Sydney based photographer Petrina Hicks produces large scale, hyper-real, glossy images reminiscent of advertising catalogs or billboards. Simple, graphic and highly stylized, her work is sensual and glamorous. Her latest series called The Hippy And The Snake explores the relationship between women and snakes throughout literature and art, but with a decidedly Australian twist. She has placed women either smoking behind a wall of unnaturally bright foliage, lying in a tropical rainforest, hiding behind dripping wet leaves, or floating on a background of unbelievably bright blue, and scattered snakes throughout. The whole atmosphere of the series is one of a sweet teenager meandering through a sugary dreamworld, but one where there is always danger lurking behind the next leaf. It is a seductive setting and Hicks uses this unease purposefully.
There is a tension between the organic and synthetic. Ambiguity and duality is something I often aim for. On the surface, I use images that have an advertising aesthetic to explore its own language and codes, but it is the subtext in the content that works in opposition. (Source)
Hicks uses her background as a commercial photographer to her advantage. The models have blemish-free perfect skin, not a hair out of place and clean silhouettes. Using simple compositions, minimal props, and no unfussy details, Hicks’ aesthetic is as seductive as the snake is in her narrative.
Artist Sheida Soleimani has translated her frustration with her home country Iran and it’s politics into a captivating and symbolically complex photographic series called National Anthem. Her parents fled the country in 1979 after the revolution that overthrew the pro-western Pahlavi dynasty took place. (Both parents were targeted for actively opposing the regime – her mother tortured, and her father escaping across the border.) As a political refugee in America, Soleimani observed her country transition through several fundamental changes and decided to express her disdain visually. Each photographic scene is an exploration of cultural themes and symbols all representing different aspects of the last 35 years in Iran, and the many different dictators and leaders the country has seen. Soleimani says:
In my photographic scenarios, cultural symbols and signifiers are appropriated to create a narrative in regards to my position as an Iranian-American viewing the Middle East from an outside lens. The usage of specific colors and political figures form a symbolic lexicon that runs throughout the series, while party supplies hint at the doctrines of ‘political parties’. Each of the photographs addresses a specific time in Iranian history, while alluding to how both the East and West have responded to societal occurrences. Through incorporating multiple layers, the lexicon can be read and refashioned by the viewers’ ideologies, creating images that remain coeval, while acknowledging former origins. (Source)
Combining collage, installation, performance and object assemblage, Soleimani creates powerful, emotional art-as-activism. The fierce mark making, scrunched up images, burnt candles, and mutilated cultural objects all have the hand of an aggrieved survivor. Managing to turn her deeply personal history into a series of clever, sarcastic visual puns, Soleimani’s artistic therapy is beneficial to us all.
For 3 months of the year, Corey Arnold is a commercial fisherman. For the rest of the time he travels around Portland, Oregon and the surrounding areas photographing the wildlife in a very sincere and earnest way. Beginning his life at sea, he first worked as a deckhand on a crabbing vessel in Alaska in 1997, and from then started documenting his experiences in an on-going series called Fish-Work. In it, Arnold captures the lifestyle of the commercial fishing world, filled with images of men in neon colored rain jackets, bundles of ropes, dead bait, enormous waves, monstrous fish and hoards of birds.
In his new series though, he has concentrated just on animals and their personalities. The exhibition Wildlife is as unpretentious as it sounds. Arnold has been able to become quite intimate with his subjects, capturing bears, birds, seals, sharks, and moose all in a relaxed, natural state. Spliced with images, once again, from the fishing world, we get a good idea of how seamlessly Arnold fits into his environment. It seems the animals caught on camera don’t notice the presence of this human one bit. The artist reflects on his obsession with the wilderness and also his ability to go unnoticed within it:
I harbored a deep desire to be an animal living in nature and I didn’t have far to travel. The lush gully in my backyard, just out of sight beyond a thicket of poison oak, was home to coyotes, raccoons, possums, stray pets, snakes, lizards, rats and crawdads. Any bustling in the bushes was a potential mystery to unravel or a prey to stalk. I was a particularly curious child, an amateur wildlife tracker, behaviorist and hunter who often pressed the boundaries of human/wild animal proximity. (Source) (Via Super Sonic)
Brooklyn artist Monica Cook is a woman of many talents, with multiple personalities and identities. She loves to explore the revolting, disgusting side of being human that we often try to hide. The range of her art practice is broad, and includes grotesque hairy sculptures, to highly detailed bizarre animations, meticulous drawings of naked women in surreal settings and beautifully rich oil paintings of slippery and slimy intimate scenes. Cook says all that she produces is in some way a representation of her, a kind of self portrait, or an attempt to digest the things about her that she doesn’t understand.
“When I’m painting, it’s more about my relationship with the object than it is about me. It’s hard for me to separate myself from the experience. It could be a fish or an octopus. I handle it until it becomes unfamiliar to me so I can see it in a new way. People might want to read into those paintings but for me, it’s just about finding magic in the mundane and exploring further.” (Source)
Her drawings are combinations of miniature versions of herself acting out strange activities on large body/landscapes. Her work usually explores the range of human emotions, including anything from girls on laughing gas in the middle of a doctor’s examination or celebrating some personal triumph while riding a balloon. Cook is able to exaggerate the awkwardness of being human, and how gross and disgusting it can be to live with flesh and bones.
