Most of Ana Teresa Barboza’s embroidery work centers around the body. There are usually sharp contrasts of color imagery embedded in her work, and sometimes, she will use graphite to draw on her fabric before beginning to stitch. These mixed media pieces address the fragmentation of the body, as well as the ability to mold and sculpt our bodies, and how we use them to cultivate identities. Barboza’s work also makes us deeply aware of the internality/externality of our bodies and the primality with which they exist in relation to others.
In addition to these basic concepts, her work is often humorous. Something about embroidery in general renders its subjects playful, as it never seems to take itself too seriously. It therefore becomes the perfect medium for Barboza’s subject matter. A scene that would normally be perceived as grotesque – such as a woman pulling our her entrails – becomes absurd and funny. Perhaps it has something to do with the delicacy and softness of the form and medium. Regardless, Barboza’s work leaves me with a smile.
Javier Pérez’s video, En Puntos, features a ballerina who puts on a pair of pointe shoes that are extended by a pair of sharp kitchen knives. Once she has the shoes on, she begins to balance herself on top of a grand piano, the tips of the knives scratching, scraping, and cutting the surface of the piano. At times, she finds herself on the edge of the piano, and she yelps as she struggles to keep her balance and maintain her strength. At the end of the video, the curtains close on her “performance” in an empty theater. Meant to resonate with the idea of a music box, Pérez’s video captures the fragility and discipline embodied in ballet, while also demonstrating the vulnerability and despair brought to stage performance in general. Also apparent is a delicate violence that makes you wince as the ballerina traverses the piano’s surface.
“Through this work, Javier Perez investigates and reflects once again upon the human condition. Using a strongly metaphorical language rich in powerful symbolism, he reveals the weaknesses that become the boundaries between seemingly irreconcilable concepts such as: beauty and cruelty, fragility and violence, culture and nature or life and death.” (via)
Mary O’Malley’sBottom Feeders is a series of oceanic ceramics that look as if they were discovered among sea wreckage. These “porcelain crustaceans” appear delicate and dangerous, as the aquatic life that crawls among the porcelain seems as if could consume and become the dish itself. Inspired by her home by the sea, O’Malley created this series with porcelain, red Iron oxide, 22 karat gold luster, and a cone 6 glaze that shes makes herself using a recipe called Alfred White. She enjoys creating work that juxtaposes seemingly disparate imagery or ideas, such as the series of urns she created that she intended to be humorous. Of this series, she says,
“What interested me with this series, is by applying the creatures to plates and bowls I was reminded of naturally occurring circumstances where nature takes over man made scenarios. Humans are constantly vying for power against the natural world but we can never quite seem to win. Once I started to create these pieces I then started to notice the same pattern going on in the world around me: moss growing on a concrete wall, barnacles growing on the side of a dock, tufts of grass poking up through cracks in the sidewalk, etc. Maybe I am interested in this series because it is a truer representation of the world we exist in.” (via)
Be sure to check out O’Malley’s Etsy shop, where you can purchase some of her work. She currently lives in New York.
Rebecca Stevenson’s figurative sculptures are both eerie and beautiful. Using primarily polyresin and wax, her concept usually begins with a human or animal figure cast in a subdued monochromatic color that then appears to blossom or decay with varieties of multi-colored organic compounds. These blossoms almost consume the figures, resulting in provocative, surreal sculptures. Her work embodies the process of creation and destruction, revealing the beauty that emerges from this organic cycle. Some of it reminds me of walking around farm pastures when I was younger, and discovering various animal skulls that the grass had begun to climb through. If her work is disturbing, it is only because it doesn’t try to mask the macabre beauty of the growth/decay process. “My work is concerned with the visceral and the sensual. It draws upon anatomical drawing and botanical illustration, but occupies a liminal territory between scientific enquiry and the subjective, imaginary body.” (via)
At RMIT University in Melbourne, Australia, lecturer Claudia Diaz has implemented an unconventional project in order to inspire her anatomy students. After teaching human anatomy for over 20 years, Diaz decided to try something new as she found the regular routine of anatomical memorization boring and uninspired. Over the past 3 years, Diaz has explored human anatomy with her students by having them paint the bodies of 10 students, revealing tendons and bones that would be visible if the person’s skin were stripped. Featured in these photographs is chiropractic student Zac O’Brien who patiently sat for around 18 hours while fellow students painted him. The finished result is what Diaz likes to call “anatomical man,” first brought to one of her classes in 2010.
”We walked him in and I still remember the looks on the kids’ faces. They were just in awe,” she said. ”I realised it shocked them, it inspired them and it motivated them.” Previously shy about taking off their clothes so classmates could study their bodies, the students began to shed their inhibitions through this painting exercise. ”I couldn’t get the kids to keep their clothes on. They were all throwing them off,” Dr Diaz said. (via)
Charlotte Niel’s series Behind the Curtain captures the moments before, during, and after patrons’ engagements with carnival and fair photo booths. These photographs are light and fun, bright and summery. Photo booths have consistently been a place of discovery and wonder, a place to experience the excitement of pulling a curtain behind you to allow some privacy in the midst of a very public setting. In a culture where so much of our photography experience is digital, and the tangibility of the photograph does not seem to be as privileged or common as it once it was, the photo booth is a place that offers this immediate experience. I particularly enjoy the variety of color in these photographs and Niel’s captures of the bottom halves of the photo booth’s subjects. There’s a sense of mystery and curiosity that these images evoke, and I think that largely has something to do with the merging of these private moments in a public setting captured with a public eye.
Of her series, Niel explains, “How many times have we looked at an old photograph and wondered about the person in the frame? People or family members we never knew, set in places we never visited or that have changed beyond recognition. Photos are often the only means to link us to our past or the past of others. They help us not to forget. They become visual memories. For these reasons, I find it fascinating to watch what happens at photo booths at county fairs. People come with family and friends to celebrate anniversaries, birthdays, friendships or just to make an annual visit to the booths. For others, it is just a way to capture who they are or with whom they are at that moment, on their own private stage. The result is a body of work of people who shared with me moments that took place in front of and behind the curtain, documented for unknown viewers. With my camera, it became a transformation of a private moment into a public one.”
Czlowiek Kamera is not this photographer’s real name. In Russian the name means “human-cam” or “cam-man,” and was sourced from Vertov’s “Man with a Movie Camera.” This human-mechanical fusion can be identified throughout Kamera’s compositions, at least in the way he fuses his human subjects with the camera’s manipulation of them. His photographs are surreal and mystical, and remind me a bit of Kyle Thompson’s aesthetic. Kamera specializes in recording live music performances, including artists Sigur Rós and Fever Ray. Check out his Flickr for more photos.
Lorna Barnshaw likes to experiment with digital renderings of human faces. In her series of 3D art prints Replicants, Barnshaw used a different computer, software, application, and printing method with minimal interference with each computer’s rendering. The results are geometric, cubed, and warped mask-like representations of the human face. Complementary to this work, Barnshaw’s gif series Reality Reduction, depicts human figure images reduced to their basic geometry using a digital filter. Together these series engage us with their reflections on technological influences in contemporary culture.