Amanda Manitach’s drawings of skinny girls in t-shirts plays with gender roles and feminism in a thought-provoking way. The sparse style of these ink drawings, sometimes painted over with watercolor, offers an intriguing aesthetic.
Fair haired women standing, sitting, or walking their pet unicorns with nonchalance and a hint of lethargy. Their faces wear little more than ennui, but their black t-shirts, adorned with sardonic statements, pack a punch. There is one thing they all have in common: PENIS. Ranging from wanting penis to not wanting penis, having a penis, the problems with penis, and boner jokes, she has it all covered with wry humor. Seattle-based artist Amanda Manitach is well known for these figures, which almost remind you of Henry Darger’s Vivian Girls, on a heavy dose of xanax. Some of the girls have male genitals, which in combination with the t-shirt sayings, seems to imply a sort of hermaphroditic independence, or is it just a wet dream?
Either way, these women sure don’t seem to give a damn about having a man.
Portland based Meredith Dittmar draws on the world around her as inspiration for her delicately formed compositions. Made entirely from polymer clay, she twists, squeezes, slices and weaves different shades together to form her distinctive artworks. Reminiscent of fantasy computer games, scientific drawings and algorithms, and including organic forms of vines, leaves and trees, Dittmar’s work is a beautiful combination of science and art; man and nature; patterns and rhythms.
She cites her influences as:
“the mushrooms found in our forest, Eames power of 10, and the visualizations of complex math, science, and especially theoretical physics.”
The idea of a “Cosmic Zoom” that Dittmar displays in her work is very evident. She simultaneously depicts the Universe at a large scale, including cities, forests and planets; while also focusing in on it at a minute scale – including quarks, atoms and molecule structures.
She often includes some sort of figures in her work to add a human scale. These can be anything from human hands holding a form, or body parts being split open by triangles. Known also for designing different characters in polymer, Dittmar sculpts these into her landscapes. Alien-like creatures with big eyes bring a strange sense of humanity to her work. They make you feel like you are viewing your own world, and something quite different. Dittmar and her creations definitely bring a new sense of wonder to the simple things around us. She points out, that maybe things aren’t that simple, after all.
Dita Pepe, a Czech photographer, has made an amazing photographic series centered around imaginary lives with different men. The project started off when Pepe posed with various men she knew, conjuring a real image to the “What if?” that we sometimes ask ourselves. As her work developed, she began approaching strangers and incorporating them into her work. Sometimes she even had her daughter in the portraits. This series, titled “Self Portraits With Men,” features a hundred of these shots, which are candid family portraits of families that never existed.
The most impressive aspect is how well she fits into each scenario. She looks the part: of wife and sometimes mother, visually unfettered by the vast array of socio economic scenarios, she casually goes from childless to mother of four, to upper class, to being a hippie, all with such a light step you would hardly think it’s the same person in each portrait.
“Though obviously comparable to the work of Cindy Sherman, Pepe’s chameleon talents focus more on how relationships can utterly transform an individual than embodying specific female identities. Questions of origin, influence, and choice all come into play, the ‘what-if’ manifesting in a sometimes comical, sometimes surreal interpretation of different paths we all could have taken.”
Svetlana Karel is a Ukranian artist who molds plasticine into old masterpieces. She works as an economist at the Ministry of Labour and Social Policy in Kiev, but finds her work uninspiring. Having gone through a divorce that sent her into intense depression, she used her creations to keep herself focused on something outside of her problems. Plasticine being an unconventional medium associated with child’s play, Karel hasn’t been received too enthusiastically in her local art community. She lies in the realm of outsider artist. At one point she tried to set up an exhibition, but was unable to get it off the ground. Although her artwork isn’t too popular, she is constantly creating.
Karel speaks about how she began creating her plasticine art:
“Once, about 9 years ago, while I was playing with my kids (I have 2 daughters) I found that plasticine really helped me to forget about my problems. I touched it, started to create something and, during this process, felt myself becoming calm. So then I started to make more and more figures from plasticine and place them in to a single picture. The result was unexpectedly successful, so I continued to create pictures on childish theme for my daughters.”
The style of her creations is beautiful and a bit naïve. The figures can seem extremely realistic, or a bit caricature-like. It creates a new perspective on artworks that you’ve already seen again and again. They becomes less epic, more approachable, and certainly unintimidating. Which of her works can you recognize? (Quote and artist via Lost at E Minor)
Modeled after the iconic Terracotta Warriors, artist Prune Nourry’s series Terracotta Daughters is an installation featuring eight life-size sculptures modeled after eight Chinese orphan girls. It’s meant to reflect upon gender preference in China through the familiar symbolism of the soldiers, and Nourry created an army of 116 figures using the same clay that was dug up over 2,000 years ago for the original warriors. In this project, the artist also learned the local copyists’ technique based off the ancient practice.
