The human menagerie

By Malwina Gudowska

When asked what kind of artist she is, Barbara Bickel shrugs her shoulders and answers simply that she is a drawer. In this case however, actions speak louder than words because there is certainly nothing simple about her recent work on exhibition at the Mezzanine Gallery.

Bodies Menagerie is four different bodies of work. There are two studio series, work from Women Enduring Freedom and the first four works of a collaborative project exploring the female ideas about their own bodies. The entire collection is mixed media figurative drawings and collages on wood.

"It was a new beginning," says Bickel. "I took out my old canvas from years ago and decided to incorporate it into the works of art."

Both the studio series were, according to Bickel, "something to play with." The first one is four large works of a male figure, and the second series of the female figure was done just as she moved into her new studio.

Women Enduring Freedom was Bickel’s response to the events of September 11. The powerful images of Bickel as a woman warrior depict Bickel’s feelings toward the continuous patriarchal formation of society.

"Where are the women’s voices?" she asks. "Why are women still silent? How are we contributing to these acts of violence with our silence?"

Body Knowing, the collaborative project between Bickel and her subjects, will be a series of 13 women. Bickel has now completed four of the works. The process involves what she calls a journey of self-discovery for the subject. Three collage pieces reflect the journey and directly facing those pieces is a final large drawing which is the integration of the whole process.

"The body is substantial in all my works, it is just what I do,"Bickel says.

There is no question to why she continues to create figurative drawings. Bickel has an amazing ability to capture the female form in all its beauty so powerfully, that you could stare at her work for hours.

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