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Messing Up Ideas Of Beauty: The Queen Of Afro-Kitsch, Mickalene Thomas Challenges Us All

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Mickalene Thomas arranges collages, stages photographs, places rhinestones, directs art films and layers up oil and acrylic paint, all in the name of beauty and feminism. Her glittering artworks are a homage to black culture, cubism, portraiture, ideas of the still life and what it is to be a woman. Initially inviting women into her studio and coercing an energy out of them, she aims to represent these ladies as “beautiful, sexual, desirable, stylish and fierce”. (Source) Thomas says she, as well as other black women have had to consider this question of beauty often:

Beauty has always been an element of discussion for black women, whether or not we were the ones having the conversation. We’ve had to contend with the element of our hair. Beauty pros and cons have changed the world of how we perceive each other. Some people go to great lengths to bleach themselves to conform to the norm, the whiteness, and all the complexities. (Source)

Thomas’ artwork is an exploration of how one presents themselves – the images we create of ourselves, how we chop and change our appearance, and why. She has been involved in a couple of different projects lately as well. Including designing pop star Solange Knowles’ EP cover and airing her directorial debut on HBO called “Happy Birthday To A Beautiful Woman” earlier this year. This art film is a kind of love letter to her mother – and an extension of her research into women and their identity. While her work is undeniably beautiful and luscious on the surface, she is concerned more with what that exterior is hiding. Thomas says:

I am drawn to objects and people that have undergone some kind of a hardship. They are beautiful and there is an artifice to them, but if you dig deeper, there’s another layer. (Source)

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Hide And Seek: Can You Find All Camouflaged Animals In This World Wildlife Fund Campaign?

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Art directors Anaïs Boileau and Samuel Volk are the dream team when it comes to creating short and snappy campaign ideas. This time around they have used their skills to benefit The World Wildlife Fund in a project called WWF/Botanimal. With flawless Photoshopping technique, they have camouflaged images of endangered animals into forested landscapes. With the tagline “Donate to save a tree and save 875,000 species for free”, this is one clever visual narrative detailing a worthy cause. Boileau and Volk show us exactly what these beautiful environments would be without the animals roaming around within them.

Boileau is also responsible for another campaign with a responsible message. Called WWF/WeWantFurniture.com, she imagined a brand and designed a corresponding website “selling” wood to customers. Apparently from all wood sold, 40 percent is made from illegal wood. She devised a very effective way to show customers  the ecological effects of buying cheap furniture. The effects of deforestation can be devastating, as we are reminded in this new campaign also.

Working with creative directors in a commercial environment, Boileau and Volk are able to maximize their reach to a large audience, and come up with visually interesting answers to complex questions. Boileau sums her work up nicely:

[Impassioned] by craft and art direction; I have been lucky to work with talented photographers, retouchers and CGI artists. The best part of my job is to imagine visual universes, and find creative solutions.

Click here to see more of Boileau’s work, including her hilarious take on disfigured fruits.
(Via Source)

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Living on a Dollar a Day Gives Poverty A Human Face

Labone, 27, takes a moment to hold her young daughter Nupur, 1, who was fathered by a client, before she has to return to her evening’s work in a brothel in Jessore, Bangladesh. © Renée C. Byer

Labone, 27, takes a moment to hold her young daughter Nupur, 1, who was fathered by a client, before she has to return to her evening’s work in a brothel in Jessore, Bangladesh. PHOTOGRAPH COPYRIGHT ©RENÉE C. BYER

Jestina Koko, 25, with her daughter Satta Quaye, 5. Crippled since the age of three, she depends on her arms to lift and drag herself. She survives by doing laundry for others, selling cookies on the street, and begging in Monrovia, Liberia. Both of them suffer from malaria. She wishes for a wheel chair, a private room to live in and for her daughter to go to school. They sleep in the hallway of a home that has no electric, toilet or running water and own nothing. © Renée C. Byer

Jestina Koko, 25, with her daughter Satta Quaye, 5. Crippled since the age of three, she depends on her arms to lift and drag herself. She survives by doing laundry for others, selling cookies on the street, and begging in Monrovia, Liberia. Both of them suffer from malaria. She wishes for a wheel chair, a private room to live in and for her daughter to go to school. They sleep in the hallway of a home that has no electric, toilet or running water and own nothing. PHOTOGRAPH COPYRIGHT ©RENÉE C. BYER

