Complex Issues of the Female Form Explored in Alumni Spotlight Art Exhibition

By Purnell T. Cropper | August 31, 2014

[box border=”full”]Artist Lecture: Jannalyn Bailey will give a lecture on Thursday, Sept. 11, at 4:30 p.m. in the Commons Great Room. A reception will follow.[/box]

In an exhibit at the Arcadia University Commons Art Gallery, Jannalyn Bailey explores complex issues related to the perception of the female body, focusing on self-image, social expectations, and media representations that distort the familiar and natural form into a source of discomfort, controversy, and confusion. The alumni spotlight exhibition, which features thirteen paintings and four drawings and combines representational and abstract images, runs through Sept. 14.

The works in the exhibit demonstrate a synthesis of figuration and anatomical study, two vastly different influences. The paintings share an overall strategy of image making through amalgamation. They are dense, coalescing compositions rendered in an intense palette, made up of familiar forms piled upon, and overlapped by, seemingly abstract shapes whose contours and textures are rendered to resemble shapes of both the human body and the landscape.

Shapes that, at first, seem recognizable to the viewer as knees, chins, or elbows also may be perceived as rock outcroppings, internal organs, or microbes. Clusters of marks suggestive of body hair may double as blades of grass. At certain times, Bailey’s shapes even read as multiple body parts simultaneously.

“If I’m painting an object or figure—real or imagined—I do not use any visual reference material,” said Bailey. “The painting becomes the reference for me—I respond to nothing except what I have already laid down.”

The deliberately ambiguous forms and depictions of dimensional space continually trade off their responsibilities in the figure/ground relationship, obscuring where the body begins and the environment ends. Additionally, this shifting destabilizes the scale within the paintings, confounding the viewer’s ability to maintain a consistent point of view. As Bailey states, “I meditate on the inclusion and exclusion of information. What is really needed? What can I leave out? Why does the viewer need that information?”

This decision-making process, which allows Bailey to create ambiguity in her paintings, also provides her with the license to be more direct and candid in her works on paper. “The drawings of panties and pubic hair are very important to me,” she said. “They contain the content I most want to share with my audience.”

The balance that Bailey achieves between abstraction and representation allows her to express symbolically her concerns over the subjective nature of personal body image. Through this attempt to clarify her own self-image, Bailey provides us with an opportunity to consider the complexity of our own relationship with these cultural depictions.

Bailey earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts with a concentration in painting at Arcadia University in 2009. She worked extensively with Betsey Batchelor, associate professor of art and design, whom she credits for her love of inferring the presence of objects without fully defining them. In 2012, Bailey received a Master of Fine Arts in painting and drawing from the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, an institution known for its tradition of figuration and anatomical study.

This exhibition was coordinated by Matthew Borgen, Art Research Collaboration exhibition program coordinator at Arcadia.

Gallery Hours

  • Monday – Friday, 7 a.m. to 1 a.m.
  • Saturday and Sunday, 10 a.m. to 1 a.m.