Out of Body Experience: Senior Thesis Exhibition Review – Olivia Pace (Fall 2021)
By: Chad Troyer
Olivia Pace’s exhibition, Out of Body Experience, features 5 ceramic sculptures, four wall-hung and one supported by two pedestals. These sculptures are hand built, not castings, based on body parts, each sculpture being mostly white with hints of colored chalk pastel ranging from warm-toned pinks, reds, and oranges to a cooler blue. The full body sculpture, Preoccupied, does not have any chalk pastel and rather opts for Mica Powder.
In her artist statement, Pace says that she draws inspiration from antique dolls. Where all of her sculptures seem to juxtapose the perfectly smooth skin of an antique doll, her pieces also seem to make reference to ancient sculptures, like the clay Kouroi from Greece and Etruscan terracotta sculptures. Even so, Pace deviates from the idealized body proportions of ancient sculptures. Pace faithfully recreates her body proportions to perfection, whereas these ancient sculptures are based upon a somewhat predetermined “perfect” set of proportions. In these ancient sculptures, there are no dimples or wrinkles, but Pace’s work embraces such markings, like in Misgiving, the sculpture of her butt.
Misgiving also employs the color pink. The color is on the bottom of the piece, and almost reads as if it is light reflecting off of the vinyl behind it, which is a beautiful detail. Misgiving has the softest color of all the sculptures, which is also of great benefit to the piece. If the pink had been any stronger or taken up more space, it might have been read more literally as the blushing from a slap or something similarly sexual. That would not have been a terrible connection to make. However, as written in her artist statement, she aims to use the color to highlight the awkwardness or frustration she feels within her body.
Another notable use of color is through the vinyl cutouts featured on the walled pieces, which enhance each piece perfectly. They allow the white sculptures to be separated from the wall and not one with the wall–something that white wall pieces tend to do in galleries. The vinyl almost appears as portals through which Pace is pulling body parts. In her artist statement, she mentions a hyperfixation upon her body brought on by memories. Maybe on the other side of these vinyl portals are these memories that Pace is pulling from.
Subdued, the sculpture of her stomach, I think is my favorite in her exhibition. In my opinion, it perfectly portrays the feeling of discontendly prodding one’s stomach. The blue is also an interesting choice, in that it doesn’t portray the blush of embarrassment, but rather a bruising from constant prodding or an infection of sadness. Unnerved is another strong sculpture in the exhibition; the sculpture is bowing its bony neck down in an extremely vulnerable position. Unnerved perfectly portrays its namesake in this pose.
The last of the body parts is Perturbed, the breast sculpture. It sits on orange vinyl, and has orange nipples to compliment. Each nipple is shaped slightly differently, and the orange coloration suggests a fixation on this imperfection. Interestingly, though, the straight collar bone in this sculpture suggests that the figure is standing tall, not curling inward as we see in Unnerved and Subdued. This seemingly confident posture, contrasted with the orange insecurity shown on the nipples perfectly demonstrates the conflict that the title Perturbed suggests.
The last piece I found myself drawn to was Preoccupied. This is a to-scale sculpture of Pace’s body. It is the central and largest sculpture in her exhibition. The body is laying on its back, with all of its appendages limp, and it genuinely looks like it is having an out of body experience. It seems to hint that there is a separation between soul or identity and the corporeal self. Almost like an anatomy doll, the sculpture allows Pace to step back from her body and investigate it for both its aesthetic and function.
Out of Body Experience is a wonderful exhibition and showcases a lovely body of work. To see more from Olivia Pace, she can be followed at @livpaceart.