Dear Human is the artistic partnership between Jasna Sokolovic and Noel O’Connell. After meeting at a residency in Denmark the two began collaborating. Their work is based on common beliefs the two share and each project incorporates their respective strengths. Noel has material expertise and pays attention to detail where Jasna possesses great improvisational sensibility and an explorative nature.
Together their work draws inspiration from different environments. They appreciate places and spaces that allow them to experiment with materials, as well as other people, such as designers, architects and artists. Often their projects offer an alternative perception to overlooked everyday landscapes by revealing the hidden potential of places and objects. Ultimately they hope to inspire consciousness and curiosity.
The Sentinels were one such project. In part of the forest the duo regularly visits there used to be a grove of grand Douglas firs. Over a century ago they were cut down. At the time the technique to cut such giant trees was to chop wedges into them and embed horizontal planks to stand on, so the lumbar jacks could cut above the root line. Now the remains resemble empty eye sockets that, as the duo says, “longed for an intervention.” Inserting porcelain eyes into the slots the Sentinels were born and they silently keep watch over the forest.
Ruben Plasencia settled on the idea of photographing the blind when contemplating how to approach the subject of prejudice as an artist. He felt that blind individuals are unique because they are subject to prejudice, but don’t generate prejudice against others the way people who can see do. His series, Obscure, forces viewers to look directly into the eyes of people who cannot return the stare.
Racist prejudices and stereotypes continue to dominate our societies — judgments which are made at a level that is only skin-deep. In “Obscure”, I created portraits of the blind. These faces create a mockery of our unthinking dependence on vision. A blind person seeks more reliable ways to read between the lines and understood essences, no longer able to fall back on their eyesight as the only reliable means.
I composed the portraits in a simple manner: a figure and a ground. I wanted to eliminate as many external factors as possible and leave behind only what’s most important to me: “The Look”.
Far from being a simple visual appetizer, this project ventures to convey the deepest intimacy of the look. By gazing upon eyes which cannot see, I want us feel deeply what it means to have sight. Despite having the gift of vision, we manage to blind ourselves every day. We are all given the great opportunity to observe and I hope we can appreciate its value. (via LensCulture)
Interested in landscapes, San Francisco artist Jenny Odell spends quite a bit of time looking at places viewed from above on Google Maps. Searching for industrial forms and shapes that, when combined create an unusual and striking kind of landscape. Odell then creates digital prints, the likes of which have even been exhibited in the Google Maps headquarters. Of her work Odell says:
“Much of the strangest architecture associated with humanity is infrastructural. We have vast arrays of rusting cylinders, oil rigs dotting wastelands like lonely insects, and jewel-toned, rhomboid ponds of chemical waste. We have gray and terraced landfills, 5-story tall wastewater digester eggs, and striped areas of the desert that look as though they rendered incorrectly until we realize that the lines are made of thousands of solar panels. Massive cooling towers of power plants slope away from dense, unidentifiable networks on the ground and are obscured in their own ominous fog. If there is something unsettling about these structures, it might be that they are deeply, fully human at the same time that they are unrecognizably technological. These mammoth devices unblinkingly process our waste, accept our trash, distribute our electricity. They are our prostheses. They keep us alive and able, for a minute, to forget the precariousness of our existence here and of our total biological dependence on a series of machines, wires, and tubes, humming loudly in some far off place.”
Drawing attention to our dependent, but odd relationship with this infrastructure Odell is also exploring what it has to reveal about our habits, patterns and the elements of our everyday life. She is also interested in viewing this infrastructure in a way where it takes on the quality of being the remains from a time and civilization gone by. In other words, her images take on “tragic air: they look already like dinosaurs, like relics of a failed time from the perspective of a time when we will know better—or when we are no longer here.”
Hiroshi Watanabe is a photographer interested in places and people. Capturing traditions and locales that hold a personal interest for him, Watanabe was drawn to various elements of Japanese culture. Particularly interested in forms of theatricality, Watanabe sought to capture individual performers within the traditions of Sarumawashi, Noh, Ena Bunraku and Kabuki. Stylized human actors, monkeys, masks and puppets become the subject matter of Watanabe’s striking and powerful photographs. Though the traditions come from different regions and periods of history, they are tied together by Watanabe’s eye. Of his work he says:
“I strive for both calculation and discovery in my work, keeping my mind open for surprises. At times, I envision images I’d like to capture, but when I actually look through the viewfinder, my mind goes blank and I photograph whatever catches my eye. Photographs I return with are usually different from my original concepts. My photographs reflect both genuine interest in my subject as well as a respect for the element of serendipity, while other times I seek pure beauty. The pure enjoyment of this process drives and inspires me. I believe there’s a thread that connects all of my work — my personal vision of the world as a whole. I make every effort to be a faithful visual recorder of the world around me, a world in flux that, at very least in my mind, deserves preservation.”
