Masaya Kushino‘s high heel designs are chimerical, fusing organic textures and materials with the manmade. He utilizes luxurious fur and lush jungle moss alongside meticulously stitched leather, creating works of art that are quirky and beautifully imaginative.
It’s fitting that the form he chooses to play with is the high heel: the height of artifice; impractical; undeniably evocative. It’s a choice that is brimming with meaning and possible interpretations. They’re an everyday item but commonly elevated by haute couture into something fantastical. To some people, they represent an unobtainable ideal, one that is rife with sociopolitical meaning and controversy. Whether you approve of the existence of stilettos or not, they’re admittedly architectural, intriguing in their contours and elegant curves.
Kushino emphasizes a number of these qualities, borrowing the jeweled swoop of a peacock’s tail feather and a bouquet of flowers to highlight the theatricality. In his latest work, called “Bird-Witched,” he incorporates an element of the grotesque: Three shoes that seem each an embryonic stage in the development of a chicken. The heel of the shoe is a gnarled claw, sharp-toed and grisly.
Seattle artist Joe Vollan has an inventive imagination that lies somewhere between Edward Gorey, children’s fairy tales, with perhaps a little Tim Burton mixed in there. Mechanized skeletons of birds, wild beasts, a cat dancing around a fire, all forming splices of what could be either a tall tale or a nightmare, depending on your take. His work involves the dead moving about in a world where they continue to interact, and this playful imagery is embedded in a fictionalized version of Seattle, as the Space Needle is present in one particular painting.
As said on his website: “His works describe tales of heartache and adventure. The bulk of his paintings take place in the city of Rusted Gallows, a post apocalyptic, rundown factory town populated by secret skeleton societies and strange but friendly creatures. The characters in his works demonstrate that there can be contentment and hope in an otherwise dilapidated world.”
Sølve Sundsbø is a London-based (Norway-born) photographer whose highly stylized shoots bring an experimental edge into the world of high fashion. This particular series — called Points a la Ligne — was shot for Numéro magazine’s May 2008 issue. The concept is simple, yet powerful; patterned shadows of stripes and circles are cast across the body of a nude model (Edita Vilkeviciute). Between the model’s painted-white skin and the pitch-black shadows surrounding and traversing her, the photos are strongly contrasted. Her lipstick — in varying bright shades — is the only source of color that punctuates the series, attracting the eye to her mouth.
The result of Sundsbø’s experiments with light and shadow is a photo series that lends a sensual geometry to the body. In some images, the shadows — which appear painted on, initially — give her body a feline appearance, and in others, almost a pop-art/film noir aspect, or even more abstractly, the way sunlight reflects off of sand dunes. The interpretations are varied, but the illusory effect on her form is beautiful.
Sundsbø has shot for a number of fashion publications and beauty brands, including Vogue, NYTimes, Chanel, Dolce & Gabbana, and H&M. You can explore the rest of his imaginative, sensual, and highly polished work on his website. (Via Art Fucks Me)
Chen-Dao Lee paints highly stylized pop images that are a kind of Taiwanese version of a Quentin Tarantino neo-noir film. Painted in candyfloss pinks, reds and blues, his work borders on anime, or a kind of twisted superhero comic. His subjects are powerful women (and peculiar men) who have a cynicism, sexuality and also a sickly sweetness about them. Posed together, armed with guns and wearing frilly socks and high heels, or engaged in a semi-erotic masked wrestling fight, Lee’s characters are contemporary individuals, expressing the whole spectrum of emotions.
In his recent series, Lee has shifted from depicting a logical scenario in his paintings to focusing on the figures entanglement to describe emotions or relationships which are ambiguous, embarrassing or even helpless. Beautiful young women and fallen heroes frequently appear in Lee’s works as a symbol of the projection of modern people’s inner contradictions. (Source)
With titles like Cat fight – Love Kick, Boss, Not The Hero Type, Valentine, BFF, Lee embraces a kind of feminism with a dark sense of humor. He paints scenarios loaded with sexual innuendo, but instead of them being erotic, or about power plays, he focuses on ennui. The women (and men) show a lack of enthusiasm and engagement, but rather a nonchalance about what ever is going on around them.
