Sondra Schwetman

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Illuminance, Mythology and Weird Little Fetishes

  • November 20, 2008- January 23, 2009
  • Reception, November 20 at 6:30 pm
  • Artist talk at 7:00 pm

Sondra Schwetman’s work features work made in a variety of sculptural materials: steel, cast resin, bronze and silk organza. This series consists of work are loosely based on the feminist retelling of classic myths, fairy tales, stories, fables and personal ruminations and the role that the female figure plays therein.

“This series of sculpture addresses the ambiguous space between reality and fiction where the female form often dwells,” states Schwetman. “ The works in this series concentrate on psychological, religious, cultural and social issues that women deal with everyday such as reproduction and reproductive rights, discovery, knowledge, success, creativity, class systems, colonization, compliance and silence.”

One of Schwetman’s latest works titled, Visceral Illuminations, presents the image of a woman’s body as a vessel of knowledge. Her organs are embellished in the manner of an illuminated manuscript, whose precious, sacred texts spill knowledge out into the world. Schwetman states, “This work questions the traditional role of women within religious communities; both matriarchal and patriarchal. I am questioning women’s roles in birth, death and silence within “The Church”. The sculpture, Visceral Illuminations, is a gold leafed female figure in a reclining Buddha position constructed from water-based resin, internal organs made of varying shades of sculpted velvet and embellishment, and a padded litter. This piece alludes to female spirituality as an invaluable component to wisdom, which religious, or other institutions of enlightenment should not be without.

Initially looking at Schwetman’s work, one may be unsure as to how to regard the figures, which sometimes are positioned in a sexually vulnerable way. Reclining into Bedlam, for example, is the torso of a figure reclining on an army cot face down. The appendages comprised of coiled metal thighs, unbending gasket knees and plaster calves and feet. The form creates a duality, which challenges the viewer to discern whether it is an object of enticement or a casualty.

With the piece Eves, latex female torsos, one with fig leaves layered into the material and one covered with rose petals, are suspended by clothing hangers. The interaction of the female forms with non-human materials and mechanical devices creates a contemplative tension. Schwetman emphasizes her use of “idea of repulsion and attraction and utilize[s] this set of opposites to communicate on physical, emotional and intellectual levels.”

Schwetman graduated from the University of Houston, Texas with a Master of Fine Arts Degree in Sculpture and metalsmithing. She previously received her Bachelor of Fine Arts at the University of Texas, Austin, Texas with an emphasis in Visual Communications. Schwetman has received many research grants, scholastic awards and shown her work through out the country. She is currently a professor of sculpture at Humboldt State University, Arcata, CA.