Shaplin busts into the court

This court, neither royal nor filled with six-foot NBA stars, peers at its viewers from pedestals  and walls with intense emotion and startling realism.  On Friday, Nov. 6, Oriana Shaplin exhibited her latest collection of figurative sculpture — a set of unique and captivating busts — at Designhaus in Burlington.The portraits — severed from the shoulders up — convey, whether angry or indifferent, an incredibly human narrative.Shaplin sculpts from life, molding the busts in clay and then casting them into plaster portraits, Shaplin said.  After she casts, she paints the busts different colors of rich bronze, black and white.All of the models are people within Shaplin’s network of friends.  Shaplin asked people she knew to sit down and pose for her in their free time, she said. “I really like capturing personalities,” Shaplin said.A whitewashed head scrutinizes the room with a side-ways glare and a small smirk.  The middle-aged man could be your professor, a bank manager or a Starbucks barista.  His look begs you to ask what or whom he is thinking about.While she always works from live models, busts are exclusive to this show, Shaplin said.”When I work, I generally try to capture the human experience and create something that is going to connect with the viewer — that goes beyond words,” Shaplin said.The sculptural portraits create an eerie yet intriguing climate in the small gallery.”I came in and looked up close, and when you stand back you get an entirely different perspective,” viewer Adrienne Raphael of Burlington said.Mounted on the white walls, a black cast-iron man’s face stares from within a wreath of leaves with intent eyes.  Frozen — a tin man without his oil can — the face draws the viewer in and leaves him or her questioning who he is. “I appreciate all the thinking that goes into each tiny detail, whether it is finished or unfinished — it tells you something about the person or the artist,” viewer Scott Tobias of Burlington said.The busts, a neo-classical tradition, are not something often seen in contemporary art, giving Shaplin a rare opportunity to combine both old and new art forms.  “You don’t see realistic busts anymore,” Tobias said.”Into the Court” is a small, unique exhibit that is definitely worth seeing.