Four-year-old Ana-Maria Tudor, above, stands in the light of her doorway in Bucharest, Romania, hoping for a miracle as her family faces eviction from the only home they have ever had. Her father recently had a gall bladder surgery that resulted in an infection and left him unable to work. The one room they live in has no bathroom or running water. PHOTOGRAPH COPYRIGHT ©RENÉE C. BYER

Four-year-old Ana-Maria Tudor, above, stands in the light of her doorway in Bucharest, Romania, hoping for a miracle as her family faces eviction from the only home they have ever had. Her father recently had a gall bladder surgery that resulted in an infection and left him unable to work. The one room they live in has no bathroom or running water. PHOTOGRAPH COPYRIGHT ©RENÉE C. BYER

In the Charan slum settlement of northern India, Kalpana, 20, starves one of her children Sangeeta, 2, while her sister Sarita, 5-months-old, right, sleeps in comfort, above right, in her mother's arms. Sangeeta only weighs 9 pounds. Children are more likely to appeal to the sympathy of those inclined to give to beggars, so those who beg use children for this purpose. Worse, sometimes as in this case a child is staved and carried about by the child’s parent while she begs on the streets or rented out to another beggar to be used as an object of sympathy in the hope of generating more income over the course of a given day. Sometimes these “extra funds” are used to feed other children, thus, in practice, one child is sacrificed for he sake of others. Sangeeta has since been helped by the Tong-Len Charitable Trust’s mobile medical clinic at the Charan slum settlement, Dharamsala, India. But according to the World Bank 19,000 children die a day from preventable causes. © Renée C. Byer

In the Charan slum settlement of northern India, Kalpana, 20, starves one of her children Sangeeta, 2, while her sister Sarita, 5-months-old, right, sleeps in comfort, above right, in her mother’s arms. Sangeeta only weighs 9 pounds. Children are more likely to appeal to the sympathy of those inclined to give to beggars, so those who beg use children for this purpose. Worse, sometimes as in this case a child is staved and carried about by the child’s parent while she begs on the streets or rented out to another beggar to be used as an object of sympathy in the hope of generating more income over the course of a given day. Sometimes these “extra funds” are used to feed other children, thus, in practice, one child is sacrificed for he sake of others. Sangeeta has since been helped by the Tong-Len Charitable Trust’s mobile medical clinic at the Charan slum settlement, Dharamsala, India. But according to the World Bank 19,000 children die a day from preventable causes. PHOTOGRAPH COPYRIGHT ©RENÉE C. BYER

Living on a Dollar a Day is a collection of photographs dedicated to taking a closer, personal look at the shocking poverty and hunger that millions go through every day. The book is a collaboration between author Thomas A. Nazario, founder of The Forgotten International, and Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer Renée C. Byer.

In an interview with Mother Jones, Nazario explains the impetus for the book: “I was tired of spending time with people on the street all over the world who had simply been forgotten—by their families, by their village, and by whatever communities they might be associated with.”

The photographs in “Living on a Dollar a Day” aren’t just snapshots; they are part of a continuing story. Nazario and Byer are careful to include a snippet of their subjects’ lives, closing the distance in a personal and intimate way.

“Why does it take a typhoon or an earthquake to wake up people to the truth that far more people die of poverty every day?” Nazario asks.

Living on a Dollar a Day is available on Amazon.

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Sebastian Zimmermann Provides A View Into The Unique Offices Of New York City Therapists

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What’s behind the door of a therapist’s office? Psychiatrist and photographer Sebastian Zimmermann provides a look into these spaces with his new book titled Fifty Shrinks. It features 50 portraits of New York City therapists in offices that are normally only seen by their patients.

In contrast to other medical specialists’ offices with their practical equipment of examining tables and rolling tools, the therapist’s work space has few obvious demands beyond seating for clinician and patient,” Zimmermann writes in the introduction. It’s fascinating to see how these offices vary, each with their own idiosyncrasies that meant to support those they’re trying to treat.  An essay for the book, by architect Elizabeth Danze, explains that the spaces are “floating vessels, places of sanctuary and protection, healing, and reconciliation,” and goes on to say, “a patient reflects on the trajectory of his or her therapy, an indelible part of that recollection involves the space in which it took place.

