At first glance, these twisted, manipulated, and camouflaged bodies appear to be the work of a photographer who is very skilled in Photoshop. However, the subjects in these photographs are not the product of digital alteration, but were transformed at the hand of a simple paintbrush. Artist Natalie Fletcher uses the body as a canvas, applying her paint and imagination directly upon the skin of her subjects. Formally trained at art school, she broke away from the traditional method of painting after graduation and began her pursuit as a master of body art. The artist uses the lines and color applied by paint as a means to create a variety of different captivating and puzzling optical illusions.
In her series titled Just An Illusion, op art breathes new life on the skin of her subjects, as she covers the bodies in spiraling lines. The bends formed in the patterns seem to warp the bodies so to us they appear twisted, sunk in, and even cut open. In another series of Natalie Fletcher’s, titled Against the Wall, an illusion is still apparent, as each body has been blended into the background thanks to her painterly magic. In some cases, it is difficult for you to decipher where the wall stops and where the paint begins. Fletcher’s talents in body painting has not gone unseen, as she has won GSN’s “Skin Wars” and is in the process of traveling across the country, painting two bodies in each state.
In a powerful series of black-and-white portraits entitled The Unknown Soldier, New York-based photographer David Jay captures the devastation of war and the marks it leaves on individual lives. The project began while David was shooting The SCAR Project, a documentation of breast cancer survivors. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were in full tilt, and David decided that the public needed to see the intimate, bodily consequences of a system that perpetuates the mass injury and destruction of human lives.
Photographed at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center and the Brooke Army Medical Center, The Unknown Soldier features men and women who have been shot, struck by roadside bombs, and severely burned — stories of trauma which are bravely told by their scars and amputations. The essence of the photos, however, lies in the enduring strengths conveyed in each face as the individual confronts the viewer with their experience. In a statement provided to Beautiful/Decay, David explains the greater aim of his project:
“[U]ltimately, The Unknown Soldier is not about war. It is about many things: Humanity, acceptance, responsibility. An understanding that [what] we do matters. What we say, what we think, matters . . . and [it] has repercussions that quite literally change the course of history.”
In a world where media coverage often turns injuries and deaths into abstract numbers, David has brought human subjects deeply into focus. Seeing these surviving soldiers evokes a sense of social responsibility that extends from the people we know in our immediate lives to those engaged in war. The Unknown Soldier reminds everyone that soldiers are not faceless causalities, and even though people may feel distant from such violent events, there exists a vital responsibility to examine and criticize a system and media that imperils and objectifies human lives. As David continues:
“I hope the images transcend the narrow and simplistic confines of ‘war’ and encourage us to examine the way we engage each other — both friend and stranger — at its most basic, day to day level, as it is these subtle, seemingly innocuous interactions that will ultimately lead us either to peace . . . or the continuum and carnage of war.”
Perhaps you want to make your walk through the park more interesting; or maybe you’re dying to sit on the bus and immerse yourself in Jimi Hendrix’s Electric Ladyland while gazing at a psychedelic horizon. Thanks to Hungarian designer Bence Agoston’s “Mood Sunglasses,” you can indulge in a pseudo-trip at your leisure. Accompanying the glasses’ half-circle, 3D-printed frames are six lenses, each imprinted with Moiré patterns that filter blue, green, and red light. When layered and rotated in their frames, the lenses create the visual experiences of LSD without the drug itself.
In discussion with Fastco Design, Agoston explained how the Moods work. “Because each color filters the incoming lights differently, and the patterns can overlap each other or leave blank fields, the new view is completely random and twisted.” Agoston also has versatility in mind, just in case you need a break from your simulated LSD journey: “Mood can also be used with clear lenses, for everyday living.”
Agoston goes on to describe the suggested use of such “hallucinogenic” sunglasses. “The ideal situation for use is during travel, when people listen to music, just looking out the window and watching the ever-changing sights, in perfect harmony with the music. The shape is designed with the aim of simplicity and distinctness, as if the wearer belongs to a kind of subculture” (Source). In short: the Moods are prescribed for anyone who enjoys (or needs) a taste of altered reality. (Via Fastco Design)
Through dark and melancholic ceramic sculptures Anne Wenzel shares her views on the world’s fears and tragedies (natural catastrophes, bomb attacks, fear of millenarianism…) She draws away the tradition of ceramic to create her contemporary and intense sculptures. The artist’s ‘modern day vanitas’ sculptures not only shake the core but also question the role of splendor and power within a deformed and vanished piece of art. Recently, Anne Wenzel has created two sets of sculptures: busts in ‘Damaged Goods’ and blossoms in ‘Attempted Decadence’.
In the first group of work, she uses the classic military bust and shiny dark brown tones of glaze to condemn the glorification of authority during times of war. She questions the fact that we worship emblematic figures that have caused violence and have damaged entire populations and their countries.
Power, destruction, heroism and violence, themes dear to the artist emerge from her strong historical awareness and political engagement; she sheds new light on the role that art plays in depicting them.
The glamour and glorification expressed in the sorrowful blossoms is raising intentional open questions that Anne Wenzel is not willing to answer for us. She wants the viewer to take a stand and ask: I am seeing this beautiful metaphor of greatness and beauty, but am I being manipulated? The purple and rust tones petals are liquefied, dripping over the structure that’s holding them. Turning healthy and fresh flowers into a devastated and agonizing dying bouquet, the visual creates a balance in the expression of abstraction and figurative art.
