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‘Figures and Forms’ explores different portrayals of the human form

Catch the Meloy Gallery’s first exhibit of 2024 before it’s gone

Rebecca Meloy stands in the center of her gallery in downtown Bellingham, Wash. on Jan. 26, 2024. The Meloy Gallery opened a year and a half prior in 2022. // Photo by Zander Ulmer.

Downtown Bellingham’s Meloy Gallery is currently hosting “Figures and Forms,” an invitational art exhibit based entirely around different ways the human body can be portrayed, with many pieces depicting naked bodies. 

The exhibit has 105 pieces from over two dozen artists, said Rebecca Meloy, the owner of the gallery. 

“I was talking with different people, and one artist said, ‘You know, galleries don't show nudes or nude work.’ I said, ‘Cool. I'm gonna do it,’” Meloy said. 

She curated the exhibit by reaching out to artists or estates of deceased artists with whom she is familiar. She visited their studios and selected what pieces she felt were fit for the exhibit. 

One of the larger and more notable pieces of the exhibit is a piece by Amy Scherer titled “EB In the Kitchen.” The piece is an oil on canvas vertical painting depicting a woman wearing a pink robe under a black blazer while leaning against a countertop in the corner of a kitchen. It shows her whole body in a seemingly laid-back posture among the white drawers and cabinets.

The works featured in the exhibit come in a variety of different sizes, styles and mediums. Pieces range from larger acrylic and oil paintings like Scherer’s to smaller sketch, pen, pastel and charcoal pieces and prints, and even two sculptures. Everything in the exhibit is for sale at the Meloy Gallery. 

Mary Jo Maute, an improvisational artist based out of Bellingham whose work is displayed in “Figures and Forms,” said she enjoys depicting the human form in abstract ways. 

“I'm not interested in depicting humans realistically because it seems to nail things down too much and gets too specific, but I guess I'm more of a symbolic artist,” Maute said.

Maute generally works with acrylic, using laying techniques to create large pieces. However, on smaller pieces, she experiments with oil and watercolor. Her featured works in the exhibit are smaller oil on paper pieces. 

Francie Allen, a sculptor based out of Bellingham whose work is also featured in the gallery exhibit, described why she thinks people are so intrigued by figurative art. She believes figurative art can be perceived in many different ways depending on the viewer's relationship with their own body. 

“We have very strong opinions and feelings about seeing an art exhibit that's focused on the human figure, and that can be wonderful for many people,” Allen said. “But for some other people, it's too much. It also depends on the feeling that the artist themselves is portraying in relation to the human body.”  

Allen described one piece in the exhibit by Frederico Castellón, a Spanish-American surrealist artist who died in 1971. The painting depicts a tall figure with long, skinny fingers wearing a black, cloak-like garment. Behind the figure is an open door showing another figure that resembles a curled-up naked human, also with long fingers. The cloaked figure is looking to the left at a stack of what appears to be human body parts and bird skulls.  

Allen used this piece as an example of how certain depictions of the human form can give an eerie, squeamish feeling to the viewer. 

Despite this, “most of the [pieces] were really quite positive, joyful, sensual, poignant and tender,” Allen said. ”All these really beautiful feelings that the artists portrayed through the human figure in the Meloy Gallery show, that definitely helps foster body positivity in the viewers.”

The exhibit is open Friday through Sunday from noon to 5 p.m. “Figures and Forms”’s final day, however, will be Saturday, Feb. 24th. The Meloy Gallery is located at 301 W Holly St., downstairs in the Bay Street Village building.

Zander Ulmer

Zander Ulmer (he/him) is a reporter for city news this quarter at The Front. He is a sophomore at Western and a visual journalism pre-major. He enjoys skiing at Mt. Baker and whitewater kayaking on local rivers and creeks. Zander can be reached at

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