Together, India and China represent ⅓ of the world population and both have a similar gender imbalance. This is because of the preference that parents give to having a son; the number of single men has been increasing since the 1980’s as well as the misuse of ultrasounds to choose the sex of the child. This has detrimental consequences for the women in Asia including kidnappings of children and women, forced marriages, prostitution, and more.
Nourry met the 8 orphan Chinese girls that inspired the artworks through the non-profit organization The Children of Madaifu. She photographed the girls during her visit to their villages in August 2012 and used the portraits as models for the sculptures. Nourry series that go beyond the sculptures and does good, too:
With the idea of continuity in mind, Prune works hand-in-hand with The Children of Madaifu to support the education of the 8 little girls for a minimum of 3 years thanks to the sale of the 8 original sculptures. In addition, each one of the little girls will be invited to the exhibition in Beijing in order to meet their terracotta double. The girls will also receive a 30 cm artist proof of Prune’s Mini Terracotta Daughter.
Thus, each collector who acquires one of the 8 unique original terracotta sculptures supports the project, as well as 3 years of the education of the little girl depicted in the Artwork.
Terracotta Daughters has travelled the world, and now they are in New York City. From September 11 to October 4, you can find them at China Institute.
Multimedia artist Gavin Worth uses steel wire and rods to sculpt beautifully minimal forms and figures that look like they were sketched in the air. 3D representations of 2D conceptual drawings, each of Worth’s sculptures portray human forms and silhouettes, with careful attention paid to the details of these “illustrations.” His large scale portraits of faces that depict thirsty visages are perhaps his most detailed and deliberate constructions. For these, Worth sought to convey an emotional anxiety through the sculpted faces. Of his work, Worth writes,
By bending black wire into something of freestanding line drawings, I create sculptures that engage the viewer by involving them in their subtle changes. When the light in the room shifts, so does the mood of the piece. A breeze might softly move an arm. My wire sculptures tell stories of simple human moments: a woman adjusting her hair, a face gazing from behind tightly wrapped arms, a mother gently cradling her baby. The honest, unguarded moments are the ones that I find to be the most beautiful.
Anoka Faruqee, 2014P-07, Acrylic on linen on panel, 22.5 x 22.5″, 2014
Anoka Faruqee, 2014P-21, Acrylic on linen on panel, 22.5 x 22.5″, 2014
Anoka Faruqee, 2014P-06, Acrylic on linen on panel, 22.5 x 22.5″, 2014
When walking towards a painting by Anoka Faruqee your eyes refuse to settle. Turquoise, formed into an elongated triangular band, is pinched between two golden curves. The turquoise is misbehaving. Instead of sitting still it appears to flex and blend into the yellow. As you get closer the painting changes, and at arm’s length another dramatic shift occurs, the previous turquoise and gold bands of color atomizes into narrow, serpentine, overlapping lines with several more colors, no longer just turquoise and gold. Looking across the room your eyes settle on another painting. This square shaped canvas is a warm gray that seems to dance. Upon closer inspection the pleasantly worked surface transforms into a swirling design of forest green and cherry red lines. Faruqee calls this series of paintings the Moiré series, after the illusion with the same name. The history of Modern art is often told as a race towards extremes, but will that be true of 21st century art? Anoka Faruqee’s work seems to place less emphasis on ‘pureness’ than other abstraction. Faruqee’s work suggests that we can be more complex, and where artists over the past sixty years searched for the strongest statement, maybe our searches will lead in different, more nuanced directions.
Photographer Hassan Hajjaj‘s latest project focuses on the sub culture of young women bikers from Marrakesh. Titled the “Kesh Angels”, he created striking images of groups of women wearing colorful veils and djellabah straddling worn scooters and motorbikes.
They represent something quite traditional, yet also astoundingly subversive and daring.
The women all hold strong poses, and are somewhat confrontational. Hajjaj places them within bright and beautiful frames – choosing different images and symbols from the Medina, all with a distinct Pop Art feel.
Primarily a portrait photographer, Hajjaj is well versed in bringing out the colorful character of his subjects. He started his career taking photos of friends, artists, musicians and strangers on the streets of Marrakesh. His style perfectly embodies the social, active and vitality of the culture in northern Africa, while offering a glimpse into the more unknown aspects.
Using a slight hip hop influence, Hajjaj also reflects on issues of consumerism, branding and globalization and how these issues affect a place like Morocco. The subtlety and humor he uses to approach such complex subjects is very effective. Seeing these women in traditional clothing, branded with Nike is unsettling at the very least – and that’s not even mentioning the motorbike in the middle of the scenario. Engaging in what is usually a male dominated activity, these women are breaking many taboos, and display an easy confidence about it all.
Hajjaj has been involved in many projects aimed at raising awareness of the treatment and roles of women in Morocco. With such a strong visual language, he is definitely succeeding in capturing our attention.