Trying on Humanity with Sarah Sitkin’s Bodysuits
through March 25
Superchief Gallery LA, Los Angeles
By Evan Senn
Walking into the strange reality created by meticulous artist Sarah Sitkin at Superchief LA, viewers are startled, hypnotized and a bit frightened. Her “bodysuits” are sculptural masterpieces of hyper-realistic relics of humanity, in wearable suit-form. The experiential quest for comfortability in our own skin is a not often talked about, uniquely human, pursuit and, through the sensitive and committed hands of Sitkin, we have more than one avenue to get there.
Empathy is a rare trait in this day and age and something that is worked on and perfected with no thanks to the media or our contemporary social climate. Sitkin’s bodysuits are a beautiful and evocative memorial to the honest human experience. We each have different shapes, thicknesses, textures and attributes that make us specifically us. Sitkin states that she does not believe the body defines who we are as people — as individuals — and, for some, it may never feel that our bodies are our own. Sitkin postulates that bodies are more akin to vessels than physical manifestations of our souls.
We each have our own weight, biases, contours and extremities that are physically a part of us, that may hold us down to this earthly plane and back from being our full selves, but as Sitkin visually expresses without hesitation, they are just something we wear. Our bodies are not our selves and even though they can be the only physical things we will ever truly know, they are fragile, they break, they stretch and change. Sitkin’s thoughtful and meticulous attention to detail in her work makes these unique and personalized bodies seem truly human — each unique to the person it was made in likeness to — which can evoke nostalgia, empathy, adoration, sadness and a greater sense of what it means to be a human being.
Sitkin offered the opportunity to visitors throughout the run of the exhibition to carefully try on the bodysuits and spend time in an infinity mirror room, examining the experience of wearing someone else’s skin. The inside of these wearable predominantly silicone, hair and fabric bodysuits are soft, unique and created with care. Each one is crafted slightly different on the inside and seemingly special to its specific body. You truly get the sense of being in someone else’s skin. There are thought-provoking statements stitched on the inside of some, like “if they ever knew,” while others have custom details embroidered or sewn in to the fabric of the inner suit, each with a delicate ribbon to tie them together in the back.
They are extraordinary, over-the-top, hyper-realistic, thoughtful and fascinating creations that feel otherworldly and yet so honest it pulls on my heart. This exhibition is swift and powerful, and will be closing March 25, but its profundity will last so much longer. Touching on the truth of our own unique experiences and the marks they leave—tattoos, folds, flaws, dimples, moles, fat and scars—to help us relate more openly with one another is a powerful talent that few artworks possess. This is a project that demands open eyes and an open heart and will better the people who see it, indefinitely.