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Andi Schreiber refuses to disappear. In her ongoing series, “Pretty Please”, she documents life as an aging suburban mom in a youth-obsessed culture. “Middle-aged mom” must be one of the least sexy descriptors around, redolent of yoga pants and stretch marks and sun-damaged skin. Yet as the years have passed, Schreiber has continued to feel young and sexual, even as she’s felt that society has closed those roles to her. She says:
“When I was in my thirties I heard the expression “Invisible Forties.” I couldn’t imagine how sexually inconsequential I’d feel throughout this decade.”
The powerful documentary style photos in “Pretty, Please” beg you to look. Honest and vibrant, they are not always comfortable. Victoria’s Secret has trained us to expect sexy lingerie on a young, taut body, not on folded and stretched skin. And yet, why isn’t this just as beautiful? Grow old or die, those are the only options. Why can’t we appreciate the child-scarred body of a woman who wants to be seen?
Self-portraits are interspersed with images from Schreiber’s life. A drop of blood on the toilet seat symbolizes her ebbing fertility; the lit interior of her closet holds neatly hung clothes and shelves of shoes, but also, stashed up and away, naked kewpie dolls, whimsical and eerie.
“You get into your 40s and things are very different, your perspective changes, and the way the world looks at you changes as well.”
In “Pretty, Please” we’re looking at Andi Schreiber and she’s looking back. This is definitively her — her life, her body, her blood — and yet this desire to be seen, to be valued on her own terms, could also represent the scores of middle-aged women who chose family and stability and have had their sense of self sacrificed to their suburban houses, and diapers, and carpools.
The story of photographer Rebecca Litchfield’s traveling to the ruins of the old Soviet Union reads like an adventure tale. As she and her guides were in the midst of exploring abandoned buildings and monuments, they were discovered by authorities. She explains:
Not many explorers travel to Russia where the rules are very different, locations are heavily guarded and a strong military presence exists everywhere. There are serious consequences for getting caught. We managed to stay hidden for all of the trip, we maximised our stealthiness, ducking and diving into bushes and sneaking past sleeping security. But on day three our good fortune ran out as we visited a top secret radar installation. After walking through the forest, mosquitoes attacking us from all directions, we saw the radar and made our way towards it, but just metres away suddenly we were joined by military and they weren’t happy…
Litchfield risked radiation exposure, experienced arrest and interrogation, and was accused of espionage as she shot this series of stunning photographs. They depict areas of abandonment – forgotten monuments, peeling paint, a places where nature has taken over. The photographer offers many haunting sights never seen before by western eyes.
These images were comprised into a book entitled Soviet Ghosts. They were all taken by Litchfield, while essays and articles by Professor Owen Evans and Neil Cockwill from Edge Hill University and Tristi Brownett.
Remi Rough has been incredibly active in the past few years marking the globe repeatedly with his juicy geometric art on huge urban buildings, other unlikely structures and in numerous galleries and museums. The prolific international artist returns to SOZE Gallery in Los Angeles July 19th to open his latest installment of work in his solo exhibit “Remi Rough: Further Adventures in Abstraction.” This exhibit, featuring a mother-load of over fifty new works on canvas, wood and paper, continue the evolution of Rough’s aesthetic, adapted from the mammoth swallowing scale on the streets to intimate smaller works in juicy vibrant palettes. The crisp clean lines and darting yet fluid sense of movement in these works create a tension in their depth, while maintaining a minimal pristine quality in their draftsmanship.
French artist Didier Massard creates eye-deceiving miniature dioramas depicting surreal, mystical landscapes. From a first glance, these sets remind of extremely detailed, hyper-realistic paintings or digitally rendered images. The striking effect unfolds after closer examination, when the viewer is exposed to careful layering and thoughtful light arrangements.
Massard explains his inspiration comes from real and imagined places. The limits of real life infuses his imagination to create mythological and romantic scenarios, which he then calls “the completion of an inner imaginary journey”. China, India, the cliffs of Normandy and many other locations have been depicted in Didier’s works.
“There were many places in the world where I’d never gone that I wished to photograph. I realized that they would not at all look like the images I had of them. Reality was different from my imagination. So I started building and photographing in a studio what I had in mind.”