At the best of times, embroidery can be impressive and time consuming, but this project shows us just how much of an art form it can be. Flickr user NanaAkua has been uploading pictures of her grandmother’s embroidered balls for a while now, educating us all about an ancient art form popular in Japan. Called Temari balls, they are folk art that originated in China, but were quickly adopted by Japan. And this very talented Japanese grandmother in particular has been embroidering Temari balls for over 30 years – building a collection of over 500 balls. Made from the threads from old kimono, the Temari balls are intricate, full of imaginative patterns and as diverse as they are colorful.
They are traditionally cherished as objects of friendship and loyalty. The bright colors symbolize luck and happiness for the recipient of the gift. And it isn’t only considered an honor to receive a Temari ball, but also to produce them. To qualify as a Temari ball artist, the individual has to display a high level of skill and technique.
Here’s a little bit of more information on the amazing art form that are Temari balls:
Traditionally, temari were often given to children from their parents on New Year’s Day. Inside the tightly wrapped layers of each ball, the mother would have placed a small piece of paper with a goodwill wish for her child. The child would never be told what wish his or her mother had made while making the ball. (Source)
The dark paintings of Martin Wittfooth depict a frightening dystopia that could be our reality if we are not careful. The world he shows us is a grim and desolate one, void of humans, but full of casualties that our species could easily cause. We see a world of animals suffering from our actions and learning to adapt to their new environment for survival. His paintings are a stark reminder of what could happen if we aren’t aware of, and don’t cease the damage we are causing.
Wolves creep around in a burning wasteland, probably looking for food to eat, or some substance somewhere. Bears tip over old water jugs, or some sort of relic from a time past. Tigers are sprawled out over the hood of a rusty car, surrounded by flowers sprouting out of the trunk. The beak of an albatross is stuffed full of trash, the bird unaware that his chosen items are harmful, and not healthy. The sight of these animals that we (should) cherish trying to survive in an undesirable place should bring out the emotions in us that Wittfooth wants.
Everywhere and at all times, we’ve been busy making things in our present for the simple purpose of communicating something, and thus sending messages into our future. What a peculiar habit. We’re the only species inhabiting this planet that routinely behaves this way, and there’s something really beautiful and profound about that. (Source)
His paintings full of the consequences of climate change, over use, excess pollution and unnecessary producing and consumption may seem dramatic, but are actually just a glimpse into a future that could happen, sooner than we think. Wittfooth paints with a sense of urgency; with a need to tell people things could be getting quite bad, quite quickly. He goes on:
I often think about what the psychedelic thinker Terence McKenna called “The Archaic Revival”: a yearning to look into the past to see meaning, connection, the sacred, looking back at us. I need those reminders sometimes, when the current state of human affairs seems dire and in need of a new perspective. (Source)
Photographer Jonathan May reveals a poignant narrative of the lives of former Mexican gang members now united through a love of art and tattoos. This series, titled Desert Ink, explores a compelling story of eight men now leading honest lives away from the troubles of their past. Coming from a background filled with gangs, violence, drugs, and death, the men have set out for a new life to change their fate and future. Now living in Indio, California, these once criminals are bonded together in a different kind of brotherhood, one that is connected through their passion for tattoo art.
The men, Chip, Dreamer, Sinner, Lazz, Assault, Case 1, Angel, and G-Money, all began tattooing due to unforeseen circumstances. Those of them who spent time in prison began tattooing themselves and other fellow inmates. The others were also self-taught, creating homemade tattoo guns to pursue their newfound artistic talent. The eight of them, now working in their own shop, find redemption and purpose in focusing on something as positive and meaningful as tattoo art. It is a chance to make a permanent imprint on someone, almost literally. By rechanneling their efforts and talents into a constructive outlet, these men have found a shared talent that has united them for life. Jonathan May sheds a warm light on men who by no means have had it easy, but have found a way to change their lives for the better. (via FeatureShoot)
Laura Makabresku is a Polish photographer and visual artist who creates atmospheric images that harness the tragedy and beauty of myths and fairy tales. The photos featured here are from Laura’s more recent posts on her blog. Brimming with a romantic darkness, the images include a pale woman lying in a “garden of wounds,” engaged in a subtly violent and erotic ritual with the flowers and a sharp blade. Set against her white dress, the flower petals resemble blood, turning the woman into a mythical — almost sacrificial — figure. Death blends with beauty in a quiet dream.
In another series, the mythos surrounding death becomes darker: in a dingy room filtered with a hellish green moonlight, a cloaked figure stands in a boat overlooking a nude woman. In some scenes the woman is struggling to escape; in others, she is lying prone, pinned by the boatman’s paddle or with coins resting on her mouth, suggesting the River of Styx — the coin shall pay her entrance into the underworld. Elsewhere are images of women communing in different ways with taxidermied animals such as deer, birds, and foxes. These animals emanate with a sense of attentive care over the women they are protecting — but of course, they are dead, troubling us with their simultaneous beauty and artificiality. Speaking of how her works seek to explore fairy tale imagery by highlighting traces of pain and horror, Laura writes:
“My [photographs] are like screenshots from beautiful but cruel fairy tales. Their narrations are not straight. Images that appear are more like feelings that come during a lecture of an old folk-based story – full of witchcrafts and retributions. The structure of my works is similar to the structure of a dream where natural tendencies of collecting and organizing impulses and motivations coincide with irrational clashes of objects and feelings. Isolation and wounds are closed into patterns, uneasy and artificial orders – visual spells created in order to divide beastliness from humanity and dreams from horror.” (Source)
Poetic, grim, and beautiful, Laura’s photographs are truly spellbinding on several emotional levels. Be sure to follow her blog, Tumblr, and Facebook to see what evocative and dream-like images she composes for us next. (Via Art Fucks Me)