Robert Larson uses discarded cigarettes packaging, matchbooks, and rolling papers to create his compositions. Somewhat reminiscent of Tom Fruin’s drug baggies, the artist creates abstract patterns from smoking paraphernalia, and turns the ugly and destructive act of smoking into something unexpectedly beautiful.
Larson finds the materials by scavenging neighbourhoods in Santa Cruz, where he lives and works. There’s an interesting play between personal and impersonal in his work. The consistent grid of the items, be it shiny packaging or used matches, gives a sense of the systemic nature of urban life, while their individual treatment – worn by weather or use – sustains a sense of individual experience.
Cigarettes are rarely if ever associated with beauty, at least in our moment. Certainly in the past they were glamourized, but happily, people are beginning to see quite clearly their highly detrimental effect. Still, they maintain a heavy presence, and it’s exciting to see something positive come out of a predominantly negative thing. Larson’s compositions are surprisingly colourful and dynamic. He has a good eye for placement, as in the Marlboro packaging where he distributes the various tones of grey-brown wear to radiate outwards from the middle of the work. His pieces are mostly quite large, reaching over six feet. It makes me wonder how long it would take him to collect his materials, which could give him some understanding of the smoking population of each neighbourhood he collects from.
Chris Burkard is a photographer based in Central Coast, California. He captures lifestyle and action sports, and some of his most compelling works are these pictures of people surfing among the snow-covered mountains in places liked Iceland, Norway, and Alaska. There’s a cognitive dissonance that comes from viewing these photos – surfing is typically a warm-weather sport that doesn’t seem like it’d mix with the cold temperatures. But here, Burkard’s subjects are traipsing among glaciers and a white landscape in their head-to-toe wet suits.
Despite the initial reaction of “buuuurrrrr,” there’s a palpable bliss in Burkard’s idyllic photos. The natural beauty is undeniable no matter the temperature. Skies are clear, the water is blue, and it’s all made even brighter with the peppered throughout. Burkard purposely searches for wild, remote destinations, and, according to him, “portrays the humble placement of the human in contrast to nature.”
Photographer Brittany M. Powell has an ambitious project worthy of your support. She has embarked on a project of taking portraits of people that have incurred debt. Having already taken at least 15 photographs of different individuals, she has a Kickstarter project to help realize her goal of 99 different portraits. After losing her own job in 2008 and facing severe financial hardship, Powell decided to find others in a similar situation, to tell their stories and to dispel the social stigma surrounding bankruptcy, debt and talking about money issues in general. She says this about her project:
This [project] spurred my interest in investigating the role debt can play in our identity and how we relate to the world. Debt is publicly enforced and highly stigmatized, but is almost always privately experienced. It is in many ways an abstract form without material weight or structure, yet with heavy physicality and burden in a person’s everyday life. (Source)
Her subjects include James Riggs Davidson III who is an electrical contractor with a total debt of $52,335.63, Grace Ragland a family support worker with $75,000 in debt after her ex-husband was incarcerated and she became the sole carer of her family. She ended up working 2-3 jobs 7 days a week for 7 years. The range of people Powell profiles is so varied she really shows how common this problem is today.
My goal is to bring people together to recontextualize an abstract, often shamed experience. It is my hope that by having a platform to discuss this issue, it will encourage the viewer and participants to question and reframe our perception of debt and how we contribute to it’s power and role in our social structure. (Source)
To support her project visit her Kickstarter page here.
In his unconventional series, Raíces Aladas (Winged Roots), Spanish artist David Cata explores the possibilities of plant growth by transplanting vegetation into an unusual and unheard of herbaceous foundation: the palm of his hand.
For this project, Cata physically manipulated his hands in order to create a sustainable—albeit temporary—basis for plant habitation. By strategically peeling a designated layer of skin from his palm, Cata was able to create a small, vacant pouch. He then filled this compartment with soil, and, finally, with transplanted flora, which he then documented and compiled into a photographic series.
Much like A Flor de Piel—a preceding series in which the artist used a needle and thread to stitch sentimental portraits onto his own skin—Raíces Aladas presents, challenges, and defies known limitations of the human body—and, ultimately, effectively proves its opportune abilities as a canvas for artistic expression. (Via Design Boom)
Jonathan Payne’s sculptures of remixed human body parts are utterly disgusting. Warty skin and overgrown toenails, a tooth-penis-nipple hybrid, and a tongue with teeth in place of taste buds are some of the highlights of his shudder-worthy pieces. The sculptures evoke a very physical reaction in the viewer. They are extremely life-like, and so it’s easy to project your own senses into the toes and teeth, to imagine what it would feel like to have those body parts connected together. They’re anxiety inducing, but you can’t look away, they’re so horrifyingly real. If you’re wondering what they’re made of to look so realistic, Payne uses super sculpey, polymer clay, acrylic, and human hair.
