An-Sophie Kesteleyn’s Photographs Of Young Children And Their Guns

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Since the 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School and other tragic massacres, gun ownership and Second Amendment rights have been a site of intense controversy; on both sides of the debate, fear is a driving force, with one side arguing that guns provide protection and the other asserting that firearms cause more deaths and injuries.

How do guns factor into the lives of younger generations, born during this period of political strife? The photographer An-Sophie Kesteleyn adds to the dialogue with My First Rifle, a series of portraits of children bearing Crikett rifles, a firearm designed for children with a smaller scale and a variety of color choices. Beside each image, Kesteleyn places a torn, school-lined notebook page, onto which her subjects write their deepest fears.

Many of the .22 caliber rifles look like colorful toys; shot atop their small beds and beside Disney princess merchandise, the children appear as though caught by adults in a game of make-believe. They position their guns across their bodies in a protective manner, shielding themselves and their cozy bedrooms from the lens. The rooms, neatly ordered, maintain a certain innocence that is at times irreconcilable with the notion of a weapon intended to wound or kill.

Furthering this thread of childlike naiveté are the children’s drawings depicting their fears; these scrawling notes, touchingly misspelled, often assign terror to fictitious or extinct creatures: zombies, werewolves, dinosaurs. In this way, the artist incorporates the weapons into an elaborate realm of youthful nightmares. Depending on the viewer, this choice could either implicate NRA activists as infantile conspiracy theorists, or it could paint the world as a dangerous place wherein weaponry is necessary. What do you think? (via Feature Shoot)

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Gwen Murphy Creates Fantastical Creatures With Shoes

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For her wildly imaginative series Foot Fetish, the artist Gwen Murphy creates shoes with carefully rendered faces. Her sculptures range from the humorous to the frightful, from high end footwear to more casual designs. Murphy’s lifelike characters blend seamlessly into the shoes they inhabit, recontextualizing well-worn Converse One Stars, pumps, and ballet flats. Here, footwear ceases to be a passive participant in our daily lives, waiting patiently for our feet; instead, shoes become fantastical creatures with lives of their own.

Murphy’s uncanny creations draw from pop culture and folklore alike. “Planet of the Sneakers,” is a clever yet earnest adaptation of the 1968 film “Planet of the Apes.” Celebrity fortune teller phenomenon Madame Zora makes an appearance in a pair of glittery pink kitten heels, and one-eyed Waldgeist, Germanic forest spirits, nestle amiably in a pair slippers. “Guardians of the Basilisk” places a pair of austere women in faux snake skin pumps; unlike the victims of the serpentine creature, who can kill simply by meeting a mortal’s gaze, they stare upwards, their eyes unfazed. “Judith,” a piece made from a pair of T-strap pumps, might be imagined as the biblical heroine; like the Jewish woman who slayed Holofernes, she is shown both as resolute (left shoe) and as gravely apprehensive, her eyes darting back and forth (right shoe).

With Foot Fetish, Murphy elegantly inverts our expectations, placing the face and head where the feet should be. Her shoes, no longer able to serve the purpose for which they were designed, take on new life. In this off-beat, upside-down realm, are delightful moments where the magical and practical collide. (via Agonistica)

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Ludmila Steckelberg’s Heartbreaking Images Remove The Dead From Family Photo Albums

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For her series The Absence of All Colors, the artist Ludmila Steckelberg creates a visual catalog of death; scouring her old family photo albums, she removes the photographic imprints of the dead, leaving blackened figures in their wake. Like fading recollections of face and features, these blank gaps— merely standing in for the deceased— leave an invisible mark on collective family memory. These old black and white images, now sepia-toned with age, are poignantly robbed of their power to immortalize and preserve those passed away. As with death itself, the act of removal, executed cleanly by the artist, is heartrendingly permanent and cannot be undone.

Steckelberg’s work is an unsetting exploration of the undeniable bond of photography and death. The photograph, though two-dimensional, suggests the three-dimensionality of life; here, the dead return to a state of two-dimensionality, receding from the aesthetic world of the living into an abstracted, flattened plane. The darkness they inhabit is utterly unimaginable to us, and yet they seem to be capable of observing us. In this shocking inversion, the viewer feels watched, gazed upon from the black depths. Pasted on one page of a family album, a removed couple faces into the opposite page, searching its blankness for an unknowable something.

