Charlotte Dumas’ Unforgettable Photographs Of Mysterious Burial Horses Will Stay With You

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At the grave of a fallen soldier stands a pale white horse, regal and majestic, with his mane in tight braids. In Anima, the photographer Charlotte Dumas delves into the quiet moments in the lives of burial horses, known for participating in the funeral ceremonies at Arlington National Cemetery. The magnificent equine creatures— who by day serve as living manifestations of moral ideals, patriotism, and righteousness— are caught by Dumas’s lens in nighttime moments of introspection and rest.

After the flags are folded, after the firearms have rang out, the horses remain in their small box stalls, resting on humble beds of shavings and hay. Shot under Dumas’s gleaming twilight lighting, the animals are pictured in the final minutes before sleep. In stark contrast with the colorful visions of their burial services, they are bathed in a moody Rembrandt-esque glow that streams in from metal bars, seemingly retreating into an unknowable equine psychology.

Yet within these peaceful moments, Dumas captures an anxious sense of unrest. A horse’s glinting black eye remains open as he twists his neck, revealing waves of muscle under short-clipped fur; a long nose, its hair worn away by a bridle’s noseband, pokes out into the light, emerging from sleepy darkness. The neck and back of the creature is fixed in the frame, isolated from the rest of the body, as he goes to stand upright, his withers stained with manure.

The horses range in age: some wear the grey fur of youth, while others are pure flea-bitten white. Seen here, it is as though the horses cannot escape the atmosphere of the cemetery, confined within their dark stalls forever by some invisible knowledge of death. Take a look.

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Karl Persson’s Grotesque Paintings Explore The Darkest Corners Of The Human Mind

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The work of painter Karl Persson is not for the faint of heart; his horrific scenes, rendered with hyperrealistic precision, examine the darkest and more cannibalistic impulses of the human mind. Envisioned in an aesthetic evocative of the work of horror artist Chet Zar or tattoo artist Paul Booth, Persson’s unique hellscape is wrought with sexual tension, desire, and yearning.

Through Persson’s frightful lens, the human creature becomes base and animalistic; overtaken by the sheer fact of appetite, a mouth erupts from the gut of a dead chicken, its head cruelly severed and skin raised, revealing grotesque goosebumps in lieu of downy feathers. Again, a set of carnivorous teeth slice open the entire face of a baby, who kicks and thrashes about with eating utensils in hand; with his umbilical cord only just severed, the monstrous being is never satiated and still demands more. Persson’s self portrait imagines the artistic impulse as equally cruel, presenting the artist as cannibalizing his own form in service of a ravenous creative hunger.

Within this grotesque sexual and gluttonous thirst, there are moments of beauty to be unearthed. The Kiss imagines a pair of slimy insects making bestial love with their pointy, bloody legs, stabbing one another in the process; though repulsive, their slick, glinting feelers are also magnetic and alluring, their lusty movements brought to life and crystalized forever in dreamy pinks and purples.

The work is also not entirely without innocence; in this cruel vampiric world, a fetal rat lies dead and gutted. In a stunning reversal, those that we label as “vermin” become soft, delicate babes, whereas the human is revealed to be savage and cruel. Within this piteous creature, ripped fatally from the womb, we might rediscover the all-too-rare feelings of compassion and heartbreak. Have we, as humans, descended too far into our own brutal greed, or might we return to a state of virtue and empathy? Take a look. (via TrendHunter and Mongolian Art)

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Nightmarish Illustrations By Alex Andreyev Are Straight Out Of The Matrix

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For the Surrealist digital artist Alex Andreyev, reality gives way to the nightmarish and imaginary; his grotesque urban landscapes are dominated by giant spiders, snakes, and eyeballs. Much like the world of The Wachowshi Brothers’ 1999 film The Matrix, Andreyev’s dreamscape is dystopian, seemingly operated by frightful machines that lurk in dark alleyways and within murky, polluted puddles. Like Neo before the rabbit hole, the artist sits at his computer, delving into his nightmares in search of psychological truths that transcend the laws of reality and escape the revelation of daylight.

