Dimensions: 49 x 41″
Media: mixed media on panel
In Barbie, Eric Zener uses the weightlessness of the diving figure to convey a sense of human vulnerability; as the element fundamental to human life, the woman is suspended as if within the womb’s fluid and represents an insignificant component of a much larger and dynamic force. In order to derive value from water, it is often manipulated so that it flows from the tap with the twist of a knob, but here, the water encompassing the diver is free from her authority, where her corporeal presence and movements are dictated by the very subject of her control.
Oregon-born artist Eric Zener has been producing work for more than a quarter of a century and uses water to explore vulnerability and the relationship between humans and nature. Water often symbolizes moments of transformation and fertility, whether through its ability to grant life or strip it away; Zener acknowledges this by using it as the environment in many of his portraits, often obscuring his figures individual identity in a way that suggests a collective human experience rather than individual narrative. To Zener, water functions as “a place of psychological discovery and exploration” and encapsulates a sense of duality through the literal space below and above the surface and the metaphorical duality of personal and externally perceived human experiences. Other examples of Zener’s work show intimate—and at times sexually suggestive—bedroom scenes, where the crumpled sheets signify a corporeal presence inherently more permanent than ripples and bubbles. Zener’s pieces encourage viewer interpretation and are both visually and emotionally provocative, recalling a childhood nostalgia that stands in contrast with the implied choices, and thus consequences, associated with adulthood. In the same way that water is in constant flow, Zener juxtaposes this dynamic medium to comment on the ever changing human condition.