Fremaux exhibit explores nudism and human nature

Ghislaine Fremaux, assistant professor of art at Texas Tech University, discusses the reasoning behind her art at the Juanita Harvey Art Gallery on Sept. 29. Photo by Denush Vidanapathirana

Students, faculty and art enthusiasts all listened in silence, captivated by artist Ghislaine Fremaux, as she explained how the artwork that surrounded them explored the ever-shifting nature of the human body and society’s concept of human beauty.

About 70 people attended the opening for the “Skin of Years: Nudism and the Aging Body” exhibit at the Juanita Harvey Art Gallery from 6 to 8 p.m. on Sept. 29. The exhibit featured 10 chalk pastel figure drawings by Fremaux, and the drawings featured eight nudists, all more than 60 years old, exploring the shifting nature of the human body through figure drawing.

Fremaux, an assistant professor of art at Texas Tech University, is a renowned artist whose work has been featured since 2011. Her concepts focus primarily on nudity, sexuality and the essential self.

“We try to pick artists that represent different mediums and approaches to art. Not many people do such well-crafted, large figure drawings,” Gary Goldberg, professor of art and director of the gallery, said.

Given the explicit nature of the exhibit, which runs through Oct. 13, Goldberg said that there was some worry about the reaction of the community.

“We knew it might not sit well with some people. We had a few discussions with some students and we had their support,” Goldberg said.

Carlos Aleman, gallery preparator, expressed a similar sentiment.

“There was a bit of worry before we found out what we were getting. But we took the necessary precautions and nobody has been offended. The feedback has been positive,” Aleman said.

Fremaux answered any questions and discussed her influences and the techniques she used in her own craft.

Fremaux said the idea for the project emerged out of the life of her uncle, a social nudist with Parkinson’s disease.

“I was interested in what the practice of nudism provides for elderly people. In 2014, I worked with a social scientist and we visited a nudist colony in South Texas,” Fremaux said.

Fremaux then met with and photographed 10 nudists, eight of whom were married to each other. Following that she began work on her project in July 2016 and finished in May 2017.

“[The models] volunteered. They were very enthusiastic,” Fremaux said. “We went to a place where they felt comfortable, but I didn’t have them pose.”

Fremaux said that her decision to use models of that age was a choice she made to relay “the invisibility human of the actual human body” as opposed to what is usually portrayed in mainstream media.

“Looking at it this way, there is a beauty to it. The human form is changing constantly. The fact that she’s not showing an ideal model of what people look like is refreshing,” Aleman said.

This message seemed to resonate with the students present for the event.

“This concept of how people live life the way they want to live. It’s unshackled. It’s being yourself,” Collin Bachman, art senior, said.

As an artist himself, Aleman said that he admired Fremaux’s work.

“Figure drawing is something I do in my own work. It captures everything I try to do,” Aleman said. “The human form is very difficult to make look human. Typically, people tend to draw them smaller. The fact that she drew them at this scale is refreshing.”

Other students echoed Aleman’s comments.

“The size makes the paintings so lifelike. The colors, strokes and long lines make it seem wild,” Teonna Belk, art freshman, said.

Krysten Farrier, art senior, said that she saw it as a new learning experience.

“She used materials that I do, so I got a deeper understanding. It teaches us to be bold,” Farrier said.