Engaging the body's sense of touch with sculptural ceramics
A gallery setting. A woman sits and lifts the sculptural ceramic object, placing it on her lap. She moves it until it settles comfortably across her thighs, then she begins to explore the surface with her hands, both the shape of the piece and its texture. She turns it over and lifting the piece holds it against her torso. Her arms cradle it.
Touch is the first sense to form in the womb and often the last sense to leave us. How much touch we need, how we perceive it, whether we find touch pleasant or distasteful, and how we react to it, vary from person to person. It is influenced by factors such as our genetic make-up, experiences as foetus, baby, child, and adult, our gender, the attitudes and mores of our society, our personal circumstances, and our emotional and physical state at any one time. Although universal, touch is an utterly intimate and individual experience.
'Grounded sensuality': promoting well-being
Visitors physically interact with the sculptural ceramic objects, which were made to engage the body’s sense of touch, in an experience that Bonnie refers to as ‘grounded sensuality’. During exhibitions of these artworks, created by and for the body, people describe the aesthetic encounter as evoking positive emotional responses. Bonnie suggests that these experiences are moments of centeredness, created by the consonance of heightened physical and emotional self-reflection. For many people, handling these Cast Hugs reinforces positive emotions and trace memories, thereby enhancing and supporting a sense of well-being.
Some visitor comments:
It's a kind of self-discovery. They make me feel warm inside.
It feels like it's become part of me. So comforting.
So very sensual, fresh and definitely intimate.
In exhibition people begin to discuss the experience of the sculptures. Some tell of memories evoked. One visitor said, 'They remind me of large stones in my village in Iran, where women in labour press their bodies against the stone to take away the pain. We also have stones that we believe take our emotional pain away. We say then that the stone is crying.'
Another visitor said: 'The hug is about a closeness, sharing an emotional charge. I feel like I am getting the charge from all the people who have hugged this before me. It's important that it's a shared hug. The hug gives you emotional energy.'