Junko Mizuno’s Delightfully Dark Paintings Feature A World Of Erotic Food Fetishes

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Japanese artist Junko Mizuno’s candy-colored works draw us into a world full of dark and erotic food fetishes. Meant as a metaphor the female sexual appetite and power, Mizuno’s illustrations feature women enjoying eggs, bacon, noodles, and more. Her maximalist style weaves geometric shapes, naked creatures, and luscious patterns into each composition. Coupled with the strong presence of a female character, it results in artwork that’s simultaneously grotesque, cute, playful, and alluring.

Mizuno’s inspiration comes from a range of historical and cultural influences, as well as traditions found in both Eastern and Western worlds. Fairy tales and the works of Aubrey Beardsley and Eric Stanton are also visible. Narwhal Contemporary writes about her paintings, stating, “One reoccurring image is that of the iconic multi-armed goddess cloaked in symbols of life and wisdom, surrounded by fleets of devoted minions and enveloped in flames that will never consume her.” They relish in their unapologetic gluttony.

Mizuno currently has work in a solo exhibition titled Ambrosial Affair at the Narwhal Contemporary in Toronto. This is the second in a three-part exhibition series titled Junko Mizuno’s Food Obsession. It’s on view until March 15 of this year.

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Olivier Valsecchi’s Photographs Of Models Erupting Into Ashes Capture The Chaos Of Creation

Olivier Valsecchi, Time of War - Photography

Time of War

Olivier Valsecchi, Time of War - Photography

Time of War

Olivier Valsecchi, Time of War - Photography

Time of War

Olivier Valsecchi, Dust - Photography

Dust

In this stunning project titled I Am Dust, photographer Olivier Valsecchi has created powerful images that embody the essence of creation and the will to survive. Currently, the project is divided between two series: “Dust” and “Time of War.” While both series depict models frozen in dynamic poses as ashes erupt off and around their bodies, there are slight thematic differences. “Dust” explores creation using Ovid’s definition of Chaos as “a crude and indigested mass, a lifeless lump, unfashioned and unframed” (Source) —  essentially, an embryonic ball of matter that explodes into being. Valsecchi likens this concept to the Big Bang theory. What fascinates him is how these preexisting, scattered elements eventually fuse together, despite having once existed elsewhere in another form. Thus, in his work, he seeks to explore the reincarnation and infinitude of matter:

“What I looked for in the ‘Dust’ series was to curve around the timeline like a circle and capture, in the same image, something and its opposite, like endings and beginnings, dead and alive, floating in water and flying in dust, so in the end the viewer can never know when it starts and when it ends.”

The models in “Dust” capture this atemporal moment of creation perfectly. Their bodies are frozen in time and space, but with their eyes closed, they become expressions of pure energy. The ashes erupting off their skin resemble particles of their physical bodies being sent back into Chaos as matter lost in the violence of creation.

Ashes, of course, often occupy our imagination as symbols of death and a return to the earth. These associations make their explosive presence doubly significant in Valsecchi’s second series, “Time of War.” Inspired by the photographer’s fascination with Time, these particular images explore how Time is a circular phenomenon, and that we, as living beings, always seem to be fighting against it.  As Valsecchi writes:

“I wanted pictures that would blur the viewer’s perception of before and after, and maybe, think about [the present moment]. Thinking about now, about our impermanence and our urge to live, in regards to our environment.  Wars, conflicts, power, money: it is a struggle. That’s why ‘Time of War’ […] was more about surviving, standing up to the tests, [and] going forward.”

Demonstrating survival, the models twist and turn against an unseen threat, pushing against the darkness that surrounds them, while ash signifying their own material death sheds from their skin. Valsecchi has made powerfully visible our eternal struggle against mortality.

