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  • Ana Finel Honigman

The Physical Boundaries of This World: Sculpture Magazine

Virginia Maksymowicz’s installation The Physical Boundaries of This World is a poetic and sobering visual representation of what Hedda Bagler articulates as “a tight little world I’ve stumbled into.” Like Ibsen, Maksymowicz expresses the inherent limitations that life imposes on individual self-determination.

Identical white plaster bodies are set between white rectangular boxes, evenly spaced across a light blue floor. Only half of each body—navel to feet—is visible. Legs, feet, hips, and neatly shaped pubic hair are crafted with precise detail. The bodies possess subtle strength, and the legs seem ageless. Like an abacus, the distance between cubes and bodies seems carefully measured. The feet rest squarely against one box, and the bodies disappear within another. Paradoxically, they seem to be both trapped between the boxes while holding them apart.

Even without an understanding that the limbs are actually casts from Maksymowicz's own body, they appear as strongly individual portraits. Like any portrait or self-portrait, the bodies evoke empathy. While the experience of viewing differs from the direct emotional transference that the depiction of a face or full form makes possible, empathy powerfully emerges here from the flawed beauty and unique qualities of the parts.

Throughout her career Maksymowicz has addressed issues of feminist representation. Her work includes the series "The History of Art," in which she painted recognizable images from art history across laster casts of her breasts and torso. While The Physical Boundaries of This World expresses a particular aspect of human experience not limited exclusively to feminine/faminist ciscourse, the tightening of one's experiential sphere often affects women severely. Maturation involves the realization that alternatives exclude one another. All adults are forced to understand that decisions, circumstances, and external factors limit their range of options and control. After feminism's gains, the frustrations and limitations that women and men confront are increasingly similar, but the expectations press more heavily onwomen. Maksymowicz's white plaster boxes could signify gender neutral job hassles, relationship triviliaties, intellectual struggles, or life exhaustion. But because the bodies are female, they also represent the crush of toxic beauty standards, shifting gender definitions, political inequality, or the scrutiny society still focuses specifically on women.

In the exhition catalogue, Maksymowicz describes her intention to express "ambiguous diagrams serving in the psychology of perception to illustrate the way the mind habitually tries to achieve acoherent gestalt." While there is soothing order in The Physical Boundaries of This World, it is less a unified whole or a summation of distinct parts than the sum of tensions. Those tensions might relate to gender or to a universal human condition. They also successfully serve to underscore the separation between aspiration and reality: a desire to achieve gestalt is human but an ordered pattern is not. Maksymowicz's installation forcefully portrays the impossibility of achieving perfect order in the face of myriad factors that inevitably limit personal control.

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