The sensuality of the female body and its accoutrements of beauty have attracted artists since the beginning of time. And sculptor Laura Ann Jacobs is no exception.
Her colorful, ornate sculptures of bras, shoes and corsets are painstakingly created and all one-of-a-kind. Some take up to eight months to create and are more often an expression of our societal desire for bodily perfection than just a celebration of the female form.
"I sometimes feel people don't see the message," she said. "They think my work is pretty or decorative. They see the color, sparkle and glitz."
And there is a lot of color, sparkle and glitz especially in her latest piece, called "Skirting the Issue" (a skirted corset). "It's not unlike one you would see on a Degas ballerina," she said. "Emerald greens, sparkly gold glass. A cloisonné emerald cicada sits perched on a blond wood tree trunk that comprises the middle strip of the bodice and the skirt is made of branches and foliage. It's beautiful on the outside."
And then you look underneath.
Jacobs said the opening scene of "Blue Velvet" zooming in on suburban life explains her work perfectly. "You see close-ups of the vivid beauty of a flower, a vibrantly green trimmed lawn and manicured shrubs. Everything seems manageable; everything pristine, controlled, perfect... and then they zoom in under the lawn to the creepy crawly underneath of life."
But she points out quickly that you don't have to look underneath. "You don't have to look in the mirror, but it's there," she said. "We can nip and tuck. We can pull taught and inject. We can pump up and remove. But we're all still in varying states of decay and we're all gonna die."
It may sound depressive, but Jacobs is anything but. A fast-talker and ball of energy, Jacobs said she often works 19 hours a day and degrudges the fact she needs sleep to replenish. "I am one of the lucky ones who wake up with excitement every day," she said. "There are not enough hours to get the work out of my head and into concrete reality."
Jacobs needs every minute she can get because she supports four galleries: Mark Miller, Karen Lynne Galleries, Pismo Fine Art Glass and The Hart Gallery. She splits her time in three locations: San Francisco, Palm Desert and Florida. Jacobs' bra, shoes and corset sculptures will be on display in the Hart Gallery all year.
The names of her sculptures are often as pointed as her commentary. Some examples include corsets named: "The Breast of Both Whorls" and "A Conch-scious She Sell," shoes named: "Slipper A Pill" and "Another Evening Owwwwwt" and bras named: "Are You Game?" as in a hunter's trophy and "A Wee Bit Crabby Tonight Aren't We?" which incorporates crab claws.
Jacobs wouldn't say she's angry about society's desire for bodily perfect, "but, yes, I guess I am poking a little fun at the lengths women go to attract the opposite sex," she said, admitting at the same time that it works. "I have a friend who I guess felt labeled as anatomically challenged and decided to have breast augmentation. Her life changed perceptively. Men open doors for her now, they carry her luggage, they speak to her more politely. But I understand it is not our fault. We're only human," she said.