David R Harper’s artwork is about the projection or imposition of meaning on an object, especially concerning memorial in death. He embroiders over taxidermy animals on prints of still life paintings from the 18th century. He sees the dead animals as a human way of addressing mortality; feeling empathy for the dead animal, but also as a way of avoiding grappling with our own inevitable demise. The embroidery creates a void or emptiness, especially literal in the white thread, and more dynamic but equally vacant with the use of green patterning in The Fall. Thread operates in most cases as a cold medium and Harper employs it extremely effectively in combination with his meticulous technique.
His most ambitious work is titled I Tried, and I Tried, and I Tried, presumably a quasi-reference to the Rolling Stones song (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction, as well as Napoleon’s conquests. Harper embroiders the entire horse of David’s Napoleon Crossing the Alps. In the original artwork the horse is mostly white with black on its tail and head, where Harper creates a gradient that transforms from black to light grey. What is truly incredible is that this process doesn’t flatten the horse; it retains its form in the sculpting of the flow of the thread. The beast becomes much more powerful and haunting
Art Info has a great slideshow that compares Harper’s sculpture and embroidery work to other well-known artists. See it here.
Helen Warner’s photography is jarringly beautiful: part Tim Burton gothica, part carnivale, part Shakespeare; looking through her photos is an invitation to a secret séance. With dramatic use and manipulation of negative space, many of the figures photographed appear to be drifting out from nowhere, candidly caught in the act of being mysterious. Having studied cinema and modernism at The Queen’s University of Belfast, she is currently living and working in Northern Ireland. Warner’s work has a flair for the histrionic, and her photographs carry the weight of a Shakespearian scene. “Death, where is thy sing?” rings through these women, skin caked in white, their faces shrouded, sometimes bound, encased by winter’s wood, cast in autumnal hues. The women are caged by items of beauty, while being items of beauty themselves. A glass cube in the forest, a white plastic sheet encircling forest trees, or even a head locked under the bell jar, buoyed by flowers. There is an underlying juxtaposition between being out in the remote wilderness, the wild, and being bound by external forces, which extends to even the elaborate costuming. There is the ongoing implication that movement is not fluid, it is stifled, both by internal and external circumstances, but the faces photographed certainly aren’t giving any hints away.
South African Photographer Anelia Loubser is forcing us to look twice. Her project “Alienation” is a light-hearted approach to the complicated question of what exactly is conventional beauty? By flipping quite normal, traditional portraits upside down, she points out how easy it is for all of us to look instantly strange. There is a great quote that sums up Loubser’s project:
“If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change” – Wayne Dyer.
This couldn’t be any truer – such a simple act has a great effect. What usually are forehead wrinkles, now act as grimaces, lips puckered in pain; long eyebrows are now odd whiskers sprouting from cheeks or strange furry circles under the eyes. Noses are flipped to replace foreheads and are disconcertingly bulbous – large alien lumps appear where they shouldn’t be.
These photographs are a view into a weird and wonderful world; one full of alien-like humans, but a world where each new face is as beautiful and as intriguing as the next.
These are the new versions of “potato head” – where features are interchangeable and we are able to play around with our ideas of accepted beauty and identity.
Crystal Barbre, a Seattle painter, has created an alternate universe where women call the shots, their raw glory shining prominently through the head of an animal. These hungry scenes, at first glance, just look like a skillfully painted playground of lust: voluptuous animal-headed women in the throes of passion, yet there is much more at work here. The mysterious and enigmatic quality of rawness within the animal expression offers more to interpret than just sex. Barbre is giving these animals a power they may not otherwise have; with an animal head the women are operating on an instinctual basis; one not vulnerable to the persuasive effect of emotions.Their strength lies in the fact that they cannot be conned, by themselves or others. They are eternally present, and they engage with their sexuality while remaining a powerful, wild, and even threatening figure. Theriocephaly, or, the condition of having the head of an animal, dates back to Greek mythology and is often used in art and storytelling as a symbolic element. Barbre has used this subject matter to explore dealing with sexual abuse, as a way of allotting power where, for many women, there sometimes isn’t any.
Photographer Alex John Beck uses photo manipulation to explore the idea that symmetrical faces are the most beautiful in his series “Both Sides Of”. After taking portraits of a diverse collection of people, he digitally divides them. He then duplicates each side, matching right half to right and left to left, creating two new portraits of perfectly symmetrical faces. The original portrait is not shown.
