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Spellbinding Death Masks And Sugar Skulls

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For Epitaph, British photographer Rankin teams up with Beaty Editor Andrew Gallimore to create spellbinding death masks inspired by the Mexican Day of the Dead and Roman Catholic All Souls Day. Like the sugar skulls, or calavera, used to celebrate the holiday, these elegant masks put a vital and lively spin on death. Decked out in intricate beading and filigree, their models look luxurious and festive.

Calavera, normally colored in vibrant greens, reds, yellows, and blues are often eaten after the holiday; adorned in glittering stars and blooming daisies, these living skulls look like sweet confections. The female faces, painted in black, become a youthful template for imaginative explorations of an afterlife that awaits us after old age. As if from another world, their gray-green eyes stand starkly against coal-toned flesh. Rankin and Gallimore infuse the editorial with a hefty dose of high-fashion edge, introducing elements like metal spikes and and chains. These harder elements blend seamlessly with the iconography of the Day of the Dead; in one mask, a red clown nose made of punk-rock studs puts a contemporary spin on the timeless tradition.

Rankin is not new to the theme of death. In the wake of his parents’ deaths, he was compelled to break cultural taboo surrounding the dead, to face head-on his fears of dying. For last year’s photo series ALIVE: In the Face of Death, published by Hunger Magazine, he photographed those effected most by death, giving voice to grieving family members and to resilient individuals living with terminal diseases. Here, his enthusiastic lens provides solace from the fear of the unknown, inviting us to celebrate those we’ve lost as we mourn them. (via Trend Land)

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Alexandre Ciancio’s Nostalgic-Tinged Collages

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For a trained architect, Alexandre Ciancio has taken an unexpected step in what to negate with his collage work series, Walkabout. By removing buildings, objects and landscape from the majority of his works, Ciancio manipulates the image so that the people photographed become objects themselves, a new visual architecture based on space, place and environment.

The Walkabout collages keep the black and white photographic qualities of an often wholesome, idealized past, and replace negative space with a soft pastel pallete, reminiscent of the same era. Depth is simultaneously given a flat quality, while figures are given a new background and environment, of their own creation. Ciancio poetically describes the series

“A walkabout, ie a multitude of people gathered in one place can be characterized by a container (location) and content (the crowd). With this definition it is thus possible to establish rules of the game: design images where all the spatial data are erased in favour of flat colours highlighting the different crowds and their relationship to space.

This rule is applied with six old black and white photographs, the various inhabitants of the images are highlighted by the lack of spatial information and the bright colours used to give depth to the images while giving them a degree of internal consistency .

These images are assembled diptych opponent whenever a frontal pose to pose in perspective. This dualism invites us into the image space and observe each of their people, their expressions, their eyes…”  (via mutantspace and the jealous curator)

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Amusing Photo Series Imagines If Shoes Had Teeth

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In a surreal and slightly disturbing series titled Running Gag by the Hamburg-based studio POP. Postproduction, they imagine what it would be like if shoes teeth to accompany their tongues. POP specializes in photo-retouching, and manipulated the images has the loafers, boat shoes, and Converse sneakers laughing and grinning. Some have a gap tooth, others a gold grill, while some have hardly any teeth at all.

There is some correspondence with the teeth and the shoe. For instance, the pink canvas shoe with decorative laces has a mouth full of braces, so we’d imagine they are a teenage girl. The gold-studded loafer is an “alternative style” to the preppy shoe, so its gold lip ring feels appropriate.

Despite being slickly-produced and brightly-colored series, the Running Gag is subtle, and it’s only after more than a seconds glance that you realize there are teeth in these shoes. It’s POP’s Photoshopping skills that add to the believability of these characters, and they look liked they’d be right in place in a horror film. (Via Design Taxi)

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Klari Reis Exploits Science And Chemistry To Create Striking Petri Dish Paintings

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San Fransisco based chemist/artist Klari Reis hand paints a plexiglass petri dish every day in her latest project A Daily Dish. But it is not just superficial, decorative painting, Reis fills the actual form with different layers of epoxy polymers pigmented with oils, acrylics, powders, and dyes. Manipulating the transparency, opacity, color intensity, size and forms of the different elements, she produces mini abstract ‘paintings’. They are colorful, playful and optimistic-looking examples of how beautifully science and art can exist as one and the same.

And she doesn’t only make paintings within the individual dishes, but she also arranges her creations into impressive large scale wall installations. Using the color of the dishes to dictate her layout, Reis’ petri dish installations are a subtle and poetic reminder of how aesthetically pleasing the elements can be. Living next to many life science companies in San Fransisco, she allows this to benefit her work.

[She] takes advantage of this proximity to collaborate with local biomedical companies and thus receives inspiration from the cutting edge of biological techniques and discoveries; this context grounds her artwork and lets her authoritatively explore the increasingly fuzzy line between the technological and the natural. (Source)

Reis has created so many different petri dish paintings, make sure you check out all of them on her website, complete with amusing titles such as Companion Planting, Birthday Surprise, Interconnected Planetary March, Backstroke Drills and Emotion Explosion. Not only do they sound like the names of paint samples, but also a wonderfully experimental high school science experiment.

