Painted Prison Backdrops Offer A Temporary Escape From Incarceration

Victoria Williams, Valley State Prison for Women, Chowchilla, California.

Victoria Williams, Valley State Prison for Women, Chowchilla, California.

Anonymous , Ionia Maximum Correctional Facility, Ionia, Michigan.

Anonymous , Ionia Maximum Correctional Facility, Ionia, Michigan.

 
James Bowlin, United States Penitentiary, Marion, Illinois.

James Bowlin, United States Penitentiary, Marion, Illinois.

Anonymous Backdrop Painted in State Correctional Facility, Otisiville, New York.

Anonymous Backdrop Painted in State Correctional Facility, Otisiville, New York.

Photographer Alyse Emdur offers a fascinating look into the world of prisoner portraiture in her ongoing project Prison Landscapes. If you aren’t familiar with the concept, visitation rooms of penitentiaries have backdrops where friends and family can get pictures taken of/with the inmate to commemorate the time they spent together. Often, these backgrounds are idyllic landscapes that offer the inmate a moment to emotionally escape their sentence. Emdur’s series is two-fold; It features inmates posing in front of these faux scenes, as well as the rooms that the giant paintings inhabit.

There’s a stark and ironic contrast between the prisoner-painted backdrops and the rest of their interiors. “Prison visiting room portraits are constructed to intentionally leave out the reality of prison. The aim of my project is not to be an authority on that which is left out, but to rather make the artifice visible. Although the paintings on the backdrops represent freedom, they are vehicles to control the representation of prisons and prisoners.” Emdur explains to Featureshoot.

To obtain the some of the portraits seen here, Emdur spent years corresponding with inmates. “My role was to document a system that I did not have physical access to. I did this by asking those with access, to send me their own photographs,” she says. The limitation of her available sources adds to the institutional critique of prisons that are inherent within the scope of this project. (Via Featureshoot)

Incredible Balloon Art By Daisy Balloon – These Aren’t Your Party Store Balloons

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With a moniker like Daisy Balloon, it’s no surprise that their medium of choice is balloons and sculpted like you’ve probably never seen them before. The artist (whose real name is Rie Hosokai) uses them in window displays and as art objects, but more surprisingly, fashion. Taking numerous small balloons, she gathers them into large groups that make up long flowing dresses, body suits, and structures reminiscent of armor. Her avant-garde designs are worn by models and celebrities like Bjork (are you shocked?).

Her entire portfolio is no doubt impressive – after all, keeping all of those balloons full is no small feat – but the colorful, giant teddy bear that’s constructed completely out of smaller teddy bears is the right mix of visual ingenuity, nostalgia, and fun. (Via Spoon & Tamango)

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The Plight Of Primates In Captivity By Ann Berry

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For her poignant series Behind Glass, the photographer Ann Berry traveled to zoos across the world, traversing Belgium and South Africa, documenting the sufferings and yearnings of primates in captivity. She hopes that her images of the stunning creatures, who alternately raise a hand or cast down shadowy eyes, will benefit non-profits fighting for the rights of animals to humane and just treatment.

The beautiful series vehemently avoids the high resolution color aesthetic of zoological photography, opting instead for a gaze evocative of early pictorialists, who strived to render the photographic distinctly unscientific and launched the then novel medium of photography into the realm of fine art. Within Berry’s jarringly ghostly and ethereal tones, each subject reveals a soulfulness so often hidden in photographs of animals; their struggle is urgently expressionistic, spiritual, dignified, and human. As the artist puts it, she hopes to “hear [the animals’] inner sound.”

The artist’s choice of title refers both to the glass cages and her own glass camera lens, furthering the tragic distance imposed upon animal and human; once captured in space, each primate subject is again captured and fixed with the photographic frame. The sensuality of their glittery eyes, downy beards, and calloused fingertips seduce the viewer, only to remind us that we are tragically separated from the beautiful beasts; only through glass and careful photographic printing may we strive to come together, to touch. Take a look. (via Feature Shoot and Lens Culture)

Beccy Ridsdel Dissected Ceramics

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 Beccy Ridsdel, a UK based ceramicists makes an interesting and truthful (to some) statement:

I know we all have our own opinions, but I think craft is technical and art is meaningful (or a reason for being made, beyond the thing itself). Overly simplistic? Probably, but for ceramicists this can be a big issue as ceramics is almost universally seen as craft regardless.

Ridsdel poses an interesting question here, one that not many contemporary artists are asking themselves simply because we are living in a world were art, for the most part, is conceptual. But what happens when someone like Ridsdel, who has the ability to make pottery, or plates, in this case, wants to make her craft both functional and a conceptual art piece?

I chose to make a series of definitely craft objects – bone china plates, mugs, jugs – and ‘dissect’ them.

Here, Ridsdel presents to us an interesting series of ceramic pieces that shows both her craftsmanship but also her creative thinking process. These endearing and fun plate and tea cup sets allude to something more than just eating and drinking. While still remaining functional, the cups and plates work as a signifier that brings to mind ideas of surgery and cosmetic alterations. This concept is ingeniously embedded within the multi-layers plates, and the surgical tools placed near them. (via Colossal)

Ollie Lucas’ Technicolor World Inspired By Graffiti, Glitch, And Design

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Melbourne-based artist Ollie Lucas creates works where colors swirl together with an almost preternatural smoothness, like oil diffusing in water, with more jagged and hard-line separation. Lucas says, My work has always had graphical and clean elements to it. A past life as a graphic designer is to blame there’. Creating works that span painting on enormous wooden spools, to digital works on print and more recent explorations in glitch animations, Lucas explains his influences, ‘Exposure to the graffiti scene in Melbourne has made me question harmony in my work, I have a love for filthy, dirty and weathered paint splattered surfaces, but at the same time I crave clean, modern, hardline geometrics…This is what drives my practice, combining two visual elements that are polar opposites in search for a harmony that i may never obtain.

