Stretched Skin And Gruesomely Flattened Bodies Reveal Human Truths (NSFW)

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What story would your flesh tell if it were splayed and flattened, digitally altered to appear as a work of art, caught between the angled sides of a camera frame? For his stunning series of photographs, titled Skin, the photographer June Yong Lee manipulates portraits of nude bodies, arranging their torsos in such a way that defies the limitations of the muscular skeletal system.

Despite the artist’s deliberate omission of common indicators of visual identity—facial features, body shape, and race—the images are an authoritative and legible document of selfhood. Pointing to the human desire to express what cannot be conveyed with language, Lee’s camera reveals tattoos, tired milky breasts, freckles, and scars.

For the artist, skin operates as a visual diary of experience. Without the guidelines of a more recognizable human form, memories— that range from the mundane to the sexually charged— are kept only through marks etched on flesh. He writes, “our skin never forgets [our past].”

The ideological tensions between body and mind are subverted as the skin organ is compressed; as if they were flowers held between the heavy pages of an encyclopedia, mounds of sin become something to be studied and read. The careful framing of each piece enhances this idea; positioned in relation to a central axis of the navel, the bisected torsos appear bound down the middle like some sort of corporeally historical book.

The phenomenal work is so poignant because in some ways, it confirms the unreliability of a subjective human memory: tattoos are faded or unreadable, and scars are healed. The images seem to blend the antique tonal richness of early Victorian photography with a morbid sense of modern forensics; as if recovered from an ancient autopsy, the slabs of flesh are somehow mournful yet objective and scientific. Our memories erode, and we die; yet through some miraculous marriage of science and art, fragments of our forgotten moments might be archived. (via Feature Shoot)

Marc Dennis’ Hyper-Realistic Paintings Of Viewers Gazing At Famous Art

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Marc Dennis’ hyperrealistic paintings are centered around the gaze and ideal for viewers who enjoy spending a lot of time with a single work of art. Layered with symbol upon symbol, it’s apparent that there are two subjects featured in any one of his complex compositions – the person who does the looking and the object that’s being looked at. As we view how the two interact, we form a narrative about their relationship. What does it mean, for instance, that a NFL cheerleader stares at the classic Les Demoiselles d’Avignon by Picasso? How do the they relate to each other? And, how does this relate to us? In an interview with Hi Fructose, Dennis talks about trying to find our own meanings within art. He explains:

I saturate my paintings with truths and suggestions about human behavior, ways of looking, and the psychological, spiritual and physical relationships we have with art. Walter Benjamin, the famous social critic once said, “To experience the aura of a phenomenon means to invest it with the capability of returning the gaze.” I believe that we, as viewers and art lovers, are eager and more pleased when it happens, to find ourselves, or some semblance of ourselves in a work of art. In other words, I do my part in “returning the gaze” that Benjamin speaks of. And in this hyper self-conscious, glamour-driven, sexually-inflated and media-obsessed art culture of today, my works are satirical yet sincere, artificial yet real, and most definitely loaded with personal symbolism yet public pomp — a timely combination and expression. (Via Faith is Torment)

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Linda Kuo’s Startling Portraits Of Illegally Imported Animals Will Tug At Your Soul

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With her recent series Displaced, the photographer Linda Kuo examines the illegal importation of exotic animals into the United States; her subjects, some torn from their habitats and others unable to adapt to their environments in captivity, give voice to the 300 million animals similarly brought to the states as pets.

Each photograph captures the life of a creature being treated for illnesses or wounds at New York City Center for Avian and Exotic Medicine; placed within the sterile context of the hospital, the displaced beasts oscillate between confusion, curiosity, and lonesomeness. The emotional core of the work is rooted in each creature’s supreme isolation; a bird sits alone on a scale, searching for some sort of recognition. Simultaneously, a guinea pig resigns himself to the clean, white basin, and a bird turns his puffy green back.

Amidst this sorrowful sense of displacement emerges an unexpected warmth, fueled by the desperate yearning of both animal and man to feel safe. After a failed resuscitation, a yellow bearded dragon falls into a gentle set of female hands that tenderly enfold his delicate flesh in a bright blue towel. Similarly, a turtle is offered carefully diced vegetables, which he cautiously accepts from giant human fingers; a bird’s heartbeat is measured anonymously but tenderly. Amidst a chaotic world, the hospital is shown to be a respite for the animals, fighting for their wellbeing against the odds.

For Kuo, the series is personal; bullied as a child, she empathizes with those oppressed, alone, and out of their proper place. The work’s resounding message is one of compassion—for ourselves, for the earth, and for those we share it with. Take a look. (via Feature Shoot and Slate)

Dawn Woolley’s Unusual Self-Portraits Address Female Stereotypes

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Dealing in an atypical kind of self-portraiture, Dawn Woolley often creates photographic copies of herself, and then photographs them in various locations, positions and moods.  Making herself a substitute and her visual representative, the work forms an inquiry into the act of looking, and being looked at.  As she says of the work, “Referring to psychoanalysis and phenomenology I examine my own experience of becoming an object of sight and also consider the experience the viewer has when looking at me as a photographic object. By producing artwork that establishes me as an object it could be argued that I reinforce stereotypical images of the female body.”  Indeed, the female body is a common subject of Woolley’s work, often playing with stereotypes through reinforcing them, or defying them.

In series, such as The Substitute, Woolley created a photographic copy of herself and placed it in the real world in her stead.  Seeking to reinforce conventional images of the female body, but with apparent exhibitionism, Woolley created a replacement that rendered her real body invisible.  The sense of disbelief for a viewer is slow to materialize, as our brain wants to see an actual 3-dimensional person.  The effects are similar even when both individuals are cutouts.  Selecting moments in her past, Woolley’s series, Adolescence gives her some distance from emotionally heightened events by re-creating them using photographs.

