Gamze Kazakoglu, Contributing Photographer

On March 7, an exhibition called “Embodycurated by Krista Scenna opened to the public in the Ely Center of Contemporary Art in New Haven.

The exhibition, which will be on view until April 18, includes a compilation of artworks by artists wrestling with the pandemic while continuing to produce work. “Embody” also highlights women as the bearers of many pandemic-related struggles by emphasizing household and professional tasks they perform.

According to Scenna, who is a guest curator at the center, Embody signals a “return to physical presence” and a celebration of the nearing end of the pandemic. In a world dominated by isolation and virtual interactions, the exhibitons’s artists remind viewers of the irrepressible longing for physicality.

“It hit me that we have been living in this pretty virtual existence that we can’t really encounter other physical bodies outside of our household,” Scenna said. “So that means we are not engaging in the same hobbies that we would: seeing families, seeing friends, going out to dinners, being surrounded by other bodies of strangers.”

Artwork for the exhibition was selected via an application process open to all artists. Scenna made her selections from around 400 submissions, featuring artists from all across the United States, including California, New York, Connecticut and Texas. The art ranges from traditional paintings to sculptures accompanied by videos.

According to Maxim Schmidt, the gallery coordinator, this diversity of work reflects the cohesiveness of people’s individual experiences of the pandemic.

“‘Embody’ is a perfect culmination of perspectives, because all of us are sort of unified in this period of temperance, being present in the moment, but also filing that in themes of closeness, both emotionally and physically, given the pandemic conditions,” Schmidt said.

Scenna said she did not have a theme in mind when she went through artists’ submitted works. During her selections, she found herself gravitating towards “abstract, oversized and unfinished” pieces. This inspired Scenna to reflect upon changes in people’s lives with the loss of physical touch and led her to choose the theme “Embody.”

The Ely Center of Contemporary Art is a mansion converted into a nine-room gallery that is open to the public. According to Debbie Hesse, vice president of the Center, the gallery’s physical setting enables artists to capture a range of emotions and create a range of artwork representing the pandemic.

“The curator can create vignettes, which gives the viewer a chance to see little conversations about different moods and experiences as you move through a house so I think it’s really exciting,” Hesse said.

Yet the team had to take more precautions than usual, with contactless delivery, drop-in hours for artists and no opening reception. Scenna was only able to spend a day familiarizing herself with the gallery’s space and layout pre-installation.

The Ely Center of Contemporary Art was founded in April 1961.

Gamze Kazakoglu | gamze.kazakoglu@yale.edu