Art and The Body

By Leah Bolling

As we all know, the human body is our unique vessel in which we experience life, no matter the size, shape, or ability. For many of us, our body allows us to grow, to change, to hurt, and to heal. The experience of life itself in the human body is what inspires many artists to produce their most brilliant work. The idea of the human body is spun into the production of art by physically using the body as a paintbrush or incorporating the use of both conventional and unconventional materials. This allows artists to express and represent the body, in both obvious and interpreted ways. Read more here in Art and The Body.

The intersection of body and art has existed since the beginning of history. The development of language communication started with cave paintings being scratched into walls where people drew figures resembling bodies. The Greek sculpture “Discobolus” (by the sculptor Myron) reflects the fascination of the Greeks with the human figure and the idea of what perfection was at the time. Da Vinci’s “Vitruvian Man,” illustrates what he believed to be a divine connection between the human form and the universe. During the renaissance era, women were painted to be curvaceous, more voluptuous, and this was the idea of true beauty, as opposed to how women are painted today. Yves Klein created his iconic blue artwork by using nude, female models as paintbrushes- The models would literally throw themselves into the canvas. Reflecting on the history of body and art allows us to analyze how perfectionism and beauty have evolved, and appreciate how the body can be used as inspiration both literally and metaphorically.

© N. Dash and Artbook

According to Tate Modern, traditionally the body was often used to explore allegory, beauty, and sexuality. Then, in the twentieth century, both how the body was perceived, and how it was used to create art was branching into new practices. Performance art came to prominence in the 1960s and can be seen as a branch of conceptual art. Conceptual artists think beyond the use of traditional media and explore ideas in whatever materials or form is appropriate. 

Most of our bodies can feel things both physically and emotionally- Physically through our body and emotionally within our mind. How beautiful is it to know that while every single person’s body is unique in all of its encounters, we all share the ability to “feel” things that are not tangible? It is these feelings that allow us to truly connect with one another.

To try and describe the word “feeling” and put into words what that truly means, is an impossible task, so how can we translate this? Modern artists have taken a metaphorical approach to communicate “feeling.” N. Dash is an American Artist who lives and works in New York. Dash’s work consists of a variety of pieces that are inspired by the human body and are composed of a variety of both natural and man-made materials including pigments, graphite, fabric, and string. Just as a spider can spin a web, N. Dash can create a cobweb of beauty through the incorporation of unconventional materials and the inspiration of the bodily meridians, architectural circulation, and environmental flux.

© N. Dash and Artbook

N. Dash’s work is a collection of abstractions drawn from bodily movements and energy meridians, ecological systems, and other subtle or intangible structures. Art inspired by the body is not necessarily an obvious representation of our body, but rather the feelings our body experiences. Dash displays these emotions by incorporating a wide variety of different practices and materials- From photographs to sculptures, and fabric to raw pigment. The new book, “N. Dash,” is the first to provide a comprehensive overview of the artist’s work to date, fully illustrated with individual works and exhibition views.

Bodies are so unique just like our own life experiences. However, unique experiences, for the very fact that they are unique, are what we have in common with one another. It is our feelings that allow us to comprehend, reflect, and grow. The never-ending spinning cycle of experience and growth is such a beautiful idea that allows us to carry on with life with a sense of hope for ourselves and the world. At the root of humanness is our feelings- feelings that can inspire creative expression and be produced into artwork. As diverse as our different bodies may be, the ability to feel is something we all have in common.

© N. Dash and Artbook

The concept of being able to “feel” intangible things is abstract, yet it is so easy to comprehend. Art inspired by the body is produced in such a variety of forms- some obvious, some metaphorical. However, what all of these pieces have in common is how it makes us feel. And, after all, feelings are universal, aren’t they? 

N. Dash. Major works from 2011 to 2021, Text by John Giorno, Suzanne Hudson, Ajay Kurian, Ross Simonini, Michael Taussig, published by Gergory R. Miller & Co., distributed by Artbook.

If you enjoyed reading Art and The Body why not read Ways to Paint Here

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