True to Form

A closer look at the human body

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

On a recent Monday afternoon, Heidi Wood pointed to
“Mass #4,” a painting of a torrid tangle of naked humans involved in what appeared to be an orgy.

“I think this artist—Eleanor Ortland—is really going to go places,” Wood proclaimed with an accent reminiscent of a character on Downton Abby.

She wasn’t at all disturbed by the somewhat salacious subject matter. To her, it was just one of a variety of works exploring the human body as part of the group exhibit “Unfold: Nude Form and Concept” currently on display at Gallery Pegasus, Wood’s venue and studio in downtown Bellingham.

Located inside Bay Street Village, the nine-month-old gallery features new shows every two months, and also provides four creative spaces for area artists, including Wood, a painter and the facilitator of Finger Painting for Grownups. Additionally, the high-ceilinged, well-lit space is available to rent for events such as meetings, parties, concerts and the occasional dance performance. Tuesday nights, she hosts various jazz musicians and invites everyone to listen in.

Wood wasn’t looking to open a public venue when she first rented the space, but soon saw the potential.

“The walls had recently been painted white. I was sitting on the stairs drinking coffee, and looking around I thought ‘This would make a fantastic gallery!” she shared. “I didn’t have any dreams to do so before then, but soon thought ‘Why not?’ That’s how I live my life.”

Wood reports that art sales are going well, and she thinks she’ll be where she needs by the end of the year in terms of calling Gallery Pegasus a success. Meanwhile, she and her curator, Jody Thompson, are ensuring that the exhibits are full of works by both established and up-and-coming artists—including Western Washington University students looking to gain real-world art experience.

In “Unfold,” Thompson has chosen well. Abstract works share space with bold, in-your-face interpretations of the human body, and lovely sculptures of half-formed women by Maria Wickwire are placed on pedestals throughout the gallery. Works are large, small and everything in between, and viewers are sure to find some of them perverse, and some of them playful. Above all, it’s a fascinating exhibit that is sure to get people talking.

“The thematic shows provide a platform for everyone to meet on the same page and provokes cross-sectional discourse,” Thompson says. “Our group exhibitions provide inclusive and diverse concepts and a variety of fine arts for the public to enjoy.”

All of the works are for sale, and Wood adds that a group of 12 artists will meet at the gallery on Thurs., Feb. 8 for a painting session with a nude model. The artists who choose to will then put the works up for perusal, and those visiting the gallery can bid on them as part of a silent auction taking place through the end of February.

Across town, Cooper Lanza Gallery will also be exploring the wonders of the body at an opening reception for “RAW: The Nude” Sun., Feb. 11 at their Fairhaven locale. There, a group of regional artists will share works depicting their interpretations of erotica through drawings, paintings and sculpture.

Bring your Valentine along to one or both of these shows, and be prepared to talk about what turns you on about them, what makes you think, and what, if anything, makes you uncomfortable—whether it’s a depiction of an orgy, a transgender woman’s genitalia, or a nude woman sewing her skin together. What your date says might just surprise you.

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