It’s not a new idea—Julian Wolkenstein’s 2010 series “Symmetrical Portraits” is very similar. Wolkenstein’s website, echoism, also allows users to upload their own pictures to be made symmetrical by an open source program on the site.
Turkish photographer Eray Eren does a version as well, though his include a third, non-manipulated shot for comparison.
Still, the quality of these images is excellent, and they continue to evoke questions relating to beauty and character. It’s tempting to create a narrative for the “people” in these portraits—so similar but not the same—to look from one image to the other and measure attraction and interest. Both created faces are absolutely symmetrical, theoretically proving the commonly held belief that symmetrical faces are the most appealing. And yet, they’re not. The artist says on his website:
“The less symmetrical they are initially, the more different the characters suggested by each face. The more symmetrical faces betray their owners more subtly, however, one side proves clearer, the other more inward looking.”
Movie and video game animators have long struggled with the issue of how to make a realistic human face that can hold up to high definition viewing. It’s incredibly difficult to create faces that look different from all angles, in different moods, on different days. Often it’s the overly symmetrical features and consistency of appearance that make the characters obviously unreal. The asymmetry in our faces is what makes us human. (via Feature Shoot)
Remember that awkward period of your life called puberty? The one that you might like to forget? Well, Berlin-based artist Alexander Gellner reminds us in a short animation that sums it all up in a little over a minute. It’s called One Minute Puberty and it captures the essence of what its like to go through this stage.
We see the main character experience a lot of changes, from pimples, to growth spurts, and discovering their own identity. The video’s energy is non-stop beginning to end thanks to the track and sound design by Niklas A Kröger. It’s reflective about how it feels to grow up and the wish of getting older so you don’t have to deal with puberty anymore.
Gellner tells the site Cartoon Brew that One Minute Puberty was part of his graduation project from HTW Berlin. The school didn’t have an animation department but they allowed him to make his film anyways. It was completed over the course of seven weeks.
Cara Phillips got the idea for her Ultraviolet Beauty series from the beauty industry. Medical spas and dermatologists use the same ultraviolet light that she did, with a very different effect. The ultraviolet shows every imperfection of your skin not visible to the naked eye, and dermatologists use it to show you a glimpse into the ‘future’ of your skin. In reality, there is no way to know how many of the blemishes will surface, but it’s an effective scare tactic, and apparently ensures the sale of cosmetic products to ‘prevent’ the catastrophe that is imperfect skin.
Phillips’ focus was to use the same ultraviolet technology, but with a different outcome. She took portraits of people on the street in New York, offering them for free to anyone willing to sit (it’s unclear if they had to pay to have a print, so free might be a liberal term here). She encouraged them to close their eyes to soften their expression. The images are beautiful, and you can’t imagine that someone could look at themselves portrayed in this style and feel alarmed by the look of their skin. Phillips’ photographs are taken in black and white large format, presumably not the technology a medical spa would employ, but the original images taken by the skin professionals are in black and white, so Phillips’ photos are not far from the truth. (Via MTL Blog)
Swiss Artist Zimoun creates sound sculptures and installation art that is a little bit strange. Equal parts raw, industrial materials; equal parts mechanical elements, he creates rooms full of what seem like living and breathing objects. He combines cardboard boxes, plastic bags, old furniture, packaging tape, wires, light tubes, cotton balls and motors to transform a space into something very unexpected.
His low-fi sound architecture follows on in John Cage’s footsteps, an artist he says he thought a lot about when he was younger. Zimoun explains his fascination with combining sound, strong visual elements and bringing obsolete technology to life:
I’m interested in a mix of living structures on the one hand, and control about decisions and details on the other. A combination of structures continuously generating or evolving by chance, chain reactions or other generative systems, and a specifically delimited and contained space in which these events are allowed to happen.
By drawing our attention to these often over-looked, or under-valued materials, Zimoun forces us to examine the nature in industrial materials, and the industrial in nature.
His sound sculptures are a combination of clean modernist structures, and the forces of chaos reacting against each other. We see how the patterns and rhythms of machines slowly change, the longer they are allowed to run. Like Cage, Zimoun allows a great deal of chance affect his work. He lets his mechanical sculptures run for an indeterminable amount of time, allowing the space to become a self-governing, organic space. Zimoun’s art very easily blurs the lines between nature and man/machine.