The subject of Miljohn Ruperto‘s work in the recent 2014 Whitney Biennial is taken from the mysterious Voynich manuscript. Dating back to the 15th century, the book contains indecipherable text, whose authorship, has been credited throughout history to aliens, ancient Mayans, and long forgotten tribes. It repeatedly stumps the brightest scholars and laymen making it one of the greatest and most misunderstood academic mysteries of all time. The only clues to its origins lie in 126 unidentified botanical studies accompanying the text. The illustrations of plants and figures, drawn in a weirdly fantastical style, tell a story which seem to mirror life’s age old mysteries. The project involving Ruperto and his collaborator, Ulrik Heltoft began by making 3D models of the plants, which were then photographed and transferred onto black and white analog film.
The end result, is a series of creepy snap shots recalling old hollywood publicity stills. Creakily formed branches and stems appear as strange appendages, as the plants take on otherworldly shapes illuminated by sinister shadows. The staging of Voynich’s botany not only becomes haunting and striking but everlasting, offering the viewer a mostly cinematic experience. An ongoing project, it will continue with the duo creating new photos of the specimens accompanied by large paintings of an enigmatic planet known as 55 canri e. 55 cancri e is part of the cancri planetary system which revolves around our sun. Astrophysicists have suggested it might be composed entirely out of diamonds. This came to light after studies found when the planet passed in front of the sun, it absorbed an enormous amount of energy. However, much like the Voynich and due to its enormous distance from earth shall probably only remain escapist fodder for our intellectual pursuits.
In the site-specific installation Anxiety Map, designer Alexia Mosby documents an overactive mind’s anxious thoughts. It’s a personal map, and one that boldly displays the many things that run through your head as you’re leaving your home. Over the course of two flights of stairs, you’re doubting that the stove was turned off or the door was locked. After making your way to the bottom of the steps, you come to the conclusion that you have to go back and check.
Anxiety Map uses stairs, walls, and even railings to transmit her text in black masking tape. At certain angles letters look distorted, and it’s only when you approach them from very specific ways that they appear correct. Otherwise, they are stretched, shortened, and sometimes incomprehensible – not dissimilar to the thoughts in our head.
Singer and model Viktoria Modesta isn’t satisfied with just the practical everyday. After having to amputate her leg because of medical reasons, she’s reinvented herself as a cyborg pop star, performing graceful pirouettes and sexy catwalks, completely unencumbered by her prosthetic limb.
In her collaboration with Channel 4, Modesta released a music video (watch it after the jump) called “Prototype,” which features her doing a breathtaking dance using her bionic leg like the blade of a knife. It’s a dramatic display of sci-fi elegance, one that ends with the slogan, “Some of us were born to be different; some of us were born to take risks.”
Modesta echoed this sentiment in past interviews, saying, “The time for boring ethical discussions around disability is over. It’s only through feelings of admiration, aspiration, curiosity and envy that we can move forward.” (via Bored Panda)
Seattle artist Kyler Martz is an illustrator, painter, and tattoo artist with an expressionist style so unique within his field that it seems to take the whole concept of tattoo work into uncharted territory. While the work of famous tattoo personas like Ed Hardy has mass commercialized the basic styles of sailor tattoo art and tattoo graphics into a nearly bland generalized version of itself, Martz is pushing the genre forward and taking it back to weird, in the best way possible. Having mastered the basics of line work and image building, what stands out about Martz is his use of layered objects and elements to create a woven narrative that is surprisingly dense within a compact space. Using both abstract and figurative symbology, Martz has found an interesting balance between the literal and the ethereal that makes his work conceptually vivid and involved. Many hidden aspects lie in wait: faces and skulls within landscapes, pocket knives folding open into mountainscapes, and often you can find the Eye of Hamsa nestled within the architecture of the piece. Russian nesting dolls, houses on snails backs, and boats made of sea creatures are other strange metaphorical pockets Martz’s work has inhabited and enlivened. Allusions to the omnipresent spirit of the northwest drift in and out of his work: campfires, trees, The Puget Sound, log cabins, mountains, and wildlife; items detailing the Filson/Pendleton lifestyle that is deeply embedded in the historical northwest culture. These abstract notions add a sense of timeless mystery and allow his work to be interpreted on multiple tiers of thought. It will be really fun to see where he is at and what he is making a few years from now.