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Matt Kaliner’s Beautifully Strange And Gravity-Defying Sandcastles

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Matt Kaliner is a sociology lecturer at Harvard University with a fascinating side project: the construction of elaborate, beautifully strange sandcastles. “Although I study the sociology of art, amongst other things, I have not worked up anything particularly deep about sandcastles,” he told The Atlantic. “I am motivated entirely by the sheer joy of playing on the beach, and making something out of what I can find that day” (Source). Despite his modesty, Kaliner’s creations are remarkable works of art with imposing presences; fortified with sticks and underground braces, they rise powerfully from the sand, twisted and knotted like ancient geological formations.

Despite the tenuous, ever-crumbling nature of sand, Kaliner’s castles are surprisingly formidable; most of them are swallowed by the rising tide rather than knocked down by it. “Curious kids are the No. 1 killers of my sandcastles, which I certainly sympathize with,” Kaliner says good-humouredly. “I would have done the same at that age!” (Source) Whether by nature or meddlesome child, the inevitable destruction of Kaliner’s works makes them transitory works of art; their limited lifespans heightens their beauty and intensifies their presence.

Check out Kaliner’s work on Flickr. More gravity-defying castles after the jump. (Via Booooooom)

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The Radical Portraiture Of I Must Be Dead Challenges Conventional Representations Of Identity

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I Must Be Dead (Mckay Jaffe) is a Pheonix-based photographer who challenges conventional representations of identity through experimental portraiture. Rich with narrative and exploding with color, his works are consistently enrapturing and unsettling, in that they collide sensuality with horror, beauty with death. The faces of his bizarre models are intensely expressive, and usually obscured in some way, such as with paint, masks, and/or deep shadows. Breaching the line between fantasy and reality, his works are evocative yet alien, begging the question: “is this real?” Some of Jaffe’s work comes from the Burning Man festival, where he captures subjects befitting to his oeuvre: people actively inhabiting alternative identities and lifestyles.

On the I Must Be Dead Facebook page, Jaffe’s tongue-in-check biography reveals his counter-cultural approach to art and societal expectations. He claims that he has excelled in “unprofessional photography since 1845” and has won “5 Nobel peace prizes,” poking fun at conventional understandings of “success” and thereby marking his work as subversive. “Being human is a program,” Jaffe wrote to me, when I inquired about the social commentary present in his work. “You are designed to act and feel relative to the life you are given.”

For him, the “way out” of repressive structures is to test the possibilities of identity. Life is an evolving, experimental process; as Jaffe writes, “[You must] learn to learn, learn to grow, learn to accept, learn to see things from the other side, learn to laugh, learn to love, learn to live your life.” His photographic ventures into the realms of beauty, intensity, and absurdity are very much part of a learning process — one in which the limits of selfhood are explored in the development of an open self-understanding. (Via Beautiful.Bizarre)

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SD Holman’s Portraits Of Female Masculinity In BUTCH: Not Like The Other Girls

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Photographer SD Holman uses her talent as a portrait photographer to capture women who fall outside of the traditional gender binary. In her series “BUTCH: Not Like the Other Girls,” masculine women are not oddity or other. These are photos of women who identify as butch captured by a butch woman—they are women defining themselves. In this way, Butch has much in common with the current social campaigns stripping women of makeup, enhancements, and retouching and declaring them more beautiful without the artifice. This is part of Holman’s intent with the show—to use the Butch identity as an example of one of the classifications through which women are objectified. The difference though is the hate and fear that Butch women have faced as transgressors of societal constructs of femininity. Holman says:

“Butches and all gender variant folk walk in a world that is really hostile to them, so we tend to look inward.  I was inspired to show their beauty by my wife Catherine, a femme who loved butches, and encouraged me to do this when I started talking about it.”

The rich diversity of butch women is evidenced here. Just as there isn’t one way to be a woman, Butch includes women of all shapes and colors and styles. The fluidity of gender is apparent in each photo.

Holman is an artist. Her portraits are classically beautiful, with their artful lighting and dramatic contrasts. The subjects mostly gaze through the lens to the viewer, unapologetic and authentic. There is no contrivance in these images, no sense of willful provocation nor is there any sense of apology. Author Amy Bloom writes, “Intimacy is being seen and known as the person you truly are.” These photos are intimate and groundbreaking, brave and matter-of-fact, beautiful and handsome.

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C’mon, Give A Sh*t – Toilets Sanitation Project Benefiting Homeless Creates Awareness With Art Toilets

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Lava Mae, a nonprofit project that seeks to provide the homeless with access to showers and toilets, commissioned artists and designers to create artsy toilets that were displayed along Market Street in San Francisco on November 21st, during the same week as World Toilet Day, for a project titled “C’mon, Give a Shit.” Though these names are snicker-worthy, this day is a UN recognized event that “aims to break the taboo around toilets and draw attention to the global sanitation challenge.” Through their public art toilet project, Lava Mae seeks to generate awareness about the sanitation problem surrounding the homeless. In May 2014, Lava Mae plans to roll out their first retro-fitted MUNI bus that will provide mobile showers and toilets to the homeless community in San Francisco.

Lava Mae founder Doniece Sandoval says, “We want to deliver dignity. We feel that if you don’t have access to hygiene you lose touch with your humanity.” Acknowledging that the mobile facilities will certainly not end homelessness, Sandoval is hopeful that the project provides a good starting point for addressing the homeless’ lack of access to basic human needs. “We’re creating a model for delivery of service that others can embrace, a forum that works like open source technology,” Sandoval says, “Our designs, our budgets, anything we can help bring to other communities.”

The art toilets are currently up for auction here, with proceeds benefiting Lava Mae. (via sfist, the bold italic, and crafting a green world)

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