New York photographer Shannon Taggart gives us a first hand look into the haitian religion of Vodou being practiced in the basements of New York City. (via)
“Taggart’s project began when she met a Mambo, or female Vodou priest, named Rose Marie Pierre, who runs a temple in the basement of a nondescript storefront in the working class neighborhood of Flatbush. It was here that Taggart made these images of priests and laymen undergoing possession by the Loa—powerful spirits that act as intermediaries between humankind and Vodou’s distant god, Bondye. Most Loa are benign, some are malevolent, but every spirit has a distinct personality, role in the world and set of demands and services. In their different ways, practitioners believe, these spirits determine our fate and must be consulted and appeased.
Beckoning the Loa requires elaborate preparations unique to the particular spirit desired. Practitioners indicate the Loa they want to call upon by drawing its vever, or symbol, in cornmeal sprinkled on the floor. They place offerings on an altar and perform particular songs and dances. When the Loa possesses the worshiper Taggart says the scene becomes “wild, very physical and intense.” Though she works with black-and-white still images, Taggart is able to convey the noise and energy of these rituals. “There is screaming and thrashing…sometimes [congregants] run around the room as if confused. It can happen suddenly, so it’s often jarring. People immediately gather around the one possessed and assist them with what they need and catch them if they collapse.” Practitioners say the experience induces short-term amnesia; “Mambo Rose Marie is always surprised (sometimes shocked) to see my documentation of what has taken place while she was possessed,” recalls Taggart.” – Myles Little
Italian illustration duo Caktus & Maria bring a powerful and fluid flair to their juicy watercolor portraits. Each piece is frozen in time like a river of color that was stopped exactly at the precise time that a face emerged out of it. (via)
This seminal volume on the indigenous African Dinka group is a landmark documentation of a vanishing people in war-torn Sudan. World-renowned photographers Angela Fisher and Carol Beckwith have devoted their lives to documenting the rapidly disappearing ceremonies and cultures of the indigenous people of Africa. In breathtakingly poignant images, they present a story that started with their first visit to the Dinka thirty years ago. Living in harmony with their cattle, the Dinka have survived years of war only to find their culture on the brink of vanishing forever. Where the White Nile River reaches Dinka country, it spills over 11,000 square miles of flood plain to form the Sudd, the largest swamp in the world. In the dry season, it provides abundant pasture for cattle, and this is where the Dinka set up their camps. The men dust their bodies and faces with gray ash—protection against flies and lethal malarial mosquitoes, but also considered a mark of beauty. Covered with this ash and up to 7’ 6″ tall, the Dinka were referred to as “gentle” or “ghostly” giants by the early explorers. The Dinka call themselves “jieng” and “mony-jang,” which means “men of men.”
Angela Fisher and Carol Beckwith have spent a lifetime studying the peoples of the Horn of Africa, and have published their photography in a series of acclaimed books as well as major magazine features in Time, Life, Vogue, Marie Claire, and Elle. They exhibit and lecture widely at prestigious venues such as the American Museum of Natural History, The Smithsonian Institution, and the Royal Geographical Society in London.
The paintings of Whitney Van Nes are narrative portraits that recall the flatness and oddly elongated static figures of Byzantine art. Yet Van Nes’s unique aesthetic and iconography do not emulate any historical style — her approach is at once naïve and sophisticated. Van Nes paints from her imagination and her intimate personal knowledge of things, never drawing from found images, models or other visual references.
Her works are simultaneously autobiographical and universally relevant. While the images and narratives suggested in the work are drawn from the artist’s personal experiences, they serve merely as the impetus for the exploration of archetypal themes. One such issue prevalent in many of Van Nes’s paintings is the power struggle between authority and the subjugated. This adversity takes many forms, and Van Nes’s depictions of discontented figures leave the role of subjugator intentionally vague.
LA/Tokyo based designer Aaron W Björk’s new web project Bjorky is an experiment in saturated color, bizarre compositions, and beautifully awkward illustrations that go back and forth between abstraction and retro prints from unknown worlds. Can’t get enough of Aaron’s work? Get a copy of B/D Book Exquisite Corpse for more neon coated goodness.
When I think of Julian Schnabel I think of many things but inspiring artist mentor is not what comes to mind. However after watching this half hour documentary I just may have changed my mind. Created by HBO and non-profit YoungArts, this video documents a day of intimate mentorship with the notorious painter and filmmaker where he discusses his working process, various bodies of work, and how his flims and paintings inform one another. One of the most memorable parts of the documentary comes towards the end when Schnabel tells the teenage artists “If you’re scared, You’re fucked.” This piece of advice may seem a bit harsh but I have to admit that I’ve warmed up to Schnabel after seeing how generous he is with his advice and time without sugarcoating the harsh realities of being an artist. The students walked away from the experience excited about creating and experimenting and I think I may have as well. Watch the full documentary posted above and remember whatever you do… don’t be scared!
We’re happy to present the second installment of Hennessy’s mini documentary featuring Elliott Wilson, Founder of Rap Radar and Editor-in-Chief of Respect. Follow Elliott through Brooklyn as he discusses how he became a prominent voice in hip-hop music and how he discovered his creative voice. Wilson advises that the only way for a young writer to find his voice is to keep writing; eventually you’re going to reach real opinions on a topic that’s important to you. Take a trip down the rabbit hole. Watch more Hennessy videos and learn more about this movement at neverstopneversettle.com.
As part of our ongoing partnership with Feature Shoot, Beautiful/Decay is sharing Alison Zavos’ article on Matthew Albanese.
“DIY Paradise” was constructed from cotton, salt, cooked sugar, tin foil, feathers & canvas.
My work involves the construction of small-scale meticulously detailed models using various materials and objects to create emotive landscapes. Every aspect from the construction to the lighting of the final model is painstakingly pre-planned using methods which force the viewers perspective when photographed from a specific angle. Using a mixture of photographic techniques such as scale, depth of field, white balance and lighting I am able to drastically alter the appearance of my materials.—Matthew Albanese
Matthew Albanese is a fine art photographer from New Jersey who specializes in creating and photographing miniatures from common household objects and materials. “New Life I” (pictured above) was constructed using painted parchment paper, thread, hand dyed ostrich feathers, carved chocolate, wire, raffia, masking tape, coffee, synthetic potting moss and cotton.