‘Au Naturel’: Art laid bare

Three North Coast artists are included in an Astoria show celebrating a universal: "We all necessarily inhabit our own bodies"

The first time Drea Frost walked into a college art class, it was not as an artist but as a model for a nude-drawing class. She did it for the money, but wound up with so much more. Now, Frost is part of the exhibit Au Naturel: The Nude in the 21st Century – this time as a featured artist. She’s one of three North Coast artists chosen to display their work.

The 14th annual international juried exhibit is on display through March 12 in Clatsop Community College’s Royal Nebeker Art Gallery. A reception is set for 6 p.m. Feb. 20 in the Astoria gallery.

Featuring 44 pieces by 32 artists from 14 states and Canada, the exhibit drew more than 500 submissions. Portland artist Henk Pander selected the art to be included in the show. In his juror’s statement, Pander wrote that he chose work that reflects “quality, originality, power, humanism and lack of cliché.”

“Finding a Way Through Fear,” by Drea Frost of Cannon Beach (acrylic on board, 24 by 36 inches) is one of 44 pieces in this year’s “Au Naturel: The Nude in the 21st Century” show.

Founder and CCC art instructor Kristin Shauck, who was featured recently in ArtsWatch’s Vision 2020 series, conceived of the show as a way to bring original works by contemporary practicing artists to campus for students to study for an extended period, she said.

The show, she said, is meant to inspire not only art students, particularly in the life-drawing class, but also a wider audience, especially practicing figurative artists in the area’s vibrant arts community. “This show celebrates the age-old tradition of representing the nude human form,” she added, “which is a subject that artists have been drawn to since the dawn of time because it resonates with each and every one of us as humans — we all necessarily inhabit our own bodies.”

It’s also important, she said, because it provides a venue for artists who work with the nude to show their work. “As a practicing artist myself who focuses on the nude human form as the primary focus of my own work, I know how difficult it is to find venues to exhibit nudes.”  

This is Frost’s second year participating in the exhibit. More than 20 years after her modeling days, the memories have stayed with her.

For “Stigmata” (oil on linen, 60 by 32 inches), Astoria artist Robert Paulmenn drew inspiration from women friends and Edouard Manet.
For “Stigmata” (oil on linen, 60 by 32 inches), Astoria artist Robert Paulmenn drew inspiration from women friends and Edouard Manet.

“I have to say it was probably my first exposure to fine art,” said Frost, who grew up in in rural Colorado and now lives in Cannon Beach. She remembers being amazed when, on a break from modeling, she walked around and looked at what people were drawing. It opened her eyes to the art world, she said, “to see the power of art, and each individual artist looking at the same thing and the way they were able to interpret it in varying ways. And then the art materials; they were all working in different materials. It was really cool to have exposure to that sort of thing, which I really hadn’t had either.”

Her piece for this year’s show, an acrylic on board, is titled Finding a Way Through Fear. It depicts a nude woman on the shore of a lake or inlet.

“This piece I painted right as I was having to go into a major surgery, so I was feeling a little bit apprehensive and nervous,” Frost said. “I think that came out in the work. She’s kind of squatted down and looks like she is about to leap into a large body of water — kind of like stepping into the unknown, which I guess is how I felt when I was painting her.”

This is also Robert Paulmenn’s second time in the exhibit. In his bio for the show, he writes that he “tried to be aware of what we have witnessed over the past four years and incorporate something else into my work other than simply another academic study. I have become painfully aware of how many of my female friends have been victimized physically and emotionally. I feel privileged to have the trust of these women and share a special intimacy, as an artist with his model, as I get to know them. When I have asked them to sit for me, I am often told that they would be honored, but in fact it is I who is honored and humbled.”

Of her work “Natural Woman 2” (acrylic on board, 28 by 22 inches), Jane E. Herrold of Astoria notes after a lifetime of education, “I still do art like a child.”

Stigmata, his piece in the show, was inspired when his model struck a pose that called to mind Edouard Manet’s painting The Dead Christ with Angels.

“Christ is sitting on a chair in that same pose,” said Paulmenn, who lives in Astoria. “I started thinking about women I knew who have been through abusive relationships. The title Stigmata represented the wounds women have to carry with them the rest of their lives.”

Jane E. Herrold, also of Astoria, rounds out the trio from the North Coast. Her acrylic on board, Natural Woman 2, reflects her view on aging.

“Scarred, sagging, and smiling; is she a brave self-portrait or a universal ‘Natural Woman’ of a certain age?,” she writes in her website bio. “I embrace what I have become… Now I just run with it all.”   

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