Curious about how Valsecchi created these dynamic shots, I asked him about his creative process. Not surprisingly, his method was just as interesting as the philosophies and perspectives driving his work. Each photo session was a ritual achieved in stages of inspired motion, mimicking the slow-but-accelerating process of creation itself. He describes the method as such:

“Before anything, I would explain the intention and say: ‘The ashes symbolize Death and it wants to [cover] you but you have to get rid of it.’ Or: ‘Close your eyes, you don’t want the ashes to blind you, plus you will focus on your energy and forget you’re naked.’ […] Then the model would undress and kneel down. I would shower him or her with ashes. […] Then I would stand in front of the model and show what kind of movement I’m expecting to shoot. […] The model and I are gradually sharing a trance, because the process is three or four hours long, and in the end, due to the jumping, swirling, and the closed eyes, you kind of lose your marks and only [feel] the energy.”

At this point, the challenge would be to capture the ashes before they diffuse into the air. But it goes without saying that the results are remarkable, and each dynamic photo captures the body’s struggle amidst and against Chaos.

Valsecchi hinted that there will be a third chapter in the I Am Dust series, which he will be working on this summer. Check out his website and follow his Facebook page to keep up with his compelling and thought-provoking work.

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Gregori Maiofis’ Darkly Humorous Tarot Cards Satirize Human Existence

Gregori Maiofis, Tarot Decks - Photography

Fool, from the Deck of “Public Sanitation”

Gregori Maiofis, Tarot Decks - Photography

Lovers, from the Deck of “Butterflies”

Gregori Maiofis, Tarot Decks - Photography

Justice, from the Deck of “Obscene Enjoyment”

Gregori Maiofis, Tarot Decks - Photography

Empress, from the Deck of “Taxidermy”

Gregori Maiofis is a Saint Petersburg-based photographer who stages elaborate scenes that illustrate the follies and mysteries of human existence in ironic and fatalistic ways. Many of his works are based around literary and philosophical traditions, such as proverbs and fables. This particular series, created in 2003-2004, uses tarot cards as its theme, pairing dark and absurd imagery with written titles to humorously encapsulate a facet of life and/or identity. The “Fool” card, for example — the prototypical image from a deck Maiofis imagined would be called Public Sanitation — depicts a man in a ludicrous bird costume as he prepares to jump off a roof. The “Empress” card — traditionally signifying fertility, femininity, and beauty — displays a taxidermied primate. Much of his work is produced via the bromoil process, a challenging photographic process that was popular in the early twentieth century that involves ink being painted over a black-and-white photograph printed on bleached paper. Maiofis’ resulting images have both photographic and painterly qualities, appearing historical and artifactual while satirizing human existence on a trans-generational, cross-cultural scale.

Born in Russia into a family of artists and architects and further trained in new art practices in Los Angeles, Maiofis fuses his international experiences into works that explore the strength of the image to overcome boundaries of nation and culture. While those knowledgeable about Russian history, identity, and traditions may have specialized insight into the significance behind Maiofis’ dark and clever imagery, there is still a lot of meaning left for the rest of us to identify; the figure of Justice — usually depicted as a stately figure — is naked and blindfolded, straddling her double-edged sword in a sexual manner, satirizing (perhaps) the representation of justice as a “fair” and purely objective entity. What makes Maiofis’ images so mysterious and intellectually engaging is that their meanings are never directly provided. It is up to us to divine their significance (as well as their playful, biting critiques of humanity) just as we would interpret our own lives with real tarot cards.

More of Maiofis’ clever and thematic works can be viewed on his website.

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Jefta Hoekendijk Glittering Photos Capture Vibrant Movements From Metallic-Coated Nude Models

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Photographer Jefta Hoekendijk’s series Aura features shimmering bodies in motion and dazzling colors. The feel of these images is electric as nude models are coated from head to toe with a metallic covering. Bright greens, purples, teals, and more radiate from their every movement.

