figure works 2010 onwards

life drawing demos 2018:


older demo drawings:


life drawings completed during drawing room’s days at the State Theater Building:

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drawings completed with the model for the install sessions that lead up to the Erotics of Transformation gessoed wood panel.

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This exhibit was first on view at Art House Picture Frames in Portland Maine in October.  My original statement for that exhibit: “Feminine figures with charcoal smears and ink lines move and overlap on wood panel. These works explore the erotics of the body, the body as a site of transformation, and the value of incompleteness, intimacy and change as essential qualities of existence.” I exhibited five works, which Daniel Kany reviewed (the review also explored the exhibit I co-curated with karen Adrienne at UMA, both which he gave favorable thoughts to:

Alex Rheault’s small exhibition of her own drawings opened on Friday at Art House in Portland. Her charcoal life drawings on gessoed panels bristle with sexuality. Each features multiple and often fractured images of a single female model. Rheault not only has a great eye, but a strong hand. She can draw.

My favorite is “beautiful crisis.” In the upper right, we see the model’s face. On the left, she is prostrate with her face down (similar in style and pose to Egon Schiele’s “Forward Bent”). In the lower right, the model — barely dressed in panties, bra and heels — lies on her back with her garter-stockinged legs spread wide.

The drawing ebbs and flows oddly because the element that, by size, should be closest is rendered most lightly, while the most prominent should be the farthest away due to its scale. And it works.

Rheault’s mark-making delivers some tremendous passages (particularly the feet, buttocks and crotch). There is no other way to say it: this is a steamy drawing. Yet it feels neither awkward nor confrontational, because the sexuality seems that of a confident and mature woman.

“Collapsing, being” is similar, and soars on some particularly strong passages in the doubled-image of the model. In this work, Rheault posits several brilliant pairings of positive and negative forms in addition to her wonderful sense of body gesture: she pairs the shape of the right breast above the bra against the stump of the right arm (cut off by an absent article of clothing we fill in ourselves).

As well, the relationship between the shape created by the outside of the legs and their internal space is virtuoso not just in mark and metaphor, but form.

While Rheault’s larger works are a bit jumbled and less taut in comparison, they came earlier in this series. Considering the strength of the progress, I am looking forward to what she does next.”

The exhibit was expanded in 2012 and exhibited at the Winfisky Gallery at Salem State University, curated by Haig Demarjian.

From a note to Daniel Kany in 2010: Thoughts and some background on the Erotics of the Transforming Body exhibit at Art house Oct 2010: It is through the drawing, the looking, staring, study, and relating to the model that I am further transformed. I want to convey the truly remarkable qualities of our body, our experience of our body, and our existence within a body. Feminine figures with charcoal smears and ink lines move and overlap on wood panel.

These works explore the erotics of the body, the body as a site of transformation, and the value of incompleteness, intimacy and change as essential qualities of existence I have been working from a single model since late spring, making line drawings with charcoal 24 x 36 inch newsprint. I have always done work with the figure and the body. I am preparing for an exhibit at the ICA next June titled Drawing Disaster, and so I chose to search the body as a site of “disaster”, but more truly of change, a range of emotional and physical expressions, and transformation. I want to make tangible, visible the issues I face as an aging woman in the prime of her life, the energy and desire I feel that challenges the social and domestic structures of our daily routines.

I want to celebrate the body in all of its indeterminacy, infinite potential, its erotic, sensual power, the emotional realm as it relates to the physical one, and the energy we cannot show, but which we experience and embody. I want to show the transformation I experience daily, which I know others encounter at this age or at other times, and what that means to our existence, how it plays out, what it informs if anything, and how we are/I am changed.

The model I work with is also exploring discourses of the body including fragmentation, pleasure, pain, erotics, perception, experience, and the reality that we are each in our own body, and no level of contact can ever bring us into the feelings or experiences of someone else. So we are truly always separate and together. In her own practice, she performs burlesque, makes videos of her own body undergoing some process, and makes paintings, drawings, and other creative expressions. In my work with the model, I am aware of the desire to translate what she is doing, embodying or feeling, as well as to translate how imagine what she expresses.

I can relate to how a leg might feel when it is tucked under, or a back arched or hinged forward. I see what seethes, what wreckages, what joys the body expresses with each movement. I use charcoal line. Recently, I was moved to change surfaces. I began to work large on gessoed wood panels and the transition from smaller paper surface to a larger more solid one altered how I laid into the marks, began to use water to run the charcoal, create a fluidity I sought to make visible, and render the body leaky.

I use the smears to reinforce the sense of touch, tactility, and show the simultaneous closeness and distance therein. I became interested in how the materials also operate and call for new approaches, more attention to their range, which in turn shifts the work and how the materials will convey the message. The experience of working intensely with one model allows me to form a relationship, a trust, and understanding. There is a dialogue we have, silent and spoken, and that connection has made me aware of my interest in how the model and I might be interchangeable.

I modeled for many years and have recently rekindled my own modeling career. I know what a model goes through, what she might encounter, feel, or what happens to the body while posing. I am also aware of what decisions the model makes and how those influence and produce my work. The model creates the compositions by posing or holding herself in a given way. In some instances, she was moving very slowly, or shifting from one pose to another. The poses are very brief and fleeting. This is important because I am unable to dwell, and I also embrace the spontaneity, accidents, and chance that may issue unexpected results.

I adapt to these nuances of her flesh and body language, and use the primative, burnt stick to draw and repeat an experience my eyes have. I wish to reinterpret her presence and confront others with this to see if it can be translated and reproduced. Or ask, is the image static, untouchable, distant in the end. I work intuitively, I do not sketch in advance.

I use any errors in calculating proportions as I see them as ways to express the more unwieldy aspects of a transforming body and drawing as a process that is in flux. I am not getting at realism, but want to re-present an internal charge, an internal energy with which I am filled and need to make visible.

Figure works at the Sacarrappa Collective (this space closed):

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One response to “figure works 2010 onwards

  1. sparklerbrain

    Hey Alex, Meesh here- great to see this representation of some of your work- Marina gave me the link after we just were out in Chicago for a brief visit with Anna (Jim’s daughter) anyway- I hope to re-connect ! xo – oh and check out our website

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