‘Body Norms’ exhibit brings new perspectives to body image

Elissa Smith, Reporter

“Body Norms: Selections from the Spong Collection” is the latest exhibit at the Burchfield Penny Art Center. The exhibit is on the second floor and free to get into with a SUNY Buffalo State ID. It consists of 18 sculptures that show idealistic and not-so-idealistic body images, and how “ideal” has shifted throughout history.

“The more global and interconnected we become, the more we realize that there is no norm, and that there never was,” reads a statement on the wall by Scott Propeack, associate director and chief curator of the Burchfield Penney.

The pieces of art come from Dean Spong, who has collected them all his life. Burchfield Penney Archivist Heather Gring picked out a few to put on display at Burchfield.

“They’re not perfect, the ideal person doesn’t exist,” Gring said.

Out of the 18 pieces of work, none are alike. Each has its own artist, own shape and own story.

“It was interesting, but I’d like to see more. More abstract, just an arm, or a leg,” Janetta Napp, an art teacher from Hawaii who visited the exhibit on Thursday, said.

“It’s not about Greek perfection, it’s about reality and accepting your own shape,” a Burchfield docent said. “We are conditioned by society as to what ‘normal’ is.”

The exhibit exists to break down all walls of normal and let people see another side of art. Most of the sculptures are nude.

“There is a difference between nude, and naked,” Gring explained. “Nude is idealized while naked is vulgar.”

Gring went on to explain the role gender plays in this specific exhibit, “I tell people to not pay attention to what is physically there, the sculptures exist outside gender.”

This was Gring’s first time curating an exhibit.

“It was exciting to work with a regional collector. When you work with good work, it will speak for itself,” Gring said.

“I love it, the variation is so interesting and it ties into ‘Fluidity in Form’ [The exhibit next to Body Norms, also a Spong collection],” another student visitor said. “It’s different because no one is perfect, and finally, art reflects that. It is definitely a breath of fresh air, and fun to look at, because these people are real. If these bodies can be put into art and idealized, then I think we as a society were on the right track to accepting everyone.”

“It was a collective effort of many people at Burchfield and couldn’t have gotten done without the help of many people including those that took part in preparation, our buildings and grounds person, and many others,” Gring said.

“Body Norms” is open now until February.

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