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Gwen Murphy Creates Fantastical Creatures With Shoes

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For her wildly imaginative series Foot Fetish, the artist Gwen Murphy creates shoes with carefully rendered faces. Her sculptures range from the humorous to the frightful, from high end footwear to more casual designs. Murphy’s lifelike characters blend seamlessly into the shoes they inhabit, recontextualizing well-worn Converse One Stars, pumps, and ballet flats. Here, footwear ceases to be a passive participant in our daily lives, waiting patiently for our feet; instead, shoes become fantastical creatures with lives of their own.

Murphy’s uncanny creations draw from pop culture and folklore alike. “Planet of the Sneakers,” is a clever yet earnest adaptation of the 1968 film “Planet of the Apes.” Celebrity fortune teller phenomenon Madame Zora makes an appearance in a pair of glittery pink kitten heels, and one-eyed Waldgeist, Germanic forest spirits, nestle amiably in a pair slippers. “Guardians of the Basilisk” places a pair of austere women in faux snake skin pumps; unlike the victims of the serpentine creature, who can kill simply by meeting a mortal’s gaze, they stare upwards, their eyes unfazed. “Judith,” a piece made from a pair of T-strap pumps, might be imagined as the biblical heroine; like the Jewish woman who slayed Holofernes, she is shown both as resolute (left shoe) and as gravely apprehensive, her eyes darting back and forth (right shoe).

With Foot Fetish, Murphy elegantly inverts our expectations, placing the face and head where the feet should be. Her shoes, no longer able to serve the purpose for which they were designed, take on new life. In this off-beat, upside-down realm, are delightful moments where the magical and practical collide. (via Agonistica)

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Ludmila Steckelberg’s Heartbreaking Images Remove The Dead From Family Photo Albums

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For her series The Absence of All Colors, the artist Ludmila Steckelberg creates a visual catalog of death; scouring her old family photo albums, she removes the photographic imprints of the dead, leaving blackened figures in their wake. Like fading recollections of face and features, these blank gaps— merely standing in for the deceased— leave an invisible mark on collective family memory. These old black and white images, now sepia-toned with age, are poignantly robbed of their power to immortalize and preserve those passed away. As with death itself, the act of removal, executed cleanly by the artist, is heartrendingly permanent and cannot be undone.

Steckelberg’s work is an unsetting exploration of the undeniable bond of photography and death. The photograph, though two-dimensional, suggests the three-dimensionality of life; here, the dead return to a state of two-dimensionality, receding from the aesthetic world of the living into an abstracted, flattened plane. The darkness they inhabit is utterly unimaginable to us, and yet they seem to be capable of observing us. In this shocking inversion, the viewer feels watched, gazed upon from the black depths. Pasted on one page of a family album, a removed couple faces into the opposite page, searching its blankness for an unknowable something.

Here, the living are left entirely alone, trapped within a space that once seemed full and vibrant, but is revealed to be merely an illusion by the artist’s careful cutting. Men and women look trapped within the borders of the deconstructed photograph, yearning to leap forth, to reconnect with those lost to darkness. (via Lensculture)

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These Delicate Victorian Figurines Have Some Badass Tattoos

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The Victorian doll is a symbol of feminine delicacy and piety, but the Scottish sculptor Jessica Harrison has turned that notion on its head, constructing porcelain figures and painting their flesh with vivid sailor tattoos. Harrison, previously featured here for her graphic and macabre figurines, subtly builds upon contemporary dialogues of sexuality and the female body. Where Victorian women were encouraged to be sexually modest, religious and sober, Harrison’s dolls adopt the visual language associated with drunkenness and sexual freedom on the high seas. Sailors, feared for their rowdy traditions, were thought of as the antithesis of the ideal woman, who was almost always middle class, white, home-bound.

Harrison’s dolls, like many Victorian woman, wear corsets and petticoats of soft, pastel hues; one even modestly holds a fan. But these seemingly coy women obviously have some ruffian pasts. Tattooed on one woman’s pale arms are the names of a dozen conquests: Daisy, Rita, Maria, Eileen. Unlike the figurines treasured by small Victorian children, Harrison’s characters seem to have anachronistically accompanied Sailor Jerry on his boozy pin-up filled adventures. Beside a budding rose sewn into the color of her dress, a lady reveals a pair of flying swallows, an icon that appears frequently in mid-20th century sailor tattoos.

Harrison’s impressive series coyly lays bare the deeply entrenched sexism, racism, and classism of the Victorian era, during which women were not permitted to vote or visit pubs. With their waists cinched and their hair powdered into elaborate updos, these seemingly fragile porcelain figures contain an undeniable grit that transcends all social barriers.

Harrison’s work is currently on view at Galerie LJ in Paris. (via Lost at E Minor and Colossal)

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Kerry Skarbakka’s Photographs Of Himself Falling From Trees, Bridges, And Off Cliffs

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Artist Kerry Skarbakka creates Struggle to Right Oneself, a series of photographs that capture the artist himself in moments of suspended threat: falling from trees, tumbling head over heels in painfully precarious falls, or teetering on the edge of a fateful leap from a railway bridge. The images may be comical yet unavoidably painful to watch. According to Skarbakka, the idea of the fall comes from Martin Heidegger’s description of human existence as a process of perpetual falling. What are we without our falls and broken bones? The photographer captures a loss of control, that inevitable moment, prior to a fall, when one feels uncertain and scared, unable to know what happens next.

