Dolls are an appealing motif for artists because, as artist/ doll-maker Marina Bychkoya says, “I’m not content working in just one medium such as painting or sculpture, and dolls offer me a very diverse and satisfying tactile experience. To create a doll I get to do it all: sculpture, industrial design, painting, engraving, mold-making, drawing, metalwork, fashion and jewelry design.” Combining multiple interests and talents, these five artists create some of the most fascinating, bizarre, beautiful and awesome, in the truest sense of the word, dolls I’ve ever seen.
Freya Jobbins says that she is inspired by Guiseppe Archimboldo and his fruit and vegetable paintings; Penny Byrne’s ceramic creations, Ron Muek’s giant people, Gunther Von Hagen’s plastinated corpses, and of course the Toy Story Trilogy. Combining these inspirations with a technique that incorporates plastic doll parts and toys, she creates assemblages of faces, heads and larger busts. Provocative, humorous and perhaps slightly disturbing Jobbins’ assemblages explore the relationship between consumerist fetishism and the emerging recycling culture.
Ana Salvador was born in Barreiro, which is a small town in Portugal. She now lives in Amsterdam and has a passion for sculpture, drawing and painting. Inspired by the human body, antiques, ornaments, fabrics and laces Salvador creates fantastical sculpted figures with distinct personalities.
Marina Bychkova is a Russian-Canadian figurative artist who founded Enchanted Doll so that she could devote her time to creating exquisite porcelain dolls. An artist through and through Bychkova is concerned with each detail on her dolls, from their costumes to their facial expressions.
Debra Baxter, You have to believe we are magic, (barf bag)
These four artists are interested in exploring nature through crystals, minerals and natural stones. Toronto-based Carly Waito makes small oil paintings (about 5×6 inches) of crystals and minerals. Inspired by the natural world Waito is interested in geology, geometry and light. With a sense of wonder and curiosity, Waito explores via paint tiny mineral specimens, revealing the beauty and magic nature is capable of creating.
Seattle-based Debra Baxter uses stones and minerals, and their contrasts or relationships to investigate human interactions. To address notions such as human power plays, vulnerability and gender differences, Baxter plays titles like You have to believe we are magic (barf bag), 2010 off visual displays of ceramic, minerals and reflective acrylic. Her sculptures become small visual metaphors replete with symbols and juxtapositions that form ideas and narrative.
Amy Brener works by layering resin, glass and Fresnel lens to create light sensitive sculptures that resemble large crystals or minerals. Brener’s process involves mixing and pouring pigmented resin into wooden frameworks. Only able to control certain aspects of the process, Brener embraces the surprises that happen along the way. The process gives her sculptures a quality that exists between the geological and the man-made.
Jonathan Latiano’s Points of Contention, 2011, was an installation at School 33 Art Center in Baltimore. The piece was made out of plastics, resins and polymers and appeared to be exploding out of the floor. Meant to address the effects the sculpture’s materials have on the geological landscape, Latiano’s work is a visual reminder of our impact on nature.
A visually interesting and literally engaging material many artists are drawn to mirrors and other reflective surfaces for their visually interesting qualities. Based in concept, Dan Graham’s “pavilions” blur the line between sculpture and architecture. Toying with perception the pavilions employ two-way mirrors and glass to engage a viewer and disorient his sense of space.
Inspired by artists like Graham, Danish artist Jeppe Hein is interested in illusion and turning passive visitors into participants. Hein uses mirrors and other reflective surfaces in his work. Finding the place there art intersects with architecture, and technical inventions, Hein often adds an element of humor to his pieces.
With similar interests Alyson Shotz also investigates issues of perception and space by using reflective materials. Often Shotz’s works become visual representations of concepts from theoretical physics (string theory, dark metter, etc). Other times her work exposes changing surroundings. Shotz says of her works such as Mirror Fence, “I’m interested in making objects that change infinitely, depending on their surroundings. The light at different times of day, the weather…what the viewers are wearing, all these are just some of the variables that will make the piece different every time one comes in contact with it. For me an ideal work of art is one that is ultimately unknowable in some way.”
Ryan Everson is a multimedia artist who reveals the sentimentality often associated with an idealized natural world. As he explains, Fear addresses the “abstract emotional states stirred up from specific self reflective moments.” Sometimes apparent, and sometimes camouflaged, Everson’s Fear creates a deeply rich symbolic metaphor for the feelings evoked by fear.
David Altmejd employs mirrors in his works to help him, and a viewer, explore a fantasy world that puts reality into perspective. Depicting mythical creatures, Atmejd blurs distinctions between real and perceived.
Light painting is a photographic technique created by moving a hand-held light source, or the camera, to create images via a long exposure. Artists experimented with the technique beginning in the early 20th century. One artist who uses light in performance is San Francisco artist Eric Staller. He creates and captures vibrant images. Michael Bosanko is another artist who uses light to create art. Using colored torches the way one might use a paintbrush, he captures the images using a long exposure.
Taking the idea to a new level, contemporary graffiti artists are also experimenting with light technology. Lichtfaktor is a collective of light painting artists, performers, photographers and media artists who are constantly pioneering into new territories of expression. Lichtfaktor artists use light, painting photography, media art installations and interactive media performances that blend into an exciting experience. Daniel Lisson, for example, is a designer, illustrator and artist from Cologne, Germany. His Monster Show consisted of a selection of light paintings done at a factory in Cologne. Also in Germany, Graffiti Research Lab is another collective that uses technology to create street art. Using objects like “LED throwies,” these artists engage new media for urban communication.
