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Alexandra Becker-Black’s Watercolor Portraits Seem To Emerge From The Ether

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Portland painter Alexandra Becker-Black is talented beyond her years. Her paintings, soft-spoken and carrying the nearly absent weight of a shadow, illuminate the body in its pure and natural state. Becker-Black has a sophisticated approach in utilizing negative space to its full potential, creating an atmosphere that the body seems to emerge out of, in an ethereal, ghostly way; as if called forth. Perhaps due to her strong yoga practice, Becker-Black incorporates many yoga poses into her work, featuring women twisting their bodies elegantly in pose. A revolving theme of flight and birds is woven into most of her imagery; birds soaring overhead or perched on top of the figures. An allusion to freedom and flight; or pushing ones self to points of self actualization. Taken from Becker-Black’s website, this analysis by Shu-Ju Wang is an excellent summary of her work:

Once recorded, she works with the still images but continues to purge from the already naked form, choosing only what she needs and adding only what is absolutely necessary. You see muscles tense and strain against gravity; you see figures in serene repose; you see energy suddenly released when a small flock of birds fly out of a woman’s opened hands. All of this is conjured up in front of your eyes even as a torso fades to gray or a leg disappears, creating work that is ethereal and luminously beautiful, haunting, evocative and complex.”

The way the tones and color melts away brings peace to the otherwise strained poses and moods that the figures themselves are experiencing. The implied motion is a driving force for the notion of change and evolution. Always moving forward, the beauty on the canvas in direct correlation to the act of living, breathing, being.

(Excerpt from Source)

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“Nature” Violently Overtakes Jess Riva Cooper’s Beautiful Ceramic Busts

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Jess Riva Cooper’s ceramic sculptures are as beautiful as they are disgusting. Her works have the viewer going back and forth between pleasure and revulsion, creating a welcome confusion to be examined. This juxtaposition of attractive and off-putting elements is not a new phenomenon in art – think Jessica Harrison’s ceramic women, and whose work we’ve featured on Beautiful/Decay – and although her artwork is also similarly violent, the aggression is expressed quite differently. Cooper’s busts are overtaken by plants, leaves, and sometimes bugs, which are often gagging or otherwise obstructing the female’s sensory capacities. The plants grow from the women’s heads, the leaves with an almost leech-like gesture extend out with determination.

It’s painful to see the women bound by nature in this way, also because, as a bust, they are without arms or hands to defend themselves. She renders the women with a great deal of skill, their expressions soft and subtle. In her artist statement she speaks about nature reclaiming its place and “a loss of control…as the parasitic entity subsumes the host” as well as her interest in sculpting the figure as a way to illustrate “physical and emotional vulnerability of the individual.” She addresses these themes plainly in her work, which is what makes it so successful and enjoyable.

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Oliver Jones’ Drawings Examine Advertising And Its Effects On The Ideals Of Beauty

You Can Shine

You Can Shine

3 Steps to Younger Looking Skin Pt.1

3 Steps to Younger Looking Skin Pt.1

Because Younger Looking Eyes Never Go Out Of Fashion

Because Younger Looking Eyes Never Go Out Of Fashion

Maybe She's Born With It

Maybe She’s Born With It

British artist Oliver Jones scrutinizes the media and its impact on self image for his newest exhibition titled, Love the Skin You’re In. If that phrase sounds familiar, that’s because it was an advertising slogan for Olay beauty products. Jones specifically draws from these industry campaigns and pairs them with photorealistic chalk-pastel drawings to demonstrates what these phrases do in shaping our ideals of beauty.

The large works feature zoomed-in portraits of faces as they’re doing something that’s directly tied to making themselves look better. We see an older woman wearing a facial mask while a doctor is examining the wrinkly skin around her eyes. A relatively young-looking man is about to undergo the knife as his forehead is marked with a plastic surgeon’s pen. While that’s more extreme, Jones reminds us that even something as simple as laying cucumbers over your eyes is a way of obtaining society’s defined “beauty.”

