If you think carving a pumpkin is challenging, wait until you see the “prayer nuts” made by Dutch artists in the 16th century. These small, neurotically detailed treasures were carved from a single nut to resemble religious scenes. Each nut holds a spectacularly complex scene that contains a numerous amount of characters to construct religiously important events such as the crucifixion. All of this amazingly crafted imagery is inside a nut that is only a few inches in diameter! Not only are the interiors of the nuts carved into a fine detail, but the outsides are elaborately carved as well. The exterior shell of each nut features a decorative design carved into it, which is revealed once the prayer nut is closed. This way, whether the nut is open or closed, it shows off its stunning design.
Artisans created these delicate masterpieces during the Middle Ages so that individuals could use them privately when they pray. They were small enough to be carried in a person’s pocket and beautiful enough to hang on a rosary. Because the prayer nuts such took incredible skill, not to mention an unbelievably steady hand, only the wealthy and powerful could afford them. Because of this, they also became a social status of wealth. The same thing can be said about many products in contemporary society. Possessing something expensive that creates a convenience to you and can also fit in your pocket – this is not unlike the modern day smart phone. Valuable and beautifully crafted items are still in high demand today. However, these 16th century prayer nuts are much more rare than the latest iphone. They can be found in museum collections all over the world including the British Museum in London and the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna.(via Juxtapoz)
Photographer Cheuk Lun Lo‘s series of hair in media rinse is stylish and playful. The hair is teased into tangles and swirls, white shampoo tinting the curves like seafoam. Some of the spikier specimens begin looking like sea creatures if you stare at them too long; another is reminiscent of a hedgehog. One photo, an unassuming, almost shy curl of hair, looks like something you might find in a shower drain — a big cowlick, basically.
According to My Modern Met, Lo’s photo series first appeared in the Chinese magazine Numero Magazine. The photo series in a way defies conventional standards of beauty: the meticulous grooming, the impeccably ironed clothes, the put-together and perfectly powdered face. Instead, Lo’s photos show that the unusual can be captivating; pinned to a dark background, these half-washed yet fully conceived hair styles are mysterious and lovely in a way that perhaps wouldn’t be possible for a finished product with a shiny veneer. (via My Modern Met)
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The strange expressions in Laura Krifka’s figures exude a feeling of tension and surprise. The collection of paintings displayed in her latest show, “Reap the Whirlwind” at CB1 Gallery in Los Angeles, offer a tableaux of sexual awakening, youthful lust and rough mischief. Each character seems glazed over in some type of expensive plastic yet the narrative refers back to old masters such as Rembrandt and Boticcelli. This is part of the reason Krifka’s work is intriguing. It embraces a juxtaposition which is not often seen. The other is her painting ability.
A skilled technician, Krifka renders her weird realistic narratives of lustful desire with relative ease. Her placement of characters in the great outdoors lends a plein air quality which enhances her scenes of multiple partnered sexual encounters and voyeurism. At times the figures resemble renaissance blowup dolls which adds humor. Even though it mostly depicts sex, there is no real sensuality in the paintings , instead Krifka captures the awkwardness of adolescent awakening.
Accompanying the paintings in the show are a series of small sculptures and video. The sculptures are tiny and even though relate in narrative to the paintings, its characters look a bit more rag dollish. Well, maybe not a little but a lot more. This makes them even more intriguing. Actually, I believe these are models for the video, which isn’t accessible on the web. There is a still on the gallery’s website which does hint at this fact and one could conclude the video consisting of a sexualized rag doll version of Little House On The Prairie.
In December 2006, American photographer Tim Mantoani embarked on a unique and fascinating project to document living photographers with their most iconic images. Since then, he has collected over 150 portraits, ranging from the historic to the contemporary, the cultural to the political. Included among the vast series is Harry Benson and his famous photograph of The Beatles engaged in a pillow fight (1964), as well as Lyle Owerko holding his devastating image of the 9/11 attacks on the Twin Towers (2001). All of Mantoani’s portraits are taken on the “rare but mammoth format of a 20×24 Polaroid,” using a large camera originating from the 1970s (Source). Only a handful of these Polaroid cameras still exist (you can learn more about the devices he uses here). Mantoani’s reasoning for using such unique, classic technology is rooted in a respect and passion for the photographic tradition; as he explains, “If you are going to call the greatest living photographers and ask to make a photo of them and you are shooting 35mm digital, they may not take your call. But if you say you are shooting 20×24 Polaroid, they will at least listen to your pitch” (Source). As further homage to these artists, as well as their impact on the history of photography, Mantoani has had everyone write a story about their iconic image on the bottom of their portrait.
