Scottish artist Sarah Muirhead creates mesmerizing, nude paintings that are masterful in more ways than one. Her work is masterful in that it is very skillful, but also in that the subjects of her paintings are in control of their audience. Wanting to steer clear of creating nudes that are submissive to our gaze, Muirhead creates tension filled situations where the nude subject is staring at right back at you. Her subjects are not passive, but instead embody an incredible strength that challenges their audience. Each subject has a somewhat inviting stare, but still holds a control over the situation in their powerful, contorted stances and positions. In the artist’s new paintings, many of her subjects are bound by rope or string; others have intriguing elements like white, chalky substances all over their bodies.
Muirhead’s paintings are both unique and impressive, with an incredible eye for detail and color. However, her work is not entirely photorealistic. They explore this texture of the body in expressive ways. Muirhead is interested in patterns and textures, which you can see on her subject’s skin and hair. In one painting, the hair texture is emphasized by a woman grabbing her own hair and attempting to bite it. In another painting, skin texture and color is further explored and manipulated by depicting a nude posing with digital images projected onto her body and surroundings. Each subject is in mid motion, adding another dynamic element to Muirhead’s already multifaceted work. You can see Muirhead’s wonderfully tactile paintings on view now at Leyden Gallery in London until June 27th.
Kitty Von-Sometime is an Iceland-based (England-born) filmmaker who creates beautifully strange and empowering performance art videos celebrating women of diverse backgrounds, ages, and body types. Titled The Weird Girls Project, Kitty’s art pieces are visual experiments aimed at releasing the participants from inhibitions and insecurities by exploring fun and unconventional forms of identity.
As a child born of the digital world, I have a compulsive hunger to record what I do. My inspiration comes from childhood dreams, from synchronicity, from public participation, in freeing those from their constraints, and a personal obsession with spandex.
In each episode, a group of women — many of whom have never met — are assembled and briefed on the secretly planned video shoot that Kitty has carefully planned. The results are inspiring: in “Secret Garden,” for example (shown below), women walk among the trees, unveiling both body and soul under the moonlight. In “Castle of the Apocalypse,” filmed in an abandoned fake Disneyland theme park in China, a shadowy crew dances amidst the ruins of greed and corruption. Taking a turn towards the humorously absurd, “Bunny Revolution” features a cast of rabbit-masked ladies who violently battle before throwing down their weapons and humping vigorously. In each of the videos, we see women improvising, playing, and morphing into expressive extensions of themselves, exploring their individual strengths and beauties while also working together as a supportive group. I had the opportunity to speak with Kitty about her project.
Polly Morgan’s freezer is not stacked with your typical content. It is comprised of dead animals in their primary state. She is a taxidermist, so that explains more. She mixes art and taxidermy to create beautiful and disturbing installations. Based in the up and coming art disctrict in East London she is collecting corpses of dead animals and arranging them to compose subtle pieces. Most often birds are the center of the pieces: birds and pigs, birds and a balloon, birds and a deer.
Behind the morbid scenes there is a desire to express the triumph of life over death. Something dead can, in a context become suddenly beautiful, poignant and touching.
Her inspiration is instinctive, directly coming from the animals. Scraping the skin from the flesh, the animals are a material and not dead corpses. Random people send her the animals they find dead on the road, always by accident. So the array of species she collects is large. Not interested in being a “classic” taxidermist, she wants to make her work more pop and modern. She has succeeded in creating a world of her own where a tiny bird sits delicately on a toothbrush or a nest of hungry baby birds are screaming from a deer’s stomach.
Polly Morgan’s most recent work has been featured in Berlin along with artists Bruce Nauman, Tim Noble & Sue Webster and is currently displayed in Washington DC’s National Museum of Women in the Arts until September 2015.
Jim Houser is an American artist who combines lifestyle, experiences, and visual art into the creation of a personal iconography. Comprised of acrylic paintings on canvas and wood, his works are bold and symbolic: in blood reds and cool blues, images of severed heads and pill cases radiate anxiety, while elsewhere a drummer sits meditatively on the edge of a black pond. By arranging the paintings into installations, Houser narrates an inner dialogue that explores the interrelated joys and challenges of living, speaking to us through his art in poetic and metaphoric ways.
