Saran Alderson is an artist born in South Plainfield, New Jersey and based in Houston, Texas. The work of Saran is characterized by a fearless exploration of the human form, a chaotic and beautiful examination of everything we hold dear or cast off in abjection. While poking fun at restricted bodily expectations, through her art, she seeks to celebrate the parts of the body often deems unattractive or unworthy of attention. “My work hails to the glory of the fat roll, bows to the curl of body hair, unearths accidental treats such as a heart-shaped scrotum or amoebic areolas to pay homage to the places where we all converge as humans.”
Her art journey started with doing one art course at a local community college, she hasn’t been able to stop creating ever since. She realized that her goal in life was to make people fall in love with art.
Being interested in the human form, in Saran’s practice, she highlights particular parts of every body, from hair and skin to fat and limbs. Her work is a powerful reminder of the beauty and complex nature of the human form. Through her art, she challenges us to see ourselves and each other in new and unexpected ways. Her work celebrates the parts of ourselves that we often hide or feel ashamed of, reminding us that every part of the body is worthy of attention and love.
A self-described painter and maker of things, she drawings on a range of techniques and mediums, she works with a variety of materials, from paint and clay to found objects and digital media. Her work is always evolving, pushing boundaries and exploring new ways of seeing and understanding the human form.
All of these black charcoal drawings, for example, created by the artist reflect these ideas by showcasing the human form in a way that challenges societal norms and embraces the abject elements of the body. Through the use of black charcoal, the artist can create deep shadows and contrasts, highlighting the curves, folds, and imperfections of the body. The darkness of the charcoal can also evoke a sense of discomfort or unease, inviting the viewer to confront their own discomfort with the abject.
Specifically, in this work, No One's Normal, the artist undermines this idea of the normal body that we should try to adhere to. Different bodily shapes are layered over each other, abstracted to a degree - all beautiful in their own way.
In another presented work, Body Noise, the artist has depicted bodily hair in an abstracted way and calls it noise. In this way, she makes “abstracted views of the familiar. These abstractions that hint at our familiarity are where we might recognize each other in our communal strangeness, awfulness, and awesomeness. By poking fun at hair in this way, these artists foreground the idea of hair being something unwanted. By presenting it this way, the absurdity shines through. She reminds us that hair, like any other part of the body, is subject to imperfection and variation and just human.
The artist's fearless exploration of the human form can be viewed through the lens of Julia Kristeva's theory of abjection. Kristeva argues that there are certain bodily substances and functions that society deems as "unclean" or "abject," such as waste, blood, and decay. By highlighting the glory of fat rolls, the curl of body hair, and the accidental treats of the body, the artist invites us to confront and embrace these abject elements.
Through her art, the artist creates a space where we can confront our own discomfort with the abject and engage with it in a way that is both beautiful and thought-provoking. By showcasing these elements in a new lighter light, the artist challenges us to see ourselves and each other in new and unexpected and not-too-serious ways.
In her practice, Saran encourages us to embrace ourselves and each other in all our complexities and to challenge the societal norms that dictate what is deemed acceptable or abject. In doing so, the artist's work is not only a testament to her unique vision but also a powerful tool for social change and transformation.
Maribelle Bierens is a London-based curator and founder of online platform where's the frame?. This post is part of a series in a collaborative project with the 2023 UH MFA Exhibition at the Blaffer Museum of Art.