By maintaining a graphic comic book aesthetic, Andreyev’s images compose a suspenseful, quick-paced narrative; clearly rendered with computer technology, his subjects appear like online avatars, their experiences symbolic of the human condition without directly mirroring it. Like the Surrealists Odilon Redon and Rene Magritte, the digital artist uses the image of the eye to subvert reality; as eyes wearing grotesquely tall top hats chase a helpless man down a dark, dank underground, we viewers are made to perceive our own eyes as villainous, to assume that what they record might not accurately reflect the world around us. Another sketch presents a man slicing his eyes open with a razor, the implication being that to truly see and to understand, we must endure pain and strife.

In this realm where the inner eye takes precedence over superficial vision, a wondrously dark and lonesome creative space begins to emerge. The spider, a symbol which harkens back to the work of Redon in particular, is used here perhaps to represent the isolation of introspection and of the endlessly complex imagination; as a man retreats into his computer, an arachnid nests in the darkness next door. Similarly, man and beast walk alone in the rain. Take a look. (via TrendHunter)

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Erika Sanada’s Grotesque Yet Poignant Creatures Give Face To A Child’s Fears

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Erika Sanada’s imaginary creatures toe the line between the grotesque and the adorable; inspired by her childhood trauma and memories of bullying, the artist delves into her deepest anxieties, plucking out tiny hairless ceramic beasts, each of whom appears strangely misshapen by a nervous sort of womb. As a girl, Sanada imagined transforming her tormenters into hideous monsters, presented here as birds and rats with twin heads or dogs that display infinite rows of glinting teeth.

As if stolen from a perverse Eden, Sanada’s endearing beasts are as innocent as they are frightful. “Newborns” introduces a trinity of puppy-rat hybrids, who, despite their sharp claws and thick, bald tails, elicit our sympathies; their soft, tender eyes have yet to open, and the tiniest of baby tongues pokes out of a toothless mouth. Similarly, a hairless beast crawls across a platform, leaving a trail of sticky epoxy that resembles amniotic fluid. He has two tails, each fleshy and naked, and yet he is so poignantly small and delicate that we yearn to comfort and protect him as he makes a perilous journey into the adult world.

As if possessed, Sanada’s cast of characters, whom she charmingly refers to as “Odd Things,” reveal black marble-white eyes, absent of pupils or irises, the effect of which is wonderfully unsettling. As we confront these magical manifestations of our most secret fears, they stare back invisibly, tracking us not with sight but with an intractable knowledge of our own vulnerabilities. Take a look. (via KoiKoiKoi)

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Poignant Photographs Of Dogs Denied Homes And Unfairly Judged As “Bullies”

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When the photographer Douglas Sonders met Emma, a Pit Bull, black Labrador mix, he was touched by her gentle disposition and knew he had to take her home. With his ongoing personal project Not A Bully, the artist hopes to change public perception about so-called “bully dogs,” breeds like Pit Bulls, Boxers, Rottweilers, French Bulldogs, and Boston Terriers, who together make up 40% of shelter dogs.

Tests by the American Temperament Tests Society conducted in 2009 displayed excellent behavior and tenderness on the parts of these breeds, and yet unfair prejudice continues to cloud the judgement of adoptive families, and many dogs go without finding a permanent, loving home. Emma, for instance, was nearly put down and subsequently went nine months in the foster-care system before finding Sonders.

Through a series of poignant images, Not A Bully hopes to change all that. Sonder’s canine portraits are shot with the same careful reverence displayed in his commercial and editorial captures of celebrities; seen in high resolution and saturated in rich color, the animals are desperately emotive. Personalities shine through expectant eyes and eager tongues; the dogs pant excitedly, peer curiously at the viewer. Set against the most brilliant black fur, radiant topaz eyes shine bright, and chests perk up at attention, revealing soft and tender patches of white fur. Similarly, heads bow down slightly below the center of the frame in a show of trepidation and approval-seeking. These deeply-feeling creatures—capable of joy, fear, wit, and wisdom— are clearly anything but bullies. (via My Modern Met)

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Realistic Paintings Of Naked Breasts Make A Powerful Feminist Statement

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For The Breast Portrait Project, the artist Clarity Haynes draws inspiration for the feminist art traditions of the 1970s, from works that spliced and dissected the female body in ways that disrupted and challenged the male gaze. Cataloging the naked breasts and midsections of women who do not conform to traditional ideals of feminine allure—older women, women who have undergone childbirth, transgender women in the process of transitioning—the the painter hopes to assert the validity and beauty of all human bodies, including those that exist outside of narrowly defined physical standards. For Haynes, the act of seeing and of painting the body inherently necessitates that it be viewed with respect.

