In a familiar place by Blake Nellis

I had the honor of being artist in resident last week at Luther College, where I've taught many times before.  But it was my first time teaching there since the spring of 2015.  So, I was excited, nervous, curious to how things would go... And I wasn't just teaching "Contact Improvisation," my usual go-to discipline.  I decided to combine my love for body and beauty in what I'm calling "Beauty Aesthetics"

SKIN.ROCK.BONE: selfie taken in Decorah, IA

Here's what I hoped to touch on: An exploration of the intersection between visual aesthetics and somatic dance improvisation. My primary/current interest lies between our culture's beauty standards and my re-evaluation of that standard through the body, touch, nature and dance (specifically Contact Improvisation, Four Phases - a Jane Hawley created practice, & Photography).  I would like to investigate how we make "beautiful" art that fits or confronts our culture's norms.  (AND WHAT THE HECK IS BEAUTIFUL ANYWAY?!)  

Here's what I'm asking:

Who defines beauty? What makes you beautiful? Can we resist labeling art as beautiful/not? What are we drawn to with our eyes and other senses?  How can we offer more beauty to this world? And how can we increase our capacity to see beauty among us? 

Blake_Decorah_Skinrockbone-8980.jpg
Is there a certain texture/color that pulls you in? 

Is there a certain texture/color that pulls you in? 

Can you re-frame what you've seen many times before? 

Can you re-frame what you've seen many times before? 

Is the way I look what makes me beautiful?  Can I change what others see in me?  What if something stops being beautiful to me? 

When I was a student at Luther College, more than a decade ago, I asked many of these same questions.  And returning to Luther brought them all flooding back.  I'm constantly rearranging my beauty standards and finding new things that I'm drawn to.  Yet it's still so easy to judge, critique and search for the standard "beauties" out there.  

Nature is my partner and my teacher. 

*when each student was asked to chose an image they found beautiful from my website, these eight were chosen & reasons varied for each.  Many of them explained they chose the image for sentimental or emotional value.  We then constructed short solos inspired by these photos.      

MY PRACTICE: I find with a little introspection, breath and human touch I lose track and redefine my world through sensation.  It's the body that sees/feels beauty.  It's not up to someone else to decide my beauty standards.  It's constantly shifting.  It's surprising.  It's honest.  I know what's beautiful.  And I hope to share it, now more than ever.  

you're beautiful

soap factory: skin.rock.bone meets dirt, paint, stranger by Blake Nellis

This photoshoot was messy and fun.  And we had never met before making this art.  THAT'S what I love about it.  Strangers connecting with strangers and trusting in the creative process!   

These images were taken while in residency at The Soap Factory in August of 2016 (part of "3x5 series").