The figures in Sarah Louise Davey‘s world are haunted, magical, nymph-like creatures who are both hard to look at, and delightful to see. She sculpts double headed woman-beasts who are tortured, but hopeful; disgusting but ethereal; grotesque, but innocent. Her work is a blend of aesthetics and emotions. By presenting us with these gruesome half-human half-monsters, Davey is essentially asking us to evaluate our own aesthetic measures – what do we consider beautiful and why?
Can a bald dwarf with saggy pig ears and forlorn eyes sprouting fungal forms still be attractive? We can definitely appreciate the craftsmanship of the object, and yes – somehow find ourselves wanting to look at it again and again. Davey says she also wants to question her own standards of beauty:
Through the vessel of the figure and materiality of clay, I create sculptural objects and installations to evoke intuitive, visceral responses informed by our subjective notions of physical image and societal norms. I question my own experiences of these through the various personalities that emerge with each hybrid portrait, as they are often an exaggerated mix of whimsical beauty and exaggerated macabre. (Source)
She herself calls her creation-beasts ‘feral’ and ‘beastly’ – yet she can see parts of herself and various personalities she can relate to within them. She is able to reflect on her own experiences through the broken brutes and we can see that while we are all human, we are all also part ugly, tortured animals.
At the heart of these works is the eternal push and pull of the spirit. The two-headed beast, the twin within, living just beneath the skin, sharing the shell and breathing life in through the cracks. They are psychic creatures blistered by hope and beaten with twinges of nostalgia. (Source)
Artist Kwang-Ho Lee paints cacti that are far out. His accurate renderings of the prickly plant become ultra real even alien in Lee’s environment. This has to do with the artist’s signature style which applies paint in an opaque manner to large canvases. This gives the work a heightened sense of color making them more shocking and cinematic. The colors are ultra vivid and become a heightened form of realism. When applied onto huge surfaces they jump off the canvases. The secondary pigments further highlight the type of cacti Lee favors which is hairy. Some even look similar to the Addams Family’s cousin it and little orphan Annie. Others take on phallic connotations and evoke slight dreadlock nuances.
Lee is part of a group of painters tagged as modern realists. Using an expert skill set they capture subject matter, then turn it into something else with pigment, scale and application. Other projects Lee has been involved include depicting a series of Asian family members on chairs. These resemble typical provincial settings around the dinner table waiting for the meal to end and mahjong to begin. In a more recent series the painter depicts winter forest landscapes. He separates these by depicting the areas in day and night which ultimately capture the frozen trees and nubby bushes entangled in a state of dormancy and hibernation. His marks and color propel them into another place and time one that’s just a little bit off from reality. (via honestlywtf)
Artist Pawel Bajew is a master of contorting the body and creating an oddly beautiful scene constructed from simple objects. In his series titled Freaks, the photographer creates surreal images of seemingly mutated bodies and disembodied limbs. However, disfigured his figures may appear, this effect is created mainly through simple minimal objects under the clothing or strangely placed props covering identifying parts of the body like the face or limbs. His cleverly placed mannequin parts and wigs form surreal scenes, some filled with isolation, others with humor. Each strange situation is not unlike a film still; holding dramatic poses and staged lighting. His figures seem tormented in some way, with the bodies twisting and bending in abnormal ways. The faces are often hidden in this series, distorting the identity of the person and causing an eerie, psychological effect on the viewer.
This intriguing, Polish-based photographer also captures amazing portraits full of detail and originality. His portraits are filled with self-portraits as well as others, embodying an eclectic group of eccentric individuals. Each subject seems like a fictional character, filled with exaggerated expressions and over the top costumes straight out of a novel. Bajew’s portraits are not without humor, as some figures have funny expressions, but also have a darkness about them, just like his series Freaks. His body of work as a whole personifies a distinct mood and peculiar atmosphere about it that leaves it distinguishable and unique.
Dirk Staschke is a sculptor who knows how to stimulate the appetite while also turning the stomach. Drawing on the 16th century artistic tradition of vanitas — referring to morbid still life paintings from Northern Europe that depicted arrangements of bones, decaying fruit, and hourglasses — Staschke creates ceramic mountains of pastries and piles of organ meats and root vegetables. Initially, the soft colors and glistening glazes make the cornucopias seem innocent or even beautiful. However, like vanitas (“vanity” in Latin) — which symbolize the futility of life and the temporary nature of all earthly materials — Staschke’s works critique the fleeting and destructive power of human desire. Beautiful abundance becomes disturbing; the skinned animals and raw meats, although carefully arranged, remind us of our own bodily death and decay. Even the sweet pastries — flesh-toned and topped with a cherry — become gross and oddly cannibalistic, representing an insatiable urge to horde and consume that ends in self-destruction.
Not all of Staschke’s works are so obviously grotesque. In a series titled Translation, he features framed sculptural still lifes of flowers (in addition to the more obviously macabre meat arrangements). The 3D medium, however, unveils the compositions’ inner vanity and morbidity; look behind the sculptures, and you will see messy hollows, buttresses, and layers of sculpted construction. An appealing and seemingly flawless work of art becomes a false edifice for a grim and roughly-hewn interior. Whether comprising ceramic flowers or flesh, Staschke’s works demonstrate how beautified desires cover up an earthly reality of transience and rot.