The ambiguousness of her work allows Woolley to play with assumptions about gender, and conventions of photography.  There is a performative aspect to the work that is ultimately completed by the viewer.  A viewer feels like a voyeur, and then, after realizing he is looking at a 2-dimensional depiction of a 2-dimensional photograph, a fool for being duped.  An interesting way to examine gender roles and self-portraiture, Woolley’s images are challenging and provocative.

Painted Prison Backdrops Offer A Temporary Escape From Incarceration

Victoria Williams, Valley State Prison for Women, Chowchilla, California.

Victoria Williams, Valley State Prison for Women, Chowchilla, California.

Anonymous , Ionia Maximum Correctional Facility, Ionia, Michigan.

Anonymous , Ionia Maximum Correctional Facility, Ionia, Michigan.

 
James Bowlin, United States Penitentiary, Marion, Illinois.

James Bowlin, United States Penitentiary, Marion, Illinois.

Anonymous Backdrop Painted in State Correctional Facility, Otisiville, New York.

Anonymous Backdrop Painted in State Correctional Facility, Otisiville, New York.

Photographer Alyse Emdur offers a fascinating look into the world of prisoner portraiture in her ongoing project Prison Landscapes. If you aren’t familiar with the concept, visitation rooms of penitentiaries have backdrops where friends and family can get pictures taken of/with the inmate to commemorate the time they spent together. Often, these backgrounds are idyllic landscapes that offer the inmate a moment to emotionally escape their sentence. Emdur’s series is two-fold; It features inmates posing in front of these faux scenes, as well as the rooms that the giant paintings inhabit.

There’s a stark and ironic contrast between the prisoner-painted backdrops and the rest of their interiors. “Prison visiting room portraits are constructed to intentionally leave out the reality of prison. The aim of my project is not to be an authority on that which is left out, but to rather make the artifice visible. Although the paintings on the backdrops represent freedom, they are vehicles to control the representation of prisons and prisoners.” Emdur explains to Featureshoot.

To obtain the some of the portraits seen here, Emdur spent years corresponding with inmates. “My role was to document a system that I did not have physical access to. I did this by asking those with access, to send me their own photographs,” she says. The limitation of her available sources adds to the institutional critique of prisons that are inherent within the scope of this project. (Via Featureshoot)

Incredible Balloon Art By Daisy Balloon – These Aren’t Your Party Store Balloons

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With a moniker like Daisy Balloon, it’s no surprise that their medium of choice is balloons and sculpted like you’ve probably never seen them before. The artist (whose real name is Rie Hosokai) uses them in window displays and as art objects, but more surprisingly, fashion. Taking numerous small balloons, she gathers them into large groups that make up long flowing dresses, body suits, and structures reminiscent of armor. Her avant-garde designs are worn by models and celebrities like Bjork (are you shocked?).

Her entire portfolio is no doubt impressive – after all, keeping all of those balloons full is no small feat – but the colorful, giant teddy bear that’s constructed completely out of smaller teddy bears is the right mix of visual ingenuity, nostalgia, and fun. (Via Spoon & Tamango)

The Plight Of Primates In Captivity By Ann Berry

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For her poignant series Behind Glass, the photographer Ann Berry traveled to zoos across the world, traversing Belgium and South Africa, documenting the sufferings and yearnings of primates in captivity. She hopes that her images of the stunning creatures, who alternately raise a hand or cast down shadowy eyes, will benefit non-profits fighting for the rights of animals to humane and just treatment.

The beautiful series vehemently avoids the high resolution color aesthetic of zoological photography, opting instead for a gaze evocative of early pictorialists, who strived to render the photographic distinctly unscientific and launched the then novel medium of photography into the realm of fine art. Within Berry’s jarringly ghostly and ethereal tones, each subject reveals a soulfulness so often hidden in photographs of animals; their struggle is urgently expressionistic, spiritual, dignified, and human. As the artist puts it, she hopes to “hear [the animals’] inner sound.”

The artist’s choice of title refers both to the glass cages and her own glass camera lens, furthering the tragic distance imposed upon animal and human; once captured in space, each primate subject is again captured and fixed with the photographic frame. The sensuality of their glittery eyes, downy beards, and calloused fingertips seduce the viewer, only to remind us that we are tragically separated from the beautiful beasts; only through glass and careful photographic printing may we strive to come together, to touch. Take a look. (via Feature Shoot and Lens Culture)

Beccy Ridsdel Dissected Ceramics

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 Beccy Ridsdel, a UK based ceramicists makes an interesting and truthful (to some) statement:

I know we all have our own opinions, but I think craft is technical and art is meaningful (or a reason for being made, beyond the thing itself). Overly simplistic? Probably, but for ceramicists this can be a big issue as ceramics is almost universally seen as craft regardless.

Ridsdel poses an interesting question here, one that not many contemporary artists are asking themselves simply because we are living in a world were art, for the most part, is conceptual. But what happens when someone like Ridsdel, who has the ability to make pottery, or plates, in this case, wants to make her craft both functional and a conceptual art piece?

I chose to make a series of definitely craft objects – bone china plates, mugs, jugs – and ‘dissect’ them.

Here, Ridsdel presents to us an interesting series of ceramic pieces that shows both her craftsmanship but also her creative thinking process. These endearing and fun plate and tea cup sets allude to something more than just eating and drinking. While still remaining functional, the cups and plates work as a signifier that brings to mind ideas of surgery and cosmetic alterations. This concept is ingeniously embedded within the multi-layers plates, and the surgical tools placed near them. (via Colossal)