Apollonia Saintclair explores pleasure, intimacy, and sexual expressivity through erotic illustrations. From tangled hair, to parted lips, to the minute contours of the erogenous body, her masterful line work captures desire in detail. Her illustrations go far beyond titillating us in the conventional sense, however; with writhing tentacles and zippers embedded in flesh, many of her images are simultaneously arousing and unsettling. By conflating eroticism with elements of horror and the grotesque, she reminds us that sex and death are familiar lovers, and that desire so often involves a daring venture across boundaries into darkness and radical difference.
For Saintclair, the artistic process begins in her own erotic imagination. “I work compulsively,” she explains. “I depict stories that I myself find very arousing, and I have a strong need to cast my fantasies in a beautiful frame.” Most of her works emerge from images “ingested once and digested over time”; when they finally manifest themselves on a blank page, she infuses them with her own observations and desires. She strongly values graphic quality, treating each drawing as “one more step in a long apprenticeship” towards technical perfection. Her fastidious control of her medium makes her work intimately precise — and subsequently, highly provocative.
The ability to share and connect with others through her work is very important to Saintclair, and she has garnered an impressive following on Tumblr. “The enthusiastic response from an unexpected, unhoped audience made me suddenly realize that I was maybe doing something important [for] others,” she writes. “I’m very pleased to see that most fans — among them many women — have absolutely no doubts that what I do is an artistic approach of sexuality and not blank pornography.” Her art is an intriguing journey into desire, and all curious readers are encouraged to visit her page and check out the rest of the images after the jump.
Documentary portrait photographer Probal Rashid captures the dark side of labor in his recent series Innocence Lost. Profiling the underage workforce in Bangladesh, his candid snaps focus on children who must earn what little money they can in order to provide for their families. The jobs range from brick-chipping, construction and refuse collecting, and are all low-paid jobs. The minimum age for employment is 14 years of age, but because a majority of the work is carried out in small factories, workshops and on the street, laws and guidelines are almost impossible to enforce. This means that some labor is even unpaid. Rashid explains more about the situation:
Children are paid less than adults, with many working up to twelve hours a day. Full-time work frequently prevents children from attending school. Long hours, low or no wages, poor food, isolation and hazards in the working environment can severely affect children’s physical and mental health. (Source)
The portraits of the children are simple, stark and striking images situated in their place of work. Surrounded by the objects they manufacture, you can get an accurate sense of just how long the children labor away for. All framed similarly, and as close ups, the hardships they experience are evident in their faces.
Rashid is a long time advocate of the people of Bangladesh, India, and Nepal. He captures the unspoken side of local life, spirituality and economy in those countries. His past series include Faces In Black Oxide (a further exploration into the workforce, this time in the iron oxide manufacturing industry); Life, Death and Salvation in Varanasi (about the pilgrimage to the Ganges); and Faces of Climate Survivors (portraits of some of the 154 million Bangladeshi who have been affected by natural disasters between 1990 and 2009).
Using abstract expressionism as muse, Brooklyn painter Andy Piedilato plays off visceral emotion. With unyielding imagination, he reaches a place between here and another, a type of painter’s purgatory, where ship wrecks float in brick shaped waves on huge panoramic canvases. Intertwined with vast metaphors, the ship motif was first inspired when a friend built his own boat. The idea stayed with Piedilato and he started thinking about how a handmade vessel would fare at sea. Soon he was painting parts of boats with a technique he had already acquired using bricks. This completely changed his purely abstract canvases. Paintings that were once finished in a day were now taking a month to complete. Before, the focus was not so much on a thing but a moment. This produced dozens of messy works which concentrated on sole mark making.
Today, his painstakingly tedious process uses a technique which paints around hand taped sections of canvas, allowing the tiny brick shapes to form into pictures. The results are flatter and less heavily impastoed. There’s a translucency present, especially in two recent works called “Red Sail” and “Sea Snail.” Both over 10′ wide, they exude a Japanese scroll effect making them slightly more watercolorish. This might account for the large amount of white in the background, thus opening up a new path for Piedilato. His present state of mind, is that of an artist who’s been asked to paint ‘smaller’ by potential dealers to encourage more salability. His refusal has allowed the paintings to get bigger and weirder, adding more aura to his increasing cult hero status.