Here, the living are left entirely alone, trapped within a space that once seemed full and vibrant, but is revealed to be merely an illusion by the artist’s careful cutting. Men and women look trapped within the borders of the deconstructed photograph, yearning to leap forth, to reconnect with those lost to darkness. (via Lensculture)

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These Delicate Victorian Figurines Have Some Badass Tattoos

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The Victorian doll is a symbol of feminine delicacy and piety, but the Scottish sculptor Jessica Harrison has turned that notion on its head, constructing porcelain figures and painting their flesh with vivid sailor tattoos. Harrison, previously featured here for her graphic and macabre figurines, subtly builds upon contemporary dialogues of sexuality and the female body. Where Victorian women were encouraged to be sexually modest, religious and sober, Harrison’s dolls adopt the visual language associated with drunkenness and sexual freedom on the high seas. Sailors, feared for their rowdy traditions, were thought of as the antithesis of the ideal woman, who was almost always middle class, white, home-bound.

Harrison’s dolls, like many Victorian woman, wear corsets and petticoats of soft, pastel hues; one even modestly holds a fan. But these seemingly coy women obviously have some ruffian pasts. Tattooed on one woman’s pale arms are the names of a dozen conquests: Daisy, Rita, Maria, Eileen. Unlike the figurines treasured by small Victorian children, Harrison’s characters seem to have anachronistically accompanied Sailor Jerry on his boozy pin-up filled adventures. Beside a budding rose sewn into the color of her dress, a lady reveals a pair of flying swallows, an icon that appears frequently in mid-20th century sailor tattoos.

Harrison’s impressive series coyly lays bare the deeply entrenched sexism, racism, and classism of the Victorian era, during which women were not permitted to vote or visit pubs. With their waists cinched and their hair powdered into elaborate updos, these seemingly fragile porcelain figures contain an undeniable grit that transcends all social barriers.

Harrison’s work is currently on view at Galerie LJ in Paris. (via Lost at E Minor and Colossal)

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Marwane Pallas’ Disturbing, Provocative Photographs Ooze Sexual Tension

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The French photographer Marwane Pallas’ painterly photographs contain within their borders an uncomfortable blend of allure and violence. His work centers around the body, honing in on its urges and most private yearnings. At times, the body itself is seen in profound sharpness, crystal clear, while it also sometimes bleeds sensual color, as if painted on a canvas. Pallas’ highly stylized images read more like murals than photographs, deliberately and seductively drawing us into a fictitious and allegorical narrative.

With his series What I Eat, the artist presents human appetite as an visceral marker of identity; a housewife is forced to eat her clothes iron, and a (possibly transgender) woman, having undergone a breast augmentation, munches on a plastic barbie doll, symbolic of the idealized female form. A cancer patient dips his cigarettes in ketchup, and a priest hesitates for just a moment before devouring a wooden crucifix.

In This Is My Body, religious allegorical icons stand in for an overwhelming eroticism. Eve in the Making presents the artist as still and pale as marble, wounded like Jesus Christ, engaging in an act of intimacy with a translucent head, whom we might imagine to stand in for God. In another self-portrait, a nose bleed causes blood, seen as wine like the blood of Christ, to drip over his parted lips into a glass below. A candle drips onto a pair of praying hands; on closer inspection, we see that the waxy light lays in place of a man’s erect phallus. Like Eve, the artist into apple that ultimately brings death, containing within it an ominous skull.

In Sur/Face, this sensualized physical body undergoes a metamorphosis, veering into a metaphysical and spiritual realm. Enchanted forests cover the artist’s head, and mossy roots stand in for veins. The flesh cracks open to reveal a layer of fresh new skin. Take a look.

