Beautiful Parts at CSUN Art Gallery

Beautiful Parts. CSUN Art Gallery. Photo Credit Kristine Schomaker

Beautiful Parts

CSUN Art Gallery

on view through October 26th

by Eve Wood


Attempting to scrutinize and understand what makes someone, or something, beautiful is and has always been a dangerous game that only ever leads to feelings of disappointment and self doubt. That being said, Rough Play, the collective who conceived and organized the exhibition along with juror Kim Abeles, both understand the inherent dilemma of attempting to speak to notions of beauty in today’s contemporary art climate. Yet this show succeeds in large part because beauty has been stripped bare of its original antecedents and parceled out into separate and distinct units.

Needless to say much of the work in the exhibition conflates beauty with desire, and the results are often startling and humorous as in Zeina Baltagi’s “Becoming,” an exquisitely crafted watercolor of the artist’s underwear. This piece in particular is oddly disquieting and understated. Similarly, yet more abstract, Catherine Bennaton’s “Venus” 2014 is seductive, yet simultaneously grotesque in that the viewer is not entirely sure what he/she is looking at. The shape is reminiscent of a phallus yet it also appears strangely architectural like a more corporeal leaning tower of Pisa. Again, as with other works, Bennaton’s piece broadens the definition of what constitutes beauty and how we arrive at those definitions.

Other works in the show make specific reference to art history such as Kellan King’s “Torso (After Brancusi)” 2017 made from mirrored acrylic, a eucalyptus branch and gold leaf. King associates nature with the human body, wherein the branch of a tree becomes a stand in for the human torso, yet King takes it one step further when he surrounds the trunk with green mirrored acrylic, which simulates the natural world as though the entirety of our human experience has been modulated and plasticized.

Kellan Barnebey King. Beautiful Parts. CSUN Art Gallery. Photo Credit Kristine Schomaker

Much of the work in the exhibition is process oriented and Kristine Schomaker’s “An Uncomfortable Skin” 2017 certainly epitomizes this. Wrestling with ideas of body image construction, Schomaker gives us a glimpse into her own personal journey with an eating disorder as she builds what appears to be the shelves in a candy store, replacing the candy with fragments from her own life including hair, various wigs, and spoons from Yogurtland and Baskin Robbins. The result is a striking evocation of personal strength and courage.

John Zarcone’s “Information Theory” 2015 also appear to be in process as a raw swath of canvas hangs loose from the wall with the words “El Significado es irrelevante” which translates into “the meaning is irrelevant.” Above the words are the painted images of a young hispanic man and woman, who stare out at the viewer unabashedly as if to say “true beauty is unquantifiable and always personally determined.” Perhaps Zarcone is also suggesting that language as with imagery creates an unreliable narrative, one that we all buy into without question.

John Zarcone. Beautiful Parts. CSUN Art Gallery. Photo Courtesy of the Artist

Even the more subtle works in the exhibition hint at a deeper meaning of unreliability as with Alexandra Papoban’s “Rolls” which abstracts the intersection of the human torso, creating an image that is at once strangely familiar yet oddly enigmatic and alien.

CSUN Art Galleries
West gallery
CSUN Art Galleries
18111 Nordhoff Street
Northridge, CA, 91330-8299
Exhibition info line:

Show runs through Oct. 26th

Gallery hours:
Mon – Sat Noon – 4pm,
Thurs Noon – 8pm
Closed Sundays and Holidays during exhibitions.


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