Depending on your personal preference, some offices are more appealing than others. The colors, textures, and choice of seating are all different and no doubt unique to their own philosophies. Zimmermann had the idea for this project about 13 years ago, when he was starting his own practice, and became “aware of the paradox that I spent most of my time interacting with many people yet feeling that I worked in isolation.” (via Hyperallergic)

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Soon Agency Creates Creepy Crawly Bugs From Recycled Magazines

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To promote a new line of recycled paper, the creative ad-agency Soon made these fantastic sculptures of bugs. The bugs are inventive in form and colour, but are still recognizable as beetles, bees, dragonflies, and other species of insect. The wings are meticulously cut out to imitate the texture of real wings, but without the thin film that would allow them to fly. The sculptures really are all about texture. One that looks like it could be a fly has the texture of a fly’s eyes over the entirety of its body, and feelers that look like the filter-feeding system of a baleen whale.

It’s funny to see the “making of” video, because the bugs are as large as their creators’ hands. It’s entertaining to see the process of making the bugs. The video shows everyone at the agency sorting the papers by colour (even enlisting their children to help them), cutting the paper into different shapes or folding it like origami, and gluing it to create rather sturdy looking sculptures. It’s totally enjoyable to see such a collaborative effort to successful effect.

Soon also created flowers and other plants as a sort of habitat for the bugs. Using the habitat, they made a short film of the bugs flying around it, that is equal parts playful and funny. (Via Bizarre Beyond Belief)

 

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Captured In Mid-Air Lilly McElroy Throws Herself At Men

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The title of Lilly McElroy’s photo series “I Throw Myself at Men” could not be more literal. The photos, taken by her partner in the project, capture her mid-air as she lunges at various men. She throws herself into the air with abandon and trusts that these strangers will catch her. It’s an act of immense bravery captured on film. No, she’s not saving lives or fighting demons, but McElroy is risking rejection and public humiliation in the name of art, and that takes a strength of conviction that I find breathtaking.

Initially, McElroy arranged the photo sessions using Craig’s List, but found that the spontaneity of going to a bar, asking a physically large man to participate by trying to catch her at the very last moment, letting the bartender know what was happening, and then tossing herself in the air resulted in better images. The other bar patrons weren’t in on the project—the sight of the airborne McElroy and the flash of the camera were the signals that something was going on.

“I am, at the moment, part projectile and part foolish romantic. These images are documents of a hopeful and violent gesture, a demand that the possibility of a connection exist. The men often look terrified or at least slightly surprised. My role as aggressor is clear and I think my leaps acknowledge the basic human desire for contact.”

The awkward position of her body, the stoic tension of the male catcher, the illuminated bar scenes—all work together to make a captivating yet uncomfortable tableau. When they’re pictured, it’s the onlookers that make this series for me, though. Outside of the art making they smirk and gape—McElroy’s unexpected grand gesture of connection misunderstood and unappreciated. This spectacle of literally throwing herself at men mimics the small, sad desperations of women figuratively throwing themselves at men. By exaggerating the impulse, McElroy regains the upper hand. It is a supremely feminist performance, one that takes chances but never relinquishes power.

“The photographs, videos, and installations that I produce, while trying to interact, acknowledge the possibility of failure — that someone might not catch me, that a connection might not be made. It is that possibility that keeps things interesting. In the end, I want to make the viewer laugh, but I want them to understand that there is more at stake, that everyone is implicated – including me.”

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Romina Ressia’s Real Life Superheroes Are Vulnerable and Relatably Human

The Story behind Snow White: On september 18th, the day of the shooting, Cornelia was celebrating her 94th birthday. She traveled 500 km to celebrate that day here in Buenos Aires, with almost 50 relatives. She arrived to the shooting with Pilar, her granddaughter. And I couldn't believe that woman was that age! She is adorable, with a contagious energy. Mother of 12 children, having lost 6 of them, she grew up in the countryside and has had a strong life. However, she keeps such a great attitude & sense of humour. She is that kind of people who makes you to realize how beautiful life is.