“I can be extremely awkward, yes. I can be really shy, too. I put myself in a position where I am really uncomfortable interacting with something, and work with it until I become comfortable with it, and capture that private moment of surrender or acceptance. It’s all about private performance, and amplifying the absurdity of a situation – and making myself laugh.” (Source) (Via Juxtapoz)
The visual world of Daniel Gordon is complex, colorful, wondrous, and invigorating. He creates rich modern interpretations of still life and portrait oil paintings. Inspired by Matisse and Fauvism, and using modern day technology, he takes compelling photographs of 2D and 3D objects. His practice involves multiple steps to reach these bizarre final images. First he sources different images from the internet, prints them out, rebuilds the object from 2D sheets of paper, crumpling and shaping them to resemble the original object, then finally photographs them using a 8×10-inch view camera. After the scene has been documented, Gordon dismantles the different images and patterned pieces, to use at a later date. His latest show Shadows, Patterns, Pears shows his familiarity with appropriation, reusing and contextualizing images with ease.
He builds compositions from fragmented patterns, colors, perspectives, histories and narratives, resulting in some strange surreal reality. He layers up repeating shapes and silhouettes, creating some sort of modern take on Cubism. Described as a kind of analog Photoshop, Gordon’s work is as equally confusing as it is delightful. Reworking something familiar such as nectarines, oranges, lemons, he turns them into an optical illusion of light where dark should be, shadows on the wrong side of the object, the fruit half blue and half red. He transforms a mundane apple into one from a Dr Seuss land – crumpled, purple, with two stalks.
Calling his work “Screen Selections”, Gordon is alluding to a time of visual over-stimulation in the age of the Internet. Reveling in working with materials so palpable and tactile, Gordon says:
“I’m interested in showing my hand and letting people see the imperfection. “(Source)
London based photographer Hana Knížová‘s new series Young Hollywood focuses on the dreams, goals, hopes and aspirations of the optimistic youth of L.A looking to make a break in the industry. Noted for it’s cut throat competitiveness, Hollywood is no child’s playground. These portraits capture a time of these people’s lives when they are aware of the challenges ahead, but not intimated enough to stop trying. Knížová says of her inspiration:
I am interested in the topic of youth and its ambitions, as it’s something which develops and changes as we grow older. Our motivation and priorities change. Some personal goals might not be achieved for several different reasons – it can be quite disappointing and bitter, but other goals might gradually and naturally start lacking relevance in one’s life. Only time will show.
Stylistically the photographs are shot in various locations, either in personal cars, or homes, local diners, street corners or burger joints – all seeming very personal. It is a rare look at a performer’s inner emotions. It is easy to see boundless optimism and hope, but somewhere niggling doubts are also lingering. Knížová goes on:
I also asked my sitters to fill a short questionnaire about their current situation, about their aspirations, and what “fame” and “success” mean to them. This serves for my personal record, although it was certainly challenging for them verbalise the thoughts. Sometimes we catch ourselves in auto pilot or chasing a dream without forming some sort of context, this exercise is both reaffirming and acknowledging of these big picture goals they set for themselves.
It will indeed be an interesting social experiment to see just where these young Hollywood star and starlets end up down the track. To see more of Knížová’s beautiful work visit her tumblr site. (Via Juxtapoz)
Artist Chris Wood likes to exploit the magic of light, and more particularly, the light that passes through glass. Working specifically with Dichroic glass (meaning two color), she installs pieces or shards of the material on walls at different angles, allowing the different color and reflections to play off each other. Arranging the glass in usually geometric, or circular forms, they take on the appearance of futuristic mandalas, or some complex physics experiment. The installations are wildly varied in color, at times the glass is completely transparent and subtle, or can be densely rainbow colored, or even entirely opaque and metallic.
Dichroic glass was actually developed by NASA in the late fifties to protect against harmful effects of direct sunlight and cosmic radiation, and is a very unique material. Due to it’s unique nature, it is a captivating material to work with with unlimited potential. Wood says of her interest in it:
Glass is a material which allows me to exploit the aesthetic potential of light. Minimal structures, support simple arrangements of glass, which interact with light to create complex patterns of light and shade, which change depending upon the position of the viewer and the angle of the light source. (Source)
Wood also works with the Dichroic glass outdoors, setting up quiet installations that play off the reflections and colors of the environment. Favoring water and greenery, she is able to make us look twice at the nature we take for granted around us.
Normally you would be quite concerned if you could see the inside of any firework, explosive, or pyrotechnic device. But Seattle based photographer Andrew Waits has thrown caution to the wind and dissected different fireworks, creating a strikingly graphic series called Boom City. The result is something that is almost as beautiful as the fireworks are when ignited. The explosives turn out to be quite interesting indeed – columns of cardboard or mulched paper encased in colored tissue, or some delicate covering, and stuffed full of intriguing colored pigments. Resembling some sort of school science project, the fireworks look deceptively amateur, and certainly not something that can cause such serious accidents. Names like Flying Color Butterfly Rocket, Lightning Flash, Ground Bloom Flower, Moon Traveler’s Bottle Rocket, give the impression of fireworks being delightfully playful.
Waits quite often chooses subjects where he can study differences by comparing similarities. His past projects have included studies of people traveling in motor homes, living permanently on the road, and comparing the same site at both sunset and sunrise. Also having taken a series called Artifacts and Specimens, he seems to enjoy ordering and analyzing the things that surround us. Boom City is the perfect example of how Waits’ curiosity is piqued by examining the details of a particular subject.
See here for more of Waits’ beautiful aesthetic and interesting projects. And here is a video of drone footage seeing fireworks from yet another angle. (Via Boingboing)