Mantoani’s project is simultaneously intimate and historically significant. It is an undeniably powerful experience to see the faces behind photographs which have defined cultural eras and signified shifts in social consciousness. So often, despite the impact of their work, photographers remain the unseen observers while framing the world in profound ways. We don’t often have the opportunity to connect with the mind and personality behind the lens. Mantoani’s work crystallizes these important artists in the records of photographic history. Suddenly, with the Polaroid and its accompanying, hand-written inscription, we can imagine Steve McCurry in 1984 in the midst of the Soviet War in Afghanistan, capturing the face of Sharbat Gula (“Afghan Girl”), who would wordlessly tell the world an intimate story of hardship and perseverance. In regards to an iconic moment in the history of American music, Jim Marshall’s portrait shows us the face to which — for an intense, fleeting moment — Johnny Cash held aloft his middle finger. These portraits bring the bodily, human presences back into the images and their associated histories.
In 2012, all of these stunning portraits were compiled in the book Behind Photographs, published by Channel Photographics. The book is available in multiple formats, including a regular edition, a slipcase limited edition, as well as a cloth-bound deluxe limited edition that comes with signed collector cards. It is also available as an eBook. The print versions are available for purchase on Mantoani’s website. More photographer portraits after the jump. (Via 123 Inspiration)
It is common knowledge that superstar athletes are paid handsomely. But artist Victor Solomon reminds us of that fact in a beautifully colorful and decorative way. He spent over 100 hours hand making stained glass window-style backboards for the basketball court. He makes the connection between the luxury life a lot of professional athletes live, and the historical opulence that once existed in homes and interior design.
After designing the backboards in a traditional ‘Tiffany‘ style, he cut the glass, soldered the frame together, strung together different style nets to suit each design, and even gold plated the rims. He has weaved jewels, gems and chains together, attaching them to the Art Nouveau style designs. Literally Balling is his collection of three different backboards, and what started out as a joke between friends, quickly turned into a labor intensive project centered around luxury and grandeur.
The thought of someone haphazardly throwing a basketball at one of these intricate and fragile creations is quite an unsettling one. Solomon cleverly points out that the attachment to, and respect we have for beautifully handcrafted objects, is also the same we have toward celebrity sports stars and professional sports. We can look, but it’s probably better not to touch. (Via Design Boom)
Austrian artist Stefan Zsaitsits draws portraits in pencil that are simultaneously nostalgic and strange. The alluring images often feature surreal moments that are from a child’s point of view and a deranged mash-up of characters, places, and frantic mark-making.
There are small comforts in Zsaitsit’s work, like the warm-toned graphite coupled with moments that highlight the joys of growing up. Some characters play with toys and imagine pleasant, beautiful things. Other times, Zsaitsits depicts children and their nightmares. Dark combinations of desolate scenes are ravaged by scary animals and enemies.
Through visual layering of these characters, the artist indicates that many of these images are seen in the mind’s eye. In the drawings, they’re contained within the body or its direct gaze. Zsaitsits’ symbolic works are a darker, more modern-day version of a child’s Boogie Man, and ripe for interpretation by the viewer. (Via Faith is Torment)
The incredibly multifaceted and complex sculpture by artist Sterling Ruby is in a realm between veins filled with dripping blood and stalagmites forming inside a cave. Sterling creates massive and intricate installations using ceramic, paint, collage, and urethane to form his uncomfortably oozing sculptures. Although the striking reds combined with the system of lines used primarily in his work resemble veins and arteries, they possess an attractive quality that draws the viewer in. It’s seemingly endless drips demand your constant attention as it keeps your eye moving across the entirety of the installation. Often installed along with his sculptures are red drops referencing blood created from Formica, wood, spray paint and fiberglass.
This Germany born artist, currently based out of Los Angeles, has a wide range of influences that are apparent in his all-encompassing body of work. Influenced by graffiti and street art, many of Sterling’s sculptures are purposely defaced with “graffiti” by the artist himself. He also pulls inspiration from the punk movement, accounting for the chaotic and bold nature of his work. Sterling has a wide range of style, as he does not always create dripping installations. Many of his sculptures are modeled after soft, plush items resembling everyday objects such as a stack of pillows. His soft sculptures are no doubt the influence of infamous and controversial artist Mike Kelley, who Sterling worked under during his graduate studies. His unique take on installation allows him to completely transform a space, taking the viewer into another world. Sterling’s talent has made him widely successful as he continues to exhibit his work both nationally and internationally in galleries, festivals, and biennales.