Body painting is a tedious, but amazing process with stunning results. Incorporating the technique in unique ways, each of these three artists captures beautiful and poetic images after applying paint to skin.
California-based photographer Jean-Paul Bourdier combines the human form with landscape to create a unique visual synchronization. Painting the bodies, posing them just so, and taking the photographs, Bourdier explains that, “arising in each visual event conceived are the geometries generated by the body as a determinant of ‘negative space’—not the background of the figure and the field surrounding it, but the space that makes composition and framing possible in photography.”
Incorporating what is largely traditional painting, Alexa Meade also uses the unique canvas that is the human body. Painting directly onto the skin, Meade creates a trompe l’leil that is wholly unusual. Camouflaging her figures into the background Meade creates optically engaging images that confuse 3D and 2D planes.
Australia-based artist Emma Hack combines painting on canvas, body painting and studio-based photography. Hack’s works incorporates rich visual narrative with magical realism. Also interested in the idea of camouflage, Hack spends approximately 19 hours painting her wallpaper and then anywhere from 8-15 hours painting her subject to throughly explore the subject. The arduous process is time-consuming, but the results are spectacular.
A seemingly unlikely source of inspiration for contemporary artists, figurative sculpture has a long history. From the classical figure sculpture of Greek antiquity to African Yourba figurines artists have always had an inclination to depict the human form. Meeting the challenges of making such an old tradition new and relevant, these contemporary artists re-imagine the human form.
Contemporary master Jim Dine, often categorized as a pop artist, appropriated from art history. He selects icons, such as the Venus de Milo, to re-contextualize for a modern audience. Nathan Mabry draws from archaeology, Dadaism, surrealism and minimalism. He makes references across the art historical timeline, “crashing,” as he calls it, multiple aesthetics together. Interested in the impact of historical and mythological events on our collective consciousness, Katy Schimert creates sculptures that feel like they might have walked out of history. Fascinated with surface, Schimert uses her mediums to make the forms feel new, evoking a unique kind of introspection. Kevin Francis Gray’s work addresses the complex relationship between abstraction and figuration. He combines Neoclassical sculpture with an urban aesthetic. Fernando Botero is a Colombian artist who creates sculptures depicting people and other figures in large, exaggerated volume. The overstated features are meant to be humorous and generate political criticism.
Mary Ellen Mark, Heather and Kelsey Dietrick, 7 years old, Kelsey older by 66 minutes
Mary Ellen Mark, Ned and Fred Mitchell, 50 years old, Ned older by 30 seconds
Julie de Waroquier
Julie de Waroquier
Twins: an almost illogically impossible phenomenon where two people look exactly, or almost exactly, alike. Stories of the bonds twins share are equally as fascinating; experiencing the same thoughts and dreams, or switching places to help one another out. It’s no wonder that both Mary Ellen Mark and Julie de Waroquier were drawn to them as the subject matter for their photographs.
Mary Ellen Mark is a well-known photographer based in New York. Considering herself both a documentary and a portrait photographer, Mark was drawn to twins as a unique subject of fascination over a long period of time. She first travelled to the Twins Days Festival in Twinsburg, Ohio in 1998. Enamored with the idea of making a full body of work on twins, Mark contacted the Festival in 2001 to arrange to do a documentary and portrait project there. Over two years she captured portraits and interviewed her subjects, ending up with over a thousand pages of transcripts. The photos themselves, created with the 20×24 poloroid, are stunning black and white images full of narrative and personality.
Julie de Waroquier is a French photographer and philosopher. Her twin series is titled “Chimeras.” Of it she wrote:
“twins have always fascinated me, and not only because I have a twin brother: they are almost magic, and yet they are real. Indeed, the fact that two people look exactly the same whereas they are not the same person is astonishing. It is like a real dream, or like a miracle. In some past or present civilizations, twins are even considered as gods…or as monsters.”
Capturing her chimeras in dreamy landscapes, de Waroquier’s images take on a kind of mythical feeling of their own, furthering the sense that the existence of twins is both mysterious and special.
An unusual, but symbolic and versatile medium, several artists have integrated books into their practice. Sometimes selected for their formal elements, other times for their content, books have a wide-ranging appeal for artists. The five artists listed below have employed books in varied and distinctive ways to create remarkable works of art.
Abelardo Morell is a Cuban artist who incorporates books into his photography in beautiful and creative ways. For example, he used Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland to create photographs uniquely including the book. Jonathan Callan is drawn to books as a medium and creates amazing, formal sculptures that resemble tree stumps, or other organic forms. Cara Barer is an artist who transforms books by sculpting, dying and then photographing them. About her work Barer says, “Books, physical objects and repositories of information, are being displaced by zeros and ones in a digital universe with no physicality. Through my art, I document this and raise questions about the fragile and ephemeral nature of books and their future.” Robert The is a New York-artist best-known for his Gun Books, which usually play a title cleverly off the book carved into the shape of a gun. Isaac Salazar rescues books that have been discarded and carves words out of the pages.