Eli Durst takes photographs of things that should be boring. Somehow his point of view makes them completely captivating. Each one described in its essence, such as a turtle in a tank, or two men eating in a McDonalds parking lot, seems utterly unexciting. Seeing the photograph, though, there will always be something that will catch your eye and draw you in. A lot of it has to do with timing. He picks exactly the right moment, when the turtle pokes its head out of the water, or the woman with red hair tilts her head just so. The moments he captures seem pristine, although often they are anything but. How hard is it to ascribe pristine as the adjective to a teepeed tree? Still for Durst it seems the only appropriate word.
His series’ are eclectic, and so it is his aesthetic that holds them together, though patterns can emerge in the subject matter. There is a great deal of portraiture and focus on food, for instance. Together, each mix tells a story of a place (America), its people (normal), and their accompanying details (pets, a deep burn in someone’s back, or the most uninspired food spread I’ve ever seen). It’s really in these details that you get lost in wonder. Durst makes the normal totally enthralling.
These ink drawings, saturated with detail, are the masterwork of Seattle artist Olivia Knapp. Knapp utilizes classic shading techniques from the Baroque period, putting a real spin on the classic still life. At first glance, her work appears to be a mishmash of objects borrowed from an antiquated medical book. Knapp orchestrates a hyper-stylized version of everyday elements within American culture: a Fruit Loops box, some headphones, items rigidly anchored to the 21st century American lexicon. In these drawings, they appear in a different light, making the items far more mysterious and surreal than we know them to be. The black crosshatching weaves in an inexplicable amount of detail, with forms that are tight from a distance and dissolve into their own internal network of lines when viewed in detail.
Her work stretches leisurely throughout the frame, exhibiting a sort of spaciousness that is vastly composed of the winding structures of arteries stemming from the heart, or twisted plants and snakes. The arteries of a heart grip a spoon to eat a bowl of cereal, the brain hovers, listening to music; often what could have been a normal picture reduced to its mere elements, the heart the symbolic structure indicating man, or human, yet everything contorts into everything else like Salvador Dali’s melting clocks. The marriage of a new symbol presented with an old technique is nothing new, but Knapp has found a way to express it that is entirely bizarre, interesting, and unique.
Korean artist Kyuin Shim creates work that your pupils will interpret as a straight up science fiction novel. One body of work in particular, “Black Black,” is a series of gruesome depictions of black mannequin bodies gone haywire. As a digital artist and sculptor, he works compiling 3D renderings of real images. These sculptures, with the glossy stature of high fashion, the black mannequins are enrobed in large blisters. In varying states of vulnerability, his sculptures are suffering implosion and meltdown; a person who has ripped his head off gives himself fellatio, another is on his hands and knees, expelling their entire insides. Shim’s creatures come across as gross exaggerations of real emotional states, and it is not always easy to interpret how they are intended, but it is evident that they are referential to the individual struggle that we all face.
Another series of his, featuring only white mannequins, is titled “Small Place,” and references interpersonal relationships and the implied metaphors within them. The white series emanates an atmosphere of tranquility and calm. Mannequin lovers with bowls for heads pour water between one another, while others sit pensively. There is not the searing prospect of suffering that “Black Black” encompasses. “Small Place” is meditative and inviting. Although parts of Shim’s series have been cited as representing dysfunctional relationships, there is no real hostility in the work. It is interesting to look at both series of his work side to side and to take note of the drastic shift in tone.
His subjects are anything from sausages to saucepans. He photographs hamburgers bursting apart – mayonnaise caught in the act of falling, tossed salads being frozen in mid-air. Smith explodes his food and accessories with the help of a bullet – fired from a 308 sniper rifle and travels at roughly 2800 feet per second at the point of impact, it creates the perfect environment for his photographs.
Elaborately posed, his objects stand out on his starkly minimal backgrounds – usually matt black. He shows cross sections of woks, elements, flames and pots, creating images reminiscent of modern abstract compositions. Smith says of his technique:
‘I had a pretty good understanding of compositing but given the large amount and complexity of photo illustration I spent many hours on Photoshop trying to find new ways to blend images together smoothly and quickly’.
Smith thrives on imbuing the mundane with life and motion. His photographs are a perfect display of what is it like to be caught in the maelstrom of food preparation, or destruction.
