Seattle artist Kyler Martz is an illustrator, painter, and tattoo artist with an expressionist style so unique within his field that it seems to take the whole concept of tattoo work into uncharted territory. While the work of famous tattoo personas like Ed Hardy has mass commercialized the basic styles of sailor tattoo art and tattoo graphics into a nearly bland generalized version of itself, Martz is pushing the genre forward and taking it back to weird, in the best way possible. Having mastered the basics of line work and image building, what stands out about Martz is his use of layered objects and elements to create a woven narrative that is surprisingly dense within a compact space. Using both abstract and figurative symbology, Martz has found an interesting balance between the literal and the ethereal that makes his work conceptually vivid and involved. Many hidden aspects lie in wait: faces and skulls within landscapes, pocket knives folding open into mountainscapes, and often you can find the Eye of Hamsa nestled within the architecture of the piece. Russian nesting dolls, houses on snails backs, and boats made of sea creatures are other strange metaphorical pockets Martz’s work has inhabited and enlivened. Allusions to the omnipresent spirit of the northwest drift in and out of his work: campfires, trees, The Puget Sound, log cabins, mountains, and wildlife; items detailing the Filson/Pendleton lifestyle that is deeply embedded in the historical northwest culture. These abstract notions add a sense of timeless mystery and allow his work to be interpreted on multiple tiers of thought. It will be really fun to see where he is at and what he is making a few years from now.
Aleah Chapin‘s oil painting series The Aunties is an intimate, realistic, immodest look at a women’s world, as seen and experienced by a woman. The models featured are actually the artist’s mother’s friends, women who she has grown up with, and with whom she has a personal, unadulterated knowledge of. Chapin hasn’t spared any detail in her oversized portraits – we see the female figure in all of it’s beauty. Breasts are saggy, stomach rolls are bunched up, stretchmarks are on full display, pubic hair untamed and exposed, and thighs are dimpled with fatty cellulite.
Full of tender moments between mother and son, or groups of friends, her work is a strong counterpoint to the idealized and unrealistic female body images we are confronted with daily. She says about the subject:
Most women have issues and I’m not immune to that. We’re told that our bodies are supposed to be a ‘certain height, certain size, certain weight’. But the pictures we see are completely unrealistic; they’re very Photoshopped. We all know it when we look at them in magazines and yet, we still compare ourselves. That’s why we need images that show all sorts of bodies – so we can accept every size and shape. (Source)
Chapin paints women in a playful, relaxed, completely natural state. She tries to capture a childlike spirit, which is in all of us, no matter our age or gender. She says:
We generally care more what we look like – probably too much at times, me included. Young women are still trying to fit in. I think when you get older you care less –that’s not a negative thing at all. You’re just more accepting. When you get past a certain age you become invisible – and that’s a whole other problem. For me, it’s about finding beauty in every imperfection. (Source) (Via Hi Fructose)
Jay Davis makes paintings which recombine everyday things into elegant assemblages. A single painting might combine corporate logos with the food we eat, alongside expressive abstract paintings, placing all these separate symbols side-by-side inside one larger painting that retains a semi-abstract composition. I was briefly in Jay’s studio, and he talked to me about Doritos logos, MasterCard colors, and the way an orange unfolds when you cut it and press it flat on a table, and while he was talking I had the feeling of a deep rustling in my subconscious, like he was talking to my id, or hypnotizing me with corporate jargon. If you are in Montgomery, Alabama you can see a solo shows of Davis’ work at Triumph and Disaster Gallery until December 31st ’14. You can also pick up the Exquisite Corpse catalog from Mass Gallery in Austin, Texas, which has a nice spread of his paintings.
In an age of techno-wizardry, photographer Peter Thorpe is keeping magic alive the old-fashioned way. The stages he sets are all real: the props, the costumes — and yes, the dog. To celebrate the holidays, Thorpe and his family have a delightful tradition of creating holiday cards that are straight out of the storybooks. The star of the show is Razzle, the family pet dog who is transformed into a mouse, a fairy, a roast turkey, and more.
