Nicole Havekost describes her towering figures as exhibiting the contradiction of “sublime embarrassment… Bodies are magical and glorious and gross and bewildering. Bodies are civilized and feral.” Through hand-sewn sculptures, the Rochester-based artist explores the ways aging affects peoples’ figures and the emotional process of adjusting to a new reality.
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She stitches large anthropomorphic works from industrial felt, shaping bodies that are bulging and covered with knots and uneven seams that serve as a reminder of restoration. Havekost explains:
These are the visible representations of the making and mending, repairing and refinishing, we are engaged in as human beings on a daily basis. It shows where we have been and marks where we are going. My figures show their imperfect repairs outwardly, unlike most of us who put on our best public faces. As I have aged, I have become more of a partner to my body. To have a body and accept its imperfections is a privilege and that is what I continue to explore in my work.
Coupled with the varying stitches are the figures’ loping movements and gestures: they lean against the wall, slouch on the floor, and stretch stiff limbs, exposing their “lived-in bodies. They are soft but hold their shape and are in poses open to nurturing and comfort though they have already given so much. They are protectors that need protection,” the artist says.
Although much of Havekost’s work centers on smaller creatures, this collection is monumental in scale and a natural progression from the doll-sized pieces she’s made previously. The nondescript works loom within the 18-foot gallery at the Minneapolis Institute of Art, where they’re currently on view through June 26, 2021. “The idea of these figures really owning the space, of the audience having to adjust to their size and presence is what really drove the increased scale and bulk of the pieces. I owed it to the figures to let them be as big as they needed to be,” she says.