The eye-catching effect was done without the use of post-production enhancements. “This is metal body paint and lighting effects directly made [from] shooting,” Hoekendijk writes. Any sort of movement will cause these trails of jewel-toned light. The result is a series of seductive and alluring photos where you’re focused on the invisible now made visible.

Hoekendijk experiments with painting, photography, sculpture, and video that’s centered around movement and the human body. Above all, his work is interested in the body as a vessel for expressing his varied artistic voice.

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The Strange Expressions In Laura Krifka’s Paintings And Sculptures Depict Sexual Awakening

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laura krifka painting

The strange expressions in Laura Krifka’s figures exude a feeling of tension and surprise. The collection of paintings displayed in her latest show, “Reap the Whirlwind” at CB1 Gallery in Los Angeles, offer a tableaux of sexual awakening, youthful lust and rough mischief. Each character seems glazed over in some type of expensive plastic yet the narrative refers back to old masters such as Rembrandt and Boticcelli. This is part of the reason Krifka’s work is intriguing. It embraces a juxtaposition which is not often seen. The other is her painting ability.

A skilled technician, Krifka renders her weird realistic narratives of lustful desire with relative ease. Her placement of characters in the great outdoors lends a plein air quality which enhances her scenes of multiple partnered sexual encounters and voyeurism. At times the figures resemble renaissance blowup dolls which adds humor. Even though it mostly depicts sex, there is no real sensuality in the paintings , instead Krifka captures the awkwardness of adolescent awakening.
Accompanying the paintings in the show are a series of small sculptures and video. The sculptures are tiny and even though relate in narrative to the paintings, its characters look a bit more rag dollish. Well, maybe not a little but a lot more. This makes them even more intriguing. Actually, I believe these are models for the video, which isn’t accessible on the web. There is a still on the gallery’s website which does hint at this fact and one could conclude the video consisting of a sexualized rag doll version of Little House On The Prairie.

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E.V. Day’s Tongue And Clam Sculptures Ooze With A Grotesque Eroticism

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Untitled (2005). Abalone, coyote tongue, black mother of pearl, and resin.

E.V. Day - Sculpture

Pearl (2005). Rubber coyote tongue, fresh water pearl, and resin.

E.V. Day - Sculpture

Tongue Tied 5 (2008). Cast rubber, nickel-plated rings and chains, on wood panel. 11 x 12 x 5.5 inches.

E.V. Day - Sculpture

Doublestuff (2004). Clam with mink and raccoon tongue and resin.

E.V. Day is a New York-based installation artist and sculptor who knows how to stimulate the senses while engaging the mind. Recognized for her bold explorations of gender and sexuality, her works ooze with a critically-engaging — and sometimes grotesque — erotic energy. This particular series is an ongoing project that Day began in 2003, and it features intriguing combinations of animal tongues, clamshells, and resin. Drenched and dripping with saliva, muscular tongues extend out of and into open, opalescent clamshells. Some are mounted on walls, with piercings and chains pulling them together; one even incorporates a nylon thong, which has been made to look grossly visceral. Most of the sculptures feature a glistening pearl as a finishing touch.

It goes without saying that the sexual imagery in this series is intensely palpable — the tongues are seen as phallic, and the clamshells and pearls evocative of female genitalia. However, Day’s work goes beyond representing biological sex in a reductionist way, and in fact resists such dualism. As her biography states, her work is aimed at “transform[ing] social stereotypes and playfully illuminat[ing] contradictions of gender roles by re-animating the recognizable into new forms and new meaning” (Source). With tongues and clams, Day has constructed a clever, dark, and almost humorous subversion of the male/female binary by creating abstract hybrid pieces; we identify sexual symbols in her sculptures, but they are fused together, interacting in surprising and unexpected ways that challenge heteronormative representations of sex. The fact that they are animal tongues adds an additional layer of categorical ambiguity and discomfort, but — aside from the initial shock and aversion — the result is a set of artworks that provoke us into reinterpreting the body’s relationship with sex and desire.

