Sometimes, a grotesque image, no matter how vexatious, conveys a feeling so intriguing that averting the eyes becomes impossible. Those who attend the art exhibit “Suspended Dermis” will experience the unique creations of artists Michael Polomik and Andrew Etheridge. They will display their own re-imagining of the human form at Bottega Art and Wine (122 Princess St.) in downtown Wilmington this week.
“The name ‘Suspended Dermis’ began as a merger of artwork titles from both Andrew and me,” Polomik says. “We were brainstorming on titles by combining words and themes from our work, and this one stuck out. I’d say this show as a whole is an unsettling yet captivating portrayal of the human form.”
The idea for the theme came from the surrealism both artists strive to convey. For instance, while Polomik was in grad school, he had a resurgence of some early drawing methods that included old diagrams.
“I always made up environments within the diagram and eventually began using the aesthetic as a means to abstract other recognizable forms,” Polomik says.
A California native, who now lives and works in Raleigh, NC, Polomik always has possessed a passion for art and decided to turn his creative abilities into a career while studying undergrad at UNCW. He knew his pieces left a significant impact on viewers when someone broke into an office at UNCW and stole Polomik’s artwork from the wall, damaging the wall in the process. He was able to get his artwork back once a witness reported the man to the authorities.
Despite the infamy of someone gaining three felony charges to obtain a piece, Polomik’s work has been featured in art exhibitions all over North Carolina, as well as in several shows in Georgia, California, Virginia, and New York. Polomik also has received his masters in fine arts at Western Carolina University.
“I know myself now and I have experiences to draw from when I communicate,” he explains. “So my work is more concise and rich.”
During his time at UNCW, the artist met Etheridge. The two shared a common interest in prosthetics and enjoyed working together. This allowed them to create not only a partnership, but a strong friendship as well.
“We live close by in the Raleigh-Durham area currently, and continue to push each other as well as provide a reliable source of constructive criticism,” Polomik says. “It seemed logical to me to push a two-person show for us at a gallery we respected, such as Bottega.”
Etheridge has been inspired by how people throughout history use their bodies to explore and advance the existence of the human race. “I have always loved creating things, but it was not until midway through college that I discovered this is what I want to do with my life,” he says “I found inspiration in the idea of the body, specifically my own body. My entire graduate thesis was a journey through my physical and psychological experience and trying to find the intersections of technology, medicine and art.”
After obtaining his bachelors in arts at UNCW, and his MFA at UNCG, Etheridge began a career in anaplastology. His sculpting and constructing talents allowed him to create prosthesis for patients suffering from trauma or congenital effects.
“After school I didn’t really know what I would do as an artist, but I knew I was interested in prosthetics,” Etheridge says. “I contacted every local prosthetics and orthotics clinic I could find until someone gave me a chance, and started my career in prosthetics with fabricating limbs and braces. Later I was able to prove my passion for the field and became an anaplastologist with the Anaplastology Clinic in Durham.”
The two artists have collaborated several times already. During their first several years, they created an abstract magenta piece that resembled dirty Tupperware.
“It became the foundation for one of my paintings because it was so bad that I had to cover it up,” Polomik admits. “Ever since, we have taken our collaborations seriously.”
The theme of the exhibit will be conveyed through a variety of art mediums. Polomik captures his take on the human form through oil paintings, ink drawings and 2D mixed-media on paper. Etheridge uses photography and painted silicon sculptures on wall-mounted platforms, covered by bell jars.
“The defining elements of this show will definitely be getting up close and personal with the human figure,” Polomik says. “Many of the figures in both of our artworks are around life-size and very detailed. They are portrayed in an unusual manner, creating a particularly surreal environment.”
As diverse as the mediums are for this exhibit, the emotions the artists are hoping to evoke from their viewers will differ as well. Etheridge’s work will consist of the body’s individual sensory parts reconstructed in a discomforting way that is so realistic it invites the spectator to re-examine his or her own body through a peculiar perspective.
“I love the work I do, not only is it creative and challenging but it is incredibly humbling and rewarding,” Etheridge says. “Every day, I am confronted by the body as individual parts. Though my artwork is meant to repulse and humor, I really hope people can find the thoughtfulness and beauty.”
Polomik aims to elicit feelings of sublimity and grandeur from pieces that depict humans in vulnerable or idealistic settings. “My goals are to associate these emotions with the processes of study and experience, so my images sort of came to resemble a Caravaggio painting inside of the Matrix,” he says.
There also will be a painting on loan by Polomik, which was bought by the artists’ good friend, Shane Fernando. Fernando has worked as the director of Campus Life and Arts Program at UNCW, and was named director of the Humanities and Fine Arts Center at Cape Fear Community College just last year.
“I want to give Shane a shout out because he’s been like a big brother to me since early in my career,” Polomik admits. “I’m so proud of the success he has achieved in the arts in Wilmington. He’s an inspiration to me.”
Admission to this exhibit is free of charge at Bottega Art and Wine gallery in downtown Wilmington. The exhibit will run through April 11. Viewing hours at Bottega run from 4 p.m. to 2 a.m. on Monday through Wednesday, and from 2 p.m. to 2 a.m. on Thursday through Sunday.
Artwork by Michael Polomik and Andrew Etheridge
Bottega Art and Wine Gallery
122 Princess Street