Mike Rea’s Meticulously Crafted Wooden Sculptures Are A Film Nerd’s Heaven

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Chicago artist Mike Rea builds hyper-realistic wooden replicas of objects that have a connection to the culture of a stereotypical heterosexual male. His sculptures are either props from science fiction cinema, or personal memories – made primarily from wood, burlap and Styrofoam. Rea builds things like jail cells, video cameras used for filming pornography, Anaconda snakes, pick axes, robots, strange bits of machinery, Scuba diving tanks, and amplifiers. All are meticulously crafted and are rooted in pop culture. Rea is a self confessed film geek, watching up to 3 films a day and draws a lot of inspiration from the ‘swagger’ and macho attitudes in films like Quentin Tarantino’s Death Proof.

Rea describes his own take on his practice:

There is a kind of wry sense of humor to the work, but at the same time it’s coupled with this process—this meticulous, very specific kind of over-detailed expression of these contradictions and maybe the most stupid stuff for subject matter. I’ll spend six months on a stupid joke seeing if that makes it better. They’re these large wooden sculptures that are hopefully a little funny and a little bit dark. They’re probably over-built, which is usually just a process of me making lots of mistakes and having to add another layer to cover up where a seam didn’t match. (Source)

Using humor and wit, Rea is trying to see how our desires and obsessions (usually those of a hetero male – weapons, substance abuse and the opposite sex) are tied into popular culture. Whether you are a nerd or not, you will no doubt be delighted by the incredible wooden wonderland Rea creates. See more sculptures after the jump.

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The Fascinating And Majestic World Of Japanese Samurai Armor

Samurai ExhibitionSamurai Exhibition Samurai Exhibition Samurai Exhibition

If you ever been intrigued by the world of Samurai, now’s your chance to learn more about the life and culture of these ancient warriors and the artisans that made their decorative armor. In Los Angeles until February 1st, one of the most comprehensive collections of headgear, masks, weapons and even horse trappings used by high ranking Japanese warriors from the 14th – 19th centuries in on display at LACMA. Samurai: Japanese Armor from the Ann and Gabriel Barbier-Mueller Collection is a fine testament to the artistry and functionality of Japanese battle art. Described by the curator Robert T. Singer as more than just a one dimensional cultural display, he says:

My story is not about the samurai. My story is more about the art, the idea that a samurai, a warrior class, would be so interested in such fantastic symbols and mixing together Buddhism, Shinto, and things which would not mix together outside this culture. (Source)

He also talks about his fascination with helmets in particular. To Singer they are a perfect example of the blend of utilitarian decorative art. They include symbols ranging from mythical figures to abstract motifs. The helmets include things like demon birds and eggplants, and all parts are made from precious materials like bear fur, iron, gold, silver, copper, bronze, and silk. Singer explains the complexity of the symbols a little further:

Animals, Buddhism, Shinto, they’re all mixed up. We really don’t understand why. This is performance, ceremonial, processional armor, and they’re showing off, they’re trying to be, sort of, outside the normal world. (Source)

If you are lucky enough to be in Los Angeles, you should definitely take the time to see these cultural artifacts, or you can purchase the catalog here.

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Elena Helfrecht´s Striking Poetic Photographs Of Chilling Horror Scenes

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We have all been haunted by something worrying or had nightmares we just can´t forget. And so has German photographer Elena Helfrecht. She uses her camera as a therapeutic device to overcome her worries, fears and nightmares. After shooting many dark and dramatic photographs exploring the depths of human emotions, Helbrecht has quite the oeuvre of dramatic images. She works with many different narratives, creating a mini story in each frame. Last week we featured her past series Little Stories, this time are focusing on her collection called Nightmares. A bunch of disturbing snapshots, each photograph represents something that has been frightening to Helbrecht at some point.

Scenes of long creepy fingers reaching out of cupboards and from around doors, bodies smeared in blood or wrapped in plastic have such an impact, they will haunt you nearly as much as an actual nightmare. Helbrecht tells us a bit more about her inspiration:

“Nightmares developed from my very beginnings as a photographer and continues to grow. The series shows exactly what it describes: my very own nightmares. The series is a mix of early visions which I used to have as a child (a great fear were creatures coming from my closet and taking me with them for example) and abstract dark emotions and anxieties. By visualizing these thoughts, feelings and visions I get rid of them. Whenever I am inspired and have a picture in my mind I get my camera and pull it out of my head. By visualizing your inner demons you somehow remove their power. It gets less terryfing; you somehow disclose the darkness you previously feared.”