Aleah Chapin‘s oil painting series The Aunties is an intimate, realistic, immodest look at a women’s world, as seen and experienced by a woman. The models featured are actually the artist’s mother’s friends, women who she has grown up with, and with whom she has a personal, unadulterated knowledge of. Chapin hasn’t spared any detail in her oversized portraits – we see the female figure in all of it’s beauty. Breasts are saggy, stomach rolls are bunched up, stretchmarks are on full display, pubic hair untamed and exposed, and thighs are dimpled with fatty cellulite.
Full of tender moments between mother and son, or groups of friends, her work is a strong counterpoint to the idealized and unrealistic female body images we are confronted with daily. She says about the subject:
Most women have issues and I’m not immune to that. We’re told that our bodies are supposed to be a ‘certain height, certain size, certain weight’. But the pictures we see are completely unrealistic; they’re very Photoshopped. We all know it when we look at them in magazines and yet, we still compare ourselves. That’s why we need images that show all sorts of bodies – so we can accept every size and shape. (Source)
Chapin paints women in a playful, relaxed, completely natural state. She tries to capture a childlike spirit, which is in all of us, no matter our age or gender. She says:
We generally care more what we look like – probably too much at times, me included. Young women are still trying to fit in. I think when you get older you care less –that’s not a negative thing at all. You’re just more accepting. When you get past a certain age you become invisible – and that’s a whole other problem. For me, it’s about finding beauty in every imperfection. (Source) (Via Hi Fructose)
Jay Davis makes paintings which recombine everyday things into elegant assemblages. A single painting might combine corporate logos with the food we eat, alongside expressive abstract paintings, placing all these separate symbols side-by-side inside one larger painting that retains a semi-abstract composition. I was briefly in Jay’s studio, and he talked to me about Doritos logos, MasterCard colors, and the way an orange unfolds when you cut it and press it flat on a table, and while he was talking I had the feeling of a deep rustling in my subconscious, like he was talking to my id, or hypnotizing me with corporate jargon. If you are in Montgomery, Alabama you can see a solo shows of Davis’ work at Triumph and Disaster Gallery until December 31st ’14. You can also pick up the Exquisite Corpse catalog from Mass Gallery in Austin, Texas, which has a nice spread of his paintings.
In an age of techno-wizardry, photographer Peter Thorpe is keeping magic alive the old-fashioned way. The stages he sets are all real: the props, the costumes — and yes, the dog. To celebrate the holidays, Thorpe and his family have a delightful tradition of creating holiday cards that are straight out of the storybooks. The star of the show is Razzle, the family pet dog who is transformed into a mouse, a fairy, a roast turkey, and more.
Of the 20-year-strong tradition, Thorpe says,
“The fun for me, has been choosing to continue to create these traditionally rather than with Photoshop, by making my own sets + props and using a fair bit of food bribery!”
Thorpe must have been feeding Razzle some tasty morsels indeed, because some of the behind-the-scenes costuming appears to be quite elaborate. In one scene, Razzle takes on a more avian aspect, sitting in a mid-air harness and wearing a full-body felt costume and a beak.
Razzle has retired from the stage as she’s “elderly” and has a “weak heart,” but hopefully she’ll be partaking in the off-screen holiday festivities for many more years to come. (via Laughing Squid)
Scott Hazard ( featured here previously) is a North Carolina-based artist whose torn-paper landscapes engulf an entire gallery space. Titled Silent Geography, it’s currently site-specific installation at Mixed Greens gallery (in collaboration with Projective City) in New York that covers the floor with paper structures and punctuated with masses of text. These areas of words are meant to turn the space into a garden, meaning that it’s a cultivated and enclosed area that’s set apart (but close to) the wilderness.
From a distance, it’s not clear what Hazard’s soft, inviting installation is made from. It’s only upon closer inspection that you see incredible, carefully-torn sheets of paper and small details like block-printed letters. Silent Geography is meant to evoke the feel of nature but speak to those that live in cities. Mixed Greens writes:
Yet here the wilderness is not exactly that of nature but rather the din of flowing information, language, and symbol that surrounds most urban-dwellers on a daily basis. Into this flow Hazard creates a momentary pause, an immersive space of rest in which language is once again ordered and reduced to its simplest designative function.
Silent Georgraphy is on view until January 10, 2015.