Jeremiah Maddock is a hard guy to pin down. Many have spoken of him as some sort of ghost- a shadowy figure that passes through bars and cafes with a suitcase full of muted drawings, and an unknown past. This legend surrounding the artist, who lives -most of the time- in New York City, creating richly patterned mixed media works populated with ghoulish creatures and tramps, is likely a product of his obvious lack of desire for external validation. It’s clear that Maddock, who has no personal website, maintains a very pure process; he is interested more in the act of creating -and the motivations behind such an act- than any finished product.
I caught up with Jeremiah in-between his extensive travels throughout the interior of the country. Read the interview after the jump, which includes the artist’s thoughts on steez-biting Mayans, art fairs with Josh Keyes in high school, and collaborating with the dead.
For those of you who haven’t had a chance to hold a copy of Beautiful/Decay Book: 5 in your hands here’s a short video sneak peak that shows you the wide range of artists and designers we’ve featured. Remember that we have about 150 copies left available for purchase and they will sell out. Watch the full video after the jump!
In the sculptural works of Jessica Lichtenstein, the idealized female form is presented in a highly, sexually, charged way. Appropriated from Japanese porno anime known as “Manga”, she reverses the original intent and renders a suggestive study of freedom and empowerment. In lighthearted narratives, her perfect muses flutter amongst a pile of designer bags, sip Starbucks, or work au naturel in the painting studio. These happy go lucky motifs were actually an escape for Lichtenstein’s own depression. Even though trained as an artist, she worked as a lawyer for many years. The daily grind got her down and she would escape through art projects. After creating her first successful exhibit featuring the girls, she listened to her inner voice, and quit law for good to pursue art full time. Not wanting to repeat herself, she decided to pursue another direction for her follow up. Instead of using dolls, she created pictorial likenesses of the girls which were scanned onto three dimensional word sculptures. These solid pieces constructed on aluminum and acrylic, depict scenes ranging from a war on words to sexual liberation. Technically hung on a wall, the different base materials give the pieces depth and become a solid looking glass into a host of childlike indulgences. Seasons, came next and stepped her into more introspective territory. The different times of year are portrayed through seasonal trees whose leaves are entirely composed of Manga figures. Its optical illusion triggers a highly emotional response from the viewer stemming from the clever placement of the artist’s nubile subjects.
Living matter thrives and dies within the intricate linework of Michigan-born artist Christina Mrozik. On large pieces of paper, she uses pen, ink, marker, and watercolor to compose semi-surreal visions of nature that are much different from the usual paintings of serene landscapes and friendly animals. Mrozik’s creatures bustle with a quiet ferocity: cranes perching on wolf carcasses split open with their progeny inside; owls flap wildly, trying to escape a rope of viscera that binds them to the roots below. Full of verdant symbolism, it somewhat resembles a twisted Garden of Eden, but it is important not to let the dark imagery overwhelm us; Mrozik’s vision of life-embracing-death (and vice versa) transcends existential horror, arriving at a depiction of nature that gives meaning to death and joins all living things in a greater life process.
The human perception of “nature” is central to Mrozik’s work. In her artist’s statement, she points out the seemingly contradictory “double perception” we have of nature: “it is either something to be glorified, or something to be dominated” (Source). We relish in its beauty and the idea of “untouched” lands, but we also wish to place ourselves above it, to separate ourselves, defining it as an “other” that can be controlled and exploited. Through her organic forms and the fusion of human and animal imagery, Mrozik’s art seeks to dissolve these imaginary boundaries, exemplifying how a sentience exists throughout all living things. As she concludes: “I feel that the basic stories of feeding, migration, shelter, mating, and self awareness are an essential part of our inner being and affect our view of the world both around us and within us.” (Source).
Robert Fontenot’s sculptures, made out of bread dough, present the viewer with extremely humorous, yet severely violent worlds. He’s the author and designer of three books. Two of which are about the histories of ancient mythologies and the other of which is an illustrated history of performance art – that is, in my opinion, far more entertaining than Roselee Goldberg’s classic Performance Art: From Futurism to the Present. However, skillfully sculpting the human form’s most revealing gestures is not Robert Fontenot’s only mastered practice. He also has an ongoing series, where he embroiders textiles, as well as another project entitled Recycle LACMA – in which he buys deaccessioned items from the museum at auction and then turns them into items of use. For example, he transformed a Brocade evening dress into a fully functional fanny pack. If you have your wits about you, then it won’t take long to recognize the awesomeness of Robert Fontenot’s work.
Although references to animation and manga can be found in the large sculptures of Japanese artist Keisuke Tanaka, the artist’s main themes revolve around life and death, as he considers one of his main motifs, mountains, to be a magical place where life begins and ultimately ends. Each hand carved sculpture is built out of solid wood with so many miniature details so that we may get a sense of the view that the gods might have of the imaginative world of Tanaka.
Sammy Slabbinck’s surreal collages disassemble the world and construct a surreal place of strange happenings. Taking portions of found imagery, the artist builds compositions in which women are out of proportion and larger than life. They are integrated into the landscape and dominate the scene, while others in the frame barely seem to notice these beauties. There are other bizarre events happening in Slabbinck’s artwork, such as men carrying sections of the galaxy, buildings sprouting out sexy legs, and people at a dinner party watch a bomb go off while appearing unaffected. It almost seems like that the only people that seem aware of their surroundings are the giant women. These are the characters that confront us as viewers, looking right back at us.
Drawing inspiration from vintage books and magazines, Sammy Slabbinck’s collages have a classic feel to them with a modern twist. The composition he creates tends to be both humorous and seductive, as different elements that were once normal now become bizarre through distorted scale and strange juxtapositions. Everything should seem out of place, but Slabbinck’s perfect placement and imagery combinations make everything appear perfectly balanced. You can see more of Sammy Slabbinck’s work on his site or at Saatchi Art.