Artist spends months constructing his miniature worlds, thus the collection is only slowly growing in size. Massard started his career as a commercial photographer for fashion and cosmetic companies like Chanel, Hermes and others. After his first series of dioramas, titled “Imaginary Journeys”, his work was acknowledged and now Didier works exclusively on his personal projects. His work is currently on display at Kopeikin Gallery in Los Angeles until August 23.
Cuban-American artist Cesar Santos thoughtfully blends disparate styles and elements in a series he calls “Syncretism.” Santos’ amalgamations present representations from Renaissance, Modern, Classic, and Contemporary work, all blended together to create a pastiche of imagery. While combining genres, forms, and time periods is not a necessarily unique approach, it is Santos’ execution that is most impressive. Skilled technically in multiple painting styles, Santos is able to render images that appear uncannily similar to their references. Recontextualizing these images demonstrates the evolution of painting techniques while maintaining the universality and persistence of particular themes.
“I develop a painting by first working on an idea in a sketchbook, a simple drawing. Then I go to Photoshop and start composing the painting. In a way it’s [how] a classical artist would do it: constructing a color study. Once I have everything composed, tweaking the colors, it will almost look like the final piece. Using oils on linen, I go about painting that image. During the process things change. When I start applying the colors, I start with a raw umber underpainting, and block it in with local color. Even though I’m using modern tools, the process is very classical.” (via juxtapoz)
Israeli artist Chaim Machlev is a Berlin-based tattoo artist, otherwise known as Dots to Lines. Working primarily with black ink (“I believe that black is the nicest color for tattoos; it is closer to our source than any other color,” he said in a recent interview), Machlev’s designs are complex line-based works that weave across skin with fluid, stunning precision. Incorporating mandalas, insects, and other images into his geometric tattoos, Machlev’s work go beyond simple designs into minimal, extraordinarily detailed works of permanent art. It makes sense, then, that Machlev bristles at the idea of grouping his work into any kind of predetermined genre. “I actually started to make those designs because it was weird for me that people try to categorize tattoos and other art forms. I could say that I have that split in my designs, just like in my personality; I make those art-minimalistic lines — the computer kid inside me — and very detailed mandalas, the spiritual man inside me.”
That spiritual motif makes way for some of Machlev’s most beautiful designs, such as symmetrical forearm mandalas and Joy Division-riffing chest designs of warped seismic waves. Machlev draws from his experiences traveling in India for the spiritual imagery in his designs, but for the more symmetrical designs, there is a prominent mathematical sense to the work. His line and dot work flows seamlessly over flesh in a way that looks similar to vectors on a computer, sprawling across chests and ribs with stunning exactitude.
The world of dollhouse miniatures is dominated by sweet structures with period-perfect furniture and impossibly tiny accessories. Leanne Eisen subverts all expectations with “Play” her photo series of 1/12th scale brothel, strip club and other sex trade sites. Eisen makes the pieces of these meticulously detailed scenes herself, having found difficulty in sourcing ready-made miniature condoms, porn magazines and sex toys. The spaces have a seedy, disreputable air enhanced by the details—a used washcloth hangs haphazardly over the sink, sequined shoes are abandoned on the strip club stage, and a forest of egg timers sits under posted house rules. Although Eisen had not been in an actual brothel, she researched films, documentaries, books, and photographs to create her voyeuristic spaces.
The photographs in “Play” are enlarged, playing with scale to disorienting effect. Scenes that are rendered in miniature are suddenly life-size again, with no referent of scale in the images. These are realistic spaces but they are also fantastical. No woman will ever spin on the golden pole. The cow clock in the kitchen will always read 10:10. These abandoned rooms tell their stories through their contents. She says:
I am very interested in residential spaces; the artifacts that we accumulate and leave behind, and how they tell our stories in our absence. I also find the idea of a space that is seemingly a workplace as well as a residence intriguing. In these photos, the viewer takes the role of voyeur, and can take the time to analyze the setting at a perhaps more manageable, less intimidating scale.
The series also serves as a commentary of the accepted social roles for women in a residential space. Where a traditional dollhouse might have a domestic mother figure keeping house, these spaces are intended for women as sexual objects. Whether in the sad paneled room with the pink-clad single bed or in the black walled sex chamber with its red X and metal cage, these are spaces intended to commercialize women.
Through detailed conceptualization, deliberate craft and artful photography, “Play” blurs the lines between whimsy and menace, making pointed observations about the place of women in this world.