You would think from someone who spends a lot of time expressing horrific and challenging thoughts, that her work would have a heavy severity to it, but the end result is quite different – they are something of a melancholic, sentimental memory, albeit ones often filled with blood.

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Art Van Triest Creates Jigsaw Puzzles Out Of Illegal Weapons

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Dutch artist Art Van Triest plays a dangerous game. He encourages people to break the law, just by fitting a jigsaw puzzle piece together. After tracking down different weapons that are illegal to possess (Kalashnikov, Pistol, Machete), he uses a water cutter to splice them up into traditional jigsaw puzzle piece shapes.

For Triest it is important for the work to be made out of an actual weapon, and for the person solving the puzzle to be committing an illegal activity. He tells The Creator’s Project:

According to Dutch law, it is illegal to have any object that can be mistaken for a weapon, even when that weapon it is no longer useable… [to possess] a non-working gun-like object is already prosecutable. As an artist I think it is interesting to create work that embodies a kind of friction, an object that is at once a toy and a weapon. (Source)

Triest creates many different games and playful art pieces he wants the audience to interact with. He aims to change how people perceive everyday items they would normally avoid. In one piece (Dubbellloops / Shake Hands) he has welded two guns together and asks people to hold one trigger at the same time, as a method to ‘get to know each other’. In his installation Platoon, he places visitors looking directly down the barrel of a firing squad and has lasers following them around the space. Exploring the border between ‘object’ and ‘weapon’, Triest turns normally dangerous items into harmless, even playful ones.

Exploring turning other unsuitable objects into puzzles, Triest has a bright idea for his next project, that I’m sure will attract a lot of curious people wanting to solve it.

My next puzzle won’t be a weapon at all, I want to use a real human skull. (Source) (Via The Creator’s Project)

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Elena Helfrecht’s Dark Romantic Photography Tells Her Personal Intimate Stories

Elena Helfrecht - photoraphy

Elena Helfrecht - photoraphy

Elena Helfrecht - photoraphy

Elena Helfrecht - photoraphy

Born in Bavaria, Southern Germany, photographer Elena Helfrecht taps into the dark stormy mood often connected with the painter Caspar David Friedrich and the German poets writing about the emotions of the human condition. Her images have a beautiful delicacy to them, heavy with reflection and contemplation as Helfrecht tries to make sense not only of the world around her, but also the world within herself. In her series Little Stories, she compiles photographic narratives of moments that are intensely personal to her.

Including close ups of her hands covered in blood, her feet poised in front of freshly picked flowers, her stomach cradling a pigeon, she uses her own body to visually express her inner thoughts and emotions. Helfrecht reflected on the series:

I think the most intense one for me has to be “Farewell” [the pigeon narrative]. I often think about death. I really fear what comes afterwards – the ending of consciousness, where nothing is left (at least this is what I can’t stop believing). When I went to work and just came out of the station, a pigeon fell down right in front of my feet and died there after a short cramp. I was shocked. I didn’t expect something like this to happen and I was deeply moved. I even cried. It was like a metaphor how quick everything can be over and what is left of it – nothing but an empty shell. We live and rush around without cherishing what we have, and then it will be simply over.
This series is about the one issue which bothers so many of us: the matter of life and death. In the pictures the shown human body is alive, but one day the images will show something which is no more, like the bird. Still I believe something will stay in this world after we die: Memory. This is what the photographs itself stand for (for me they are a tiny piece of hope).

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Graham Caldwell’s Prismatic Hand Blown Glass Sculptures Mirror Myopic Organisms

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Graham Caldwell sculpts intricate organic-like structures from hand blown glass. His artworks mirror natural life forms on a molecular level. He pulls, twists, stretches and blows 2,000 degree glass into all sorts of shapes, arranging them into globular, spiky, prismatic, concave, convex, and densely myopic configurations. Caldwell uses the hard shiny metallic properties of glass in contrast to the forms he is recreating. He references nature – flowers, leaves, tropical fronds, water drops, fly’s eyes and eyebrows, but chooses to present them in a man-made, futuristic, fractured, cubist fashion.

