Painter Jonathan Yeo captures wonderfully serene moments in the midst of something quite violent. Snapshots of women undergoing cosmetic surgery are painted in a delicate, realistic style, complete with cutting lines. Blurred edges and half-formed torsos suggest bodies that are not yet complete. We see the surgeon’s hands pulling this way and that, like an artist inspecting his canvas. Glimpses of figures are covered in cryptic markings, ready to be cut, snipped, sliced and altered. Yeo’s paintings appear to be something of a modern day Frankenstein.
A self-taught artist, Yeo has been exploring ideas of identity through portraiture, pornographic collages and images of plastic surgery since the early 90s. Having completed high profile portraits of celebrities (Nicole Kidman, Damien Hirst, Malala Yousafzai, Kevin Spacey and Tony Blair) it is fitting for Yeo to move onto another western obsession – vanity. These paintings of the modern day phenomena that is cosmetic surgery are deeply disturbing. We see these women in the midst of transformation, in a state of ease, even bliss, but perhaps this has more to do with the anesthetic. Using a palette of beige, creams and and greys, his works appear sickly but peaceful.
Depicting these subjects as he does, Yeo really is the contemporary Mary Shelley. He shows us people so ready and willing to undergo drastic changes – a vanity and longing for perfection that is in all of us. These paintings maybe act as the mirror we should be looking into; a mirror in which we don’t see what we want to, but rather the stark reality we are faced with: that perhaps Narcissus is not such a far away myth after all.
What’s in a word? That’s what the prolific and internationally known Asian-American artist Omocat has been faced with lately. In the midst of her recent “shota” t-shirt release (pictured here), the artist’s intentions have in instances been taken widely out of context. Embraced by Japanese fans that understand the context, some others have used it as a brutal platform for Western backlash. In this instance something got lost in translation between hemispheres, and it is increasingly important that we explore the context and origin of the Japanese word shota and, above all, what this illustrates about western views on sexuality and gender.
Omocat’s continuum of work includes illustration, comic-books, clothing and merch with her designs. Her imagery and content is often based on shota (which loosely translates to mean “pretty boy”) or loli (an expansive style and sometimes fetish originating in Nabakov’s Lolita). All of these artistic expressions stem from Otaku, an umbrella term for the Japanese manga-centric subculture that also informs the work of artist Takashi Murakami. It is important to note that Omocat is quite vocal and literal within the work on her feelings towards social justice and self-empowerment in gender and sexual identity, with a strong personal stance against bullying. This is illustrated fully in her comic “Pretty Boy,” featured here. Omocat is even working on a collaborative artistic effort against bullying set to launch later this fall.
The Centro Financiero Confinanzas Skyscraper in Caracas, Venezuela, has been home to 3000 squatting residents since October 2007. Alejandro Cegarra took five months to create The Other Side of the Tower, a photo-series that documents the lives of the abandoned building’s inhabitants. Although it is in no way an ideal life – Cegarra reports that there are places without railings where drunk people or children have fallen, and that the water and electrical systems are not adequate – the Tower of David, as it has been nicknamed, is a place where people have created their homes to live mostly peacefully.
Cegarra’s photographs provide a candid look at the community, and how they have developed the unfinished building into something livable. There are shops, and even an unlicensed dentist working in the building. Although the elevators do not work, people ride motorcycles up to the 10th floor in place of them. Residents live up to the 28th floor, meaning some walk 18 flights of stairs even with the use of a motorcycle.
The photo-series brings up an interesting issue of living standards and help versus enforcement. After difficult negotiation, government officials agreed in July to move hundreds of families to new social housing in Cua, south of Caracas. There has apparently been interest expressed in developing the rest of the building for its original purpose, but the government states it is open to a dialogue concerning the use of the building. Still, considering some residents would have been living there for 7 years, is dislocation the best option? Could the government have invested money in developing the building as a better home to those who already live there, or is it a-moral to nurture inherently unstable conditions.
Cegarra’s photographs help to illustrate the perspective of those most affected. Although his own lens may equally distort in favour of the tower’s inhabitants, romanticizing their condition, it may be closer to the truth than anything else offered. Ultimately, it should be the inhabitant’s needs that are considered the most heavily.
Cegarra has been awarded the Ian Parry Scholarship for The Other Side of the Tower. (Via TIME Lightbox)
UK photographer Laura Dodsworth took 100 photos of women’s bare breasts for her project Bare Reality. Her goal is to present a non-Photoshopped spectrum of bodies of women aged from 19 to 101. It’s not just about appearances, though. Dodsworth also gathers personal stories about the participants and narratives about the way women feel about their breasts.
“More than simply part of our bodies, breasts represent sexuality, motherhood and femininity. When we talk about breasts we talk about intimate aspects of our lives as women, such as growing up, sexuality, motherhood, breastfeeding, relationships, body image, health, cancer and ageing.”
There has been a lot of attention paid to the portrayal of women’s bodies recently. Natural beauty and non-surgically altered physiques have started to appear more frequently in ad campaigns and fashion magazines. During European summers, it’s more common to see topless women of all sizes and shapes. In the US, the breasts we tend to see outside of our mirrors and homes are youthful or enhanced. It leads to a skewed view of reality; what to expect from one’s own body and what to expect in a partner.