Lucas work has often confronts two seemingly-opposing forces, graffiti and graphic design, painting and printmaking, natural landscapes with digital glitches, and blends them together. When asked how his work has changed leading up to his solo exhibition Digital Landscapes, at Pierre Peeters Gallery in Auckland, New Zealand, Lucas explains his more recent explorations and realizations in printmaking and digital creation. “It’s the first show I’ve done that is 100% digitally created. I’ve always used digital processes as a starting point in my work, however I felt a finished work needed the element of ‘hand-made’ to make it unique, to separate it from the mass produced. Since creating hundreds of drafts and moving through the paper choice/proofing and printing process I’ve come to realize a print can be just as unique as a painting.”

Though many see printmaking and painting differing in both result and creative impulse, the artist explains the harmony and connection between the two, giving value to both,“Although I have worked with many mediums in the past I still consider myself a painter, mainly because I still think like one and approach my work like a painter would. I think my work reads like a painting also.”

Ollie Lucas’ current exhibition, Digital Landscapes is on view at Pierre Peeters Gallery in Auckland, New Zealand, from now through March 5th, 2014.

Shu Yong’s Creates The Worlds Weirdest Waterfall Out Of Toilets, Sinks And Urinals

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Shu Yong

Shu Yong

Shu Yong

Chinese artist Shu Yong created an atypical waterfall using upwards of 10,000 recycled toilets, sinks and urinals.  The project took two months for Shu Young and his team to complete and covers a wall 100 meters long and 5 meters high.  Originally designed for the Foshan Pottery and Porcelain Festival, a porcelain product tradeshow, the piece is now installed as a permanent piece of public art.  Each toilet was connected to a tap so that they could be flushed—the point being to give a viewer an idea of just how much water is used in a city as large as Foshan.

Shu Yong typically works in many mediums, ranging from painting, photography, sculpture and performance, always interested in “bubbles.”  For Shu, bubbles are not just a symbol, they’re also a concept.  Shu says, “I use various methods to deduce bubble, making it a totem in both conception and form.”  Alongside the Toilet Waterfall Shu installed one of his “Bubble Women,” a sculpture of ballooning women’s breasts.  A seemingly unusual pairing, Shu uses the Bubble Women as a reflection of the motivations and interests of modern day society.  Juxtaposing the two works makes for a bizarre, yet strangely effective, commentary on contemporary culture.  Shu believes in using such provocative work to address cultural mythology, politics and contemporary anxiety in China, or as he calls it, “his laboratory.”  (via amusingplanet)

Kim Alsbrooks’ Exquisite Portraits Painted on 600 Flattened Beer Cans

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In 2004, artist Kim Alsbrooks began painting regal portraits on discarded cans in a series titled My White Trash Family. The work, which features both male and female subjects dressed in elaborate wigs, stately ascots, and enormous hats, is a juxtaposition of literal trash and fine portraiture. It was as initially inspired by Alsbrooks’ friend, a women’s history professor, who pointed out the historical biases that are present in art. In response, Alsbrooks’ tiny paintings mimic those that you’d find in museum collections. The fact that these exquisite works are produced on trash rather than quality materials is both ironic and amusing.

My White Trash Family is prolific;  Alsbrooks has produced over 600 paintings since it started. All beverage cans are pre-flattened, mostly by passing cars or trucks. She describes her technique, writing, “One cannot flatten the trash. It just doesn’t work. It must be found so that there are no wrinkles in the middle and the graphic should be well centered. Then the portraits are found that are complimentary to the particular trash. Generally I depict miniature portraits from the watercolor on ivory era (17th-18th century more or less). The trash is gessoed in the oval shape, image drawn in graphite, painted in oils and varnished.”

Part of the success of this series is found in the dedication to craft,  and the fact that she paints miniature portraits really well. But, what ultimately makes these works appealing is not necessarily tangible. The reference to high society and its traditional paths  challenged by cheap, “lower class” items is instantly recognizable and relatable at a time when the one percenters rule the world. (Via Booooooom!)

Terrifying Images Of Ukraine Before And After The Recent Riots

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Amidst the overwhelming violence seen in Ukraine’s recent riots, Gizmodo’s Jesus Diaz (an outsider) decides to create visually stunning, but heartbreaking images that explore Ukraine’s reactions to the sudden cultural and political changes.

By taking some of the techniques applied by Sergey Larenkov on his famous series, The Ghosts of World War II, Diaz creates images that merge shots of Kiev from before and after the Ukraine riots using the same vantage points. Through this technique, a masterful trick made possible by the almighty Photoshop, the viewer is able to experience two polar opposites: a happy, peaceful Ukraine, and a chaotic Ukraine.

Looking at the dramatic contrast between happy people enjoying the sun and peace and the anger of people behind in barricades is disheartening.

(via Sploid)