Aging. With the exceptions of Dorian Gray and Peter Pan, it happens to us all. And the resulting battle against our sagging, drooping, expanding bodies is witnessed in our obsessions with exercise, cleanses, cosmetic surgery, and diets. Artist Sean Healy mines this theme in his recent exhibition, Gut—an artistic exploration of his own struggles with a waistline expanding with age.
“I’m in the thick of middle age right now,” says Healy. “It’s a little harder to do things that come naturally anymore. [Gut is] kind of a reaction. Sort of a mid-life crisis.”
Using warped wood, cigarette filters, and bellybutton lint in conjunction with traditional materials, Healy has taken a snapshot of his own aging process. In one piece, Speed Bump Headache, resin and paint droop and leak from tightly packed cigarette filters. In Roil, brightly colored resin stalactites pool on the floor. His sculptures explore the everyday things we slough off, like the bellybutton lint used in Memory of Muscle Tees and the mountain of cigarette butts in Middle Aged Sex.
“Some of the materials I have used before—like cigarette filters—took on a different connotation then in past shows,” says Healy. “In past shows they were more about masculinity. In this show they were more about cast-offs, things we discard.”
While Healy may be drooping physically, creatively he feels more vigorous than ever. Bodily toll is one thing, but a lifetime engaged in the mental exercise of making art has only strengthened his practice.
“You keep going,” he says simply of the lessons he took from Gut. “It’s not dependent on physicality. [Making art] is not like athletics. That was the realization. That it was still there. This is what I do.”
Gut is at the Elizabeth Leach Gallery through December 30.