Drifting: The Haunting, Baroque-Style Nudes Of Olivier Valsecchi Embody Beauty And Despair

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Olivier Valsecchi is a photographer with an eye for transforming bodies into emotional landscapes of strength and despair. We featured his powerful I Am Dust project last February. The series featured here, entitled Drifting, takes a different approach to human architecture; instead of majestic, stately nudes, we see men and women reclining alone and in pairs, arching their backs against bare tables and chairs with a baroque-style melancholia. The darkness surrounding the figures highlights their pale expressions of death and defeat, lending the illuminated flesh a cadaverous-yet-living quality. The series statement elaborates further on this bodily ambiguity:

“Straying the audience from their grounds of certainty, Valsecchi induces an unsettling doubt on whether his subjects are falling apart or withstanding paralysis. He investigates this tenuous and brooding space between inertia and the urge to go somewhere. His bodies appear to have been submitted to an exorcism, an epileptic trance, or a mutilation akin to a reptile being cut in two pieces — and yet still crawling.”

Drifting also channels the art tradition of still life. Posed to capture the wordless throes of pain and despair, the figures’ perfect configurations make them portraits of emotion. Speaking to the use of the genre, Valsecchi writes: “Still-life was the perfect fit for a post-war atmosphere. Beyond symbolizing the ephemeral nature of life, it relates to the notion of transitioning. I wanted to set bodies into an unfamiliar environment and infuse them with a feeling of disorientation, as if recovering from trauma or stuck in a vertigo.” Despite their static postures of grief and submission, Valsecchi’s tragic nudes tremble on the verge of healing, embodying and enduring the darkness so that they can overcome it.

Visit Valsecchi’s website and Facebook to learn more about his work.

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Faye Moorhouse’s Amusingly Weird Movie Poster Illustrations Are Better Than The Real Thing

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Faye Moorhouse is a Brighton-based freelance artist known for her raw and weird paintings. Messy lines, odd proportions, and smeared watercolors characterize her highly stylized work. Her subject matter is similarly strange — from violent animal attacks to eerie midnight gatherings to depressed-looking people loitering around rundown towns, everything she paints is a complex mix of childlike play and adult absurdity.

Featured here is Moorhouse’s new series called the Wonky Movie Poster Show, wherein she has illustrated twenty movie posters. As she wrote in an email to It’s Nice That last week, the paintings are intended to be “weird and ugly and hopefully funny” (Source). Her assessment is correct; the eros of the Nymphomania poster is reduced to a bedraggled woman who appears to be yawning, and the stately lion of The Lion King looks apathetically over the white void of his kingdom. By filtering these familiar images through her own bizarre lens, Moorhouse strips away the hype and seriousness surrounding these films and makes us laugh.

Moorhouse’s unique style has gotten her work recognized. In addition to her fun and bizarre self-initiated projects, her clients include The New York Times, Salt Hill Journal, and Epiphany Zine. Visit Moorhouse’s website, Instagram, and Twitter to follow her work. Prints, ceramics, and other goods can be purchased via her Etsy shop. (Via It’s Nice That)

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Beautiful Parasites- The The Morbid Reality Of Being Human Illustrated In Tammy Salzl’s Watercolors

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Psychologically dark and a bit grotesque, the watercolors of Montreal based artist Tammy Salzl are meant to be like beautiful parasites. She wants the images of scared children, fragile adults or lonely humans to disturb viewers at first, then slowly over time, delight them with their unique beauty. These emotional studies have evolved from Salzl’s earlier work where she placed the disturbed characters based on Grimm fairy tales in lush, busy backgrounds. Wanting to isolate the figure to exaggerate their state of mind, she has cleared the background and focused on the complexities of skin and the different emotions it can express.

