Mexican photographer Alinka Echeverria’sThe Road to Tepeyac , for which she won the prestigious French prize HSBC Prix pour la Photographie is a typology of the backs of three hundred Mexican pilgrims on their journey to the Basilica de Guadalupe in Mexico city. This yearly pilgrimage is undertaken by approximately six million devout Catholics on the anniversary of the apparitions of the Virgin of Guadalupe in 1531 to the indigenous man Juan Diego. This journey is a manifestation of the iconic power of the Virgin, whose image was miraculously imposed onto Juan Diego’s cloak. Belief in the apparitions and their evidence, the ‘sacred image of a miracle and a miracle of images’, marks a turning point in the struggle for power of the Spanish conquerors, for whom evangelizing was imperative to the success of the empire. They successfully conquered the imagination using imagery as a tool for acculturation and domination in an already extremely visual indigenous culture.
The pilgrims photographed, carry their own reproduction of the Virgin – paintings, sculptures, posters or cloaks of the icon, taken from home and shouldered on their backs to the place of the apparition. The journey is an arduous one, a physical and spiritual undertaking with each pilgrim bearing their own evidence of devotion whilst enforcing their own personal relationship with the Virgin. Echeverria takes each portrait separately, which is then cut and transposed onto a plain background. This de-contextualisation is intended to raise the subject above the corporal world, making them appear like an isolated icon.
Seen as a series, each portrait creates a dialogue with the others. A narrative of interconnecting personal missions removed from the rest of the elements originally in the image. The sheer number of portraits helps to create a visual maze of similarities and differences. With the surrounding landscape removed we are struck by the contrasting richly colored Virgins and muted tones of the pilgrims.
Linda Ford’s drawings and collages were informed by hear early experiences of visiting the Worcester Insane Asylum where her father worked.
“My recent work is informed by Somatic therapies and BDSM practices. as well as other turn-the-century pseudosciences such as Phrenology. Early experiences of visiting the “Worcester Insane Asylum” (as it was called in the 1800’s) where my father worked during my childhood, as well as my own employment as a mental health counselor have had lasting affects on my preoccupation with bodies that transgress boundaries. Experiences with somatic therapies, which focus on mining bodily sensation in order to “release” traumatic experience, led me to research the early innovations of Wilhelm Reich. Reich proposed that mental states have a corresponding “physical attitude” that is expressed in the body as muscular rigidity or “body armor”. In his view, a response that begins in childhood as a defense against overwhelming anxiety or trauma can become an “emotional and physical straightjacket” in adulthood. By drawing on these disciplines, I am accessing the body as a sculptural object whose meaning and content is manifested in its skin, muscle and bone.
This work reconfigures the unified portrait, to investigate the fragmented nature of identity and self-knowledge. In the “Self-Discipline” charcoal drawings and their digitally dismantled and refashioned collages, I correlate female desire, monstrosity and excess. The family portrait collages, juxtapose turn-of-the-century photographs with hand-rendered self-portraiture elements, to merge contexts and time periods and explore the constricted body language of subjects uncomfortable in front of the camera and perhaps within their own skins. By creating “Composite Portraits” like those invented in 1881 by Francis Galton (the founder of eugenics) for the purpose of identifying physical, mental, and social deviance, I seek to excavate somatic inheritance as a tool for self-understanding. The play of outer and inner; surface and depth; what is hidden and what is revealed – is at the heart of my use of animal tissue as covering (armor/clothing/skin). The “Body Armor” series of altered fetish-wear, sutured from hog gut, identifies psychological/somatic accumulation in the body and fantasizes the ways in which internalized control, trauma and marginalization may be recuperated.”
I’m absolutely loving the 80′s retro graphics of recent design school graduate Alain Vonck. His graphic wallpapers with imagery and icons from the early era of the world wide web have to be my favorite, making me want to cover every single square inch of my home with pixelated roses, hourglasses, and type!
Sometimes the lines between work and play blur at Beautiful/Decay. Such was the case last week when I joined premiere art supply manufacturers Royal Talens and Canson for a ten day excursion through Paris and Amsterdam to explore the sites, see the museums, and get a vip tour of the various factories that make the paints, pastels, and watercolors that the Royal Talens brand is known for. If you were keeping tabs of our Instagram (beautifuldecayofficial) and Facebook page last week you may have seen a picture or two from our trip but we thought it would be nice to give you an expanded glimpse into our travels through a three part blog post. Follow us as we start in Paris and make our way over to Amsterdam through out this week!
As part of our ongoing partnership with Feature Shoot, Beautiful/Decay is sharing Greg Funnell’s interview with Photographer Andrew Youngson.
Andrew Youngson’s series, The Devil’s Garden, documents Bedouin communities living amidst Second World War minefields in Egypt’s Western Desert. It is estimated that approximately 17 million unexploded anti-personnel and anti-tank mines; artillery shells; bombs dropped by aircraft and machine gun, small arms and mortar rounds remain beneath the sand.
The Western Desert is an area rich in natural resources but whereas areas allocated for luxury beach resorts and Petroleum Company compounds have been cleared of unexploded ordnance, Bedouin land has not benefited from such programmes. Official records of incidents involving UXO have not been kept until recently but it is believed thousands of Bedouin have been killed or injured since the end of the Second World War.
Youngson is based in London and his new book, Aida, will be published by Black Box Press in July 2012.
Auckland, New Zealand based designer Briar Mark decided to take some jabs at the computer age with her meticulous hand-stitched typographic illustrations. Consisting of tens of thousands of individual stitches Mark’s retro technique rolls back the hand of time and critiques the ease of typography via the computer. Check out the in process time lapse video of Mark’s at work after the jump! (via)
Through an intensive process, Shannon Finley applies numerous, translucent layers of acrylic paint and industrial polymers onto canvas with specially designed palette knives. The results offer prism-like surfaces whose subtle nuances chronicle the build up of the material itself. This process draws from the history of geometric abstraction in painting as much as the reductive language of early computer graphics. But Finely eschews any simple opposition between the hand and the pixel, exploring instead the optics of the picture plane while constantly emphasizing the limits of the edge, which provide an unexpected archive of his painterly layers. Ultimately, these compositions remain suspended between the immaterial and the concrete, and are best apprehended as passageways into indeterminate spaces. In this, Finley invokes traces of sacred geometries and religious architecture within a technocratic context, but only as an alternate mode for engaging the unseen. (via)
After just a month and a half the eight installment of the Beautiful/Decay Book series is sold out! Beautiful/Decay: Strange Daze as with all other Beautiful/Decay books, will never be reprinted in its entirety turning into a limited edition collectible that will be passed down from artist to artist as the ultimate source of inspiration! If you didn’t get a copy of the book you have one final chance to get one of the highly coveted 1,500 copies. We have 10 copies reserved strictly for subscribers on a first come, first serve basis. Simply subscribe as soon as you read this and during checkout ask that we start your subscription with Beautiful/Decay: Strange Daze and you just might get one the very last copies available. We can’t guarantee that you’ll be one of the lucky ten but those that miss out will start their subscription with our following book set to release next month!