Manifest Gallery’s “3rd Annual NUDE” international competition showing through September 9, offers more than the vast undulating landscape of skin to be considered. The subjects have been folded, stretched, posed and exposed in every manner from hypnotic fragility, as in Bain Butcher’s “Untitled” graphite rendering of a young woman, to the Diebenkorn-ish palette knife interiors of Edmond Praybe, two of whose large paintings flash with prism-like slashes of buttery oil paint. Artists have depicted them as sirens, as Greek gods strayed from their heavenly temples, as ordinary people, warts and wrinkles included, or with a delicacy only nudity can convey, unadorned by decorations that fool the eye, every flaw uncovered ; all more intriguing for that.


Figures in the “altogether” underscore vulnerability, while highlighting the artists’ strong points: a prop, if you will, for individual creativity. Through history nudes have maintained their popularity, even when thinly disguised as mythological or religious figures, the only accepted form of nudity for centuries. More than just replicating the human form, the artist must become involved in the subject, pierce the facade and render the pulsing life within. Those rosy Venuses of historic fame hold their place in ageless appreciation because they are firmly modeled to include the form inside and out. The viewer must be aware of the warmth of blood, the interaction of muscles, and the possibility of movement, even in its static state.


The first room of the gallery features a tour de force of action in “House of Cards” by Patrick Earl Hammie. It’s size, 68” x 68”, contributes much to the impact of two nudes, one male, one female, engaged in a battle, (she’s winning), their conflict spilling forward, dominating the room. Opposite that is a large. reclining male figure by Marlene Steele, Cincinnati artist, whose repose acts as a sharp contrast to the energy of Hammie’s painting.


Much of the show is quite realistic, but two pieces, in particular, are super-realistic, as of a higher quality than reality. Garry Mealor has produced a truly amazing watercolor painting about 3 1/2’ by 2 1/2’ of two nude torsos side by side behind a table holding a fish which has been cut open to release visceral ropes of blood red roe moving to the foreground. A hand clutches a knife held over the fish, threatening both the viewer and the fish. Something uneasy hovers about the image, even as it fascinates with the lush color and superior technique, chilling with imagined “Twilight Zone” possibilities.


The other in the “super” category is large oil painting of a young girl, approaching puberty, and a grown woman, wading in a utopian shady stream. “C-Section” by Susannah Martin of Frankfurt, Germany offers a scenario for a multitude of stories, as well as perfect rendering, and more brilliant color than the truest color could ever be. Realism must be flawless in order to succeed, which is where most realism fails; even the smallest error can disappoint. There is nothing in “C-Section” which can disturb its qualification as superb.


This writer is particularly partial to black and white, pencil and charcoal, and their immediacy. That old faithful “gesture” gets me every time. As may be expected, the “3rd Annual NUDE” puts some of that good stuff up, each displaying more than anticipated from such simple tools. In addition to the aforementioned Bain Butcher’s delicate drawing, more energetic line and modeling are seen in “Two Figures”, charcoal and pastel, by Thomasin Dewhurst, and “Jennifer” by Christopher Day using charcoal and acrylic medium. to stabilize the charcoal, both eliciting that magic little frisson of confident command.


Nudes, of course, encompass many media, some specializing in another realm of sensitivity. Palladium prints, similar to platinum prints, feature sharp contrast and an ability to capture the nude while relating to its surroundings compatibly. Perceptible tenderness and intimacy of the nude in art is expressed with depth and empathy in “Clay#3”, which speaks to the most basic interpretation of the nude, and “Memories of Water” a curled nude in landscape by Scott Nichol. These figures against natural backgrounds, including the high resolution digital print by David Winge , “Zenith”, seem to heighten humanity’s temporal position in the universe.


Just two sculptures were accepted, “Drone Series #1”by Jesse Berlin, and a wood-turned bustier, Jesse Hernden’s “Busty”, both of which stand out for their concept and execution. The headless female bronze torso, “Drone Series #1”, jutting forward in an exaggerated pose, supported by hooves in place of feet, is stunning. Facing the front entrance of Manifest’s Gallery, and placed to guarantee the shock value of its uniqueness on the unwary visitor, it’s a great introduction to the variety of the exhibit. “Busty”, though, curvaceous and humorous, addresses the ladies through fine workmanship. Completely unwearable, the very idea of it’s practical application opens grand vistas of female vanity.

Like a dollop of cream to top off “NUDE”, “Go Ahead, Touch Me” adds a bit of wonder in dimensional works in a little side room gallery: fun, different and accessible.



Manifest’s nude exhibits, this year prompting 406 entries from 33 states and 14 countries, are designed as a companion event to Manifest’s Drawing Center Studio, providing opportunities and instruction in life study. The nineteen pieces juried by a three member panel encompass a vision of the subject as wide as it’s application among artists. A full color catalogue will be available. Information:


– Fran Watson

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