Alaina Varrone is a Connecticut-based artist who reinvests the folk art of embroidery with her off-the-cuff brand of weirdness. Many of her works explore nudity, and some are candidly erotic, displaying cross-stitched pornographic stills endowed with traces of memory and fantasy. Other pieces are humorous and somewhat morbid (don’t let the masked man’s “smile” deceive you, with those severed arms of his). More recently, Varrone has embroidered a series of portraits of empowered young women simply hanging out — often dressed in rock metal clothes — and indulging in the occasional bawdy behavior, such as the poolside alien “kiss.”
Despite the apparent clash of a traditional medium with contemporary “deviance,” Varrone’s intention is not to shock, but rather to raise questions, provoke absurdity, and induce laughter (you can read more about this in her interview with Evil Tender). Indeed, her raw, unapologetic style and bizarre subject matter is humorous; like the amusingly strange marginalia people have found in medieval tomes, Varrone’s works participate in a very human tradition of wanting to create lightness and celebrate fun and absurdity. With her skill, creativity, and wit, Varrone’s pieces are uniquely entertaining. You can view more on her website, Facebook, Instagram, and Flickr. (Via Juxtapoz)
The owner of anthillart.com has been turning ant extermination into a controversial art form by creating aluminum casts of expired colonies. After locating an anthill — mostly, those of the fire ant and carpenter ant species — he pours boiling, liquid metal into the entranceway, solidifying the tunnels and killing anything inside. The cast of the ant nest is then dug out, sprayed off, and mounted on a wooden base for display. Many of them are then sold on eBay to schools and collectors.
There is no doubt that Anthill Art’s pieces are deeply fascinating. By extracting the colonies from their molten graves, he allows us to appreciate the intricacy and alien-like beauty of the various tunnels and chambers. The species have markedly different construction strategies: the fire ants’ patterns are dense and labyrinth-like, resembling coral formations and Christmas trees. Some of them have long tunnels reaching out to isolated chambers. The carpenter ants’ structures, on the other hand, are very linear, resembling fungi growths as they extend into the earth with central chambers branching off.
Unsurprisingly, Anthill Art has provoked ethical questions surrounding the destruction of life in the names of art and education. On his YouTube channel, the owner has explained that fire ants and carpenter arts are nuisance species, the former being an imported pest that is “harmful to the environment,” destroying crops and preying on bees and other beneficial pollinators (Source). And ant extermination is a common, ongoing practice — so does it make a difference if we turn their annihilation into art or learning tools? Defending his work against an onslaught of criticism, the owner has claimed that with the less-invasive carpenter ants he tries his best to find abandoned colonies (Source). At the intersection of art, education, and ethics, Anthill Art’s ant-tombs are topics of debate.
Turning to our readers: what do you think? Is it okay to cast ant colonies for the purposes of education and art, so long as the ant species are deemed “pests”? We’re curious to hear your responses. Learn more at anthillart.com as well as the website’s Facebook page.
The morbid sculptures of Caitlin T. McCormack would fit right in at your next Halloween party. She creates beautifully intricate skeletons of fictional creatures – rodents, seahorses, insects and animals. Not only do they look fragile, macabre, antique, precious and ghoulish, but you would probably be surprised to learn what they are made from. The artist actually discovered that covering crocheted cotton string in PVA glue stiffens the material, producing a bone-like effect.
Her dark, heavenly creatures are usually displayed, sprawled out and pinned to a dark board of some sort. They look as if their skin and meat has been carefully dissected and discarded, leaving their skeletal remains to be gracefully displayed for all to delight in their discovery. Not only does McCormack craft these intricate alien-bone-forms, but also delicate lace work, dramatic dresses that look like they were worn to a ghost’s wedding, and charming little illustrations and plasticine characters that usually reference a well known horror story.
The busy artist doesn’t stop there – her work will be also feature as a part of the group show Opus Hypnagogia: Sacred Spaces of the Visionary and Vernacularat The Morbid Anatomy Museum in Brooklyn, New York. Exploring states we experience between waking and sleeping, the show is a journey into altered perspectives, dark thoughts and unknown visions. A combination of historical, ‘Outsider’ and Visionary art, the show promises to be enlightening and entertaining. Running from July 18th – October 15th, be sure to explore the show and bring out your own black magic.
Photographer Jeffrey Milstein takes his architectural eye thousands of feet up in the air and captures the New York and Los Angeles skylines like you’ve never seen them before. He gives us more than just a bird’s eye view of both familiar and unfamiliar buildings; his photographs are artistic compositions within themselves. Milstein shows the intricate symmetry, lines and details of architecture which are not always visible from the ground, and by doing so allows the structures to become landscapes of their own.
He not only gives us an original visual angle but also a deeper look into the craft of architecture itself, from the repetitive structures of suburban LA homes to the angular beauty of the Empire State, the colors and textures of the building materials are both in harmony and contrasts with the natural elements surrounding them. The trees surrounding the bases of the buildings almost become accessories, they accentuate the craftsmanship and thought of architectural feat, housing and industry.
