At the intersection of fashion, photography, film, stagecraft, and design, artist Marina Fini creates hallucinatory, alternative worlds. Based in California, she collaborates with friends and artists alike in the staging of these otherworldly scenes, using colorful costumes and her own handmade, plexiglass jewelry to turn her photographic subjects into ethereal cyber goddesses. When asked how she builds these characters, Fini remarked, “there’s something about transforming someone into someone they wouldn’t normally be … that is, creating an extension of themselves that I see in them.” All of her characters exude a captivating power, like the whimsical and intangible figures seen through a psychedelic dream. By exploring alternative selves in familiar contexts – a convenience store, or the Californian seaside, for example – Fini explores how subjecthood is fluid, and how such creative “shape-shifting” can alter they way we perceive our immediate reality.
While beautiful, there are also darker and more satirical elements in Fini’s work; in her own words, there’s something compelling about “juxtaposing what we associate as innocent with something horrific or insane.” In her short film Tree Temple, for example, a group of forest sprites — their faces eerily obscured by their colorful hair — dance feverishly around an altar made of Apple computers. Shortly after destroying the altar in their frenzy, they fade into mourning and death. As this film exemplifies, integrated throughout Fini’s scenes are emblems of our contemporary cyber culture — the Apple logo, wifi symbol, hand cursor, and so on. Speaking to this, Fini says that the use of such icons “specifically pokes fun at our internet-obsessed culture,” thereby producing a playful — and sometimes dark — cultural critique of our digitized existences.
In addition to her photographs and videos, Fini is well-known for her aforementioned jewelry, as seen on many of the models in these photos. In pursuit of new projects, she has recently announced that she will be phasing out her jewelry, but her Etsy shop will remain open until mid-January 2015. If you enjoy immersive art and playful reconfigurations of reality, check out the surreal worlds she has created on her website and Tumblr pages.
Italian photographer Giampaolo Sgura has put together a whimsical, colorful photo shoot for the December/January 2015 issue of Vogue Paris with supermodels posing as lifelike Barbie dolls trapped in commercial packaging. He has turned the idea of Prêt-à-porter into something quite literal – into a pre-packaged sartorial commodity that you can carry away. The idea of purchasing a look or an outfit from a catalog is now conceptualized as something that it has always been – a highly stylized and idealized situation amplifying our fantasies and desires.
Supermodels Magdalena Frackowiak and Elisabeth Erm take the place of childlike dolls, dressed up in highly fashionable clothes, surrounded by desirable products and placed in boxes labelled with luxury labels such as Dolce and Gabbana, Chanel, Valentino and Miu Miu. They seem to bring the concept of fashion full circle in that they are now animations of the thing they are selling. Fashion photography has always projected an idealized representation of how one could live in the clothes it markets, this time we are shown the truth of the illusion.
As Alfred Stieglitz once said,
In photography, there is a reality so subtle that it becomes more real than reality. (Source)
And that is exactly what Sgura’s photography is. It is so real it becomes surreal. It is a stark commentary of the commodification of fashion. He captures the reality of the representation of modern women in modern times – not just as consumers of fashion, but also as objects. (Via Design Boom)
Swiss artist and illustrator Christo Dagorov’s series Lips features surreal drawings of – you guessed it – human lips. Although they mimic the shape, Dagorov transforms them with textures that you wouldn’t see on someone’s face. The artist uses pencil to create a forest, prison, and even a group of naked bodies.
If the series wasn’t titled Lips, there’s a chance you might not realize that they are the subject of Dagorov’s drawings. He covers their supple surface with his own imagination and effectively turns them into tiny landscapes with short, narrative tales. But, because know they are intended as lips, it adds another layer of intrigue. These images represent a story that’s being told and a visual way to signify words coming off lips. (Via Colossal)
Kathy Klein is a devout lover of plants, and she translates this admiration into a series of natural mandalas. They are called danmalas, which means “the giver of flowers” in vedic sanskrit. The colorful arrangements are comprised of different blooms, leaves, and even some vegetables such as peppers. She layers a variety of textures and shapes into circular patterns that converge in the center.
