In an age of techno-wizardry, photographer Peter Thorpe is keeping magic alive the old-fashioned way. The stages he sets are all real: the props, the costumes — and yes, the dog. To celebrate the holidays, Thorpe and his family have a delightful tradition of creating holiday cards that are straight out of the storybooks. The star of the show is Razzle, the family pet dog who is transformed into a mouse, a fairy, a roast turkey, and more.
Of the 20-year-strong tradition, Thorpe says,
“The fun for me, has been choosing to continue to create these traditionally rather than with Photoshop, by making my own sets + props and using a fair bit of food bribery!”
Thorpe must have been feeding Razzle some tasty morsels indeed, because some of the behind-the-scenes costuming appears to be quite elaborate. In one scene, Razzle takes on a more avian aspect, sitting in a mid-air harness and wearing a full-body felt costume and a beak.
Razzle has retired from the stage as she’s “elderly” and has a “weak heart,” but hopefully she’ll be partaking in the off-screen holiday festivities for many more years to come. (via Laughing Squid)
The instrument of horror in the performance was The Apollo Chair, which was infamously used by Iran’s secret police. Saunders would be strapped down into it; Duncan would wield a stun gun capable of emitting 5 million volts. An altogether harrowing performance piece, the nightmare was completed by a tin can placed over Saunders head in a grim mask that is practically funereal.
In preparation for the performance, Saunders submitted himself to torture by his own hand as well as those of his friends. During each painful session, he created a series of mixed media art pieces named, “While Being Tortured,” a raw collection of first-person suffering. The series is painful to look at, a searing indictment of the terrors and evils human beings are capable of.
Each piece evokes a claustrophobic sense of helplessness, reduced to an almost primitive artform. Some are more coherent, showing clearly the entry wounds, where the bone is being bent and the skin is being torn. Others are jagged jolts of color and furious scribbling, as though coming straight from the lizard brain. The primal shapes and lines are disturbing suggestions of the kind of seismic experience tearing through the artist.
We’ve featured Saunders’ art before as he explored the effects of drug use in his artwork. Similarly, “While Being Tortured” is a visceral window into others’ experiences in a way that might not be accessible otherwise. “In no way do I wish to equate my experiences with [victims of torture] or belittle their experiences with my art,” Saunders says. “My goal was simply to create a different way of bringing awareness to something that is currently happening in over 200 countries throughout the world.”
Photographer David Emmite snaps pictures of a different kind of still life. A plate of spaghetti and meatballs is supplemented with yarn and knitting needles; a thick steak is cut directly from the flesh of a table, finely marbled by wood grain.
Emmite’s whimsical take on classic everyday objects in his series “Pot Luck Dinner” seems to occur entirely within the confines of a dollhouse neighborhood. There’s a playful sense of imagination that permeates all his photographs, especially his TV dioramas. Tiny green army men burst out of a handheld television set, literally breaking the fourth wall. A retro TV houses a floating model of the starship Enterprise, recalling the nostalgic days when model-building was a widespread hobby.
The sense of nostalgia is not misplaced; according to Emmite’s artist’s biography, his interest in tinkering and bringing playtime to life started from an early age. Fortunately, he didn’t leave his imagination in the past, instead choosing to stage miniature scenes and bring them to life. (h/t Behance)
Matthieu Bourel creates surreal collages that, despite their dream-like qualities, feel somehow rooted in reality. It might have something to do with his use of black and white photos, summoning up a specter of the past and lending a sort of mythic quality to his art.
In some of his pieces, it almost feels as though they’re still frames of a tall tale as opposed to utter fiction. They feel historically relevant, which, according to Bourel, is part of the intended effect. “When successful, all the elements fall together with irony and tension while all other realities are obliterated, leaving the viewer as participant inside the picture, with his own codes and connections,” Bourel explains. “The image then carries the weight of a personal reality.”
The phrase “personal reality” aptly encapsulates the quiet strangeness of his collages. Bloodless cross-sections of torsos and bodies are more contemplative than gruesome, as though they’re textbook diagrams.
