In The Flesh

Allison Walsh and one of the paintings in her "Flesh" series. (Photo by Duane Zehr)

Matt Hawkins
May 31, 2016

A lonely figure rests on canvas, caught by the painter in a vulnerable moment. Vivid colors and sharp contrasts illuminate the figure’s lines as it sits in space simply feeling.

Feeling. The raw core of human existence.

Allison Walsh ‘17, a Spanish and studio art double major from Mt. Prospect, Illinois, explored the essence of the human body’s sensations in her painting series Flesh.

Walsh developed the series as an artistic response to Gilles Deleuze’s philosophical reflections in The Logic of Sensation. The book analyzes the work of 20th Century British artist Francis Bacon, who was known for portraying strong emotion in his works.

“I want people to feel something,” Walsh said. “Because we experience our bodies on our own, I like to make paintings that connect in ways that nothing else can. Being a human body is a strange and lonely experience. I hope to meet people at that place.”

Artistically, Walsh drew inspiration from a semester abroad in Spain. She spent hours in Prado Museum, where portraits of Jesus Christ’s suffering and works by Diego Velazquez influenced her style.

Flesh invites viewers to feel along with subjects set in natural, yet unusual, poses. Thick lines and deep colors illuminate bodies in a modern twist on Baroque emotion and Impressionist color palettes.

“People expect to see the body in certain poses and in the same color,” Walsh said. “I don’t see that at all. I take the figure and throw it into different poses to reveal the body without control. We tend to miss details like vivid, green veins, cool shadows and warm highlights, which are details I find fascinating.”

Walsh’s series contains 12 paintings. She plans to continue the theme with insights gained from Spain and conversations at Bradley’s annual research expo. While the project thus far featured college-age women, it will expand to include men and people of different ages to portray the full breadth of human experience.

Flesh challenged Walsh’s creative spirit, artistic talent and philosophical mind. In doing so, the process showed her the value of the medium’s power to inspire reflection.

“There’s something about painting you can’t experience over a computer screen or in other media,” she said. “Art is special. It can communicate ideas writing can’t and truth in ways science can’t. It reveals a different sort of truth.”


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