Love the Skin You’re In is being currently exhibited at Gusford Gallery in Los Angeles until October 25 of this year. They shows press release states:

“Capturing both the translucency and fragility of the skin’s surface, Jones’ drawings scrutinize subtle variations, colorations and superficialities. The meticulous and time-consuming process by which the artist creates his work is in direct contrast to the immediacy of imagery captured in today’s society, and negates the rapid pace at which we are accustomed to consuming images.” 

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Maja Daniels’ Touching Series On Alzheimer’s Patients

Maja Daniels- Photography Maja Daniels- Photography Maja Daniels- PhotographyMaja Daniels- PhotographyPhotographer Maja Daniels is studying aging. Her photo series “Into Oblivion,” shows the raw and fragile lives of those living in an Alzheimer’s ward. Working in a geriatric unit in France, the Swedish photographer Daniels spent three years documenting life for the residents. Those suffering from Alzheimer’s were kept in a locked ward as a protective precaution due to their innate tendencies to wander and get lost.

“This series documents not only the day-to-day challenges in an often ignored sector, but also the wider implications of the growing populations of elderly in modern society as an increasing life span has coincided with the breakdown of the family unit. These aspects have caused a growing disregard for the elderly, swept aside by a commercially driven, youth-obsessed culture. As growing old and being dependent is more taboo than ever, the geriatric institution hides our elders away, safely out of sight.”

Children do not care for their parents as they once did, and national healthcare often fails to meet the needs of those who need it. Bringing the viewer into the heart of this lifestyle, Daniels is hoping to motivate us to view our own personal role within healthcare policy:

“While giving a vision about what living with Alzheimer’s in an institution might mean, I want to motivate people to think about current care policies and the effects it can have on somebody’s life. This project gives a rare insight to a part of the modern geriatric institution. It attempts to create a discussion about our institutionalized, modern way of living as well as the use of confinement as an aspect of care.”

(Excerpt from Source)

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“It’s Not Milk” – Ivan Alifan Entices Us With Sexually Charged Portraiture

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Ivan Alifan - Oil on Canvas

Looking at Ivan Alifan‘s sexually charged paintings is like watching a private orgasmic moment that we haven’t asked permission to see. His series “It’s not Milk” is a very intimate look at desire, allure, the gaze, and the underlying sexual subtexts of images. His models are captured in the middle of a blissful state and are all covered in what looks like semen, or some sort of bodily fluid. Alifan deliberately paints his subjects with their eyes closed, lips slightly ajar, heads tilted away from the viewer’s gaze, turning them into a submissive object of desire. Alifan says of his intent:

“To have a painting that can exist as an alluring object and shift into an eroticized figure disarms and naturalizes the modern gaze; decriminalizing sex in art. Whether an individual sexualizes the figure, or becomes embarrassed and nervous by the mere suggestion, this is all a process which occurs independently from the painting.”

He says he is less interested in accurately portraying physical characteristics, but rather creating a certain physiological effect from these visceral paintings. He wishes to capture an ambiguous figure where the focus is on how the viewer reacts to viewing them.

Other than his intimate portrait series, he also dowses full bodies in this goo and places them within a surreal setting. Naked male bodies are carrying out sexually suggestive actions, poised in either a pre, or post-coital state. Surrounded by quite childlike, or non-threatening objects (miniature tress, toy cows and tiny houses) these figures try to entice the viewer into entering their world. Alifan is definitely a master of temptation and seduction, and all we have to decide is how we feel about it.

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Sean Scheidt Photographs Before And After Burlesque Transformations

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Everyone loves a Before and After, and Sean Scheidt’s photography series “Burlesque” is a wonderful example of the power of makeup, costume, props, and attitude. Scheidt has captured the transformation of burlesque performers from street clothes to stage wear in his behind-the-scenes images.

“I use basic lighting and a black backdrop. Black is emptiness. You place a person there and they are who they are. The interview process is really as much about getting the person comfortable as it is about getting to know them. As the shoot progresses, they transform into the persona they portray on stage. I do ask them, ‘What defines you on stage’ but otherwise try to stay back and let the narrative develop.” (Source)

Bawdy, provocative, confrontational — burlesque has been enjoying a revival, fronted by pop-culture celebrity Dita Von Teese who began performing in 1992. Though the acts include nudity, it can almost be beside the point. On stage, the larger-than-life personas use their time to make people think.