Bourel describes his process as finding pictures and photographs that spark inspiration. He’s drawn to pictures that “evoke a fake history or inspire nostalgia for a period in time that never truly existed.”
“A piece often becomes about the search and desire to combine those emergent narrative symbols that seem charged with a familiar yet distant emotion,” Bourel says.
Photographer Kenji Shibata‘s latest exhibit, “Locked in the ether,” is full of contradictions. The flowers he photographs are dead but their last breaths are immortalized in ice. They’re floating in limbo, lost somewhere ineffable, blushing still with color and life.
Shibata arranges them carefully within their icy tombs, with as much care as any botanist would. Choreographed by an expert hand, the flowers become more than themselves: alien landscapes, abstract smears of color, stunning centerpieces veiled by frost.
Yet as tenderly as he gave them new life, Shibata also lets the ice thaw. He photographs the blossoms’ descent, depicting them as vulnerable, exposed, dying once more. It’s elegant but also a little tragic. It’s gorgeous maybe because it’s ephemeral — the transition from vibrant summer to autumn to a long, quiet winter.
Photographer Ines Kozic captures modern fairy tales decorated with bone and hair. The mood is contemplative, with a subtler flavor of body horror as her fair-haired women spin their hair into thick braids and pose with ruby-red lips and a court of insects. There’s also a sense of playfulness: a woman painting with her hair in an Escheresque exercise of physics; a man’s beard woven into a basket.
According to her artist’s statement, Kozic’s work is “a reflection on the body’s ornamentation, post-mortem photography and fairy tales’s world.” Her inspiration from photography of the recently deceased in repose is especially clear in the photos where her subjects wear garlands of delicate bone.
The ever-present sense of solitude in her photography make it seem as though everyone is frozen in time. The result is an unsettling mix of beauty and the kind of disquieting daydreams that one might find in a languishing surburbia. Her subjects perform everyday chores — sewing, weaving — but with surreal objects, bedecking themselves with beetles instead of jewels.
If, as Kozic says, she’s searching for “macabre poetry,” then she’s certainly found it. (via Yatzer)
Yoshitoshi Kanemaki sculpts incredible life-sized metaphors from camphor wood. Once he finishes chiseling in each furrowed brow and dabbing on painted flesh, what stands before him is a character that is beyond human. All of Kanemaki’s subjects seem to be between thoughts, complex humans who are plagued by existential terror while simultaneously wondering if they left the stove turned on.
One sculpture, a many-headed girl, shows every shade of expression from happiness to surprise. A six-eyed woman glances left, right, and straight ahead at the ground. It’s almost as though Kanemaki has sought to capture the various elements of the psyche in action — a glimpse of id, ego, and super-ego at play.
Just as his previous sculptures, Kanemaki riffs on the theme of emergence. Mirror images are attached like siamese twins. A peculiar case of mistaken, misplaced, or misremembered identity, it’s diffiult to tell which is real and which is doppelganger. (via Laughing Squid)
Chris Maynard‘s tools of trade include a scalpel, forceps, and a love for the literal art of flight. With a deft hand, he etches delicate shapes and patterns into shed feathers, transforming them into more than just a part of a whole. In doing so, he coaxes out the secret lives of birds.
“My work with feathers gives me a satisfying perch from which to view the world,” Maynard says in his artist’s bio.
Maynard’s art is nothing short of celebratory at times: Six feathers arranged with miniature songbirds in mid-flight. Others are a peek into the everyday life, such as a bisected feather yielding the tiny form of a robin working industriously on catching the early worm.
With the kind of precision needed for such minute knifework, each piece could have easily been sterile and dispassionate. Instead, they are each joyful in their own way, from the flurry of movement of a flock of birds circling a roost to the burst of sapphire blue on a peacock’s plume.
Though the feathers were discarded, shed, or forgotten by their previous owners, Maynard has given them new flight. (via This Is Colossal)