In her series Reno, a component of her larger project, Wandering In Place, Jennifer Garza-Cuen captures a hidden America.Through images of abandoned theaters, plastic covered casinos, dust collecting disco balls, women bound to decks of cards, and quiet, empty, almost pallid landscapes, she is able to inherently provoke an aura of nostalgia. She describes the work as a “metaphorical memoir,” pulling at the strings of what “the American dream” truly means and looks like. In a country formulated through vast histories, how does a cultural identity extensively exist? What does it mean to be an American? Her work captures a more subtle, yet convoluted portrait of identity, proving that the American identity is innately faceless and multifaceted.
Her photographs confuse cultural memory, bringing us back in time, despite depicting the present. In what she refers to as a “constructed-documentary style,” she dances around the idea of documentation versus constructed narrative, blurring the line between fact and fiction. She brings us into a dreamland where it seems time has stopped. Her photographs capture moments of silent contemplation. They are almost cinematic period pieces. Perhaps, stills of the scene directly following aclimax. Her photographs are not clear portrayals of darkness nor light; they provoke the viewer to search for an almost Lynchian meaning. She displays moments of what may be misfortune, missed opportunity, or confusion. She allows a sense of yearning and misunderstanding, getting at the very ethos of Reno. She states:
“Reno is a place that embodies ideas of Western idealism, the frontier spirit, of transience and the gambler’s impulse to risk everything for the chance at a better life. It was founded as a toll, a passage across the Truckee River, and on silver from the Comstock Lode. In Reno I attempt to come to terms with the defining force of place while returning to my own experience of being a wanderer, a state that obscures identity and embodies what it means to exist outside the codified order of the defined.”
Brooke Shaden is an American fine art photographer who brings her imagination to life in ethereal scenes that traverse the line between dreams and awakening. Each of her photos is filled with an otherworldly fog, melting skin and landscapes together in muted, painterly hues. Featured here is a selection from Shaden’s Fine Art Nude series. Throughout the images, bodies stretch and curl together in sunbaked deserts and rain-dark forests. Their faces are almost always obscured, rendering them anonymous, but their poses unfold with layers of universal emotion; slumped shoulders under the dawning sky stir with a quiet strength, while elsewhere, arms shield against the gloom of oncoming night.
Shaden’s photography is often dark, but fearlessly so. Inspired by the co-relation of life and death, she seeks to confront the questions of existence while also capturing the delicate beauties that run throughout. As she wrote in a fascinating interview with Ezra Magazine,
“I have always had a fascination with dark art and anything that made me think outside of my normal spectrum. To me, darkness is something that so many people shy away from because it forces us to question things that we often need not think about. It allows us to access a part of ourselves that might not get let out all the time, but when it does, it frees us from our fears.” (Source)
Shaden’s ghostly models do not seem afraid of the dark realms which they inhabit; instead, they move slowly, manifesting with ritualistic grace and bodily awareness the pangs and joys of living and letting go.
Monica Rohan paints realistic self-portraits where she is covered, buried, and engulfed in fabric. Although we see the artist portrayed in many different setting in her paintings, we can never see her face. Each of her subjects, all being representations of herself, hide their face in the mass of textiles. Rohan beautifully depicts different types of fabric, vivid in color and pattern. She is a master at bringing to life vibrant hues on different thread. Sometimes, there is no fabric in her paintings, but instead a sheet of grass or a plethora of flowers that stretch over the figure. Each sheet or quilt wraps around the figures, surrounding them as it moves across the composition. Although Rohan’s work appears lighthearted and playful at first, with frolicking and mischievous women, there is a level of anxiety present in her work. Each figures seems to be frantically attempting to hide their identity, almost desperately trying to hide. Mountains of patched fabric and colorful silk are swallowing up the artist’s likeness, sometimes consuming two figures at a time.
Monica Rohan, originally from Australia, is inspired by her upbringing in the remote countryside of Queensland. A sense of isolation can be felt in her paintings, as the only person present in her work is the artist herself. You can feel the artist’s emotions about to burst out of the many folds of the fabric as they create a powerful vortex of movement around her own self. (via Hi-Fructose)
Beijing based Ji Zhou’s latest photo series Civilized Landscape depicts models of urban and rural areas composed of books and maps he has modelled and rearranged into mountains, skyscrapers, and other landscapes. The models, placed on backgrounds made up of soothing, cool colors make for series of visually relaxing compositions full of original forms and reliefs. The textures of the various types of paper he uses in his models give the series a sort of irregular uniformity which brings the composition together in a perfect balance.
Civilized Landscape spans beyond aesthetics in the sense that the process Zhou goes through to create the models is also fascinating in its own respects. He creates the models by stacking sets of books and composing mountains from maps. He then photographs the models and creates a sort of in depth illusion that gives his work a sort of three dimensional aspect which in turn reinforces the nature of the optical illusion his project delivers. His work is centered on the idea of the “enhanced reality of illusion” , which he depicts through this series.
