Drawings of the Body by Calli Ryan

Morning Bathers



I hope this painting offers a meditation on regeneration and awe. Awe is the recognition of a great scale, a scale in which one’s body is often incomprehensibly small or transient. Awe is the feeling of looking at a beautiful sunrise over the ocean. The comical beach-goers are intended to suggest the humility with which the self is regarded when in awe of the world. In the moment of awe, we experience loss of self: it is no longer ‘‘I am a self, I have a body’ but rather ‘I am a body in the universe.’


Evening Washers

Calli_Night Washers
It is not uncommon to feel as if one’s autonomy is lost in a power struggle between the self (or soul), and the body, in which the body is a subordinate to be controlled. This painting is about this experience. I wonder if the initial problem behind this struggle is a desire to locate in the mirror a separate entity that can be objectified.






Similarly to Morning Bathers, this painting was inspired by the experience of awe. The outlines of the figure’s body are absorbed into the sky above her as she watches a passing comet. We can witness cycles in nature that are of a time scale beyond our lifetime, such as the passing of Halley’s comet. This allows us to contemplate our existence as an impermanent body.



This painting came out of my interest in maladaptive responses to distress. Ophelia, who famously dies by drowning/suicide in Hamlet, is described as “incapable of her own distress.” Motherless and completely circumscribed by the men around her, Ophelia has been shaped to conform to external demands, to reflect others’ desires. I wonder if the incapacity to experience one’s own distress and manage it effectively is often related to a view of body as an object.


Calli Ryan is an artist currently living and working in Philadelphia, PA. She completed her Bachelor’s at the University of Virginia (2011) and her Master’s of Fine Art at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Art (2014). Her work is in numerous private and public collections, and she has work on permanent display at The Pennsylvania Horticultural Society and Beneficial Bank’s headquarters in Philadelphia. In 2013 she was selected as one of five local emerging artists by The Creative Group, Inc. Calli’s portfolio and contact information may be found on her website www.calliryan.com

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