Published August 17, 2023
Corporeal Creativity: Emily Edwards, Guest Curator
Testudo’s Guest Curator series is an ongoing collaboration with invited curators who select works from our platform based on a theme related to their own research interests. Here, Emily Edwards examines a group of six works by Sidney Mullis, Susan Stainman, and Daniela Puliti.
As Associate Curator at Dallas Contemporary, Edwards has organized solo exhibitions featuring Eduardo Sarabia, Gabrielle Goliath, Natalie Wadlington, Shilpa Gupta, Ariel Rene Jackson, and Margarita Cabrera, in addition to assisting with more than 30 exhibitions. She is currently developing shows with Bianca Bondi and Chloe Chiasson. Edwards was awarded the ICI FACE Foundation Curatorial Fellowship. Prior to joining Dallas Contemporary, she served on the curatorial team at the 9/11 Memorial Museum. Her practice concentrates on historically underrepresented artists whose work reflects the surrounding communities and contemporary times. Edwards graduated with a BFA with Honors in Art History from the University of Texas at Austin and an MA in Art History and Museum Studies from Georgetown University.
Artists have increasingly turned to the human body as a subject of exploration and expression, and in recent years this fascination with the body goes beyond mere figural representation or identity politics. Delving into deeper conceptual territories, artists Sidney Mullis, Susan Stainman, and Daniela Puliti center the corporeal in their practices to shed light on the multifaceted nature of being human in our ever-changing world.
In her evocative sculptures, artist Sidney Mullis deftly employs the body as a central theme to explore the complexities of identity and the journey from infancy to adulthood. Her art serves as a poignant memorialization of the aspects of ourselves that we leave behind as we grow up, capturing the essence of childhood attitudes and reveries within immersive installations. Resonating with the work of American sculptor Robert Gober, Mullis defamiliarizes domestic objects to probe the human psyche and intermingles contrasting moods such as humor and gravity, playfulness and profundity, and whimsy and solemnity, which are associated with various life stages.
By using sculpture as her medium, Mullis acknowledges her background in dance. She leverages materials as dance partners to choreograph how the body circulates through the spaces she creates. The sculptures including Footsie Ring on Pointed Pillow (2020) and Sand Patties (2020) reflect the physical experiences of growth—transitioning from infancy to maturity, innocence to intimacy, and birth to death. Through her art, Sidney Mullis profoundly implicates the somatic movement and prompts viewers to contemplate their own journeys through the enigmatic landscape of human existence.
Susan Stainman's art is deeply centered on the body and its capacity for intimate moments of connection and interdependence. Her interdisciplinary practice employs soft sculptures, installations, and events to make tangible the often overlooked gestures and sensorial encounters such as a held hand, a touch on the arm, or a hug. Stainman's sculptural works encourage viewers to absorb the world through their senses—prioritizing embodied experiences over intellectual understanding. The materials she selects, frequently referencing clothing, emphasize the corporeal connection we have with fabrics that we wear daily. The acts of mindful conversation, present listening, and honest, supportive dialogue are central to art objects such as Poised for Intimacy (2018). Even during the challenges posed by COVID-19, Stainman adapted her practice to contemplate the six-foot distance between individuals, using wearable works like her Belts for Being Together Apart (2021) to probe the possibilities of intimacy and play within those restrictions.
In her practice, Daniela Puliti raises various aspects of gender, sexuality, vulnerability, and mental illness. Drawing from autobiographical events as narrative points of departure and utilizing craft-based materials, her installations and mixed-media works delve into issues of intimacy, isolation, anger, and repression—manifesting the overwhelming emotions tied to anxiety and depression. Using the abject as a tool, her beautiful textiles expel resin and glitter trails as well as yarn veils that invoke the repulsive feelings of discomfort. Puliti gives her works tongue-in-cheek titles such as Thirst Trap (2018) or Don’t Cry Over Spilt Cream (2017) and uses humor as a mechanism for excavating deep-seated pain. Her installations, often suspended and meant to be seen in the round, invite viewers to engage with the art from different perspectives, encouraging rumination on the complexities of the body and the human condition.
Testudo is always looking for more voices to write with us about the art world. If you’d like to pitch an article, please see our pitch guide for more information!