Visit Day’s website for a catalogue of her varied and fascinating work. Well-known for her suspended sculptures, other projects include animal skeletons hovering in dynamic poses, and a wedding dress exploding into abstract shards. More tongue-and-clam hybrids after the jump.

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The Dark Sensuality Of Youth In Bill Henson’s Controversial Photography

Bill Henson — PhotographyBill Henson — PhotographyBill Henson — PhotographyBill Henson — Photography

The work of Australian photographer Bill Henson is a sensual journey into a dark, sensate, and ephemeral world. He is well-known for traversing and troubling the lines that demarcate time and space, identity, and artistic genre; as stated on the Tolarno Galleries website, he is an “explorer of twilight zones, between nature and civilization, youth and adulthood, male and female. His photographs are painterly tableaux that continue the traditions of romantic literature and painting” (Source). The mottled and dewy skin of his emotionally-rich subjects resembles the classical, artistic technique of chiaroscuro, wherein deep and murky shadows are used to create bold contrasts that illuminate the body in dramatic compositions. Similar to how your peripheral vision dims when you look at something bright in a dark room, the arched backs and turned faces of his models become the semi-obscured focus in his pieces, shrouding them in even more emotive and intangible beauty.

Henson is not without controversy, however. His work received a lot of criticism in 2008 due to complaints of indecency; his accusers deemed his images of nude teenagers as exploitative and inappropriately sexualized. His photographs were seized from exhibitions, and a public debate erupted regarding censorship. Later that year, it was settled. He would not be prosecuted, and the Australian Classification Board declared his work as “mild and justified” (Source).

Henson’s photography may evoke a sense of discomfort in some people, but to others, it resonates as passionate and melancholic portraits of youth. Many of us can probably relate to his imagery — those nights in our early adulthood, where we began to explore the possibilities and materialities of our post-pubescent bodies, connecting to them without shame, becoming self-aware of our own physical beauty, expressivity, and depth. Even his images of two or more models interacting do not seem pornographic; instead, we see people reaching, touching lightly, seeking connection, discovering the quivering electricity of the body when it comes into intimate proximity with others — the power of touch. Such nights and experiences remain forever in our memories. In this way, Henson’s work is less eroticized voyeurism than it is an exploration of our physical and emotional development.

A vast selection of Henson’s work from across the years can be seen at the Tolarno Galleries website, found here. Check out the rest of the dim and sensuous images after the jump, and please let us know how you respond intellectually/critically/emotionally to Henson’s photography in the comments below. (Via Juxtapoz)

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Bex Day Photographs The Charming, Denim-Clad Characters Of The Biker World

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The stereotype of your average biker is probably not the first thing you would think of when looking at these images by London based photographer Bex Day. She manages to capture a personable, jovial and charming side to the bikers associated with the infamous 59 Club of London. Wanting to recreate scenes of the subculture from the 60s and onwards, Day cast different characters in certain poses that are endearing and humorous. She says:

I wanted to explore the renowned biker café, the Ace Café and explore the lives of the bikers who hang out there and get to know them better; but most importantly to investigate their take on the 50s/60s movement.

Trying to keep the scenes as realistic as possible, and true to the spirit of the 59 Club, it is important to Day that she captures the bikers how they really are – wrinkles, blemishes, hairy backs and all. She goes on to say:

I wanted to recreate the era to illustrate it in a timeless manner, which is what I try to do in all my photographs, but also to emphasize how the subjects viewed the era we were trying to portray and their take on it was crucial to the photographs.

Day wants to challenge our views of conventional beauty and to destroy the guidelines of what is and what isn’t aesthetically pleasing. A subject that isn’t normally seen as beautiful, in Day’s hands, is treated as something equally as attractive as a traditional fashion spread. Who would’ve thought long haired men wearing too-tight dungarees and ‘pimp’ glasses straddling motorbikes could be so appealing?

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