied up by ropes. Many are painted headless, “to convey how systemic female oppression and personal trauma have the powerful ability to remove one’s sense of self.” Bremehr’s paintings are bright, bold and eye-catching, created with high-pigmented paint. “I always detested the color pink; a quiet rebellion against a color assigned to my gender. But now I use the color pink for the female form as a reclamation. A way to see the female form through a new lens.”
Uniquely symbolic of the human form, Emily Elhoffer’s work takes form in many mediums, with abstract sculpture being her chosen craft. She uses materials that evoke and behave like the body, often wrapping her sculptures in elastic media like nylon, latex and vinyl to give the illusion of skin. Media like plaster and polyester stuffing are used to evoke weight and mass and are often compared to organ-like or fatty forms. Elhoffer is inspired by the complex relationship between the mind and the physical body, and her hope is to allow viewers the chance to experience that complexity through her art. Elhoffer’s first solo show, “In the Flesh,” opens at Erica Popp Gallery on Feb. 9 at 7 p.m.
Lola Ogbara creates colorful women of color through her sculptures and paintings as a form of representation. “The inescapably bright colors are meant to highlight that the bodies depicted are women of color,” she says. Her work represents real women with curves, varying skin tones and hair that defies gravity, who love (or want to love) the bodies they are in. These women defy the European standard of beauty, creating a new form of intersectional beauty. Her illustrations are bright, loud and vibrant with self-ownership and confidence.
Donny Bradfield, better known as Shabez Jamal, makes photos that focus on figures that aren’t typically considered “ideal.” By composing images of Black queer figures that lie outside the slim margins defining beauty, he creates a new standard; one in which everyone is empowered. “My work uses Queerness, not as a means of speaking solely about sexuality, but as a catalyst to challenging varying power relations that can’t be separated out in relation to gender, sexuality, race, ethnicity or class,” he says. Jamal works to create a new narrative for those who are Black and queer.
Featured image courtesy of Lola Ogbara.