The work of Dillon Boy (né James Dillon Wright) emerged from a street art and graffiti background, combining pop culture, branding, advertising, and perhaps most importantly, the ability to take these sources further than they were intended. This evolution (or devolution) is evident in his series DIRTYLAND, where the artist takes the ever-popular childhood icons of Disney’s princesses and removes their context, and clothes.
In works which collage smut magazine backgrounds with spraypaint stencils, drips and graffiti scrawls, these princesses become transformed representations of our combined high and lowbrow society, and take aim at the falsely marketed ideas of perfection and innocence. In an exclusive talk with Beautiful/Decay, Dillon talks about the series. “Most of my audience were kids when these princesses ruled their world, so now that they are all adults (and sexually active) they are all ready to hang paintings of naked Disney chicks all over the house. [laughs]. No for real though, I believe it’s my job as an artist to question the very things around me and to continuously break down the traditional and more conventional ways of making art. It is my intention to raise or lower your eyebrows in one way or another.”
This reappropriation of pop culture icons is nothing new, but seems to be happening at a rapidly increasing pace (Beautiful/Decay has recently featured several such reimaginings of pop culture symbols), indicating that artists are remaining relevant to many audiences by constantly questioning what we collectively see daily. Dillon Boy (surprisingly?) notes that he has not seen much in the way of criticism of his DIRTYLAND series, and that is his job as an artist to take things one step further. “Well, one thing is for sure, we live in a sexually charged culture. Walk outside and you will quickly find a billboard or an ad in a publication showcasing a woman as a sex object. Sex sells remember. I simply used the pure, untainted characters of Walt Disney to convey that message. But that’s obvious, I’m not doing anything that hasn’t been done before… but I’m ready to do it again!”
Haunting and provocative, “Ghosts” South African artist Ralph Ziman’s recent photography exhibition addresses the international arms trade. The series features 200 beaded gun and ammunition sculptures created by 6 Zimbabwean artisans who were commissioned by Ziman. The sculptures are made from traditional African beads and wire and are replicas of AK-47s and general purpose machine guns (GPMGs). The artists are also the subjects of Ziman’s photographs, alongside some construction workers, and a member of the South African Police Services who just wanted his picture taken. The idea for the project began as a series of murals in Venice that were a response to the international arms trade and Africa. The result is a powerful representation of the intimate relationship between Africa and arms trading.
“In bringing his exhibit to the US, ‘the world’s biggest arms exporter,’ Ziman goes some way to redirecting the one directional flow of the arms trade, inviting viewers to consider the original source of the guns on display.” “Ghosts” features the gun sculptures, installations, and photographs, and is on display from February 8 through March 2 at C.A.V.E. Gallery in Los Angeles. (via hi fructose and okay africa)
In 1998, Argentinian artist Nicola Constantino created ‘Peletería Humana’ (Human fur Boutique), a window display with twenty mannequins showing off Nicola’s heeled shoes, dresses and handbags. These elegant designs were fashion forward in a peculiar way: all pieces were made out of real human hair and colored latex cloth which patterns and textures imitated human nipples. The material, reminiscent of real human skin. was a definite erotic but also sickeningly monstrous and abnormal characteristic that made many recoil in disgust.
The attractive yet repulsive pieces delineate the artist’s ideas about two highly addictive societal desires: expensive consumer goods and sex. By creating these garments out of human hair and cloth that reproduced the human skin, she entices the viewer to see, simultaneously, both desires in the same object. We can also say that her ‘elegant’, high end creations (all which are wearable pieces of art) play with notions of the natural and the artificial, ideas of identity in a consumer society, and the materiality of the human body in contemporary times.
Is there any doubt that cats rule the internet? Probably not, and the photographs by Barrere & Simon play into this trend with the cat-themed book Lolchats. Costumed cats depict different personalities and professions, like a painter, beach bum, beauty queen, and diplomat. Perfectly posed and accessorized, these cats are amusing and sassy.
