There really should be a word for the moments when art affects us physically. I’ve heard “artgasm” but that implies the effect is pleasurable. Sometimes it is, and sometimes art hits us in the solar plexus and triggers an unnamed sensory experience.
Such was my reaction to Tip Tolan’s nearly 12-foot ceramic reclining nude, titled Africa, on view at the Portland Art Museum until May 11, 2014. The experience continued to play out as I viewed the installation as a whole, with the large busts of African albinos in all their unloved, haunted, hunted humanity.
You can read more about Tip Tolan and the message of this installation on her website. I had not heard of the plight of albinos in East Africa, and it’s so impressive that the artist conveyed her message before I’d read any part of her statement. I always say that the purpose of an artist statement is to make people look again, and the statement worked well!
The surface textures of clay, paint, pastel and synthetic hair are best seen up close and in person, so I encourage you to make the trip to Portland Art Museum, Apex Gallery. Art-Awe.