His past series have included paintings of women guiltily carrying loads of fast food, indulgent night life scenes with money being tossed around, strange card nights, groups of men eating sushi off a blow-up doll, and overweight men with bad tan lines wearing cute costume masks. Lee is able to blend sarcasm, skepticism and empathy to create instant modern day classics. (Via Illusion Scene)
In the sculptural works of Jessica Lichtenstein, the idealized female form is presented in a highly, sexually, charged way. Appropriated from Japanese porno anime known as “Manga”, she reverses the original intent and renders a suggestive study of freedom and empowerment. In lighthearted narratives, her perfect muses flutter amongst a pile of designer bags, sip Starbucks, or work au naturel in the painting studio. These happy go lucky motifs were actually an escape for Lichtenstein’s own depression. Even though trained as an artist, she worked as a lawyer for many years. The daily grind got her down and she would escape through art projects. After creating her first successful exhibit featuring the girls, she listened to her inner voice, and quit law for good to pursue art full time. Not wanting to repeat herself, she decided to pursue another direction for her follow up. Instead of using dolls, she created pictorial likenesses of the girls which were scanned onto three dimensional word sculptures. These solid pieces constructed on aluminum and acrylic, depict scenes ranging from a war on words to sexual liberation. Technically hung on a wall, the different base materials give the pieces depth and become a solid looking glass into a host of childlike indulgences. Seasons, came next and stepped her into more introspective territory. The different times of year are portrayed through seasonal trees whose leaves are entirely composed of Manga figures. Its optical illusion triggers a highly emotional response from the viewer stemming from the clever placement of the artist’s nubile subjects.
San Francisco-based illustrator Emma Munger combines two things that popular culture holds dear – the television show Twin Peaks and Sailor-Jerry style tattoos. She’s reproduced the classic flash pages you see in tattoo shops with characters from the bizarre David Lynch production. But, there’s a twist. Instead of a straightforward look at Audrey Horne, Laura Palmer, and the Log Lady, they are done in a pin up style.
The amusing mashup may never make you look at Twin Peaks the same again. Munger draws some characters sexier and some homely characters unnecessarily seductive.
Now that you can imagine these pinups on arms, legs, and other body parts, the real question is – would you ever get one tattooed? If so, which one? (Via Dangerous Minds and Welcome to Twin Peaks)
There is an unnerving quality to Shi Mohan‘s paintings, as though they are capturing daydreams, complete with all the surrealness and subconscious metaphors that come with the territory.
According to Art Seasons, a gallery in Singapore and Beijing that has previously shown her work, “Shi Mohan jocularly calls herself a life Illustrator. Pleasantly and sensitively, she documents the nity-gritty of her own life, portraying many bizarre and outlandish thoughts and desires on the canvas.”
There is a certain playfulness to Mohan’s art, though the off-kilter imagery can make it seem more sinister. Her paintings are snapshots of a more innocent yet stranger time: the weird days of youth. (via Supersonic Art)
Jordan Westre (Living Couch) is a Canadian artist who creates beautiful and critically engaging collages from amalgams of modern and vintage print media. While Westre’s works are all highly unique and nuanced, many of them share recurring imagery, including landscapes, space travel, war, and the feminine body. From a broader aesthetic perspective, her collages are seamless and evocative; Westre has a brilliant ability to weave together seemingly disparate images in a holistic way. The more you look, however, the more a deep — and often dark, or disconcerting — social commentary emerges, one that examines cross-generational anxieties regarding the state of society and its relationship to human sexuality.
Westre’s artistic process begins with a self-impelled assembly of aesthetically-pleasing images. As she explains: “I don’t set out with a definite vision, I just flip through magazines […] or books with vintage photographs or illustrations, [and] pull out anything that might serve as a good subject, background, or element.” From there, she lays everything down and seeks compelling combinations — “and that’s where the inspiration comes about.” Currently, she uses liquid glazes on canvas or canvas board, but is planning on experimenting with hot and cold-pressed papers and spray adhesives.
When it comes to the meaning behind her work, Westre says that most of it unconsciously materializes as “anxiety-riddled observation[s]” of society. The collages depict the world in an oscillating utopic/dystopic state; or indeed, as an oft-idealized place that is festering at its center. In Westre’s words: “[My work is] grappling with the awareness that a lot of our society and the path we’re on is utterly fucked — for lack of a better phrase — while we’re all smiling and laughing and consuming […]. Polish & the rot beneath.”
Westre also brings human sexuality into these critiques, exploring what she identifies as the “ultimate vulnerability and ultimate power” of sex. Desire — which is represented here by eroticized images of the female body — vacillates between states of seduction, submission, and destruction. It is unpredictable; hence why it might contribute to Westre’s fear of a world slipping into chaos. Check out Living Couch for more of her incredible work.