Stories and quotes about and “said by” the cats accompany each portrait in the book. The portraits are enhanced with a little extra information. Katsumi, the rainbow, watermelon-loving cat (above) has the following written about her: “She loves soy milk, maki shaped smileys and Cat’s Eyes. Since her stay in Shibuya last summer, she learned to make the V sign with her feet and always says “meow” in Japanese. ‘Nya!’” Likewise, Vinz, the cat with the guitar and leather jacket says, “He loves strings and shots of Jack Daniels. He hates deworming and new wave. ‘My greatest pride is my grandfather posing on the cover of the first Stray Cats’” (Via Aristide)
The 27-year-old Fortunato Castro grow up listening to his mother recall vivid memories of her youth in El Salvador. Now a photographer, Castro returns to images of his mother at his age. The art theorist Roland Barthes once wrote about his search for his late mother within photographs of her; in the series Some Girl, Some Where, Castro takes it a step further, animating the vintage photographs by dressing and posing as his mother.
In the poignant series, Castro doesn’t intend to impersonate his mother in a literal sense; rather, the images read as a son seeking to understand his mother and her youth by physically placing himself in her shoes. Each image is shot with earnest reverence; every gesture he sees his mother make is carefully mimicked, from the concentrated application of mascara to the self-conscious covering of the chest.
Photographically, Castro sees differences in the images of young women today and of his mother’s generation. The modern snapshots that permeate our culture, he suggests, are more casual and candid; a girl takes a shot of her friends as they get ready for a night out, or a woman sends an intimate selfie to her lover. The photographs of his mother’s youth are more serious and polished, and he conveys that elegantly, acknowledging the viewer in each image and positioning himself with careful deliberation.
The obvious sexuality of the photographs remain touchingly innocent; Castro’s curiosity about his mother’s body reads more like a confessional than an exploitation. He returns to the sensual exploration of childhood, using his own body to navigate his feelings about his mother’s. Take a look. (via NYMag)
The songs are heartfelt and powerful with Lee’s fragile and beautiful voice as the centerpiece, and the recordings are an instantly engaging blend of high and low fidelity, mixing lush studio productions, featuring keys, guitar, violin and banjo, with clattering homemade percussion and found sounds. While the album is certainly Lee’s brainchild, the recordings are very much a collaborative effort featuring contributions by friends and others met along the way.
Mutual Benefit is currently on a US tour with European dates to follow. Check out his video for Advanced Falconry and then catch him live this Tuesday, January 28th at the Center for the Arts Eagle Rock in Los Angeles. He’ll also be playing some East Coast dates in early February before heading off to Europe.
Cornelia Hediger‘s series of “Doppelgänger” portraits portray contrasting aspects of her self, creating suspenseful and awkward narratives. For this series, Hediger shoots single images in the same environment and composes them in a grid. Her style of composition allows for the distortion of sizes in both space and body; the grids she uses to configure these distortions also break up her images, further reflecting the presented fractured sense of self. Hediger prefers to work alone as an artist because of the time and patience it takes to design her set and capture all of the images in just the right positions.
Of her series, Hediger says, “I was interested in exploring the concept of the Doppelgänger in a broader way. Doppelgänger in German means ‘double walker’, it is a ghostly double of a living person, an omen of death and a harbinger of bad luck. The idea of the Doppelgänger also allows me look the alter ego, the conscious mind vs the unconscious mind, inner conflicts, the duality between good and evil and split personalities – the concept gives me plenty of material to think about and work with.” (via this isn’t happiness and feature shoot)
Brazilian photographer Nádia Maria creates melancholic, visceral and nostalgic photography that resonates with her private life struggles and universal themes that are familiar to all, amongst them- anxiety, depression, confusion, and so on. The dark aesthetic of these photographs are not to be taken lightly. Contemplating about these will bring discomfort and unwanted past painful memories…it happened to me. However, Maria’s work is so hauntingly beautiful that can just can’t look away.
“It’s all about experiments, games and involvement with the camera, with the image, the feelings, with ourselves.”
‘Vacuum’ and ‘Perfume’ are the names of the two series of photographs that are shown here. Maria’s series ‘Vacuum’ was inspired by constant wars insides herself (and humanity in general). She brilliantly captures the essence of deep nostalgia and sadness, and eternal yearning for something more, or something different. Its darkness is not to be confused with complete destruction and agony, as her subtle feminine, delicate characteristics take on and leave us feeling hopeful. Similarly, ‘Perfume’ visualizes Maria’s mental state (post-partum depression) after having her first son. “It was a phase of deconstruction and transformation”, she says. (via IGNANT)