Artist Steven Spazuk really is a master of smoke and mirrors. Well, definitely of smoke. He literally makes his unique images from the burning grey stuff. Using an open flame candle, Spazuk places paper above the heat, collecting deposits of carbon and leaving marks of smoke on his canvas. He then uses feathers, brushes and scraping tools to build his incredibly detailed images of gas masks, dying birds, weapons and soldiers.
His new series of work has just opened at Reed Projects Gallery in Stavanger, Norway (runs until Aug 23rd) Called Smoking Gun and Feathers, the exhibition is a haunting collection of warning images. They are a glimpse into our possible future if we keep abusing the world we inhabit.
Spazuk exposes our collective and institutionalized hubris: the arrogance and entitlement that leads to overconfidence, abuse of power and a distorted vision of success. The plight of birds is contextualized in harsh, yet stunning image compositions, symbolizes the vulnerability of all species in the face of such human egotism. His current work provokes a reflection on the drastic and global impact of our lifestyle on the Earth’s ecosystems. (Source)
We have also previously featured Spazuk’s work here on Beautiful/Decay, so even if you can’t make it to the exhibition, be sure to check out the back catalog of his amazing work.
Hair is one of the first feature that one can see on a person, so familiar that it’s almost disregarded. When it comes to Dita Gambiro’s pieces, the braided hair is what strikes the most. She creates feminine objects and symbols made out of real human hair. A dress, a purse, shoes and a heart shape, all of these sculptures are handmade and meaningful.
In Eastern culture, hair is an adornment. Symbol of beauty, it is often the representation of a woman’s power, good health and fertility. Dita Gambiro was born and raised in Indonesia where she cultivates memories of her mother and grandmother keeping snips of her hair. she also keeps snips of her friends’ hair and therefore grows a bigger attachement to that part of the body. The fact that she braids the hair on almost all of her sculptures is her way to meditate and find peace.
More than just pieces of hair forming objects, Dita Gambiro’s art pieces express the mix of different cultures. On one hand the braided hair representing Eastern culture, and on the other hand the snake carved into the metal hanger, which reminds of Adam and Eve’s snake in the Western culture.
By using such a singular mean of expression, the artist conveys us into her memories and her soul, reminding us that small details prevail over banalities such as a snip of hair. (via My Amp Goes To 11)
Chinese artists Sun Yuan and Peng Yu have materialized a tangible loss of hope with their most recent work simply entitled “Angel”. The life-size sculpture made entirely of silica gel, fibre glass, stainless steel, and woven mesh depicts a fallen angel caught in a net. The angel is depicted here as an old women, with all of the feathers gone from the wings lying at an angle that suggests she is not alive anymore. The sculpture is on display in a public setting, which gives it the role of an epic spectacle not only because of its aesthetic features but also for the message it carries.
The craftsmanship and work put into this piece are almost eerie in all their hyperrealist nature. The details put into emulating a human face and realistic, accurately sized wings contribute to the disturbing effect of the piece and bring an otherworldly being into a world in a brutal way that makes us assess the situation as if it were actually happening.
The symbolic value of such a piece lies in the idea of an angel being able to be of help to mankind, yet, in the powerless position Yuan and Yu have presented it, this role is diminished if not erased completely. This piece also explores the clash between the world of angels and the world of human beings, which are brought together here in a painful, if not catastrophic manner. The magnificent horror of this piece lies both in its strong visual and symbolic value and gives the viewers something to reflect upon.
At first glance, these twisted, manipulated, and camouflaged bodies appear to be the work of a photographer who is very skilled in Photoshop. However, the subjects in these photographs are not the product of digital alteration, but were transformed at the hand of a simple paintbrush. Artist Natalie Fletcher uses the body as a canvas, applying her paint and imagination directly upon the skin of her subjects. Formally trained at art school, she broke away from the traditional method of painting after graduation and began her pursuit as a master of body art. The artist uses the lines and color applied by paint as a means to create a variety of different captivating and puzzling optical illusions.
In her series titled Just An Illusion, op art breathes new life on the skin of her subjects, as she covers the bodies in spiraling lines. The bends formed in the patterns seem to warp the bodies so to us they appear twisted, sunk in, and even cut open. In another series of Natalie Fletcher’s, titled Against the Wall, an illusion is still apparent, as each body has been blended into the background thanks to her painterly magic. In some cases, it is difficult for you to decipher where the wall stops and where the paint begins. Fletcher’s talents in body painting has not gone unseen, as she has won GSN’s “Skin Wars” and is in the process of traveling across the country, painting two bodies in each state.
In a powerful series of black-and-white portraits entitled The Unknown Soldier, New York-based photographer David Jay captures the devastation of war and the marks it leaves on individual lives. The project began while David was shooting The SCAR Project, a documentation of breast cancer survivors. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were in full tilt, and David decided that the public needed to see the intimate, bodily consequences of a system that perpetuates the mass injury and destruction of human lives.
