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The body is a container in which we carry our thoughts, feelings and experiences. In meditation, insights are acquired through connection between the mind and body. Likewise, artmaking is a process of materializing these mind/body connections. This group show collects specific and partial aspects of the experience of occupying a body from each artist’s perspective through both new and reactivated work.

Recent global circumstances have drastically shifted spatial relationships between the self and others. Never before has there been such dedicated time to be in and aware of one’s own body. Bringing together ten artists from across Texas, Occupied explores metaphorical and formal relationships to the body from lenses of different political, sexual, spiritual, and technological frameworks.

The artists in this exhibition connect their own relationships to the body with their artmaking practices. Investigating both the body as space and the body in space, each artist allows their new and newly activated works to serve as extensions of their body, small fragments of their corporeal experiences. By interpreting the body’s interior presence as well as its relation to its surroundings, each artist is able to identify an evolving understanding of the self as it relates to the physical form.

The exhibition title alludes to the space that thoughts, feelings, and experiences take up in our bodies as we move through the world. Occupied by these provocations, our bodies are both ever-present and ever-perceived. Beyond this literal definition, the word ‘occupied’ connotes notions of work, property, sexuality, cultural roots and materials, and censorship; all of these ideas are closely tied to how each of us navigates in a bodily sense through space and time. The works within Occupied highlight the continuing pleasures, queries, and anxieties related to ever-evolving understandings of the body and its relationship to a current environment.

In speaking with the featured artists, I was able to grasp a great understanding of the connections between these works, the ways in which their practices are in communication with one another. For example, artist Ariel Wood in explaining her work, release/return (2020), noted “My interest in drainage and plumbing stems from its metaphorical relation to communication and the body...The drain acts as both a stand in for the body, as it visually resembles a rib cage, and a filter that allows certain things to pass through it while holding some back.” Many of the works explore the notion of a bodily element as part of a larger system or whole. “ I feel our works are connected through expressions of self identity in varying mediums. If our body is like a container, this is an exhibition of the diverse and nuanced experiences within each container,” remarked artist Weylin Neyra. Speaking with these artists enabled me to review my own curatorial practice as one deeply rooted in figurative expression. Each work within this exhibition allows for reflection upon the fundamental essence of human gesture.


Jaelynn Walls is a curator and culture writer based in Texas. She is the 2019-21 Andrew W. Mellon Curatorial Fellow at The Museum of Fine Arts Houston and creator of Art in Color, an educational art history Youtube channel.

Christina Coleman /

André Fuqua /

Alex Kang /

Ling-lin Ku /

Jay Jones /

Diego Mireles Duran /

Weylin Neyra /

Rachael Starbuck /

Tino Ward /

Ariel Wood /

This project was supported by donations from donors. Thank you for your support. 

An audio guide and video tour were made to accompany this exhibition to support viewing during COVID possible and expand accessibility. AUDIO GUIDEVIDEO TOUR

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