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This Is What Humans Looked Like 30,000 Years Ago

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The Paris-based sculptor Elisabeth Daynès listens to bones, to the remains of our evolutionary ancestors that have lived up to three million years ago. Throughout her prolific 20 year career, the “paleoartist” has worked from the skulls of wooly mammoths to species of hominid to create vividly detailed figures. Based on 18 data points that mark the bone, she can use a computer to model facial features that she later shapes out of clay. She refers to research and other bone samples to determine the build of her subjects, and ultimately she creates a silicone cast, complete with delicate painted features: veins, goosebumps, blemishes.

In a final step towards humanizing her sculptures, Daynès includes prosthetic eyes, teeth, and hair, each of which is as historically and scientifically accurate as possible. Current research suggests that Neanderthals, for example, had red hair; for her uncanny hominids, that range from Homo sapien to Homo erectus, she uses a blend of human hair. In her mind’s eye, the artist draws an informed portrait of each subject she reanimates; from the bones, she can determine period, sex and age, along with finer details like culture, climate, diet, and health.

For Daynès, this process is as much an art as it is a science. Ultimately, she hopes to reconnect with our past, embarking on a forensic search of what makes us human. Dismayed by the ways in which early human ancestors are reviled as unintelligent brutes, she injects her creations with a powerful dose of humanity; their brows furrow with concentration, and their eyes are painfully gentle. She explains “missing” them when they leave her studio for a permanent home in a museum. Take a look. (via Daily Mail and Lost at E Minor)

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Unexpectedly Poignant Portraits Of Star Wars Action Figures

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Zahir Batin’s delightful series of photographs is sure to get you excited for the upcoming release of Star Wars: Episode VII. When the artist bought a Canon EOS 1000D in February 2012, he had no idea that he would discover a passion for shooting miniature Star Wars scenes, but sure enough, he has since created a whimsical body of work cataloging the misadventures of Jedi, Sith lords, clones, and droids.

Batin’s work is certainly humorous, serving to decontextualize the often fearsome characters. A pack of clones is shown to be comically miniature beside a group of adorable ducklings; one even kindly offers a leaf to the giant baby animals. During their time off, they play with their vehicles like a group of rowdy teenage boys. For a more relaxing evening, they unwind riverside and confide in one another in a language inaudible to human viewers.

Despite the comic conceit of the miniature work—and perhaps even because of it—Batin imbues his imagined scenes with a poignant humanity and deeply-feeling heart. After a day of play, the clones lose a companion, and their heads move toward the sky in despair. After digging a grave, they place the fallen man’s tiny helmet above the moistened dirt and position a carefully-crafted gravestone at the head. In a moment of grief, they press their armored bodies together and embrace. Through Batin’s emotive lens, these small action figures, normally beloved only by children, become sentient beings with whom we can relate and empathize. Take a look. (via KoiKoiKoi)

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Agnieszka Rayss’s Captivating Photographs Of Extreme Bodybuilders

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For her series Beautiful Bodies, the photographer Agnieszka Rayss shoots off-beat images of bodybuilders; in the process, the artist both defines and challenges the notion of physical attractiveness. Each provocative shot, capturing a builder scantily-clad in a bikini or a speedo, is a powerful testament to the human desire to craft our bodies according to our wills; depending on the viewer, they might read as either a condemnation or an affirmation of extreme fitness practices.

Unlike Brian Moss, whose enchanting portraits of bodybuilders can be found here, Rayss works within a distinctive color palette; rich copper, teal, and white hues dominate her images, granting them a moody and otherworldly quality. Rayss’s subjects all seem to rely heavily on bronzers, defining their muscled figures with deep tans. In this way, they look inhumanly sculptural, like bronze statues of ancient warriors. Their metallic sheen stands in place of clothes; though nearly nude, they look somehow impenetrable, thickly armored.

Beautiful Bodies is set in an undefined location that we might presume to be a gym. Against a muddy-colored wall, the bodybuilders appear rough and powerful; the walls are marked with their chalky handprints, lending the models some inherent and mysterious grit. In relative repose, Rayss’s subjects display their bodies, caught between moments of exertion. As viewers, we are forbidden from seeing the extreme exercises that caused paint to be scratched away from the gym surfaces, but the mere presence of these formidable bodies create an atmosphere of inescapable suspense and anticipation. Take a look. (via Feature Shoot)

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