In his portraits, Scheidt captures the virtually nondescript everyday face of the performers. These are people who, aside from the occasional colored hair, look, well… normal. In Scheidt’s description of the work, he says that they tended to be quite reserved at first, which made the transformation into their characters all the more transfixing.

“Capturing those moments, I believe, helps to humanize these performers. If you were just seeing the “after” shots alone, you might make certain pre-conceived judgments about the person behind the make-up. I hope this series gets people to think about their reactions to these men and women.” (Source)

Not unlike drag, burlesque exaggerates, forcing us to examine society’s standards of beauty, sensuality, gender, and power. Scheidt has unmasked the people behind the performance by presenting them in more clothes, but with less artifice.

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Unreal Holographic Wire Sculptures By Seung Mo Park

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South Korean artist Seung Mo Park crafts wire into sculpture and the two-dimensional into the three-dimensional. With his Maya series, he painstakingly recreates photographs into holographic wire sculptures with downright ethereal results.
Using stainless steel wire mesh, Park creates his sculptures layer by layer, snipping away to create the illusion of depth and shading. In some cases, it looks as though an artist’s doodle has popped out of his sketchbook. Park shows his versatility in creating boldly three-dimensional sculptures as well as pieces that perfectly imitate the graininess of a black-and-white photo.

His work is stunningly photorealistic.

Though many of his sculptures are hauntingly evocative, his subjects caught mid-despair or appearing like vengeful steely-eyed angels, Park also has a playful side. In a work called “MAYA MONA LIZA,” he pays homage to the most mysterious smile in the world. In his Object series, he recreates known objects such as a contrabass and famous sculptures like “The Thinker.” With his treatment, they almost seem to emerge out of the static, in some cases only merely suggesting form and function. A piece called “Buddha,” created with bronze wire and fiber glass, looks as though a person is being buried in a sand dune of time. In other works, from his Human series, his subjects spring to life fully formed.

If you gaze at Park’s work for long enough, it almost seems as though he has dialed into some special channel caught between realities. A slight turn to the right and maybe his subject will become a real boy once and for all. A slight turn to the left and these ghostly figures might be subsumed forever.

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Davis Ayer’s Dreamy And Nostalgic Photographs Of Women In Desolate Lands

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Davis Ayer is an LA based photographer who shoots on a Mamiya RZ, has mastered the art of the double exposure, and has an unbending attraction toward what is beautiful. A true nostalgist, Ayer’s work features a dreamy host of colors and moods. His photos have a hauntingly droney saturation about them. His work comes forth through the precision of technicality but ultimately breaks most every rule there is with stunning alacrity. Light leaks, double exposures, solar flare, and other manipulations make the colors in his film bleed so majestically and form the spine of his work. Sometimes I see Mapplethorpe, sometimes I see old film stills, sometimes I see another dimension, sometimes I see Gregory Crewdson. He often photographs women in desolate places and there lingers a level of timelessness that none of the other kids working with distressed film seem to get. The timelessness is essential because it allows the viewer to insert their own subconscious desires into the narrative. The timelessness keeps it relevant. If it’s not dated then it can’t go out of style. He knows the angle to work, and because of that his photographs will always be interesting and beautiful to look at, even after Urban Outfitters stops selling Holga’s and the trend has surpassed. In many ways, that is the mark of a work of art: you can see it hundreds of times and still find something beautiful and new within it each time you look. When I see his work, I hear music, and I see it all play out. Imagine the wind whipping through your hair as My Bloody Valentine blasts through the speakers of the 1969 Chevy Camaro, matte black, that you’re driving like a bat out of hell, and as you meander through the New Mexican landscape, nightfall casts across the desert a meandering series of pinks, purples and blues. This is his world you’ve driven into, come ready to dress in the richness of dreams.

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