Warrior Women Torso Project

The Project and the Sculptor

“Sharon Bartel Clements has embarked on a courageous path and through it she, too, has become a warrior… Every torso has a story — testaments to the courage and insurmountable strengths of each woman. These stories resonate with all who read them…The Center for  Contemporary Arts is pleased to present this compelling and engaging exhibition.”

Stuart A. Ashman
Executive Director & Chief Curator,
Center for Contemporary Arts, Sante Fe

Warrior Women Torso Project is dedicated to your strength, resiliency, and persistence. You beautiful women in my torso project not only bared your souls but also were willing to share your physical selves with a public audience.
— Sharon Bartel Clements

About five years ago, I conceived of the idea for my Warrior Women Torso Project, an installation of cast female torsos that captures their lives, their strengths and struggles, and how they have survived. To date, I have fulfilled my goal of 30 completed torsos. The word “ancient” naturally brings historical references to mind. The visual quality of being ancient, to me, can also mean something lost and then found. Lessons that were learned … something buried or destroyed and then rebuilt.

The battles fought on the field of long ago can now be seen as an analogy of hardships that are overcome with today’s modern problems. I am looking to bring the ancient artistic traditions of the Terracotta Warriors into a modern context with contemporary methods. For myself, I have had an art practice for many years, however, in The Ancient Warrior Torso Project I found a young/new voice and vision that has a link to the past while coming to terms with present concerns.

After viewing the ancient site of male warriors, I started thinking of the women I know, and of myself, who can represent a small fraction of the population. . I believe women are the real warriors, now and throughout history. What was lost and forgotten has been found. I am looking at the past seeking a connection to the present – bravery has taken on a new meaning and a new suit of armor.
Women who are the warriors in the world, having many different types of relationships and various experiences, and they have conquered any tragedy that has affected their lives…all this, gives them a voice. Each has their own voice behind the torso.

In an age where we are bombarded by living in the physical, it’s easy to forget that we are spiritual beings on a journey with our own stories to tell that are ours alone. We, as all women, carry with`in us, an ancient wisdom. This wisdom that was passed down through the ages and was somehow lost, or forgotten. We are all given a path to follow and a story that is ours alone.

My Ancient Warrior Torsos are made by using plaster wrap applied to each individual woman’s torso. Once the plaster is removed from the body and dried, the surface is applied with sewing patterns, paint and collage, and at times gauze and sand. Each torso consists of an interconnected front and a back. To further enhance their individuality, each woman is measured to determine their correct torso height.

I’d like to see all the torsos in one space; representing a totality of the woman as the warrior archetype. The Torso Project is an installation of 30 torsos, that explores the viewer’s reactions and thoughts, physically and emotionally, as they walk among the individual pieces. The viewer wanders into an environment of torsos of different sizes, heights and shapes. Each torso reflects a collective power and a re-awakened voice within its armor.

Something is observed; connections are made and transferred, between the viewer to the individual torso, and the viewer to the installation as a whole. They will relate to the project on many different levels and establish an affinity to the work they see. The viewer takes on a mental attitude that determines their point of view. The gallery space is filled with the torsos’ presence and the word “ancient” is no longer part of their being. Their painted wrappings and patterned exterior reveal their inner strength. Within the gallery space, a synergistic presence emerges, as the viewer finds themselves surrounded by torsos.

Painting for me is looking inside and outside nature, with myself as an observer. It is the process of seeing life as reflection, color, movement, and texture, remembering what has been forgotten in our lives and finding symbolic transformation.

Nature has always been an important aspect of my work. The textures and interweavings of life are all around us. Traveling extensively throughout the world, and living in many places across the county, I have seen first hand this interaction.

We all can share a moment in time with nature and our surroundings. It’s our awareness which makes this possible. Whether viewing from afar, or the close encounter there is order and meaning found.

Photo courtesy of Leslie Burnside

Torso 1

“I Am Woman.”

This woman warrior was born on Halloween Day. My lovely Mother jokingly said that I was brought by the witches instead of a stork. What a wonderful start! I will begin and end with my favorite song, “I Am Woman” by Helen Reddy:

“I am woman, hear me roar
In numbers too big to ignore
And I know too much to go back an’ pretend
Cause I’ve heard it all before
And I’ve been down there on the floor
No one’s ever gonna keep me down again
Oh yes, I am wise

But it’s wisdom born of pain
Yes, I’ve paid the price
But look how much I gained
If I have to, I can do anything
I am strong
I am invincible
I am woman…”