“I love bodies,” says artist Sally Hewett. “It is not the conventionally beautiful bodies that take my eye, it is bodies which show their history, that have been altered by their experience.” The UK based sculptor centers her works on the ugliness and imperfections of our bodies, and uses the prettiness of embroidery to offset how we view them. Describing her sculptures as a divide between craft and art, Hewett’s sculptures play around with our perceptions of ourselves and what needs to be “fixed”.
Using materials like stretch jerseys, fine lycra, and “angel skin” fabric, Hewett decorates her sculptures with dazzling and grotesque bruises, scars, spots, stretch marks, freckles, and veins. Newer pieces also make an association between the cut-and-sew of her art making and the nip-and-tuck of plastic surgery, where she sews different colored threads onto the sculpture’s “skin” much like a surgeon would map a body for surgery with colored pens.
“I am planning a series of medical/surgical pieces, showing bodies that have been altered by disease or surgery. My granny (an upholsterer and seamstress of great skill) had her breast removed as a result of cancer and was hugely grateful to the surgeon for saving her life. But she was almost equally appreciative of what a beautiful stitching job he had done. She was very proud of her scar,” Hewett shares.
Hewett’s work is met with mixed reactions, some finding a sense of humor in it, while others find it off-putting. Perhaps we’re meant to feel a little bit of both- To look at Hewett’s sculptures is a challenge to look at our bodies in the most honest mirror- “Are some characteristics of bodies inherently beautiful, or ugly, or disgusting? Or because we see everything through the veil of culture, fashion and convention is it almost impossible for us to see bodies objectively?”