Art Essay on Jane Alexander

Essay by Arakasi-kyoHigh School, 12th gradeA+, May 2006

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Jane Alexander is one of the most profound artists in South Africa. This might be because of her volition to not comment on her works but rather leave their meanings up to the viewer to decipher. By doing this she creates a profound mystery around her works. Although I believe that most of her works are politically based, I think that there's probably some kind of personal undertone to her pieces too.

Predominantly a sculptor, her technique produces close to life-like figures that are usually disfigures and disturbingly decorated. The harshest of these disfigurements can be seen in Untitled (1982) where a conglomeration of wax, bone, plaster, steel, wood and paint vaguely resembles two human figures. By making the resemblance vague, Alexander lets the imagination of the viewer decide the rest. The figures look like two scrawny, mutilated, perhaps tortured, remains of people hung like animals in a slaughter house.

The distressful nature in which they are presented is perhaps a comment on the oppression, and the figures an iconographic representation of the total disregard, for people of colour in South Africa during Apartheid

The Butcher Boys (1985) on the other hand only suffer from minor bodily alterations but are no less fearsome than Untitled, which is an ironic reflection on contemporary society. The contrasting ideas presented by positioning the figures in a very casual and complacent pose and the facial expressions that just scream the opposite, is what ultimately makes the piece so disturbing. They have no ears, no mouths, glazed-over eyes and seem bound to the bench on which they sit by some unseen force, and so the figures become materialistic manifestations of the restrictive laws of Apartheid. The horns the figures are given have been turned downwards so that they no longer act as protection or...