I want the flesh I paint to make a connection between the material of paint and the material of the body, to reflect not only a psychological makeup but to suggest an ‘objectness’ of the body – a medium that is vulnerable to the stresses of life. I want the flesh I make to embody the human condition. (Source)

The figures in Salzl’s art are all suffering from some kind of conflict or anguish. She says she is most interested in expressing the psychological and emotional aspects of human nature, and does it in a personal way rather than in a cliched, way about our society as a whole.

I use allegory and metaphor to to express my particular anxieties and what I perceive to be a generalized psychosis in society. Instead of portraying dead Afghanistan civilians or animals that are going extinct at exponential rates, I paint people with gnarled, anguished flesh and and haunted faces that place them in conflicting settings that are familiar yet foreign. (Source)

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Erotic Paintings With A Feminist Spin Inspired By Vintage Porn Film Stills

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Brooklyn based painter Alexandra Rubinstein‘s paintings of women in orgasmic moments are beautiful, sensuous and a little bit kitsch. Reminiscent of some over-the-top romance novel illustrations, her paintings are full of women with blue eyeshadow, novel earrings and big hair – kissing, moaning, or caught in the moment of climax. Even though they are a little bit 80s, her paintings focus on an important, modern day feminist issue – the women’s perspective during the act of sex. The series Looking for Mr Goodsex is a series of small sexy vignettes inspired by vintage porn films, in particular the well known ‘Deep Throat’ movie.

The artist explains more about her work:

Inspired by the title of the 1985 movie, they highlight the shots taken of women’s faces – which are less emphasized in contemporary videos. This disparity questions progression in sexuality and value placed on female pleasure as pornography became more accessible and mainstream. The portraits also explore the emotional states of the women in these films. (Source)

While they seem at first to be quite superficial, cheesy and perverse, Rubinstein’s paintings are a celebration of coitus. She has managed to capture moments of tenderness and enjoyment, even though the source from which they come from is something that usually isn’t so sentimental.

While the styling and acting portray a romanticized version of reality, the faces suggest more honest emotions like vulnerability and withdrawal – left up for interpretation of the viewer. The series evolved into stills of male faces, as well as kissing stills. (Source)

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Sarah Muirhead’s Bonded, Textural Nudes Will Confront You With Their Stare

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Scottish artist Sarah Muirhead creates mesmerizing, nude paintings that are masterful in more ways than one. Her work is masterful in that it is very skillful, but also in that the subjects of her paintings are in control of their audience. Wanting to steer clear of creating nudes that are submissive to our gaze, Muirhead creates tension filled situations where the nude subject is staring at right back at you. Her subjects are not passive, but instead embody an incredible strength that challenges their audience. Each subject has a somewhat inviting stare, but still holds a control over the situation in their powerful, contorted stances and positions. In the artist’s new paintings, many of her subjects are bound by rope or string; others have intriguing elements like white, chalky substances all over their bodies.

Muirhead’s paintings are both unique and impressive, with an incredible eye for detail and color. However, her work is not entirely photorealistic. They explore this texture of the body in expressive ways. Muirhead is interested in patterns and textures, which you can see on her subject’s skin and hair. In one painting, the hair texture is emphasized by a woman grabbing her own hair and attempting to bite it. In another painting, skin texture and color is further explored and manipulated by depicting a nude posing with digital images projected onto her body and surroundings.  Each subject is in mid motion, adding another dynamic element to Muirhead’s already multifaceted work. You can see Muirhead’s wonderfully tactile paintings on view now at Leyden Gallery in London until June 27th.

