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Just What Is It That Makes Today's Sculpture so Different, so Appealing?

An art student from Texas University  included my  sculptures as a part of her paper.   In it she mentions various other artists from Duane Hanson to John DeAndrea and then ends she with my work.   Here's an excerpt-


   "Joseph Canger celebrates the beauty of the erotic with his sculptures, making even the most explicit of works artistic (albeit with less subtlety than Georgia O’Keefe).  Like De Andrea, he prefers working with nudes, specifically females.  He is stylistically versatile, casting women who range from Versace models to expectant mothers to Playboy Playmates past and present.  Women and their sensuality run as a common thread throughout his works, whether cast traditionally, surrealistically, or realistically.  In 'Somewhere Between the Sacred Silence and Sleep', Canger captures just that perfect moment.  A dainty young woman lies naked on a couch, in the final reaches of a pleasant slumber.  Her head is turned slightly, as if someone has just called her name to rouse her, and she is not fully awake.  In this state, Canger has summed up all the child-like bliss of a good nap.  He evokes a new tension: that of adolescence.  The figure appears young, and she sleeps with child-like innocence, but her physical sexuality is very apparent.  Duane Hanson and John De Andrea’s figures are distinctly children or distinctly adults, and even to viewers accustomed to the nudity of the latter, 'Somewhere' can be disturbing, "Someone cover her up!" they must think.  To less conservative viewers, the young girl’s beauty is inherent and harks back to the work of  De Andrea, although with more apparent emotion.  De Andrea’s figures are often of blank or aloof countenance, as if caught up in thoughts that exclude any hint of expression.   Joseph Canger, on the other hand, captures the moments that move; in his work, expressionism is the ultimate realism.  'Laurene', for instance, looks as if she is savoring a delicious fragrance, maybe a lover’s cologne.  Many of  Canger’s creations seem to be enjoying some private delight and close their eyes with the very pleasure of it.  In viewing, we cannot help but feel a sensual empathy.  While De Andrea focuses on the ideal of nudity, Canger makes an icon out of it.  Like Hanson, Canger manages this without losing the individuality of his models.  Much of his work has a playful feel to it, as is evident in the mischievously risqué piece, 'Kinky Isn’t Something You Do, It’s a State of Mind'.  Wearing only handcuffs and black nail polish, a blonde woman sits in a sensual om pose.  The sculpture is in-your-face naughtiness, and it is clever.  In a gallery full of art where the boundaries between pornography and fine art are completely removed, how do viewers respond?  Apparently, at one of the artist’s shows, in shock and self-consciousness, the attendants tried their best to skirt the works.  'It was like trying to place the negative ends of magnets together-- they just repel each other,' he said of the visitors. Not only are viewers forced to respond to conflicting views regarding their own social behavior, but they also must confront why they are shocked. Is she real, or is she art?  Is she art, or is she pornography?  Finally, a woman in handcuffs forces viewers to deal with an aspect of sexuality many consider disturbing in itself.  All else excluded, sexual fetish could be the intolerable over-stepping of boundaries, or it could be the appeal.   Through sexuality, Canger illustrates how the very bluntness of realist sculpture gives it a powerful advantage as an art form, regardless of like or dislike.

    Despite varying substyles within realist sculpture, as a whole, its appeal lies in the various tensions it creates.  Its intended audience is ambiguous, since it can so avidly capture elements of kitsch in a high art setting.   With every work, regardless of focus, there is a constant conflict between the logical and the aesthetic.  As viewers, we cannot believe our eyes, and yet we are moved.  Because the figures ultimately are not alive, we are allowed the luxury of staring at people and situations we otherwise 'should' not see --due to taboos-- or cannot see --due to lack of opportunity.  To many this is troubling, to others exciting, and often, it creates the perfect venue for social commentary."  - Kimberly Dolan, Texas University, 2004


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