Bondo Wyszpolski

ShockBoxx Bares All on Saturday night

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Untitled work by Alex Shapiro – Saturday evening at ShockBoxx Gallery!

ShockBoxx goes au naturel
Breasts, butts, blooms and blossoms in Hermosa Beach
by Bondo Wyszpolski
No matter how diverse or how many art shows are presented at ShockBoxx Gallery, people are always suggesting new ideas to co-owners Laura Schuler and Michael Collins. And, not so long ago, one of their artists from a previous exhibition suggested they do a figurative nude show.

“Vixen,” by Paige Smith

“Laura and I put it in the file,” Collins says, “and then we just kept coming back to it. Neither she nor I are that type of artist, but we’ve gotten to the point with the gallery where there are shows we’re not participating in, we’re just curating.
“And so we started thinking about it,” he continues, “and one of the first things that came up was, ‘Is Hermosa going to accept this?’ For some reason, that really feels taboo.” However, and maybe because spring is just around the corner, “we decided to go for it, and we decided to call it ‘Naked as a Daisy’ because the show is actually nudes and florals and we want to play on nature.”

Hide pride
After the call went out for submissions, about 75 artists responded, many of them with multiple entries. “So we’ve been able to pick and choose,” Collins says. “Male, female, flowers, bodies: We’ve got it all this time.”
As for the quality or rather the artistry of what was submitted, “There wasn’t anything that was seemingly pornographic.” He does, however, mention one piece, with a unicorn and a Barbie doll (quick, use your imagination), but “it’s funny. There’s some humorous nudity and there’s also some traditional, like the nude-woman-on-the-red-chaise-lounge kind of oil painting.” And some cool photography too, Collins adds.

Nude figure painting by Natalie Strong

Which puts this writer in mind of Robert Mapplethorpe, who did pictorial wonders with flowers and with nude bodies, pushing his work to the point of controversy.
Having seen only a small sample of what will be on display, I can’t speculate on what kind of impact these works, by about 30 artists, will make on the public. Will people be outraged and go on a rampage like a herd of wild elephants? Or will they simply nod and say, “Oh, that’s nice, and that’s a cute one too, don’t you think?”
We’ll just have to stay tuned to the 11 o’clock Saturday night news.

Beauty and the beast
What I do know is that the show is about nudity (“Naked as a Daisy”) and that doesn’t necessarily mean “beauty” or “sexuality.” And that’s where the danger lies, so to speak, because when we think of nudity don’t we generally think of someone young and attractive, and thus well-proportioned and symbolic of some sort of classical ideal?
And when that happens, we run the risk of judging the art on merits other than the purely artistic. A character named Nakanokimi in “The Tale of Genji” makes an apropos statement: “The way good looks have of blotting out everyone else can be rather annoying.” Which in turn reminds me of this sentence by Jeffrey C. Robinson, “In the presence of a beautiful woman we face the greatest challenge, to know beauty without experiencing, knowing desire; by subduing desire.”
In other words, don’t become distracted just because you like how the subject appears. An ugly person doesn’t mean it’s an ugly picture.

Michael Collins. Photo by Bondo Wyszpolski

As we well know, flowers wilt and droop after a few days, and human beings follow the same trajectory. Then we, too, get pulled out of the vase and replaced by fresh flowers, literally or figuratively.

“Her,” by Preston Smith

But those wilting flowers, and wilting bodies, should of course be depicted as well, right?
“From the beginning, (Rembrandt) was powerfully drawn to ruin; the poetry of imperfection,” Simon Schama wrote in “Rembrandt’s Eyes.” “He enjoyed tracing the marks left by the bite of worldly experience: the pits and pocks, the red-rimmed eyes and scabby skin which gives the human countenance a mottled richness.”
Sure, it’s not as palatable as an unclad celebrity, but perhaps depicting someone older and/or less attractive with their warts and blemishes is a more courageous choice for an artist when considering painting or photographing a nude. It’s clearly a road less taken, and it certainly goes against the grain in any youth-oriented culture. More challenging, too. And so, I’m just wondering aloud if “Naked as a Daisy” will show us a wider spectrum of nudity or fall back too heavily on images of young, healthy, and flawless bodies.
Lest we exit on a dour note, we’ll turn to Jorge Amado’s character Adib Barud for some blunt advice on the nature of attractiveness:
“No woman’s ugly if she’s got a little dough.”
Hermosa’s growing art scene is truly coming up daisies, and that’s a very good thing.
Naked as a Daisy opens with a reception from 7 to 9 p.m. on Saturday at ShockBoxx Gallery, 636 Cypress Ave., Hermosa Beach. (310) 989-4324 or go to ER


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