Bonnie Collura has never given up her childhood practice of seeing shapes in clouds — and one kind of image in particular tends to stand out.
“I always see strange faces in everything,” she said.
Collura, an artist and associate professor in the sculpture department at Penn State University, will speak at 7 p.m. Tuesday in the Hultquist Center. She will focus on three ongoing series of sculpture: “White Light,” “Imperceptible Rupture” and “Patchwork.”
“Historically, sculpture has been an umbrella for genres that didn’t fit neatly into photography or painting,” Collura said. “Sculpture has the ability for great breadth.”
Sculpture can include performance, on-site works or “anything related to space,” she said. “It offers a whole range of possibility.”
Collura’s recent project “White Light” is a dynamic piece incorporating several mediums — textile, video and a figural sculpture. For the video, Collura wore a garment called “Armor for White Light” that she had made from muslin fabric and wore to film herself acting out a variety of movements. She then edited the video to create a kaleidoscopic visual that can be projected onto the figural sculpture.
“I wanted a form that was generated by my body, but that the end result had no reference to my linearity,” she said.
The images in the video appear patterned and are hardly recognizable as a human form.
Work on “Armor for White Light,” which took about two years to piece together and tailor, piqued Collura’s interest in sewing. The sewing process reminded her of the way she tends to put together sculptures like collages, so when she began working on her next two series, “Imperceptible Rupture” and “Patchwork,” she added fabric to her list of materials. “Imperceptible Rupture” is a series of nine busts collaged together from pieces cast from molds. She calls the busts “abstracted portraits.”
Sometimes the combination of fabric with her usual materials, which include plastic, foam, steel and clay, looks “terrible,” she said, “like I’m dressing up some weird, freaky thing.”
But sometimes the combination yields unique shapes “impossible to get with the rigid form.”
With “Patchwork,” which will be showing in Brooklyn this September, Collura is continuing to experiment with the combination of rigid and pliant materials. As her website states, “Patchwork” is in search of sprezzatura, which means “the beauty in imperfections.” Collura is influenced by Italian sculpture — she loves Baroque sculpture, particularly the work of Gian Lorenzo Bernini, who is known for his large statues of mythological and religious figures.
Most of Collura’s works incorporate faces or bodies in some way, but her interest is not in anatomical representation.
“I’m looking at the body as a composite that’s built from many different things and cultures — so the body as an image,” she said. “We see so many images on a daily basis, and those images are given to us in very particular ways. They’re constructed.”
Collura said she’s interested in how media and advertising affect our understanding of bodies.
“As a culture, we’re obsessed with images of bodies,” she said. “With the digital capacity, we get so much information about other people, through images of bodies. I’m always wondering – who made that image? What was altered in that image?”