Feminist Photographs Show The Dark Side Of Beauty

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In a startling critique of the ways in which images of women’s bodies are consumed, the artist Jessica Ledwich presents “The Fanciful, Monstrous Feminine,” a collection of surreal photographs documenting the psychological consequences of contemporary beauty standards and practices. For Ledwich, female sexuality is viewed as “threatening” and is therefore oppressed; here, she exaggerates the femme fatale image, showing her red-lipped, square-nailed protagonist engaging in violence with her own body.

The female form, shiny and lacquered, appears like a hybrid, part human and part domestic cyborg; her youthful flesh is overtaken by the mechanics of beauty. In one image, severed and still-wriggling fingers are replaced with tweezers, and in another, she uses a vacuum cleaner to suction fat from her thighs, injecting it into her lips.

Improvements to the home and domestic realm take a literal toll on the female body and self; after awkwardly sculpting a just-budding lemon tree, a matriarch forces her own natural body into an hourglass with restrictive garments. The monotony of the daily grooming routine turns brutal and dehumanizing, and with each ritual, our subject sacrifices a bit of her identity until, like slabs of lifeless meat, her limbs, brains, and heart are sold off at a butcher shop cleverly referred to as “Limbsons.”

Tied to this endless pursuit of female perfection is the idea of motherhood, presented without an ounce of warmth or sentimentality. A C-section yields only an endless stream of identical plastic dolls, each removed with the same sterile, unfeeling determination that we see with the surgical implantation of breasts. The mother, robbed of her sexuality, is shown inserting biohazards material into a cooked egg, an uncomfortable action we might presume to represent her own impregnation. This bleak, unromantic portrayal of female beauty and fertility serves to remind us of the physically and psychologically painful demands placed on modern women’s bodies, leaving viewers yearning for a more humane world. (via Lost at E Minor and Design Taxi)

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Paul Schneggenburger’s Haunting Long-Exposure Photographs Of Couples Sleeping Together

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In “Sleep of the Beloved,” the photographer Paul Schneggenburger takes 6 hour exposure shots of slumbering, snuggling, writhing couples. The artist asks each pair of lovers to lay their weary bodies on a bed in his own apartment, his dark sheets lit gently by candlelight. The movements of the beloveds, sometimes sweeping and sometimes jolting, are all captured on film.

As the subjects’ fleshy tones and unconscious turning blur the lines between individuals, each couple emerges as a vital, breathing organism; the two appear to move as one, thrusting themselves beyond the confines of the charcoal bed. The long exposure serves to flatten time, creating the illusion of synchronized movement; couples appear as if reaching for one another at one precise moment, as if driven to touch, to bridge the gap between two separate dreamscapes.

Schneggenburger captures lovers at their most vulnerable; in the place of lucid, posed faces, the portraits offer slackened features glazed over by sleep, revealing startlingly intimate communications. As each pair enters into a wordless conversation, they express secret desires with the utmost abandon. Some grab and cling urgently to one another; others press their semi-nude bodies close. Pairs of lovers distance themselves, carving out private, isolated nooks within the bedding.

Each recorded face, filmed over the course of a long night, betrays countless emotions and yearnings. Capturing dreamy moments of peace and restlessness within each single frame, “Sleep of the Beloved” blurs the lines between the erotic, the lonesome, and the blissful, painting a beautifully complex, honest, and raw portrait of love and intimacy. (via Lost at E Minor and Demilked)

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Terrifying Barbie Tidal Wave Composed Of 5,000 Dolls

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For the artist Annette Thas, Barbie is a disturbingly bittersweet symbol of childhood nostalgia and longing; for installation piece “Wave I,” she uses between 3,000 and 5,000 barbie dolls to build a sculptural wave, re-appropriating the doll as a means of translating her earliest memories, scenes which now flood her after returning to Belgium to care for her ill sister. Her sister’s illness, she explains, was related to the childhood they shared, one that was marked in part by the death of her brother.

For the artist, the wave is meant to convey her own relationship to overwhelming memories; it is 4 meters wide and stands at 3 meters tall, forcing viewers to be encased completely within its depths. The piece seems to swell with cascading blond hair, forever caught at the terrifying moment before its breaking. Adding to its realism, Thas chose to exhibit it on the beach as part of 2014’s Sculpture by the Sea amidst the sounds and smells of real waves.

