Jordan Westre (Living Couch) is a Canadian artist who creates beautiful and critically engaging collages from amalgams of modern and vintage print media. While Westre’s works are all highly unique and nuanced, many of them share recurring imagery, including landscapes, space travel, war, and the feminine body. From a broader aesthetic perspective, her collages are seamless and evocative; Westre has a brilliant ability to weave together seemingly disparate images in a holistic way. The more you look, however, the more a deep — and often dark, or disconcerting — social commentary emerges, one that examines cross-generational anxieties regarding the state of society and its relationship to human sexuality.
Westre’s artistic process begins with a self-impelled assembly of aesthetically-pleasing images. As she explains: “I don’t set out with a definite vision, I just flip through magazines […] or books with vintage photographs or illustrations, [and] pull out anything that might serve as a good subject, background, or element.” From there, she lays everything down and seeks compelling combinations — “and that’s where the inspiration comes about.” Currently, she uses liquid glazes on canvas or canvas board, but is planning on experimenting with hot and cold-pressed papers and spray adhesives.
When it comes to the meaning behind her work, Westre says that most of it unconsciously materializes as “anxiety-riddled observation[s]” of society. The collages depict the world in an oscillating utopic/dystopic state; or indeed, as an oft-idealized place that is festering at its center. In Westre’s words: “[My work is] grappling with the awareness that a lot of our society and the path we’re on is utterly fucked — for lack of a better phrase — while we’re all smiling and laughing and consuming […]. Polish & the rot beneath.”
Westre also brings human sexuality into these critiques, exploring what she identifies as the “ultimate vulnerability and ultimate power” of sex. Desire — which is represented here by eroticized images of the female body — vacillates between states of seduction, submission, and destruction. It is unpredictable; hence why it might contribute to Westre’s fear of a world slipping into chaos. Check out Living Couch for more of her incredible work.
Los Angeles-based artist Ken Garduno studied illustration at Pasadena’s Art Center College of Design, graduating in 2006. Since then, he has been hard at work as a freelance illustrator and gallery artist. His paintings and illustrations are one part psychedelic, one part the occult, a pinch of old-timey goodness, and flavored to taste with science fiction. The end product? Delicious.
Andrew Laumann utilizes multiple media and presents the viewer with tongue-in-cheek installations that are witty and often irreverent. He seems to revel in destruction and humor. In one piece we see The Wipers logo combined with that of The Wu-Tang Clan. I find it interesting that elements from both emblems appear on albums released in 1993 (Silver Sails and Enter the Wu-Tang 36 Chambers).The resulting composite of 90’s punk and rap iconography speaks of his youthful energy and disregard for the conventional. It takes an astute artist to simultaneously mock and enlighten.
Illustrator & art director Julia Kostreva is a lady with many talents—whether it’s working on membership kits for creative co-lo hotspot Makeshift Society, web design for brands like Kodenko Jeans or creating intriguing artwork for The Dirty Projectors. After studying graphic design and printmaking at Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore, Kostreva made the trek out to San Francisco, where she has rooted herself in a multi-faceted creative career. Kostreva has gone on to develop a series of simple, visually striking letterpress prints, notebooks, calendars and cards—in addition to textile patterns.
Matthieu Bourel creates surreal collages that, despite their dream-like qualities, feel somehow rooted in reality. It might have something to do with his use of black and white photos, summoning up a specter of the past and lending a sort of mythic quality to his art.
In some of his pieces, it almost feels as though they’re still frames of a tall tale as opposed to utter fiction. They feel historically relevant, which, according to Bourel, is part of the intended effect. “When successful, all the elements fall together with irony and tension while all other realities are obliterated, leaving the viewer as participant inside the picture, with his own codes and connections,” Bourel explains. “The image then carries the weight of a personal reality.”
The phrase “personal reality” aptly encapsulates the quiet strangeness of his collages. Bloodless cross-sections of torsos and bodies are more contemplative than gruesome, as though they’re textbook diagrams.
Bourel describes his process as finding pictures and photographs that spark inspiration. He’s drawn to pictures that “evoke a fake history or inspire nostalgia for a period in time that never truly existed.”
“A piece often becomes about the search and desire to combine those emergent narrative symbols that seem charged with a familiar yet distant emotion,” Bourel says.
We’ve posted David Maisel’s work before. His aerial photographs of open mines depict the colorful transformation of polluted areas. His new project, Library of Dust, catalogues individual copper canisters containing the unclaimed remains of patients from the Oregon State Insane Asylum who died sometime between 1883 and the 1970s. Each canister’s chemical decay is uniquely colorful; the aesthetic resonates with transformation indicated in his aerial photography. “Among my concerns with Library of Dust are the crises of representation that derive from attempts to index or archive the evidence of trauma; the uncanny ability of objects to portray such trauma; and the revelatory possibilities inherent in images of such traumatic disturbances. While there are certainly physical and chemical explanations for the ways these canisters have transformed over time, the canisters also encourage us to consider what happens to our own bodies when we die, and to the souls that occupy them.”
Ariana Page Russell has a hypersensitive skin condition called dermatographia that informs the bulk of her work. Her immune system releases excessive amounts of histamine. If she scratches her skin, this will cause her capillaries to dilate and welts to appear on her skin for about 30 minutes. This gives her enough time draw on her skin before photographing it, capturing a temporary inflammation. She often integrates cut-up photographs of her skin into some of her work, and even creates temporary tattoos out of these images. Russell sees the body as an index of passing time and human experience, and skin as the organ that visually reflects this transience. Russell currently lives in Brooklyn, New York.
Amanda Merten makes you wonder what sorts of things you could cook up with the time you spend diving deep into the bowels of the internet in search of sacred, yet-undiscovered images of cats to turn into potential memes. From styling to modeling to photography– the skill she contributes to The Smartest Thing She’s Ever Said. Amanda seems to do it all and do it all pretty well. We talk to her here about being a do-it-all, the intriguing story she’s working out with her collaborator Alice Gregory, and the mythic lack of good Mexican food on the East Coast.