I continually return to questions regarding the nature of control and its effects on this perceived responsibility, since beyond the basic laws that govern and maintain our equilibrium, we live in a world that constantly tests our stability in various other forms. It is my understanding and my perspective, which relies on the shifting human conditions of the world that we inhabit. It’s exploration resides in the sublime metaphorical space from where balance has been disrupted to the definitive point of no return. It asks the question of what it means to resist the struggle, to simply let go. Or what are the consequences of holding on?

Skarbakka utilizes special climbing gear and other rigging to achieve each shot, the final images, however, are truly convincing. (via Colossal)

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Street Artist Vermibus Dissolves Outdoor Advertising To Create New Imagery

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Dissolving Europe is the latest public art intervention series by Berlin-based street artist Vermibus. Using a hacked inter-rail ticket, he has been traveling Europe with an extensive set of billboard-lock keys, using them to illegally access print billboards and advertisement frames. Once opened, he uses various solvents and paints to alter the images, sometimes removing them entirely, and even cutting and pasting others. this process destroys and beautifies, blurring the already transgressive line of advert-hacking public art interventions. The artist states, “By using the advertising space and how the human figures are represented in that space, Vermibus is removing the masks that we wear and is criticizing advertisement which takes away a person’s identity to replace it by the one of the brand.”

Continued from his website, documenting the process, “Vermibus regularly collects advertising posters from the streets, using them in his studio as the base material for his work. There, a process of transformation begins. Using solvent, he brushes away the faces and flesh of the models appearing in the posters as well as brand logos. Once the transformation is complete, he then reintroduces the adverts back into their original context, hijacking the publicity, and its purpose.” (via lizartblog)

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Todd Baxter’s Photographs Fool Us Into Thinking That They’re Paintings

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Believe it or not, these images by Todd Baxter are not paintings. They are photos, crafted with a painterly touch that clearly demonstrates the photographer’s influence of other fine art media such as painting, drawing, and sculpture. Baxter loads his compositions with exquisite details, and we see hand-made badges, fur scarves, and even exposed entrails that make up his series Owl Scouts. The surreal coloring and controlled lighting makes it easy to forget that what we’re looking at is a well-considered photograph.

Narrative images tell the story of young scouts that trek through the wilderness and encounter a series of adventures. Some are neat, like when they find an owl that’s been burrowed underground. Other times are more gruesome and include a near-drowning and cut, bloody hand.

The formal considerations of the photographs and their subject matter can’t help but make someone think of Wes Anderson’s film Moonrise Kingdom. Baxter’s work is more surreal and dark, however, where the woods is a character in the tale of these young scouts. (Via Optically Addicted)

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Marwane Pallas’ Disturbing, Provocative Photographs Ooze Sexual Tension

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The French photographer Marwane Pallas’ painterly photographs contain within their borders an uncomfortable blend of allure and violence. His work centers around the body, honing in on its urges and most private yearnings. At times, the body itself is seen in profound sharpness, crystal clear, while it also sometimes bleeds sensual color, as if painted on a canvas. Pallas’ highly stylized images read more like murals than photographs, deliberately and seductively drawing us into a fictitious and allegorical narrative.

With his series What I Eat, the artist presents human appetite as an visceral marker of identity; a housewife is forced to eat her clothes iron, and a (possibly transgender) woman, having undergone a breast augmentation, munches on a plastic barbie doll, symbolic of the idealized female form. A cancer patient dips his cigarettes in ketchup, and a priest hesitates for just a moment before devouring a wooden crucifix.

In This Is My Body, religious allegorical icons stand in for an overwhelming eroticism. Eve in the Making presents the artist as still and pale as marble, wounded like Jesus Christ, engaging in an act of intimacy with a translucent head, whom we might imagine to stand in for God. In another self-portrait, a nose bleed causes blood, seen as wine like the blood of Christ, to drip over his parted lips into a glass below. A candle drips onto a pair of praying hands; on closer inspection, we see that the waxy light lays in place of a man’s erect phallus. Like Eve, the artist into apple that ultimately brings death, containing within it an ominous skull.

In Sur/Face, this sensualized physical body undergoes a metamorphosis, veering into a metaphysical and spiritual realm. Enchanted forests cover the artist’s head, and mossy roots stand in for veins. The flesh cracks open to reveal a layer of fresh new skin. Take a look.

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Lauren Renner’s Photo Series Invites Strangers To Write Stereotypes On Others’ Naked Bodies

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Around three years ago, Brooklyn-based photographer Lauren Renner began her project, “In Others’ Words,” a series that captures the vulnerability with which people self-identify. During a period of transition wherein Renner began to date women, the photographer started to notice people treating her differently, trying to categorize or label her because of her sexuality, even though she didn’t feel like a fundamentally different person. She found this observation fascinating and she began to wonder how others were stereotyped in accordance with their bodies and relationships. Renner’s project captures these intimacies by shooting her subjects in open, public spaces as well as having her subjects become vulnerable to strangers, allowing them to inscribe stereotyped descriptors onto each others’ naked bodies.

Renner says, “When it comes down to it, no matter who is labeling you, all of those words and constructs become a mish-mash inside of you, and seem to inform each other. Words carry a tremendous amount of power, which is why breaking away from some and holding onto others can feel so insurmountable. On the flip side of that coin, I think people tend to become very comfortable in the ways in which they categorize others, to the point where they may not even be aware that they’re doing it in the first place. ”

After all, at the end of the day we put people into boxes because subconsciously it makes them easier for us to mentally digest. Seeing people view my work for the first time was a huge experience for me because I got to see how people reacted when the boxes they were accustomed to had been taken away.”

“In Others’ Words” is an ongoing project and Renner is constantly seeking subjects of all ages, backgrounds, genders, identities, cultures, and abilities to participate. (via feature shoot)

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