Exhibition Runs: October 5 – November 20, 2020 | Virtual Artist Talk: Thursday, October 22 @ 5:30pm

Soft is a sculptural installation that examines rituals of transformation, and the relationship between physicality and identity. The series focuses on the belly as a source of deep cultural and individual significance. The “belly portraits” depict real individuals, modeled from references gathered via social media. These portraits exalt a depreciated part of the body, often shrouded in shame and hid in privacy. The exhibition, with its wall hanging sculptures, video art, and functional dining installation, draws a parallel between secular and religious promises of transfiguration. The artist creates a new form of transformation, taking photos that are given to her and creating works that deify the sender’s physical form.


Albuquerque Journal, October 18, 2020

Belly Up: Harwood exhibition an ode to tummies of all shapes and sizes

Virtual Artist Talk & Reception

On Thursday, October 22 we held a virtual reception and artist talk with Helen Atkins.

Click the link below to view a recording of the artist talk on YouTube.

Belly Portraits

The 11 wall hanging sculptures represent 6 individuals who shared photos of their bellies privately via social media with the artist. The bellies sit in sculpted vintage mirror frames, referencing domestic ritual and privacy. Once sculpted, the Belly Portraits were molded and cast in a semi- transparent resin, mirroring and distorting their formation on the left side. The center piece, a mirror, signifies the transition between physicality and reflection, as the viewer comes face to face with their own torso. The series comments on the constant societal pressure to flatten and erase the belly. Diet and wellness culture promise transformation to the consumer. Atkins creates a new kind of transformation with the muse, one that accepts the figure as it is.

Take, Eat

Table Setting & Video Performance
Collaboration with Will Geusz

The installation at the center of the gallery includes a table and functional dinnerware. The stoneware set mimics the eternal organs of the torso. The table setting, and its belly-portrait- backdrop  reference the last supper. The vessels become a eucharistic ritual, further emphasized in the video performance where Atkinz and Geusz eat from the body. Atkins draws a parallel between wellness and religious rituals and their promise of a “new body.” The short video piece is an act of rebellion against diet culture and skinny supremacy. It also captures another transformation as the contents of the organ vessels dwindle and figures move and change throughout the course of the meal.   

Installation Shots

Exhibition Catalog

Recording of Artist Talk

About Helen Atkins

Helen Juliet Atkins is an interdisciplinary artist from Albuquerque, New Mexico. She received a BA in Studio Arts from the University of New Mexico in 2016. Her studio practice, public works, and community engaged projects often focus on the intersection of art and social justice. Atkins is a 2018 recipient of the inaugural Women in Creativity “Shine” Award, which honors creative women and their community impact. She is a co-founder of Plates Against Patriarchy, a visual arts and storytelling project that challenges patriarchal systems of power. Atkins currently serves on the Albuquerque Museum Board of Trustees. While working on collaborative projects, she is also building a body of work that explores notions of experience and identity; this work has been shown in galleries nationally and internationally.


My creative work is motivated by a desire to explore identity, both introspectively and communally. As aninterdisciplinary artist, the common thread running through my paintings, sculptures, and community-based projects is its human focus. My work explores the symbiotic nature between individuals and their communities, especially how one’s sense of self is affected by culture. I am attracted to the presence of contradiction in identity, therefore, my work aims to compose opposing forces harmoniously and in various media. I juxtapose notions of femininity and strength, divinity and normalcy, beauty and the mundane to not only reconcile my own contradictions, but to question societal notions of race, gender, and beauty. Throughout my career, I have been deeply involved in community engaged practices. While much of the art world can be inaccessible and whitewashed, I find that socially engaged art creates communities where I, an artist of color, feel welcomed. I am continually interested in engaging with communities that disrupt white-patriarchal norms and share my work to that end.” – Helen Atkins