For the first time in Seattle Pacific history, the Seattle Pacific Art Center displayed some nudity.
The new exhibit titled Hide & Seek: Photography and the Body features a collection of images by five contemporary artists that explores the unique ways of presenting the human body through photography.
“I’m not aware of us ever having shown nudity in the gallery before,” said Gallery Director Katie Kresser.
When asked whether she ran into trouble with the administration regarding the nude content, Kresser said, “I think one reason why we haven’t run into trouble with the administration is because the administration hasn’t seen the work.”
The pieces were selected and hung by the SPU Curatorial Club, under the supervision of Kresser.
Some of the pieces featured full frontal nudity, specifically those by Ariana Page Russell and Lia Chavez.
“I would be interested to see how other members of the SPU community respond to these pieces. I think they’re beautiful and tasteful,” Kresser said. “I hope that everyone will like them, but I can understand that some people might be offended by them.”
Kent Anderson Butler’s “Topographical Landscapes” used a high-resolution flatbed scanner attached to his camera in place of a lens to capture extreme close-up images of his own skin in sharp detail.
“All the work I do is an engagement of my own body,” Butler said, who flew to Seattle from his Los Angeles home to attend the opening of the exhibit.
Butler said he viewed skin as a map.
“The skin is this terrain that almost acts like a map. When you look at a map, every map is really different in terms of its identity. It’s the same with our skin and with our fingerprints,” Butler said. “Everyone’s unique and special.”
Zach Bent, a professor of art at SPU, was also featured in the exhibit. Bent used family members as models for his photos.
“I honestly didn’t really think about the theme in general a lot, except for that I knew, OK, they want to deal with how the body is represented in ways that are not standard portrait. So I think my work fits in that I make these portraits of my family in strange tableaus where they’re doing things that families wouldn’t normally do,” Bent said.
“Bloodline,” one of Bent’s two photographs in the Hide & Seek exhibit, featured Bent’s son giving him a haircut in the bathroom. At first glance, it appears to be an innocent father-son moment, but there’s something bizarre — a trickle of blood flowing down Bent’s neck.
“We went through these different types of mythologies that would kind of, in a way, look like normal life, but seem skewed from it, or distinctive or kind of uncanny,” Bent said.
The largest piece in the Hide & Seek exhibit is “Self Trace, for Pressing Against” by Maggie Carson Romano.
The piece was a life-size imprint of every imperfection on the artist’s body including scars, freckles and moles.
According to Kresser, Romano, who could not be at the opening of the exhibit, chose to focus on her physical flaws rather than her physical strengths.
She began with a life-size photograph of her nude body and, using computer software, removed everything but the blemishes. What remains is a single sheet of white paper, standing nearly to the ceiling. Tiny dots mark the various imperfections, creating a vague outline of a human form.
“I think in the Christian tradition, the human body is very sacred,” Kresser said.
“We believe that God came to Earth as a man and that God therefore, kind of, sanctified the human body,” Kresser said. “I think that in keeping with the mission of SPU, we want to celebrate humanity here, humanity made in the image of God.”