As summer winds down for many of us, designer Tim Lampe can say it was the summer of ice cream sandwiches. Because, for him, it was. The Atlanta-based creative started an Instagram project titled #SummerOfIceCreamSandwiches (and subsequent Tumblr) that documented all of the ways you can consume, trap, store, and display the delicious sweet treat. It’s a silly series that might make you hungry. Lampe explains the photographs, writing:
For Summer 2014, I wanted to explore pushing a concept as far as I could over the Instagram platform, so I set out to exploit one of my favorite treats growing up: Ice Cream Sandwiches. It was an exercise in execution and not overthinking. It was taking something universal and putting it in uncommon places, to make the viewer believe there is an alternate universe in which Ice Cream Sandwiches don’t melt fast and are universally available.
The photos are well composed and delightfully strange. Their bright-yet-diffused colors show what happens when you keep creating under the same theme – some magical, weird stuff happens, like carefully arranging food in a mailbox. (Via This Isn’t Happiness)
David R Harper’s artwork is about the projection or imposition of meaning on an object, especially concerning memorial in death. He embroiders over taxidermy animals on prints of still life paintings from the 18th century. He sees the dead animals as a human way of addressing mortality; feeling empathy for the dead animal, but also as a way of avoiding grappling with our own inevitable demise. The embroidery creates a void or emptiness, especially literal in the white thread, and more dynamic but equally vacant with the use of green patterning in The Fall. Thread operates in most cases as a cold medium and Harper employs it extremely effectively in combination with his meticulous technique.
His most ambitious work is titled I Tried, and I Tried, and I Tried, presumably a quasi-reference to the Rolling Stones song (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction, as well as Napoleon’s conquests. Harper embroiders the entire horse of David’s Napoleon Crossing the Alps. In the original artwork the horse is mostly white with black on its tail and head, where Harper creates a gradient that transforms from black to light grey. What is truly incredible is that this process doesn’t flatten the horse; it retains its form in the sculpting of the flow of the thread. The beast becomes much more powerful and haunting
Art Info has a great slideshow that compares Harper’s sculpture and embroidery work to other well-known artists. See it here.
Helen Warner’s photography is jarringly beautiful: part Tim Burton gothica, part carnivale, part Shakespeare; looking through her photos is an invitation to a secret séance. With dramatic use and manipulation of negative space, many of the figures photographed appear to be drifting out from nowhere, candidly caught in the act of being mysterious. Having studied cinema and modernism at The Queen’s University of Belfast, she is currently living and working in Northern Ireland. Warner’s work has a flair for the histrionic, and her photographs carry the weight of a Shakespearian scene. “Death, where is thy sing?” rings through these women, skin caked in white, their faces shrouded, sometimes bound, encased by winter’s wood, cast in autumnal hues. The women are caged by items of beauty, while being items of beauty themselves. A glass cube in the forest, a white plastic sheet encircling forest trees, or even a head locked under the bell jar, buoyed by flowers. There is an underlying juxtaposition between being out in the remote wilderness, the wild, and being bound by external forces, which extends to even the elaborate costuming. There is the ongoing implication that movement is not fluid, it is stifled, both by internal and external circumstances, but the faces photographed certainly aren’t giving any hints away.
South African Photographer Anelia Loubser is forcing us to look twice. Her project “Alienation” is a light-hearted approach to the complicated question of what exactly is conventional beauty? By flipping quite normal, traditional portraits upside down, she points out how easy it is for all of us to look instantly strange. There is a great quote that sums up Loubser’s project:
“If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change” – Wayne Dyer.
This couldn’t be any truer – such a simple act has a great effect. What usually are forehead wrinkles, now act as grimaces, lips puckered in pain; long eyebrows are now odd whiskers sprouting from cheeks or strange furry circles under the eyes. Noses are flipped to replace foreheads and are disconcertingly bulbous – large alien lumps appear where they shouldn’t be.
These photographs are a view into a weird and wonderful world; one full of alien-like humans, but a world where each new face is as beautiful and as intriguing as the next.
These are the new versions of “potato head” – where features are interchangeable and we are able to play around with our ideas of accepted beauty and identity.