The theorist John Berger once posited that female subjects in art, imagined mostly by male painters, betray knowledge of the male gaze; staring out and the viewer (presumed to be male) for approval, their identities are split in two parts, namely the true self and the self that is watched and judged by men. In cutting out the female face, eyes, and mouth, Haynes cleverly subverts this tradition, and her women display their bodies matter-of-factly, without a trace of self-consciousness.

These female bodies, removed from a face that might otherwise reveal vulnerabilities and invite scrutiny, disallow the viewer to judge based on physical appearance. In lieu of typical signs of identity like eyes, expressive brows, or seductive lips, these private sections of the body become testaments to the individual self who chooses to stand out from the conformity of conventional female beauty standards; like a text that covers the nude body, stretch marks and scars become signifies of a vast and nuanced female experience. (via iGNANT)

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Jess Riva Cooper’s Screaming Sculptures Overtaken By Insects Reimagine Ghostly Spirits

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The artist Jess Riva Cooper’s Viral Series imagines the human body overtaken by malevolent plant life; like the bodies of the dead, her ceramic women busts are infected with ivy, flowers, and insects. Inspired by the Hebrew figures of the golem and the dybbuk, the viral females occupy a space between life and death; like golem, they are anthropomorphic beings brought to life by human (as opposed to divine) hands, but they are also seemingly suffocated by roots that harken back to the cleavage of the ominous dybbuk, a departed soul that fixes itself to the body of a living person. The word “dybbuk,” in fact, arrises from the Hebrew verb for “sticking from the root.”

Unlike the figures of Yiddish folklore, Cooper’s busts are female, modeled after the seductive sculpted faces of Classical Greece. Closing resembling the great alluring forms like Praxiteles’ Aphrodite of Cnidus, these figures abandon the feminine piety in favor of an ecstatic sexuality; serpentine vines crawl across their tender cheeks, and their mouths open wide to give birth to lush roses or to allow passage to fertile swarms of scarab beetles. Their eyes appear to roll back in sensual pleasure; their teeth gnaw on thick roots.

Cooper’s series seems to draw on ancient and Judeo-Christian mythology to construct a cohesive and elaborate narrative of female creative power; these women represent death and birth in equal measure. As the bodies of the dead are consumed by insects, they ultimately give rise to blossoming flora. This strange and natural cycle of rebirth serves as a metaphor for the artist’s beloved Detroit, where buildings and homes succumb to financial ruin and are eventually overgrown with feral plant life. Take a look. (via Colossal and HiFructose)

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Kara Walker’s Gigantic Sugar-Coated Female Sphinx Makes A Powerful Statement

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Kara Walker’s new sculpture “A Subtlety” is pure white, coated in 160,000 pounds of bleached sugar; with this modern take on the ancient sphinx, the legendary artist crafts a towering black face in honor of the slave laborers who worked in sugar cane fields. The powerful work is meant to address racial and sexual exploitation; like the sugar that coats her polystyrene core, this black female figure has been pressured, against nature, into succumbing to whiteness.

The work is now on display at the old Williamsburg, Brooklyn Domino sugar factory shed, where it reaches to the ceiling and extends for a magnificent 75 feet. The mythical creature is a powerful assertion of the black female self; the face quite resembles the artists’ own, and a carefully wrought bandana subtly references the stereotypical (and often offensive) symbol of the mammy, a slave woman who nurtured and brought up white children. Walker has been the subject of debate in the past for her use of contested imagery, and despite the controversy surrounding the “mammy” figure, she is presented here as powerful and divine.

Like the ancient sphinxes of Egypt and Greece, Walker’s monolithic creation is godly, simultaneously fearsome and comforting. The sphinx, known for protecting the tombs of royalty, becomes the guardian of history, interrupting a white-washed historical narrative to make visible the labor of the men and women who were kept enslaved. Her face is serene, assured, and unyielding. The sphinx character, in addition to being a protector, is also dangerous, renowned for devouring those who cannot answer her riddle; Walker’s sphinx is similarly confrontational in her overwhelming size, forcing viewers to confront the complex and painful history of American industry. (via The New York Times)

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