The barbies in the piece, wild hair tangled and stripped of their clothing, do indeed seem ominous, but they are also startlingly sympathetic. They are second-hand toys, once loved but eventually discarded. They have endured a sort of violence, having been scarred by knives and bite marks. Each one has a poignant narrative all her own; one doll simply bears the words “please love me” on her chest. The plastic toys, symbolic of the scores of children who once owned them, are somehow lonesome now, robbed of childhood’s affections. Their demanding presence is urgent and desperate, their blue eyed faces pressing us to remember both the magical and painful bits of our youths. (via Design Boom)

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Impossibly Teeny Tiny Crochet Animals To Melt Your Heart

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Imagine your favorite teddy bear and or snuggly stuffed animal shrunken down to fit atop your fingertip, and you have the magical creations of Su Ami, an artistic company in Vietnam devoted to creating delightfully miniature crochet animals. The family run business includes only 5 expert craftsman who work to imbue the tiny woven creatures with unique and touching personalities.

Because of the animals’ itty bitty frame, each stitch is noticeable, highlighting the careful handmade nature of the work. In each turn of the yarn, we imagine the delicate movements of human fingers, and each being becomes impossibly precious. Heightening their dearness is the fact that delightful creatures are so easily lost; like microscopic pets, their vulnerability inspires us to cherish them and hold fast to their tiny bodies. In this way, the pieces recall the nostalgic yearning of a child for his toy.

Despite their smallness, each creation has an impressively distinct character.  With the slightest opening of the mouth, a gecko exudes a curious and playful attitude; a long-beaked bird stares in awe of her own crochet egg. Two squirrels tell a story, peering up at the sky in unison; similarly, a parent elephant watches over her child, whose plastic button eyes seek approval. A lion turns his head with a poignant frown, as if startled by his own size. All animals great and small, from the littlest snail to the tallest giraffe, inhabit the same magical space, cautiously yet courageously exploring the large world they miraculously inhabit. (via Demilked)

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Censored Pornography That Oozes An Uncomfortable Eroticism

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After searching through the deepest corners of the internet pornography universe, the South African mixed media artist Von Brandis blanked out the carnal content in an attempt to reinterpret sexual imagery. The project, titled “Obscene Interiors” somehow heightens the voyeuristic thrust of the erotic images; behind a shield of white, sexual activities become more mysterious and forbidden, forcing the viewer to examine the images with more self-consciousness than the original porn might elicit.

The series also works to redefine the erotic. As blanked-out figures magically flatten and morph into a single two-dimensional being, signs of intercourse and movement disappear. In contrast to the white-out bodies, which often appear to be pasted onto the photographs, the space of the pornography sets do indeed become the “obscene” photographic content, inviting the eye to penetrate their depths. The pornographic subject becomes the interior itself: the cheesy bedding, the slightly parted curtain, a glistening clock radio, a stained rug.

The images, if slightly dehumanized by their alterations, maintain their intense sexual charge; the off-kilter frame suggests movement within the room, an amateur pornographer’s fast and anxious shots. Shadows billow from the white shapes, hinting at the breath, dimension and passions of the human form.

The series, with its censorship, paradoxically becomes more suggestive and uncomfortable. Forced to consider the erotic impulse and visual fetishization, the viewer cannot help but feel awkward about our engagement with the porn. In this way, this powerful piece touches on contemporary debates about the medium: is porn a healthy, natural human activity, or is it objectifying and morally ambiguous? What do you think? (via Lost at E Minor)

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Artist Knits Herself A Boyfriend

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In a world of online matchmaking and social media, the artist Noortje de Keijzer offers a simpler option: an art piece and product entitled My Knitted Boyfriend, a knit pillowcase that comes to life when stuffed. In this witty critique of modern dating and expectations, My Knitted Boyfriend eliminates all the messy parts of a human relationship, conforming to individual preferences; he will enjoy whatever you enjoy, and he “can be adjusted to your own tastes” with the use of accessories like facial hair, tattoos, or glasses.