A self-declared lover of beauty and gentleness Nir Arieli‘s photographs of male dancers combine those passions with great technical skill. For this series, which he titled “Tension,” Arieli described his role as being a “visual choreographer.” The portraits are the outcome of a verbal dialogue between the photographed dancer and Arieli and of the work he says, “I don’t pre-determine the result-insisting on well-planned perfectness-but rather establish a strong understanding, let the dancer improvise and capture his movements. Afterwards, I experiment with layering various photos on top of each other, searching for intriguing combinations.” Dependent on coincidence and uncontrollable movements, Arieli trusts the physical intelligence of his subjects.
Arieli began his career as a photographer for the Israeli military. Perhaps this is where his interest in capturing the physical abilities of the male body emerged. Unusual in their depiction of the male (versus female) form as a source of grace and beauty, the images are striking for their sense of movement. In his statement Arieli says, “I can’t dance, I can’t in my room, nor in a club, let alone any kind of stage. Whenever I am forced to try I stumble or freeze or drink enough to disappear. However, this time, for the first time, I found myself actively involved in dancing-even if by using someone else’s body.” Indeed, as a viewer, we feel involved with the dancer, as impossible as the postures might be for us. Arieli wonderfully captured the movement and allowed us to feel a part of it. (via LensCulture)
Rebecca Jewell spent a year in New Guinea in 1982 and became inspired by feather artifacts and birds. She saw how important they were to the people there and was amazed by the beautiful feather headdresses people made. She went on to study anthropology at Cambridge University in 1985 and then gained a PhD from London’s Royal College of Art in Natural History Illustration. During that time she would work mainly in watercolor, drawing bird skins at the National History Museum and ethnographic artifacts made out of feathers at the British Museum.
All of these experiences came to influence the body of work she began to create using “ethically sourced” feathers to print on. Her work is based on careful observational drawing as a way of seeing, recording, investigating and analyzing. Through a process involving a photo-plate, ink, an etching press and feathers, Jewell creates beautiful and delicate works on feathers depicting birds. Of the pieces she says: “Over the past years I have drawn and painted feathers and birds, and explored how they have been used to enhance and decorate humans. I am also aware of the plight and precarious status of many species, which I wanted to represent in the delicacy of the image on the feather.”
An artist in residence at the British Museum, Department of Africa, Oceania and the Americas, Jewell creates work that explores the shared histories between people that create certain artifacts, the explorers, anthropologists and travelers who obtain them, and the museums that house them.
The always-colorful work by Erin Rachel Hudak has the distinct ability to seduce with its bright and vibrant appearance. Hudak consistently produces work that looks happy and exudes love. The attraction, while complete, can be somewhat misleading, and upon closer inspection Hudak has often encoded a message, lesson, or suggestion hidden within the colorful work.
“Love You Forever,” a temporary installation in both New York and Idaho, included mylar balloons. An adoring public service announcement in both locals, the installations became celebrated destinations. However, despite the message of everlasting adulation, the installations were completely fleeting. On the one hand the works were romantic and beautiful gestures, or from another perspective they were impossible promises.
Often Hudak entertains such distinctions, juxtapositions and opposites—using the way ideas are defined by separation from other ideas. The concept is almost always referencing, or completed by, the viewer. Her outdoor installation-to-be at Paul Artspace in St. Louis involves a mirrored sculpture that reads “You Are My Reflection,” involving the viewer in a process of self-analysis. Combined with a rich visual vocabulary involving metaphors and language, Hudak’s works are always highly symbolic.
Catch her latest installation at the SPRING/BREAK Art Show taking place this weekend in New York. “Waterfall Wall” installed in the stairway of the SPRING/BREAK space is a cascading barrage of color and reflective surface. It is the visual manifestation of Hudak’s observations about power, freedom, access and restriction.
Dealing in an atypical kind of self-portraiture, Dawn Woolley often creates photographic copies of herself, and then photographs them in various locations, positions and moods. Making herself a substitute and her visual representative, the work forms an inquiry into the act of looking, and being looked at. As she says of the work, “Referring to psychoanalysis and phenomenology I examine my own experience of becoming an object of sight and also consider the experience the viewer has when looking at me as a photographic object. By producing artwork that establishes me as an object it could be argued that I reinforce stereotypical images of the female body.” Indeed, the female body is a common subject of Woolley’s work, often playing with stereotypes through reinforcing them, or defying them.
In series, such as TheSubstitute, Woolley created a photographic copy of herself and placed it in the real world in her stead. Seeking to reinforce conventional images of the female body, but with apparent exhibitionism, Woolley created a replacement that rendered her real body invisible. The sense of disbelief for a viewer is slow to materialize, as our brain wants to see an actual 3-dimensional person. The effects are similar even when both individuals are cutouts. Selecting moments in her past, Woolley’s series, Adolescence gives her some distance from emotionally heightened events by re-creating them using photographs.
The ambiguousness of her work allows Woolley to play with assumptions about gender, and conventions of photography. There is a performative aspect to the work that is ultimately completed by the viewer. A viewer feels like a voyeur, and then, after realizing he is looking at a 2-dimensional depiction of a 2-dimensional photograph, a fool for being duped. An interesting way to examine gender roles and self-portraiture, Woolley’s images are challenging and provocative.