Story last updated at 2:40 p.m. Thursday, December 12, 2002

'Body Adorned' showcases gallery members
by Carey James
Staff Writer

photo: entertainment

  Photo by Carey James, Homer News
'Body Adorned' artist and breast cancer survivor Sharlene Packer describes her "Bloom of Motherhood" creation as a playful solution to her quest for a mastectomy nursing bra.  
When curator Gaye Wolfe started opening the boxes filled with some 31 artists' work last Thursday, she said it was like an early Christmas.

By the end of the day, the walls of the Bunnell Street Gallery were filled with a multitude of reactions to the prompt, "Body Adorned."

Works, submitted by both local, state and Lower 48 artists, range from belly-dancing outfits and sculptures of the female form to deeply personal artworks that delve into individual trials of artists with their bodies.

"When the real scope of the show surfaced, it really intrigued me," Wolfe said.

The show, which hangs at the gallery through the month, was open to all members of the Bunnell Street Gallery. Wolfe said with membership becoming increasingly important to the gallery, the show was an opportunity to give something back to the members.

"The thought was, let's just open this up to all the members," she said. "The only constraints were the size of the space" and safety precautions.

The gallery's "no holds barred" prompt also was sent across Alaska and was advertised in a national publication. For $20, nonmembers could join in the starving artist category and submit their work.

Local artist Sharlene Packer draws viewers into her personal struggles with her work, "Bloom of Motherhood," which she describes as a playful solution to her quest for a mastectomy-nursing bra.

The work features a carefully created bra, with one side covered by a peony flower, and the other featuring a detachable flap. In her statement, Packer, who fought, and won, a battle with breast cancer before becoming pregnant, said the flower is a symbol of success and wealth, "my success of conquering breast cancer and the wealth we achieved in being pregnant with twins."

Among the works was also a feather garter belt lined with thorns by Chicago artist Anne Elizabeth titled "Tortured Souls."

In her artist's statement, Elizabeth described her inspiration for the dark iridescent garter.

"I delve into paradoxes and things often diametrically opposed: common materials used uniquely, beauty in ugliness, pain in transformation," she said.

Artist Tim Murnane of Anchorage played on a similar theme with "Ladies basic black dress for dating in new Millennium," and "Men's basic jewelry for dating in the new Millennium." The dress, made of a soft, flowing material, is adorned from neckline to hem with screws pointing out, while the men's jewelry consists of a magnet on a black cord necklace.

In the center of the exhibit sits one of the more eye-catching works of the show, a ceramic bust by Penny McClain titled "There's more to her than meets the eye." The anatomically accurate bust is embellished with carefully painted flowers intertwined with subtle Picasso-esque faces.

Some artists took a lighter look at the prompt. Homer's Sally Oberstein created a gourd-shaped bejeweled fabric piece titled, "The Chief is in the Closet," which she said was "designed with functionality and elegance in mind, promising comfort and airiness on those tropical ritual nights."

Kim Terpening took a step away from serious contemplation when creating "Dogs of Wigs," a series of images of dogs topped with every imaginable wig. The project was the product of a computer, a dog, "and a lot of laughs," she said in her statement.

"Art for the fun, it might just stick," Terpening said.

Wolfe said the member show exceeded her expectations.

"I feel very comfortable and elated at the same time," she said. "I am thrilled with the scope and variety. There's a range to the quality of individual pieces, but they surely demonstrate the artists' intents."

"Body Adorned" is on display through Dec. 31 at the Bunnell Street Gallery on Bunnell Avenue. For more information, call 235-2662.

Carey James can be reached at