Payne calls the sculptures Fleshlettes, and in his description says that he’s interested in “bizarre and fantastical surrealist characters”. Surrealism was concerned very much with the psyche, and I think Payne’s work does a good job of withdrawing and exploring some deep set insecurities with ugliness and deformation in his strange body part sculptures.
In an article on the blog Street Anatomy, it’s listed that each sculpture has a kind of name and character. The toothed tongue, for instance, is Tonya, and she’s the mother of all Fleshlettes. The eyeball is named Eileen “for obvious reasons”. This sense of humour is refreshing and also seems to suit the strange though ultimately nonthreatening characters.
In San Francisco’s Tenderloin neighborhood sits Aunt Charlie’s Lounge, a small, windowless locale that’s the only remaining gay bar in an area once known for its nightlife LGBTQ attractions. It features an evening-length drag queen show, which is the subject of photographer James Hosking’s intriguing images.
Hosking first visited Aunt Charlie’s in 2009 after moving to the city from New York, and he was drawn to the older entertainers there. What was their connection to drag when it was “illicit and less accessible,” and why do these people continue to perform? “They open themselves to ridicule because of their age, yet they seem to relish the opportunity for provocation and confrontation,” the photographer told Slate.
Hosking’s curiosity played out by photographing three performers at Aunt Charlie’s during 2013 – Collette LeGrande, Donna Personna, and Olivia Hart. He also teamed up with journalist Jeremy Lybarger for a story published in Out Magazine, and completed a documentary about the drag queens titled Beautiful by Night.
It’s in these gritty candid photos and film that we see just how laborious performing is. Putting on makeup, wigs, and costumes can take time a lot of stamina that only gets harder with age. And with all that effort, audience members can sometimes be disrespectful, Hosking tells Slate, “But, for the most part, I think the joy comes from the audience’s excitement and pleasure, which creates a feeling that everyone is there to have a good time together. I imagine that makes all the bullshit worthwhile. The tips don’t hurt either.”
Check out the documentary to hear the drag queens talk about their experience and to see the transformation process take place.
These marble and bronze sculptures of Kevin Francis Gray‘s are beautifully mysterious. They are classical in technique, but completely contemporary in subject matter. Gray chooses figures and characters – “the freaks and oft-romanticized street tribes of the East End” he see on the streets around his studio in London and then turns them into striking statues. Covering them in beaded veils or shrouding their faces with draped cloth, he manages to surround them in mystery.
His piece called ‘Ghost Girl’ superficially looks like a classical Greek or Roman sculpture, but is actually an earnest, tender view of a modern city girl, with a urban-ghetto-gothic twist. Poking out from underneath her veil is a skull tilted down toward her feet. She has her arms casually wrapped behind her back, but bear the markings of self harm. Gray renders many of his subjects from live sittings and recalls sketching the different faces:
One of the subjects has intense agoraphobia. Another was the first subject whom I really, truly didn’t like. He was so dark, a complicated psychopath. But I was determined to capture that. Some of the subjects could only sit still for an hour, because they had to go get high or whatever. (Source)
All of Gray’s pieces have a dark history to them, but he sculpts them so impressively they transform into something majestic, almost mythical.
What I’m trying to do is create a juxtaposition. The surface is glossy and consumable, but look deeper beneath that and you’ll see a darker underworld. (Source)
If kinetic art “is art from any medium that contains movement perceivable by the viewer or depends on motion for its effect,” (Wikipedia) then “Electronic Traces: Memories of Dance” by Lesia Trubat González is the most literal form of kineticism. In “Electronic Traces” González has adapted ballet pointé shoes to create digital pictures, recreating the dancer’s movements.
“We focused on the ballet shoes themselves, which through the contact with the ground, and thanks to Lilypad Arduino technology, record the pressure and movement of the dancer’s feet and send a signal to an electronic device. A special application will then allow us to show this data graphically and even customize it to suit each user, through the different functions of this app. The user can then view all the moves made in video format, extract images and even print them.”
Many people desire to capture the beauty of physical movement in art. Heather Hansen’s “Emptied Gestures”, previously covered on Beautiful/Decay, also seeks to document the movements of the artist’s body as she lies on a huge sheet of paper and holds charcoal in her hands, tracing her choreographed performance. “Electronic Traces,” however, is more than an artist’s tool.
“Dancers can interpret their own movements and correct them or compare them with the movements of other dancers, as graphs created with motion may be the same or different depending on the type of movements executed and the correction of the steps and body position.
This is a project that can be extrapolated to other dance disciplines and the applications are multiple, from self- learning or dance classes to the graphical representation of live performance.”
Particularly evocative is the subtitle, “Memories of Dance.” Video can film a dance as it occurs; photography can elegantly freeze a particular frame. But like a memory, the sketchy lines of E-Traces capture the movement but lose the specificity of the moment. (Via Juxtapoz)