The Story behind Snow White:
On september 18th, the day of the shooting, Cornelia was celebrating her 94th birthday. She traveled 500 km to celebrate that day here in Buenos Aires, with almost 50 relatives.
She arrived to the shooting with Pilar, her granddaughter. And I couldn’t believe that woman was that age! She is adorable, with a contagious energy.
Mother of 12 children, having lost 6 of them, she grew up in the countryside and has had a strong life. However, she keeps such a great attitude & sense of humour.
She is that kind of people who makes you to realize how beautiful life is.

The Story behind Superman: That wednesday, when I opened the door, there was a tall man impeccably dressed, in a grey suit. His name is Nestor, a 75 years old man, widower since 2 years ago after having been married for 41 years. Losing the partner of his life made him to realize that he must do something to continue, and that was how he discovered the passion about acting, singing and dancing. He is a very polite man, and his energy is admirable. At the age of 75, he does exercise every day and enjoys working, more for fun than for money. He is such an interesting person!

The Story behind Superman:
That wednesday, when I opened the door, there was a tall man impeccably dressed, in a grey suit. His name is Nestor, a 75 years old man, widower since 2 years ago after having been married for 41 years. Losing the partner of his life made him to realize that he must do something to continue, and that was how he discovered the passion about acting, singing and dancing.
He is a very polite man, and his energy is admirable. At the age of 75, he does exercise every day and enjoys working, more for fun than for money.
He is such an interesting person!

The Story behind Wonder Woman: I met Virginia more than 7 years ago, when she started taking care of Lorenzo, my 8 years old godson. Now she is like his grandmother. Mother of two sons and married for almost 40 years, she came to Buenos Aires at her 15 years old. Since that moment she never stopped work. I knew she would be happy to do this photographs, she is so smily and funny person; she is always ready to help and really knows how to enjoy life. I think I never saw her with bad humour in all these years...That is why I choose her to be Wonder Woman.

The Story behind Wonder Woman:
I met Virginia more than 7 years ago, when she started taking care of Lorenzo, my 8 years old godson. Now she is like his grandmother.
Mother of two sons and married for almost 40 years, she came to Buenos Aires at her 15 years old. Since that moment she never stopped work.
I knew she would be happy to do this photographs, she is so smily and funny person; she is always ready to help and really knows how to enjoy life. I think I never saw her with bad humour in all these years…That is why I choose her to be Wonder Woman.

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Romina Ressia set out to confront the realities of life and the fallibility of our childhood inspirations in her series “Not About Death”.  The captions record her relationship to her subjects and her reasoning for casting them as each character. They are humorous portraits – especially when set up beside each other in the poster format – and the humour makes them that much more appealing as true figures of inspiration.

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An Imaginary City Of Famous Artists’ Buildings

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Italian architect and illustrator Federico Babina has created 27 fantasy buildings that meld famous artists and the places where they might live. The series “Archist City” is a clever melding of cross-sectional drawings of buildings and the signature styles of artists including Andy Warhol, Damien Hirst, Pablo Picasso, Keith Haring, Joan Miró, Josef Albers, and Piet Mondrian. The result is a cohesive group of easily identifiable buildings—in fact, pairing the artist with the correct drawing is part of the fun.

“Art, architecture and sculpture are historically linked by an unbreakable thread, we find examples of paintings and sculptures having a direct influence on architectural design. … Painting sculpture and architecture have always been complementary disciplines that influence each other and feed to grow and develop along common paths.”

Babina’s skilled artwork makes this look easy, but in actuality first fitting the artists’ iconic styles into an architectural framework, then keeping all of the buildings consistent in execution is the mark of a very skilled artist. Some of the artists play well together: Mondrian and Albers and Rothko for example. Others would seem to defy architecture, like Dali, Haring, and Miro, yet Babina has brought them into his imaginary cityscape. The identical background texture and color, font, and scale relative to the paper help tie the pieces together.

The silhouetted figures help sell these as buildings instead of artworks and the cross-cuts reveal wonderful details: Andy Warhol’s building includes soup cans and his Marilyn Monroe paintings; the huge shark in Damien’s Hirst’s building references his 1991 work “The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living.”

“These images represent an imaginary and imagined world of shapes that uses the brush to paint architecture.”

What fun it would be to inhabit this world of huge imaginations, awesome ability, and lasting artistic legacy.

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