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Adeline Mai Explores Profound Intimacy Inn Her Breathtaking Nudes

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Like looking into the private thoughts of a diary, photographer Adeline Mai creates narratives of intimacy, portraying poetic scenes of human interaction.  In her body of work, she creates ethereal images of profound closeness between her subjects.  With titles like J’ai Embrassé L’Aube D’Été, French for I Embraced the Summer Dawn, Weightlessness, and Dirty Weekend, the names of each series are just as lyrical as the photographs itself. The Parisian artist captures stunning images of contorting bodies, displaying breathtaking views of the human body. In her series I Embraced the Summer Dawn, each photograph contains a stark emptiness except for the two, nude figures beautifully entwined as if they are attempting to become one body. This same sense of intimacy is embodied in her series Dirty Weekend. Only instead of gracefully posed, flawless bodies, we are now given a view of a more natural nudity, out in the woods and in more candid positions. Mai not only captures a playful kind of nakedness, but a shared closeness between clothed subjects as well.  She is a master at capturing tender moments between her subjects and laying them out for all to see.

Mai having the ability to brilliantly capture light on her subjects, her series Weightlessness includes floating figures with soft, warm light consuming their surroundings. These figures appear to be floating, but they are actually underwater! The photographer has turned this normally cool-colored environment into a glow of yellows, reds, and oranges. Adeline Mai’s entrancing photography pulls you in to its intimate scenes of magnificent nudes being swallowed up by a sea of color or by human embrace.

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Contorted Beauty: René Benjowski’s Sensual And Surreal Photography

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René Benjowski is a Berlin-based self-taught photographer who finds beauty, horror, and sensuality in dark, private rooms. Delving into the worlds of surrealism and erotic portraiture, Benjowski’s quiet, hazy, and provocative work skillfully traverses the line between passionate intensity and a reverence for the strength and symmetry of the human figure. The images are like intangible visions of a dream: in silent, dusty corners with bare, iron bed frames, bodies twist with a sensual — almost demonic — rapture. Colliding intimacy with images of death, skulls are clutched in hands and worms emerge from open mouths. The fetish element is visible: bodies embraced in ropes engage in silent power dynamics with an unseen participant, playing chess or attempting to reach a hanging book.

Contortion and mystery are important elements in Benjowski’s beautifully macabre works. Deviating far from conventional portraiture, these images convey a desire to experiment with strange angles and uncanny positions: knees twist, backs arch, figures levitate. The black-and-white shading adds an extra element of bleakness to the beautiful physicality of the twisted forms, producing bold, intimate contrasts between shadows and illuminated skin. In addition to the raw energy brimming within each surreal photograph, there is also a truthful power: not only do the images explore the subversive, alternative edges of desire and eroticism, but they leak with a physical honesty and agency, exploring the capacities of the body as it bravely endures unseen, emotional forces and its own physical limitations.

Visit Benjowski’s Tumblr and photographer’s page on menschenfotografie to see more of his darkly beautiful and varied work.

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Nike Schroeder’s Large-Scale Embroidery Portraits Examine Female Body Ideals

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The work of Los Angeles based artist Nike Schroeder is full of a complex hybrid of mediums, as she integrates textiles, painting, and installation into her art. Her installations are creates from fiber where the colors of the threads have a very intentional meaning, as they draw their palette from the hues of the horizon at dawn. In one installation, the thread cascades to the floor, dripping off the canvas. Schroeder includes this same aesthetic in many of her other works, including her embroidery. The artist creates portraits out of needle and thread, with certain colors of thread hanging loose so to draw your eye to certain areas. Often, these bright colors and hanging thread come from the subject’s eyes or lips. Other times, this thread is not hanging loose, but cutting across to the other side of the canvas, dissecting the composition with multi-colored fibers. The harsh line Schroeder imposes onto her portraits guides your eye to specific elements.

As if Schroeder’s fiber-based installations and intricate embroideries were not impressive enough, many of her textile pieces are extremely large. Her nude portraits of women, which examine the beauty ideals of the female body, are actually life-size! These, again, contain long, hanging thread pouring down from certain elements, jolting our eyes to an “unlikely” part of the women; their pubic hair. This series among others in Schroeder’s expansive body of work include not only thread but paint as well. The artist often applies paint like she does fiber, with flowing drips. Schroeder’s work can be seen on view at Walter Maciel Gallery in Los Angeles from May 30th through July 11th.

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