These real women with real bodies are all different. Some are marked by age and time, others by disease. Small, large, upright, and sagging, each portrait has a story, including: “I’m one of the lucky ones,” “Breasts make you feel like a proper woman,” and “My milk went when Hitler marched in.” Dodsworth writes:
“I have always been fascinated by the dichotomy between women’s personal lives and how they are depicted in the media; between how we feel about breasts privately and how they are presented for public consumption. Bare Reality is, for me, the inevitable result of being a woman, a feminist and a photographer.”
Dodsworth’s is currently holding a kickstarter campaign to publish a book of this project.
Designer and art director Kevin Weir sources old photographs and animates them into comical, absurd and often haunting gifs. Trawling the online archives of the Library of Congress, Weir uses the instantaneous nature of gifs to rough out short and snappy ideas. The photographs he uses as a base are all black and white, straight-faced, historical snapshots and result in a very Monty Python-esque comedic sketch.
Innocent Grandmas suddenly morph into tens of menacing crows and fly off screen. Bombed-out cities have strange monsters stalking in the background, materializing through wisps of smoke. We witness composed soldiers having their souls depart their uniformed bodies. Some changes are so subtle, we think maybe we are imagining it, adding to the haunting illusion of the whole scene.
Hosted on a tumblr site called The Flux Machine, Weir shows off his knack for humor. From an early age Weir was playing around with Photoshop and adding his own spin to various images. Throughout grad school he had a lot of spare time to fine tune his skills and years later spiced up his hobby of animating birds – coming up with these bizarre ideas. He says he is always drawn to “unknowable places and persons”; to pictures that aren’t loaded with modern day associations. The little “Princess Juliana” child sitting in her rocking chair conjuring up a flame, would feel completely different in a modern day context. The blend of antiquity, deadpan humor and surrealism in Weir’s work is a potently hilarious combination. (via Colossal)
What’s your morning routine like? Maybe it takes you 15 minutes, or perhaps an hour. Whatever it is, Avtar Singh Mauni from Patiala, Northen India has you beat. He spends six hours a day getting his turban ready before he ventures to the local temple. The devout Sikh’s impressive headdress measures 2,115 feet (about 645 meters) when unwrapped and weighs about 100 pounds.
The 60-year-old is proud of his turban, which took him 16 years to assemble all of its parts. He’ll wear it until he physically can’t any longer; Singh doesn’t consider it a burden and says that he’s happiest when he has it on his head. In fact, when he doesn’t have it on, part of him feels incomplete.
While most people who follow Sikhism wear turbans, they are comprised of a length between five and seven meters and probably don’t weigh all that much. Singh’s, in further comparison, has purple and orange fabric that weighs 66 pounds, while the decorative elements make up the extra weight. This is coupled with a sword and heavy bangles that weigh an additional 87 pounds.
Singh’s ritual sits at the bizarre intersection of art, fashion, and religion. Do you think it could be considered a type of performance art? Or just a fervent dedication to cultural guidelines? (Via Lost At E Minor and Oddity Central)
In Thailand, the term ladyboy is a nickname for transgender women, and they are a population often met with intolerance and prejudice. Their place in society is explored through photographer Soopakorn Srisakul’s series Mistress, in which he captures the daily life of his girlfriend and four other ladyboys. They all work at bars and as call girls in the infamous red-light Nana district in Bangkok.
Srisakul’s images are his journey in understanding his partner and the others experiences. There are few positions that are hiring transgendered women, so this community typically finds work in department stores, makeup counters, and cabaret venues. Those that are bargirls generally make better the better wages, which allows them to save up for gender reassignment surgeries.
Mistress presents us with poignant pictures of both work and home. There are moments of dark clubs, sure, but there are also quiet scenes in bright bedrooms. Srisakul writes:
They go out working, come back to their room, go relaxing outside, occasionally go back to visit family in the countryside, and then go to work. They, like anyone else, just try to get by. They laugh for joy, cry for sorrow, they work to earn a living, and they have an argument with their boyfriend, just like anyone else. In this sense, what makes them so different from us as to warrant a harsh treatment from the moral society, and do they deserve it at all? (Via Feature Shoot)
James Nares makes one seemingly fluid stroke full of action to create his paintings. His artwork is extremely minimalist, and full of expression. The viewer can follow the stroke like a path, witnessing his every step in the splashes, interruptions, and slight wavers. His colour palette is vibrant, mostly blues and greens, with luminous whites and sensuous reds. They’re very three dimensional, the ones running horizontally seem to move like long slithering dragons or snakes.
It’s interesting to consider the time it may take Nares to create each one. Although they appear to be quite speedy, it must take either a great deal of control or repeated attempts to produce such pointed work. The works aren’t redundant, nor are they overloaded. Although each is done with a repeated strategy, they are executed with refinement. His artwork actually reminds me of Alberto Seveso’s Disastro Ecologico series. We have featured other work of his before, here.
Nares has said of his own work:
“I try to embody the nature and combine the forms—it’s like one and one making three—to expose a metaphor of some kind. It’s searching for metaphors, for likeness, like a breeding ground. It seems to me, that’s how a language develops. Everything breeds through metaphors.”