'Fragile Bodies: The Figure in Glass and Clay' exhibit at FIA showcases the human body

FLINT, Michigan — One of the most popular subject matters throughout art history is the human body. It’s also the subject of the latest exhibit 'Fragile Bodies: The Figure in Glass and Clay' at the Flint Institute of Arts (FIA), on display in the Harris-Burger Gallery now through June 16.

Sarah Kohn, director and curator of collections and exhibitions at FIA, curates temporary exhibits as well as the permanent collection galleries. When she learned that the art center’s neighbor, Sloan Museum of Discovery, was putting on the Real Bodies exhibit (through Jan. 14), she looked for ways to connect to that same subject. 

“The origins of this came from me thinking about what is going on in the Cultural Center and how we can connect to these other institutions,” Kohn says. “I thought about how artists navigate the human body. The depiction of the human body is one of the first or early things you do as an artist. Even before you’re actively training to be an artist, kids draw stick figures all the time.”

These in-house shows provide visitors with a chance to see 19 pieces from the 9,500-object permanent collection, typically in storage. Contemporary artists from all over the world use glass and clay to create hyper-realistic and abstract pieces.

“The works in the show are really all about how artists represent the figure, whether it is realistic or really abstract, very human or even partially human. You’ll see a lot of variety in the show but everything in it relates to the body in some way.”

With the glass and clay mediums, Kohn says the exhibit provides a unique look into the artists and how they depict the human form using common materials.
Beverly Mayeri, American, born 1944. Torch Singer, 1994. Painted (acrylics) stoneware 26 × 18 × 14 in.
“They are literally sculpting the body in three-dimension,” she says. “There’s something very tactile about that experience of creating the object. I think it’s also interesting for visitors to think about the idea of glass and clay because glass is one of the most used materials in human history. We use glass in everything, cellphones, windows, windshields. I think it’s cool to see how artists can use this medium that we use so much in our daily life and create something really artistic and expressive.”

The same goes for the other medium: clay. Kids regularly play with clay or Play-Doh, molding and sculpting their own creations at an early age. After viewing the exhibit, visitors are welcome to take that inspiration and sign up for classes at the art school, says Kohn.

“If you’re really inspired by Fragile Bodies, you can take a class and learn how to do techniques like that in our building,” Kohn says. “We have free public demonstrations in our hot shop to watch glass being made, and then you can walk down to the exhibition and think about how an artist would do what you just saw when they were creating these forms.”

The Flint Institute of Arts is open Monday through Wednesday and Friday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Thursday from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Sunday from 1 to 5 p.m. Admission is free for FIA members and Genesee County residents, $10 for adults, free for children 12 and under, $8 for students with ID and for seniors. Admission is free for everyone on Saturday, courtesy of Huntington Bank.

To learn more about FIA’s newest exhibit and upcoming events, visit: flintarts.org
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Read more articles by Sarah Spohn.