What Milstein has done here is captured the essence of our times, a combination of nature, artifice and something in between. By doing this, he has also managed to bring architecture to a more accessible level, by elevating the audience above the buildings in a way that makes their intricacy more simple without letting it loose its character and distinct characteristics. Beyond this, Milstein has managed to make a point: there’s only so much we can see for where we stand.
See Jeffrey Milstein’s work in person at Kopeikin Gallery in Los Angeles from July 18th-August 22nd.
Polish photographer Pola Esther takes us behind the scenes of the concert film of the K-Pop world’s hottest band, Big Bang. Although the South Korean band’s five infamous members star in this film, Esther has turned an eye onto the bad girls that steal the show. The unforgettable women in the film include Gia Genevieve, Stephanie Shiu, TK, and Briana Michelle, and cameo appearance of James Goldstein. The photographer gives us a glimpse behind the scenes us of the powerhouse characters on set.
The creators of the film, Dikayl Rimmasch and Ed Burke, have had their hand in cinematic music videos before. They also collaborated on Jay-Z and Beyonce’s film “Bang Bang” featured during “On the Run” tour which has a similar film noir feel as the Big Bang’s film. The film’s unmistakable style pulls inspiration from American mythology. This incredibly dramatic film portrays the group in high-speed car chases, like that of the Fast and the Furious, and Tarantino-like scenes similar to Reservoir Dogs that are full of high tension. Esther, now based in New York City, has a photographic style that fits together perfectly with the seductive qualities of the film directors’ approach. Her work takes us one step deeper, showing us a little of whom these bad girls are in the film. Each photograph holds a sense of classic mystery, with the flair of old Hollywood. Make sure to check out more of Esther’s captivating and sensual photographs on her website.
In Robbie Rowlands latest body of work Interventions he looks at the nature of decay. During a residency in Detroit, Michigan he came across several abandoned houses which he ‘refurbished’ by ripping out certain sections and creating track-like extensions which seemed to break free and come alive. The idea behind this was to take a rundown or burnt out structure and bring it back to life, even if that only meant in a metaphorical sense. Rowlands’ narrative addresses invisible or inanimate objects such as walls or floors which only begin to get our attention when they start deteriorating or breaking down. Rowlands uses this as a jumping off point to examine ideas of form, rebirth and transformation. The majority of pieces look similar to wooden roller coaster tracks gone haywire breaking free of their static restraints and possessing a unique beauty. In others, especially those “ripped” from the floor inhabit insect qualities which might just be mistaken for an alien life form in the right light.
Various projects have taken the Melbourne native to different locations around the globe both in his native Australia and abroad. Rowlands’ older work has been featured on Beautful/Decay and can be viewed here.
The world of Paul Yore is encrypted. Behind the simplistic images hand woven on his tapestries there is a subtle will to provoke our thoughts on gender, identity, consumerism and daily violence. The artist chooses to apply psychedelic vivid colors to ultra detailed illustrations : phalluses shooting out rainbows, youths riding white unicorns, skulls conversing with pigeons, and pigs dressed up as police officers. He designs a whole lot of messages in his work, whether it’s tapestries or large installations made out of an accumulation of toys found on the streets. (One of his last pieces, “Everything is fucked”, was removed from his last show, allegedly representing child sex abuse, see the very two last pictures below).
Paul Yore is protesting in his own way by impregnating the culture of excess on his overflowing tapestries. We are immersed within his dystopia, his family of masturbating characters, naked flying humanized butterflies and cheerful animated vanities. This joyful scenario hides his honest concerns about real debates. The actual consequences of social and cultural nonsense in our existence is a primordial topic. In a world where communicating is done through all kinds of ways, he doesn’t seem to have the freedom he needs to express his ideas. Censorship versus artistic freedom between the artist and the authorities is the culminant point this battle has reached.
Nona Faustine’s powerful imagery looks back to a time of slavery that exposes locations around NYC where humans were once bought and sold in the slave trade. Entitled “White Shoes”, Faustine photographed herself completely nude except for a pair of white shoes in areas where much of this illicit activity took place. On Manhattan island, this includes a busy street on Wall Street and the steps of City Hall. In the photographs, Faustine stood atop a box on the Financial Street, as if she were back in a slave market and then walked up the steps of City Hall built over an African burial ground. Her visuals speak volumes to the viewer as we can only envision someone like her in that detestable situation.
Some of the more powerful shots of “White Shoes” find the artist passed out in the water near rocks on a beach and atop three gravestones in Brooklyn. Her courage to use herself rather than a model is exemplary in that it shows her genuine interest in having a direct connection with the narrative. Along with the photographs, she uses quotes which mimic passages from the Declaration of Independence and other human rights documents. Slave trading was legal in New York for almost 200 years. It began in 1626 with the Dutch West India Company and ended in 1827 with the help of slave advocacy group the New York Manumission Society.
Nona Faustine is a 2013 MFA graduate of Bard college. Her work delves into gender politics, folklore and how the past affects the present and future. (via blackgirllonghair)