Photographed at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center and the Brooke Army Medical Center, The Unknown Soldier features men and women who have been shot, struck by roadside bombs, and severely burned — stories of trauma which are bravely told by their scars and amputations. The essence of the photos, however, lies in the enduring strengths conveyed in each face as the individual confronts the viewer with their experience. In a statement provided to Beautiful/Decay, David explains the greater aim of his project:
“[U]ltimately, The Unknown Soldier is not about war. It is about many things: Humanity, acceptance, responsibility. An understanding that [what] we do matters. What we say, what we think, matters . . . and [it] has repercussions that quite literally change the course of history.”
In a world where media coverage often turns injuries and deaths into abstract numbers, David has brought human subjects deeply into focus. Seeing these surviving soldiers evokes a sense of social responsibility that extends from the people we know in our immediate lives to those engaged in war. The Unknown Soldier reminds everyone that soldiers are not faceless causalities, and even though people may feel distant from such violent events, there exists a vital responsibility to examine and criticize a system and media that imperils and objectifies human lives. As David continues:
“I hope the images transcend the narrow and simplistic confines of ‘war’ and encourage us to examine the way we engage each other — both friend and stranger — at its most basic, day to day level, as it is these subtle, seemingly innocuous interactions that will ultimately lead us either to peace . . . or the continuum and carnage of war.”
Perhaps you want to make your walk through the park more interesting; or maybe you’re dying to sit on the bus and immerse yourself in Jimi Hendrix’s Electric Ladyland while gazing at a psychedelic horizon. Thanks to Hungarian designer Bence Agoston’s “Mood Sunglasses,” you can indulge in a pseudo-trip at your leisure. Accompanying the glasses’ half-circle, 3D-printed frames are six lenses, each imprinted with Moiré patterns that filter blue, green, and red light. When layered and rotated in their frames, the lenses create the visual experiences of LSD without the drug itself.
In discussion with Fastco Design, Agoston explained how the Moods work. “Because each color filters the incoming lights differently, and the patterns can overlap each other or leave blank fields, the new view is completely random and twisted.” Agoston also has versatility in mind, just in case you need a break from your simulated LSD journey: “Mood can also be used with clear lenses, for everyday living.”
Agoston goes on to describe the suggested use of such “hallucinogenic” sunglasses. “The ideal situation for use is during travel, when people listen to music, just looking out the window and watching the ever-changing sights, in perfect harmony with the music. The shape is designed with the aim of simplicity and distinctness, as if the wearer belongs to a kind of subculture” (Source). In short: the Moods are prescribed for anyone who enjoys (or needs) a taste of altered reality. (Via Fastco Design)
Through dark and melancholic ceramic sculptures Anne Wenzel shares her views on the world’s fears and tragedies (natural catastrophes, bomb attacks, fear of millenarianism…) She draws away the tradition of ceramic to create her contemporary and intense sculptures. The artist’s ‘modern day vanitas’ sculptures not only shake the core but also question the role of splendor and power within a deformed and vanished piece of art. Recently, Anne Wenzel has created two sets of sculptures: busts in ‘Damaged Goods’ and blossoms in ‘Attempted Decadence’.
In the first group of work, she uses the classic military bust and shiny dark brown tones of glaze to condemn the glorification of authority during times of war. She questions the fact that we worship emblematic figures that have caused violence and have damaged entire populations and their countries.
Power, destruction, heroism and violence, themes dear to the artist emerge from her strong historical awareness and political engagement; she sheds new light on the role that art plays in depicting them.
The glamour and glorification expressed in the sorrowful blossoms is raising intentional open questions that Anne Wenzel is not willing to answer for us. She wants the viewer to take a stand and ask: I am seeing this beautiful metaphor of greatness and beauty, but am I being manipulated? The purple and rust tones petals are liquefied, dripping over the structure that’s holding them. Turning healthy and fresh flowers into a devastated and agonizing dying bouquet, the visual creates a balance in the expression of abstraction and figurative art.
At the best of times, embroidery can be impressive and time consuming, but this project shows us just how much of an art form it can be. Flickr user NanaAkua has been uploading pictures of her grandmother’s embroidered balls for a while now, educating us all about an ancient art form popular in Japan. Called Temari balls, they are folk art that originated in China, but were quickly adopted by Japan. And this very talented Japanese grandmother in particular has been embroidering Temari balls for over 30 years – building a collection of over 500 balls. Made from the threads from old kimono, the Temari balls are intricate, full of imaginative patterns and as diverse as they are colorful.
They are traditionally cherished as objects of friendship and loyalty. The bright colors symbolize luck and happiness for the recipient of the gift. And it isn’t only considered an honor to receive a Temari ball, but also to produce them. To qualify as a Temari ball artist, the individual has to display a high level of skill and technique.
Here’s a little bit of more information on the amazing art form that are Temari balls:
Traditionally, temari were often given to children from their parents on New Year’s Day. Inside the tightly wrapped layers of each ball, the mother would have placed a small piece of paper with a goodwill wish for her child. The child would never be told what wish his or her mother had made while making the ball. (Source)