Klein describes how she crafts these pieces, and it’s about around being in the right state of mind. First, she situates herself in a meditative devotional space. Next, she gathers flowers and other natural objects while her mind continues to be still. She finds inspiration from the golden sound that resides in silence. “These offerings are reflections of the inexpressible, a gesture which points towards life’s abundance, an unspoken verse of Love,” Klein writes. “The danmalas remind us all to listen to the unheard voice of nature, creation, and the eternal mystery.”
If you too are a plant lover (or mandala lover), Klein has many, many more danmalas on her website. (Via Faith is Torment)
Photographer David Emmite snaps pictures of a different kind of still life. A plate of spaghetti and meatballs is supplemented with yarn and knitting needles; a thick steak is cut directly from the flesh of a table, finely marbled by wood grain.
Emmite’s whimsical take on classic everyday objects in his series “Pot Luck Dinner” seems to occur entirely within the confines of a dollhouse neighborhood. There’s a playful sense of imagination that permeates all his photographs, especially his TV dioramas. Tiny green army men burst out of a handheld television set, literally breaking the fourth wall. A retro TV houses a floating model of the starship Enterprise, recalling the nostalgic days when model-building was a widespread hobby.
The sense of nostalgia is not misplaced; according to Emmite’s artist’s biography, his interest in tinkering and bringing playtime to life started from an early age. Fortunately, he didn’t leave his imagination in the past, instead choosing to stage miniature scenes and bring them to life. (h/t Behance)
These majestic, bird’s eye view images are of the remote Yuanyang Hani Rice Terraces located in China’s Yunnan province. Small bodies of water are punctuated by the bold lines that create the terraces, and they signify the harmony of man and nature. Their brilliant colors and complex designs give them the appearance of abstract paintings rather than natural splendor.
The 1,300-year-old terraces cover 461 square kilometers, and are said to display the best-developed in three valleys. And although it’s hard to tell from these photos, they cascade from a summit of 2,000 meters above sea level to the base of the Ailao mountain range.
From late April to late September, the Hani people grow red rice. The water from brooks, springs, and rain is collected by forests and distributed through the gravitational system. This accounts for the vibrant grounds we see here. (Via China Discovery Blog and Dana Boulos)
Designer Nickolay Lamm has designed a “Normal Barbie,” who has the same body issues as “regular” people. This doll, called Lammily, comes with stickers to show acne, tattoos, stretch marks, and other imperfections that make us (and her) human. Now, before you rush out and buy one for every child in your life, it’s probable this design is tongue-in-cheek, and questionable how much kids will enjoy it at first.
However, it is a good barometer to measure ourselves against. Barbie- the old school Barbie I had growing up- embodies the idea of perfection, one that is fed to children at a very young age and subconsciously produces vast feelings of inadequacy and the idea that woman should measure up to specific proportions, proportions that aren’t even attainable. Everyone knows that Barbie’s curves cannot exist on a real human’s body. So why do we form her that way? What role models are we giving our children and what does that say about our society? Food for thought.
Here is some more about Lammily:
“A sticker pack that comes with the doll allows kids to apply all the sorts of skin imperfections that real people have, teaching kids that they don’t have to aspire to or value the unrealistic body images promoted by Barbie or Ken dolls. And, judging by the reactions of the 2nd-graders Lamm showed his doll to, the message has been received with open arms!”
One of our best and zaniest magazine covers (which is saying something!) was designed by French illustrator Skwak, exclusively for B/D Issue J. We profiled Skwak for that issue, and we interviewed him again when he collaborated with the Mr. Chiizu crew. He described the genesis of the crazed creatures he features:
“My maniacs are born to pollution. They have since evolved and created a world with its own rules and codes, all based on the absurd and the idea of “excess”. Every day, new maniacs enter this world and make it evolve. This world is becoming more dense, more rich everyday.”
You can get this totally radical Skwak B/D cover print now in our newly relaunched shop. Hungry for more of Skwak’s style, just like we are? Well whet your art appetite with his Feed Me print, a beautifully tangled composition of hungry creatures, weaving in and out of one another as they eat everything in sight. Take some critters home with you today!
On the lookout for cool art gifts for friends and family? We’ve got a big holiday sale on all of our posters, books and magazines. Now you can find the work of Skwak and other talented artists at 15% off full price! re3Use the promo code “beautifulposters” during check out and instantly save 15% on everything on our shop!