Using mirrors, metals, steel and epoxy he likes us to reflect on the way we see the world around us. His interest lies in the act of perceiving, the function of eyes, the purpose of lenses, and how sight works.

Much of my work focuses on glass as a conduit or modulating agent for light and its parallel in the functionality of the human eye: using a lens to flip an image of the world, upside down and backwards, into the brain where it is reassembled, through illusion and forensics. (Source)

Caldwell is the ultimate advocate for art as science. His process is all about trying to recreate an organic process through a completely manufactured one. He enjoys the tactility of glass and the bizarre shapes they can inhabit.

Imagine the shape that balloons take on when they’re half filled with water; now imagine them flash-frozen and sticking sideways into space. Glass, says Caldwell, “is a slowed-down, meaty version of water.” (Source) (Via Hi Fructose)

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Ashkan Honarvar’s Exquisitely Macabre Collages Of Colonialism

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Collage artist Ashkan Honarvar (previously featured here) creates intriguing paper works that are undeniably macabre, and eerily beautiful. He deals with the darker side of humanity, and how identity is formed through the human body. Usually taking images of faces, people or bodily forms, Honarvar splices images together and recreates an idea of how we perceive ourselves, or the role the human body plays in history. In this series Conquest 5, he is concerned with the idea of colonization and the idea of superimposing one culture on top of another. He takes this concept quite literally and overlays images of wealth (gems, jewels, precious textiles) and tools that would be used to colonize a culture over images of peaceful, relaxed indigenous people.

In Die Weissen Kommen (The Whites are Coming) Gert von Paczensky wrote: ‘If we delve into the core of colonialism then we see that the whole thing was one big plundering expedition, one continuous assault and robbery that involved massacres and mass murders, gold and bloodbaths, rapes, slave-trading and genocide’. Ashkan Honarvar has taken this subject and visualized various aspects of European colonial history. The hunt for wealth and power, the submission of the indigenous people, the abuse of religion as a justification and the animal-like behavior. (Source)

Honarvar is used to tackling complex issues – his themes have ranged from war victims, to the Israel – Palestine conflict, to Soviet forced labor camps. He isn’t one to shy away from uncomfortable subject matter, and has a knack for turning horror into something wondrous. He explains his motivation:

Imperfections play a big role in my work. I’m always looking to find beauty in places you don’t expect them to be. I think subconsciously I’m trying to find beauty/aesthetics in the extremes, just to be able to believe that everything is ok and there is hope. (Source)

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Haris Purnomo Paints Portraits Of An Indonesia Full Of A Painful Past

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Indonesian painter Haris Purnomo started painting babies covered with dragon tattoos over 20 years ago and has slowly included women and men into his oeuvre. Initially starting illustrating babies because “they were cute”, Purnomo quickly realized they could be a effective symbol for the Indonesian lower class. His portraits now include all ages, demographics and classes. Like some sort of branding or gang symbol, the faces he paints all bear a marking of a certain culture. They all belong to the same time and place. Purnomo was a painter during the time of the military dominated government of Suharto and his work shows a certain sort of forced introspection – a focus on pain and mysterious, subtle symbols.

His paintings are highly political as well as highly stylized. As a member of the Gerakan Seni Rupa Bary, The New Art Movement, and of PIPA, two innovative art movements from Indonesia in the seventies, he not only challenged Suharto’s power and the preexisting aesthetic, but also people’s understanding of their own culture. These are his own thoughts on why he produces artwork and it’s social importance:

Once we are faced with the necessity to make a choice or a stand, everything that makes up our backgrounds will play its part: time, age, economic, social and political considerations, idealism, behavior, creativity, et cetera. All these may alter, strengthen, undermine, or develop anything we believe, and the ‘Pipa’ artists are not exceptions in this. As a father seeing his children growing up I experience a sense of losing [sic], I feel the strong drive to give more attention to children, including others’ children; that is what has been going on in me Being hopeful about my children and wanting to be more attentive to children in every aspect, I think these two things provide the basis of the central theme of my works.(Source)

Purnomo’s artworks are not only culturally relevant for Indonesia, but can teach us a whole lot about the human condition, it’s strength, fragility, resilience and adaptability.

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