Postcrypt's New Art Show Redefines Exposure

“I like being naked!” exclaimed Morgan Parker, CC ’10, an anthropology/creative writing major who joined the festivities at Friday night’s Postcrypt Art Gallery, well...naked.

While mingling in the buff at St. Paul’s Chapel would normally seem a tad improper, Parker’s self-indulgent exhibitionism could not have been more appropriate. Indeed, nakedness was the premise of the evening’s show, a theme that head curator, Jenny Lam, CC ’09,, and gallery co-president, Jon Cioschi, CC ’08,, chose to explore through wide-ranging modes of artistic expression. “I wanted to showcase not only visual artists, but performers and musicians as well,” said Lam, who organized the event, which proved to be one of the most well attended events in the gallery’s recent history.

Jeremy Blackman, CC ’09, and Joey Alvarado, CC ’09, set the mood with ambient electronic music while art enthusiasts perused the exhibition. Later in the evening, Millie Manning, CC ’10, serenaded the crowd with a less than serious-minded song entitled “Ashley’s Boobs,” eliciting delighted applause every time she sang the blithe refrain, “Something about them just brightens up your day.”

Of course, no self-respecting performance art show would be complete without an interpretive dance, and the Collective of the Ludicrous and Beautiful, or CoLAB, an as-yet unofficial campus organization, provided the entertainment. In their modern improvisation, Hadley Smith, BC ’09,, Tara Willis, BC ’09,, Sarah Chien, BC ’10, and Arianne Richard, CC ’10, bobbed, swayed, and rolled across the floor, punctuating their sultry movements by peeling the suggestively arranged bananas and oranges that were scattered around the room.

The visual arts were also well represented by twenty-two Columbia and Barnard students, most of whom interpreted the naked theme literally with various depictions of the male, female, or androgynous nude form.

“I like girls,” was Ken Hill’s, GS, frank explanation of the unclad females in his mixed media paintings, which highlighted the nuanced distinction between nudity and nakedness through the posture of his subjects. “This figure is clearly nude, whereas this one is naked,” he said, pointing to a painting of two women; one in the foreground, her hands confidently planted on her hips, and the other in the background, her head bowed in shame. “It’s about exposure - there’s a sting to being naked,” Hill said.

For David Derish, CC ’09, nakedness took an objective form. His paintings “Blues Musician” and “Writer,” portraits from photographs of unknown men in suits, generically represent his subjects’ respective professions. Rendered with a strong sense of line, the men appear transparent against monochromatic backgrounds of brown and olive green, expressing a tension between a personal quality and their status as embodiments of cultural ideas. “I tried to deprive the paintings of any qualities derived from subjective decisions, such as composition and handling of the surface, so that these would not distract from a handling of information which I intended to be as dispassionate, if not objective, as possible,” Derish said of his stripped down approach.

In comparison with these figurative depictions, a complete absence of the human form marked Naima Green’s, BC ’11, treatment of nakedness. “While nude figures are undoubtedly interesting, I interpreted naked as bare and unadorned and purposely did not include people,” she said of her photographs, which range from a color shot of a barren construction site to a black and white image of garments hanging on a clothesline.

As the show came to a close and the crowd dispersed into the mild October night, the evening’s events were met with generally favorable, yet mixed reviews. “Columbia students have a perverse fascination with taking high-art and downshifting it to pretentious nonsense,” complained Nick Cummingham, who urged that his dissent should be heard. Yet, inside, the radiant Parker showed no signs of compunction for her immodest display. “No, I don’t feel exposed,” she assured curious onlookers. “Should I?”

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