Although humorous in its somewhat cynical outlook on modern love, the piece is unexpectedly sentimental. The boyfriend himself comes along with an illustrated book narrating the story of de Keijzer and her cuddly lover, much like children’s picture books that include a stuffed animal. Also like a children’s storybook, the text and illustration follows a simple, nostalgic format: we are told that they “sleep together” and are offered an innocent sketch of the pair doing just that. The boyfriend, though he is not real, becomes a precious manifestation of the fictional—or imaginary—friend that enchants the young mind.

Complicating the delightfully sweet story of the artist and her beau is the work’s clever take on the domestic theme. As seen in her charming short film, the relationship is build not around professional ambition or the public realm; instead, they eat breakfast and watch movies. In fact, the man himself is knitted and therefore associated with the home. This 1950s-style domestic romanticism is brilliantly complicated and subverted by the fact that the male and not the female here is the homemaker; in place of the mid-century ideal of the perfect wife, My Knitted Boyfriend is that crucial element that makes a house a home. In the artist’s own astute words to her knitted partner, “You fit in my interior perfectly.” (via Design Boom)

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Touching Portraits Of Dogs Yawning, Laughing And Barking

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Meet Noodles, Loli, and Scout, the radiantly emotive canine subjects of the photographer Elke Vogelsang’s personal project “All Good Dogs…” For the series, the artist captures the psychological lives of her trio of rescue animals, each honestly and earnestly displaying his or her own personal inclinations and attitudes.

Vogelsang explains that all her dogs love participating, knowing that they will get rewarded with treats and play; often it’s hard to limit a shot to one or two dogs, as Loli (the diva), Scout (the patient daydreamer), and Noodles (the excitable trickster) all vie for her camera’s affections.

What emerges from this unique and intimate play between dog and human is a touching archive of self-expression, a whimsical catalog of physical impulses and profound yearnings shared between species. Vogelsang’s lens treats the animals’ instinctive movements with the utmost care and fascination, capturing their desires (for treats, for activity, for love) by tracing the slightest movement of a pink tongue or a snout prickled with excited whiskers. Viewers are invited to empathize with a tilt of the head, a glint in the eye.

The artist’s sensitivities and attention to detail allow for effortless harmony not only between artist, viewer, and canine but also between individual dogs. Noodles, Loli, and Scout feed off of one another’s energies and restraint, moving with astounding purpose while remaining in synch with one another. In one image, two share a powerful yawn or bark, opening their eyes and mouths wide to the camera. Aligned in a perfect tryptic, the three are shot in black and white, each with their noses sniffing upwards and their lips carefully parted.

Simultaneously earnest and humorous, this standout series reminds viewers of the wisdom and longings of our canine friends, who are indeed “All Good Dogs…” (via Colossal and Bored Panda)

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Vincent Castiglia Uses His Own Blood To Paint Macabre Scenes (NSFW)

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For the surrealist painter Vincent Castiglia, his “work is literally a blood sacrifice on the altar of art;” using up to 30 vials of his own blood for his darkly sprawling paintings, he hopes to imbue his richly philosophical work with his own living tissue. The artist’s blood shares the same iron oxide pigment as many commercial paints, lending each image its dark rusty tone and heightening the drama of Castiglia’s macabre scenes.

For this blood artist, the unusual medium works in service of larger themes. In extracting blood from his own body, sometimes 15 vials at a time (less than a blood donation), he allows the literal life-giving substance to more deeply examine fertile powers of mankind. With the careful painting of milk-filled breasts and deliberate vaginal imagery, Castiglia celebrates the allegorical implications of motherhood and childbirth. A female figure rises from the earth, howling like the ancient Greek goddess Gaia, who birthed the entire world.

The idea of human creative potential becomes complicated with the dark suggestion of our mortality. A mother nurses from a wheelchair, her skeletal legs and decaying infant painted in dried blood, reminding viewers that with life comes inevitable ruin. Laid upon a cross, a woman bears the suffering of Jesus, her abdomen radiating light while her vulva appears to be ominously stitched shut.

The introduction of religious imagery helps resolve the tension between death and birth. Borrowing shapes and floral imagery from early Christian painting, Castiglia implies a connection between death and eternal life. In sacrificing his own blood, the artist fills not a Holy Grail but a canvas, elegantly preserving his own flesh for our consideration. (via HuffPost, ABC, Oddity Central, and Tumblr)

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