The images featured here are from his current exhibition called HUSH, featured at Andenken/Battalion in Amsterdam starting June 5th. In a recent interview with Hyland Mather, the owner of Andenken/Battalion, Houser explains his personal motivations in the creation of his art, beginning when he was a child:
I like that my art making is therapeutic for me. What is inspiring to me is that it contains a problem that never completely solves itself: me. From childhood on, I’ve used art to escape my reality, to help me define or explain my reality, and to meditate on my reality. […] I sort of lucked into it, making art. I was just as happy drawing as a kid as I was throwing rocks at cars. Anything to get out of my own head for a bit, skateboarding, taking drugs, all that stuff does the same thing to varying degrees of success, but luckily for me I was wired to have art making be the thing that quieted me down the most on the inside. (Source)
Scattered throughout Houser’s eye-catching colors, geometric forms, and clever assemblages are artifacts suggestive of personal means of “escape” — the pill cases and skateboard, for example. The simplicity and fearlessness of these images speaks to Houser’s brilliant distillation of life into one symbolic plane; in a holistic, meditative practice, he has arranged his personal story in a way that is courageously honest. As viewers, Houser’s works inspire us to imagine how we would visually narrate our lives, using pictorial language to explore emotions and unique personal histories.
Two brilliant artists, Amanda Charchian and Jose Romussi, have collaborated and created and incredibly dreamy, breathtaking series. LA based artist Charchian has a very unique style of photography that emphasizes the human body in creative, innovative ways. This combined with Chilean artist Romussi’s technique of embroidery on photograph, brings an entirely new focus on the figure. In their collaboration series, the scene is set in a dramatic black and white, bringing an unearthly white glow to the subjects. A mysterious aura can be seen in each surreal image, with both figures embodying a ghostly feel. One aspect of this series that is so intriguing is the choice in wardrobe and makeup. The subjects both sport little to no clothing, but what little they do have on is somewhat theatrical and reminiscent to a different era. The makeup is equally dramatic, with each figure having stark white or jet-black eyebrows, with black, heart shaped lips. Each scene mystifies the viewer while intriguing them into the next situation.
Both artists’ indistinguishable style shows through in this captivating, collaborative series. Charchian’s interesting use of aesthetically pleasing positions of the body still ring true, while Romussi’s embroidery adds a whole new element that skews your way of seeing. This hazy, ethereal series often displays a duality of bodies that is reminiscent to the internal and external self. Prints of this stunning series are available for purchase on her website. Make sure to follow her Instagram for more amazing photography.
The first question Maurizio Savini is asked about his work is one he hates to hear: does he chew every piece of gum he uses to make his sculptures? He admits this question is very annoying, but if everybody is still genuinely interested, then no – no he doesn’t chew the gum. Instead he has two full time assistants unwrapping each stick of gum and melting the pink sticky stuff into layers of usable material. Savini begins his lengthy process by layering the sheets of gum around plaster molds which give his sculptures stability and shape.
Working with the gum for over a decade, he has created some amazing pieces. One sculpture – ‘La Lupa‘ (the figure who nursed the founders of Savini’s birthplace of Rome back to health) is made from 14 kg of chewing gum. He has animals bearing different flags, business men clutching pillows, chandeliers and women’s shoes among many other things. His work is usually loaded with some sort of socially and/or politically focused message.
He says chewing gum has a unique cultural context. It is connected to art history, industry and world history, and is a loaded symbol for Savini. He says after being introduced to Europe when WW2 was ending, the material became a symbol (along with Coca Cola and nylon stockings) of a new era.
When Savini began making his chewing gum sculptures, he has the misfortune of several pieces disintegrating. He now combines the gum with formaldehyde and anti-biotics to preserve it, so the high sugar content doesn’t destroy the pieces. You can see some of his new pieces at the upcoming Art-Southampton, July 9-13, 2015, or find out more about how he makes his creations in the video above.