The artist Sarah Best creates astounding replicas of the female body, using it as a symbol that tracks the human desire for connection and intimacy; severed from the rest of the body, her sculpted hands and a cut-out collaged breasts take on a life of their own, worming their way up walls and pages and sometimes tracking blood in the process. The work, though sometimes gruesome, maintains a pulsating beauty; as if with clear intentions, her vital sculptures navigate space, dangling from hooks and exploring piles of cloth.
From both a feminist and an aesthetic standpoint, Best’s work operates in a miraculous, subversive manner; the feminist philosopher Susan Bordo, for example, writes that the body, coded female, is often seen as passive and lacking in intellect, explaining that therefore the body alone has the power to challenge those sexist ideas. Positioning parts of the body within cubistic collages and arresting installations, Best allows it to transcend societal definitions. Rather than figuring as part of a whole to be admired and objectified, limbs actively seek out understanding of the outside world, touching and feeling everything in their paths.
Wonderfully vulnerable yet undeniably powerful, female arm bears Christ-like stigmata, and the physical body searches for spiritual meaning. The oppressive boundaries between the corporeal self— too often considered to be unintelligent, immoral, and “feminine—” and the elevated metaphysical self are effectively shattered, and a new kind of humanity begins to emerge, one to which we can all relate, one that is beautifully desirous, yearning, and sometimes lonesome.
I got the amazing chance to speak with Best, and when I asked what advice she’d give to aspiring artists, she simply said, “Keep your integrity. You will only count, for yourself and in your art, to the extend that you keep your integrity.” Take a look.