Thursday, July 28, 2011


Reprinted from the Volcano blog Spew

A friend posted a link on Facebook to an article in Juxtapoz about sculpture by Greek artist Vally Nomidou. When I looked at Nomidou's work the first thing I thought was that her life-size paper figures are like the life-size and larger cardboard figures by Seattle sculpture Scott Fife, who did the giant puppy dog at Tacoma Art Museum.

The opening paragraph in the Juxtapoz article reads, "Using just paper and cardboard, Greek artist Vally Nomidou creates these life-sized sculptures of people. The results are somewhat creepy three-dimensional figures that look almost too lifelike to be sitting in a gallery."

That's a very inaccurate description. Nomidou's figures do not look lifelike at all. But they do look creepy and yet strangely beautiful. If you want to see figures that are "too lifelike to be sitting in a gallery" take a look at works by John DeAndrea or Duwayne Hanson. I once almost bumped into a Hanson sculpture of a workman in the Museum of Modern Art and said "Excuse me" before I realized it wasn't a real person.

Being lifelike does not necessarily make art good, and it's no secret that I get very huffy about people who go all ga-ga over art based on nothing more than the fact it may be made from some unusual material. A piece of sculpture should be judged on how good it is as art not on whether it was made from clay or marshmallows or aardvark intestines.

Nomidou's figures are both creepy and beautiful, lifelike and surrealistic. She has a figure of a standing woman in a bikini wearing some kind of open weave beach jacket over her swimsuit. She is attractive and fashionable, but there is something machine-like protruding from her leg and her neck appears to have been cut and sewn back together a la Frankenstein's monster. There's another one of a little girl sitting on what looks like a weird hospital examination table. She is also broken and stitched back together, and there are strange strands of thread (or something threadlike) all over her body. As Juxtapoz said, these figures are creepy. But there are also newsprint type and dots and floral patterns that can be seen through layers of glass-like transparencies that are quite beautiful.

Seattleite Scott Fife makes portraits of celebrities and historical figures and animals that can also be quite creepy - especially since many of them are just heads detached from bodies and sometimes lying face down. Heads will roll, and in Fife's sculptures they come to rest in sometimes strange ways. As portraiture they are easily recognizable. There's no mistaking Elvis or Winston Churchill or Picasso with horns.

Like the online articles I found on Nomidou, the articles about Fife stress how lifelike his sculptures are and how unusual that they're made from cardboard. What makes them interesting to me is not that they're realistic - they're not - but that they're surrealistic. They're death images regardless of whether the subjects are dead or alive. And the surfaces are intriguing in that they look like clay that hasn't been fired, made of slabs of clay held together by brads. Again, as with Nomidou's figures, there's a Frankenstein's monster quality to these works.

If you haven't seen the big puppy at Tacoma Art Museum, you're missing something pretty amazing, although I think his portraits are more interesting (the best thing about the puppy is its size). If you get a chance to see his work in person, please do. You'll be glad you did.

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