The current exhibit at the Oak Park Art League, "The Live Model," is a collection of drawings and paintings from the league's Sunday figure drawing sessions, where artists work with live models. One of the fascinating aspects of the show is that all the pieces are basically of the same subject?#34;the nude human form?#34;yet the approach taken by the different artists varies tremendously.
"Female Torso," by Maryanne Rusmak, is a fascinating piece with only the torso painted in with watercolors. Surrounding it are blue and brown, lightly-penciled outlines that suggest a robe, unrecognizable but for a widened sleeve on one arm, and a head. But at first glance, the picture gives the impression that the the torso is dressed in the canvas itself.
The artist's attention to detail is further evident in the positioning of the arms and curves of the torso. The left arm is reaching behind her head as if to take down her hair for the night. This causes a slight leaning of the torso to the left, and the left breast is stretched taut. The right arm is reaching across the torso, causing the breast to be hidden in shadow.
"Canyon Rim at Sunset (Running Woman #39)," by Paul Petersen, is done in oil stick, which gives the impression of brightly colored crayons. This impression is strengthened by the scribbled quality of the picture, very like what we see in the coloring books of young children. It's this tension between a child's chaotic, unformed aesthetic sensibility and an adult's sophisticated conceptual ability that holds the attention.
The brilliant reds, oranges and yellows capture the intensity of the sun reflecting off the woman's figure. The smearing of the oil stick, particularly at the level of the mouth and chin, suggests tremendous speed. At the bottom of the page, where her feet are cut off, is a smudge of green for the meadow. Her size is tremendous, spanning all the way to the top of the page, where her head is cut off and a smudge of blue represents the sky. This stature is emphasized by her exaggerated musculature, as if she's a mountain reaching high into the sky, one with the nature around her.
"Sunday Afternoon," by Marianne Kinzer, is done in pencil and ink. The three bodies are held in twisted poses, as if to expose another side of themselves, and the lines are subtly angled where we expect gentle curves. These factors combine to give the picture a highly cubist feeling, further accentuated by the tremendous care the artist took in arranging the figures on the page.
On the far left, the woman is standing with her head reaching to the top of the page. The kneeling woman in the center holds the middle ground and focuses attention downward. The woman on the far right is leaning back in a semi-prone position. Her head extends into the far right side of the canvas, creating a too-perfect balance of forms. It's as if what we're really looking at is a sculpture, rather than real women.
"The Live Model" exhibit is available for viewing at the Oak Park Art League, 720 Chicago Ave., from Jan. 8 through Feb. 12. Gallery hours are Wednesday through Friday from 2 to 5 p.m., and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. For more information on the current exhibits or the classes offered for adults and children, call the league at 386-9853.