Visit Staschke’s website to see more detailed images of his creations. He exhibited recently at Winston Wächter in Seattle, and you can see his artist page here.
Alex Stoddard is a Los Angeles-based photographer who produces inspiring, conceptual images exploring the beauty and pain of the human experience. Each image is charged with emotion, combining dark fantasy with images alluding to death, isolation, intimacy, and strength. Bodies lie prone on the beach, or amidst piles of torn paper; elsewhere, in a scene connoting anything from desire to sacrifice, a man collapses into the arms of a woman with arrows protruding fatally from his back. Among the images featured here are two of Alex’s series: Hunting for Pearls and Wake of Thunder, the former depicting a moon-pale water nymph wandering a dusky shoreline, the latter featuring a mysterious young woman possessed by the storm. Whether they are part of a series or standalone images, Alex’s narrative-rich works strike us with an emotional roar.
Named one of Flickr’s 20 Under 20 — a collection of the 20 most talented young photographers on Flickr — Alex has been taking the photo community by storm. His growing distinction is well-deserved, as he has worked hard to produce the images arising from his unique imagination and the fantasies of his youth. In a video posted on The Weekly Flickr, Alex describes the daring commitment that led to his burgeoning success:
“I put myself in so many different extreme circumstances. One day I would be hanging off a cliff, another day I would be throwing myself in a giant fish tank in the dead of winter, or putting a snake around my eyes. I didn’t really care if I was uncomfortable, I was just focused on creating a unique shot.” (Source)
Alex’s advice for succeeding as an artist is as equally inspiring, as he makes the astute point that “you’re never going to grow if you’re doing the same thing every day. You need to be afraid of what you’re doing to learn from it.” Just as his images depict the human body in transformative states of emotion and peril, Alex demonstrates how materializing your dreams involves staying brave and moving through the intensities and difficulties that shape our lives.
Artist Kim Rugg’s incredibly meticulous artwork consists of slicing up and breaking down everyday sources of information, like newspapers and maps. Dissecting newspapers, she rearranges the words and letters, creating a new depth of meaning. She often cuts the letters out and places them in alphabetical order, throwing the message in disarray. If these newspapers were real, they may cause panic and mayhem, as they disrupt our normal access to worldwide information. Can you imagine if even online news from all countries suddenly appeared as Rugg’s newspapers do? Both her surgically cut newspapers and transformed maps deconstruct society norms of information and the restrictions our culture has placed upon them, and therefore us as well.
This London-based artists slices up maps and pieces them together again backwards, or purposely arranging the once solid land mass in a way that fuses together all elements of land, border, and ocean. She also creates her maps by hand, erasing borderlines and geopolitical issues that are so relevant in today’s society. Her recreations of man-made territories display a new topography; a world with no boundaries, where we all can live with no territorial restrictions. Each carefully incision made forms a part of the whole, redirecting your view to its small details. Rugg’s complex work invited you to investigate the information laid out right in front of you that is often overlooked. Other work of her that require our close inspection to really understand her subtle manipulations include magazines, comic books, and even cereal boxes. Her work can be found at Mark Moore Gallery in Culver City, CA.
A young photographer named Mahdi Ehsaei has published a book of photographs depicting a little known minority in the Middle East. Afro-Iranians are a group of people descendent from slaves and traders who were brought over from Africa in the 8th century. These illicit transactions were conducted through slave markets in the region continuing through the 19th century. The demographic Ehsaei photographs is interesting because it represents a group mainly unknown in the Arab world.
In his new book Afro-IranEhsaei photographs beautiful children who in their smiles hold a link to their history but most likely are unfamiliar with how their ancestors initially arrived in the region they call home. Using youthful energy he creates a narrative focusing on the future set against a backdrop of the past since many are photographed close to the ocean which is how their ancestors first arrived. In others we see women dressed in traditional African garments, a sign mentioned in Ehsaei’s statement as a way to keep their African heritage alive. This is also true of the segment’s strong culture which is rich in music, dance, oral tradition and ritual.
Ehsaei is of German-Iranian descent and has completed photo essays on boxing, Iran and the nature of photography. He currently resides in Berlin.
New York-based artist Marco Gallotta uses paper cutting as a way to create intricate portraits that “portray people in their natural state.” A combination of linocuts, watercolor, and collages, the multilayered images feature frontal views of people who have decorative shapes masking their faces. Patterned flourishes, water-esque ripples, and clashing swirls appear front and center as they obscure any sort of realism and transform it into an abstract work of art.
Despite these different techniques and media, Gallotta brings them together in a harmonious way. Here, each layer seems to tell a different story. There’s often a photo beneath the artist’s hand cut work, but it’s what’s above it provides a conceptual look at who the subject is. It’s their essence, and these decorative adornments speaks to the complexities of who someone is – their perceived versus actual identity. (Via Lustik)