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)
18-year-old Izumi Miyazaki arranges her daydreams into surreal photographs that are filled with deadpan humor. Each photo is manipulated so that the mundane becomes a little more magical. From levitating candy hearts to snow made of rice, Miyazaki ups the mystique with a wink of the eye.
By putting herself in the spotlight as the main subject, Miyazaki frees herself to being able to play with subtle changes in expression. Her photographs also call upon themes of identity and coming of age purely based on context. Because most of her artwork is staged in everday locations, they can almost be read as a visual diary of emotions.
The pure fun of Miyazaki’s photos is that they can be interpreted any number of ways: As a teenager’s creative way to express herself — or the product of a quirky overactive imagination. (via Juxtapoz)
New York painter Monica Cook depicts absurd, messy scenes in these paintings of women playing and posing with food and sea creatures. Often referred to as “absurd,” her work tells of women, sometimes not naked, covered in liquids and slime, fruit pulp, and cradling octopi. There is no arguing her painterly talent at narrating the viscosity of the elements in the frame, but she leaves it up to the viewer as to how they will interpret the contents of the scene. Meaning, she has no implied meaning:
“When I’m painting, it’s more about my relationship with the object than it is about me. It’s hard for me to separate myself from the experience. It could be a fish or an octopus. I handle it until it becomes unfamiliar to me so I can see it in a new way. People might want to read into those paintings but for me, it’s just about finding magic in the mundane and exploring further. I’m sure if I stumbled upon the work I’d see it differently.” (Excerpt from Source)
In artist Eleanor Davies’ piece titled Over 200 Beautiful Colors, she crafts a traditional yarn pom pom (like something you’d see on a beanie), but on steroids. Using wool, newspaper, and rope, Davies wraps donut-shaped discs with yarn and stacks them on top of one another. They become a mountain of wound wool, and finally she cuts the edges of every disc. This releases the fibers around the cardboard, and they form a larger-than-life ball of fringe.
The result of this tedious effort is something that you want to touch and maybe even hug. And, that’s Davies’ intention. She wants the viewer to desire an interaction with it. But, at the same time, she also wants to you to feel some sort of repulsion to it. Even though it’s a magnificent and incredible piece, you compare it to what other smaller, more perky-looking pom poms look like. This, in all its glory, droops as gravity has got the best of it. “The oscillation between attraction and repulsion is experienced through the disruption of taste values,” Davies writes in an artist statement. “Sculptures seek attention and flaunt themselves in such a way that they ask for it.”
The slow and meticulous construction of Over 200 Beautiful Colors is akin to a beautiful regime. Davies goes on to say:
In appropriating the sculpting techniques of hairdressing; extensions and highlights are added to slowly modify and enhance a sculpture’s look. The compulsive desire to reconfigure, reinvent, re-cut and re-colour is due to the satisfaction gained through succumbing to the lure of the surface. The process of overworking the sculptural surface is self indulgent and my practice embraces and revels in this.
Sculptor Jeff Zimmerman has coaxed yet another dimension out of the seemingly infinite pliability of glass. Zimmerman’s glass sculptures look like home decor from alien planets, alternating between a gleaming metallic finish and subtle tinges of celadon. Others look like they’re undergoing the process of mitosis, round and reminiscent of amoeba.
Zimmerman creates fantastic texture on his pieces, crumpling them and molding them into vaguely amorphous shapes. He uses bright colors and mirrorized finishes to create gradient effects that make his sculptures look in a way naturalistic. Others are neon, glow-in-the-dark green, embracing their lava lamp heritage.
In a statement about Zimmerman’s art, R & Company says, “Jeff Zimmerman’s designs reinterpret and redefine centuries old ways of working with glass, opening an entirely new chapter on this familiar medium.” (via Artsy)