For those who are not regulars at their local gun club, you might be surprised to know that shooting targets aren’t all the classic bullseye or silhouetted portrait. No, some of them are much more realistic, as the Amsterdam-based magazine Useful Photographyhas pointed out. The publication collects everyday images, and for issue 11 depicts several decades of targets from tens of thousands of shooting ranges in the United States. The results are disturbing, to say the least.
While traditional targets were once anonymous figures, they are now much more lifelike. You’ll find photographs of dictators, women, children, and everyday people pointing a gun back at you. It gives the target a personality, and you can practice your aim and get swept up in the grim, suggested narratives. Some manufacturers have gone too far, and which includes a line of targets called No More Hesitation that featured small children and pregnant women holding guns, and a bleeding “ex-girlfriend” (masquerading as a zombie). Both were pulled off the market.
Erik Kessels publishes the magazine and explains to Fast Company:
We found that shooting targets in the U.S. are getting more and more bizarre with what they show. Our biggest question on the topic was what scares a nation–gunman who hold children ransom or infamous terrorists? In this age of high impact gun crime, are the participants seeking protection or accelerating the violence?”
He goes on to say,
“By taking these images from their original context and putting them together in a magazine we hope that people start to look at them again.”
Cesar Santander’s hyper-realist paintings of vintage toys, trinkets, and carousels are gleaming and shining works that will make you take a double take to make sure you’re not looking at a photograph. Dealing with themes of Nostalgia these exquisitely painted images transport us to a simpler time when toys didn’t talk back and were simple images of our favorite cartoons.
“Once I conceive an idea for a painting, I arrange the objects and then use the camera to produce the strongest photographic example of my original idea. Then I paint the photographic image. Superficially, I appear to copy the photograph, but I make many adjustments to the photographic image as I complete the painting. I try to impose my own vision by subtle adjustment of colors, edges and details so that the finished painting is the strongest representation of the original idea.”
Bernard Roig’s light sculptures capture a particular strain of ennui. While the idea of light tends to evoke a positive or uplifting feeling, Roig recontextualizes this element as a burden to his sculptures’ human subjects. Sometimes light crushes or imprisons this man, or seems to be a goal that will never be reached. The man is usually sculpted in white, brightening the effect of his subjects’ dissolution. Roig’s work addresses the boundary between the connect/disconnect of our culture’s relationship to light. “Today we are living in an atmosphere saturated with images, but the experience that they produce has a low intensity. Now it is ever more difficult to give meaning to an image. We are subjected to light, a light that dissolves the outlines of things, a white light within which everything fluctuates.”
Artist Kate MacDowell uses porcelain clay to craft her nature-inspired works. MacDowell’s works are realistically sculpted and meticulous. Hollowing out a solid form and building each piece leaf by leaf and feather by feather, she intimately involves herself with the process of building. The works themselves are beautiful, ghostly white and evoke a very serene feeling. Upon a closer examination, however, things aren’t quite right. A large bird has human hands instead of its normal claws, and an apple has a tiny skull inside of it. Mice have ears on their backs. MacDwell explains in a statement, writing:
In my work this romantic ideal of union with the natural world conflicts with our contemporary impact on the environment. These pieces are in part responses to environmental stressors including climate change, toxic pollution, and gm crops. They also borrow from myth, art history, figures of speech and other cultural touchstones. In some pieces aspects of the human figure stand-in for ourselves and act out sometimes harrowing, sometimes humorous transformations which illustrate our current relationship with the natural world. In others, animals take on anthropomorphic qualities when they are given safety equipment to attempt to protect them from man-made environmental threats. In each case the union between man and nature is shown to be one of friction and discomfort with the disturbing implication that we too are vulnerable to being victimized by our destructive practices.
The careful construction and fragility of material MacDowell has chosen coincides conceptually with her work.
Dan Attoe makes paintings that slip right pass the guard at our front door and walk into the whirling, clicking abacus of our deep thoughts, that engine room that is us but is also a kind of insect intelligence that lives at top of our spine. Attoe’s world reminds me of old Raymond Carver writing about blind drunks, or the uneasy charisma of David Lynch’s lady in the radiator and her seductive song. These art works feel real and unreal, drawn from experience in part, but reconstituted by an artist who understands how to tap into something psychological that us makes reflect on our own experience.
With a background in craftsmanship and carpentry, Jan Reymond creates sculptures by recycling discarded objects. His most well-known installations are made of books. Even in his smaller scale work with furniture, his eye for architectural design is apparent. He’s also created large scale designs made out of discarded cell phones. In addition to this installation work, he crafts furniture and other domestic objects with an eye for practicality and aesthetic pleasure. His work asks us to consider the boundary between functional and non-functional artwork.
Sebastian Wickeroth lives and works in Düsseldorf, Germany. He constructs and partially destroys large imposing sculptures. Some of his installations look as if the structures are buckling under the pressure of an entire room while others look like monoliths that have fallen from the sky. Utilizing color and intriguing geometric shapes Wickeroth commands space with dilapidated forms that explore beauty in decay and comment on man-made structures that are built and inevitably destroyed.