His project is also interesting from the perspective of the issues it addresses. Through his artificial depiction of familiar natural and urban landscapes, he raises questions of civilization and evolution as well as a debate on the place of human beings as both creators and destroyers of landscapes.
A drive in movie theater and its silver screen. The scene looks real: parked cars, dim-lights, sunset and in the background a celebrity playing her best role. Andrew Valko is fooling us. The scenery could have been mistaken for a photography of a painting representing a celebrity. The artist is used to depict fragmentary narratives in hyper realistic paintings. Marilyn Monroe, Audrey Hepburn, Amanda Seyfried, Angelina Jolie or Anthony Hopkins are taking part of this set up.
Andrew Valko creates a glowing contrast between the portraits and the surroundings with details meticulously painted. Playing with the flare and shadows of the street and car lights accentuates the expressions on the faces. Each painting represents a different parking lot with a different background. The feeling of nostalgia due to the context is palpable. There’s a will to go forward, represented by the contemporary actors. Yet the old school drive-in scene is taking us back to the past.
In the artist’s paintings, our eyes take turn alternatively as viewers and voyeurs. We start off as being the viewers, as if we were participating in the scene, comfortably watching from our car. And we quickly become the voyeurs; standing afar from the whole scene, watching the viewers watching the movie. This juxtaposition is interesting in the work. Clearly Andrew Valko manipulates us until the end. Therefore we could investigate and go as fas as wondering if the use of Hollywood stars is a pretext to entice us into the paintings. (via Design Boom)
Rina Dragunova is a Saint Petersburg-based photographer and makeup artist who blends portraiture and still life with vivid and otherworldly imagery. Featured here is a selection of her darker works, all of which explore the ominous crossroads of beauty, death, and transformation. In one series, Dragunova photographed various snakes coiling around animal skulls and sliced pomegranates; the result is a morbid arrangement that weaves together decay and poison with the succulence of fruit flesh. In “Stigmata,” she further unsettles the imagination with the image of flowers planted in a woman’s chest cavity; the seeping blood contrasts grimly with the bleached-white background and sheer lace dress.
In “Conversion,” Dragunova demonstrates an incredible use of makeup art. With onyx-black paint and prosthetic fangs and claws, the model is transformed into a beast in the throes of mutation; charred scales erupt across her face as the possession takes hold. The fiery red eye in the half-turned face haunts the viewer with a look of building terror and inhuman madness. Like the abovementioned series, Dragunova never fails to seize the imagination by seamlessly fusing delicacy and light with savagery and darkness.
See more of Dragunova’s work on 500px, Behance, and VK.com. For Russian-speaking readers, you can watch a video of her snake photoshoot here.
Sculptures of the artist. By himself. Made from his own body. Marc Quinn creates self-portraits with his blood. Every five years he makes a fresh one. Keeping track of his aging throughout the years. The process can appear gory and frightening but it is as close to reality as a portrait can be.
He repeats the operation by making a plaster mold of his face and by going to the doctor to get his blood drawn. The equivalent of a pint is drawn every week (not at once). The blood is injected into the molded face and preserved in a frozen environment. It could not sustain another way. The first realization that blood is actually sitting in front of us can be disgusting and intolerable. It’s really the process that is intimidating. Once it’s understood then the concept behind this idea can be perceived, analyzed and accepted.
Marc Quinn’s intention is not only to make an organic piece but to keep it alive. By manipulating the scientific world to obtain what he wants he opens a new angle. He is redefining the limits in terms of means of expression. Ice and blood in that case coming from the same person making his auto-portrait dematerialize the notion of infinity. There’s also a melancholic feeling. When an artist depicts a self-portrait, the tone is usually neutral or positive. Considering that Marc Quinn chooses to represent himself as a volume of blood interrogates on what are the real motivations behind such a work and the artist’s inner self-regard. (via Ignant)
Nunzio Paci is an artist from Bologna who paints human anatomy with a surrealist flourish. Recalling the studies of the body from the Italian Renaissance, male cadavers are flayed and opened up, exposing layers of raw muscle and twisted sinew. Body parts are numbered and labeled like dissection records, with marginalia scrawled softly along the sides. In the tradition of his Italian precursors, Paci takes an artistic approach to science, blending grim images of death and corporeality with a reverence for the complexity of the human form.
Paci brings his own style into these anatomical portraits by expressively exploring the body’s connection to nature; veins that unravel past the skeletal contours sprout into leaves, and branches twist upwards from shoulders with a spring-sapling fervor. Birds perch on the blooming dead, and in the corner, dissection instruments are curiously mixed with garden tools. Beautifully macabre, Paci’s mutating cadavers explore not only the interrelation of life and death, but the material links between all living matter—expressed, for example, by the similar structures of arteries and branches. On his biography page, Paci describes his creative approach:
“My whole work deals with the relationship between man and Nature, in particular with animals and plants. The focus of my observation is [the] body with its mutations. My intention is to explore the infinite possibilities of life, in search of a balance between reality and imagination.” (Source)