Of the 20-year-strong tradition, Thorpe says,
“The fun for me, has been choosing to continue to create these traditionally rather than with Photoshop, by making my own sets + props and using a fair bit of food bribery!”
Thorpe must have been feeding Razzle some tasty morsels indeed, because some of the behind-the-scenes costuming appears to be quite elaborate. In one scene, Razzle takes on a more avian aspect, sitting in a mid-air harness and wearing a full-body felt costume and a beak.
Razzle has retired from the stage as she’s “elderly” and has a “weak heart,” but hopefully she’ll be partaking in the off-screen holiday festivities for many more years to come. (via Laughing Squid)
Scott Hazard ( featured here previously) is a North Carolina-based artist whose torn-paper landscapes engulf an entire gallery space. Titled Silent Geography, it’s currently site-specific installation at Mixed Greens gallery (in collaboration with Projective City) in New York that covers the floor with paper structures and punctuated with masses of text. These areas of words are meant to turn the space into a garden, meaning that it’s a cultivated and enclosed area that’s set apart (but close to) the wilderness.
From a distance, it’s not clear what Hazard’s soft, inviting installation is made from. It’s only upon closer inspection that you see incredible, carefully-torn sheets of paper and small details like block-printed letters. Silent Geography is meant to evoke the feel of nature but speak to those that live in cities. Mixed Greens writes:
Yet here the wilderness is not exactly that of nature but rather the din of flowing information, language, and symbol that surrounds most urban-dwellers on a daily basis. Into this flow Hazard creates a momentary pause, an immersive space of rest in which language is once again ordered and reduced to its simplest designative function.
Silent Georgraphy is on view until January 10, 2015.
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Charles Clary, a paper artist, has begun a body of work calling to the nostalgia of the 80s and 90s. Taking VHS boxes from old movie favorites and the containers for childhood games, like Operation and Monopoly, he cuts into the cardboard and weaves through a layered paper sculpture.
The concept is interesting although it is not absolutely clear what purpose the paper layering is serving in reference to the found items. While I find Clary’s work to be provocative and unique in most of the settings he has explored, in this specific scenario, the nostalgic entertainment pieces and the paper formations seem more to detract from one another as opposed to enhancing or adding to the viewer’s experience.
As explained in his artist statement:
“I use paper to create a world of fiction that challenges the viewer to suspend disbelief and venture into my fabricated reality. By layering paper I am able to build intriguing land formations that mimic viral colonies and concentric sound waves. These strange landmasses contaminate and infect the surfaces they inhabit transforming the space into something suitable for their gestation. Towers of paper and color jut into the viewer’s space inviting playful interactions between the viewer and this conceived world.”
Illustrator Raphaël Vicenzi, also known as Mydeadpony, combines watercolor, digital media, and typography in the creation of stunning and imaginative portraits. His female characters are a troubling (but fascinating) combination of darkness and light; washed in pastel colours, their seemingly innocent faces and figures are fragmented with images and words, from swords to jerrycans to obscure declarations of “wake up” and “wolves in the house.” These interposing objects cause the sensual apathy of the faces to fall away into a richer complexity.
When I asked Vicenzi about his creative process, he explained that it is very much driven by stream-of-consciousness: “my process is to start working on an illustration even if I am not sure where I am going.” He builds his pieces bit by bit, exploring and discovering them as if they were living entities. And while the results are beautiful and eclectic, Vicenzi admits that his art involves “a constant struggle, battling with myself about this or [that] decision.” However, the results are powerful, multimedia creations. “It’s worth it,” Vicenzi writes. “No pain no gain.”
Mydeadpony’s pieces speak to us with a familiar melancholy, as they explore the underlying nature of our emotional lives; beneath every face is an interplay of longing, pain, desire, anticipation, and nostalgia. The name “Mydeadpony” itself emerged from a photograph the artist found of himself: a child sitting on a white pony. Upon realizing the pony was long dead, this experience made him profoundly aware of the irreversible passage of time, and how we experience transformative loss and change at several points in our lives. This is the emotional, visceral core of Vicenzi’s work; hard to describe, but intensely palpable. Check out his website for a gallery of his pieces.