Canadian artist Maskull Lasserre’s “recarved” sculptures are aptly named—Lasserre takes existing clichéd figural wood carvings and “exposes” the skeleton underneath. Of course, the new carving only seems like a reveal of what lies beneath. Part of the success of these works is how inevitable they feel.
Lasserre’s drawings and sculptures explore the unexpected potential of the everyday through allegories of value, expectation, and utility. Elements of nostalgia, accident, humor, and the macabre are incorporated into works that induce strangeness in the familiar, and provoke uncertainty in the expected.
In the style of an anatomy book, the bifurcated sculptures preserve the existing sculpture on one side while exposing the fantasy skeleton on the other. It’s a reverse of the classical artist’s process of learning about anatomy in order to draw more realistic figures. Lasserre is taking fully realized figures and imagining their bones. In an interview with Joseph Kendrick, Lasserre said,
“There is an intrinsic honesty and humility to the carving process. There is no magic, no hidden technology or trick, just the simple subtraction of what was already there. This humble quality makes the amazing alchemy that carving can achieve so much more interesting. … Like the physical materials I use, and the processes I apply, there is something categorical about death/mortality. The aspect of it that I try to coax out is that death is a potent sign of life — albeit an ended one. To carve skeletons into inanimate objects infers their past — and maybe even future — potential for life.” (Source)
Although these sculptures are whimsical, in concept if not execution, there’s an “Alas, poor Yorick!” undertone that’s sobering. Those who are fortunate enough to be healthy and whole rarely think of the inevitable end, the skull beneath the skin. Lasserre’s skilled carving work reveals what was never there, and in doing so makes us think of what eventually will be.
Adam Voorhes, a photographer residing in Texas, has released an amazing book documenting 100 extremely rare, damaged, and malformed human brains. This book, called Malformed: Forgotten Brains of the Texas State Mental Hospital, was released this November through PowerHouse books. As Voorhes’ work shows, there is an aesthetic beauty to the contours and shape of a brain that only add to the intrinsic mystery surrounding them. Through a twist of fate, Voorhes gained access to a medical niche and has built a body of work that will prove to be historically priceless. His project created a detailed photographic archive of the brains that has led to a new, revitalized interest from the medical community. Scientific journals have voiced intrigue and the researchers at the University of Texas at Austin are now producing MRI’s of these brains, which will be displayed in their new medical school.
Voorhes explains how he came into this subject:
“I had been sent to the University of Texas’ Animal Resources Center to borrow a brain to photograph for a magazine article. I was shown through a laboratory into a storage closet filled with human brains stacked in jars from floor to ceiling, two rows deep. All told, there were more than 100 rare specimens extracted from former patients at Texas’ state mental hospital in Austin, and all displayed distinct abnormalities. Each jar had been labeled with a date, an observation in archaic Latin and a case number.
I took the brain I’d been assigned and returned to my studio to work, but I quickly became preoccupied with the vision of this decaying collection. I wanted to know more about the donors, their quality of life and experiences. The gravity of what I’d seen haunted me. The thought of cataloguing the collection and preserving it with my camera became an obsession.
Eventually, my photography team and I were granted access to the lab. Uninterrupted and unsupervised, we donned respirators and heavy gloves. Over the course of two days in the locked research facility, we documented the collection. The history of these brains remained unknown, however. Although the descriptive text on some of the jar labels had faded or worn away, most had corresponding case numbers. Those case numbers referenced medical records, and those records became my secondary obsession.
In over my head, I collaborated with journalist Alex Hannaford to track down the story behind the brains. As he pored through archaic documents and tracked every available lead, he uncovered not only the history of the collection, but also the unfortunate loss of nearly half the original specimens. Our hope for this project is to help preserve the remaining portion and foster greater interest in its beauty, historical importance and medical value.” (via Slate)
Yesterday I posted Brian Vu’s digital collages. Well if you were a fan of those then let me introduce you to Roxana Azar. Roxana mixes obscure images with basic photoshop repeating effects to create trippy worlds full of surrealism and mystery.
From Instagram to the Flickr, clenched nail art shots are ubiquitous– ranging from classic solids to wild patterns; however, I’m pretty sure Alice Bartlett holds court as best in show. Moving beyond simple fashion trends, Bartlett artistically installs miniature scenes on the tips of her fingers: clad green flocking covers each nail, creating a tranquil resting place for tiny figures to contemplate the massive scope and delicacy of the world.
Catherine Nelson’s newest series Expedition is comprised of hundreds of photographs, collaged and digitally “painted” together to make five imaginary landscapes. Using her experiences in the creation of visual effects for feature films like Moulin Rouge and Harry Potter, Nelson assembles the countless photographs into one seamless, vibrant, and surreal image. This style of working isn’t new for the artist, and we’ve previously featured her incredible floating worlds before.
In a short statement, she describes what her motivation was for her style, writing:
When I embraced the medium of photography, I felt that taking a picture that represented only what was within the frame of the lens wasn’t expressing my personal and inner experience of the world around me. With the eye and training of a painter and with years of experience behind me in film visual effects, I began to take my photos to another level.
When you see the images up close, you appreciate at her photo manipulating skills even more. They are flawlessly put together and not to mention rich with great details. She features luscious greens of all kinds, plants, animals, and even humans, making references to mythologies like the story of Narcissus. All elements were inspired by Nelson’s memories of growing up along the east coast of Australia. (Via Colossal)
Robin Williams paints beautiful adolescent subjects performing antiquated tasks, playing dress up in vast fields, and staring at the sky while pondering the meaning of life. You can see her debut solo show in NYC at P.P.O.W on January 27th.
Ryan Everson’s installations speak to longing and loss and the desire for movement and displacement. There is something hopeful and comic about some of his work, accompanied by a tinge of despair as it addresses boundaries of what is and what could be. His work feels perpetually on the cusp of some sort of change or movement, of travel to another place, whether that be physical, emotional, or spiritual. Everson’s work embodies something of memory, though we can’t say of what, but that it definitely exudes a nostalgia for absent events or places. “My most recent work comes from abstract emotional states stirred up from specific self-reflective moments. These moment arise as I become more aware of myself in the present and my inability to control the future.”
Painter, sculpture, and all around amazing artist Brendan Monroe recently moved his operation from the bay area all the way to Stockholm, but he’s still making paintings that will stop you dead in your tracks. Blobs, trash, organic structures, and cosmic explosions are just a few of the subjects you will encounter in his hauntingly beautiful work. Monroe has been one of my favorites for a long long time, and not just because we share the name.