“I must go to Nature disarmed of perspective and stretch myself like a large transparent canvas upon her in the hope that, my submission being perfect, the imprint of a beautiful and useful truth would be taken.” — John Updike, The Centaur
There is something remarkably soothing in looking upon Rebecca Setareh’s bronze sculptures. Even in those expressing a certain angst, there is a comfort—in the form and in the depth of the emotion so beautifully executed. Setareh captures the human form with incredible artistry. A collective celebration of the body, fluid lines and dynamic shapes and poses elicit a very real sense of motion and vitality. Each figure in its own right seems a perfect encapsulation of the human capacity for feeling as well as of the strength of both body and spirit. Bodies juxtaposed with rough hewn rock, the sculptures represent a dialogue on the relationship between human and nature, indicating a distinction that is perhaps not so distinct.
Setareh—a sculptor, painter, and most recently, a photographer—is an internationally acclaimed artist with an exhibition history spanning more than 20 years. Her work illustrates a fascination with the human form, expressly in the context of nature, whether fighting it or conceding to it to achieve unity. Texture and movement feature prominently in achieving this evocation, and in fact, the tactile nature of it is what drew Setareh to sculpture to begin with. “I actually started way back with doing paintings that were very detailed and decorative from back in my home country, you know I did have those roots kind of, in being Iranian,” she says, “but then I reached a point where I had this urge and need to feel the material with my hands. The paint you can feel to a certain extent, but that urge of putting my hands in and feeling the clay, you know, touching it, really grew inside me and was an area I really wanted to expand in.”
Consistent across mediums, in her recent foray into photography, Setareh focuses on large pieces of driftwood collected from South America, bringing things back to nature and capturing the sculptural aspects of the wood in a way that’s reminiscent of her bronze bodies. Remarking on the work, she says, “When you see the pictures, you’ll see it’s flat—it’s photography—but there’s so much movement that my eyes have captured, that I grabbed from the details I should say of the driftwood that can easily be related to my sculptures. And the textures. My sculptures have a lot of texture because of the rock, the roughness of the rock, and the smoothness of the human body. And so in my photography, there’s a lot of texture.”
The importance of the tactile experience in Setareh's art is something she shares with her audience. “One of the things I love, I like to put a sign on my sculptures that says ‘Please Touch.’” This invitation to touch enables the viewer’s active participation in the experience, something generally lacking in an exhibition setting. “I want them to touch it, I want them to feel the feelings. I want them to be able to connect. I feel that visually looking at it, walking around it, they’re missing something. But by touching the body, by touching the rock, they can really tap into their senses and feel, perhaps not completely what I felt, but they can definitely associate with a lot of movement, a lot of feelings, and, yes, they can connect with the piece.”
Setareh’s passion for her art radiates out of the work she produces. When asked about the evolution of her work and where she intends to go, Rebecca says, “For me, it will always, at this time in my life, it will remain the human body. The human body has so much to explore, and to put out there and to create. And my fascination with nature, besides just the texture, you know, the solidness of the rock—I’m still fascinated to intertwine, and to bring these two pieces together. Because we are nature, and nature is us. And what I love is when they come together, they create this oneness, and this wholeness.” As for what’s to come, she sees immense promise in progressing her relationship with Advocartsy, a group she’s proud to be involved with and from which she hopes to see new pathways open up. And, of course, she’ll continue executing new work and “finding more new ways to communicate [her] vision to the public”—to express a beautiful truth on the human condition.