Maybe it’s because I live in Los Angeles where rain is seldom and driving culture is strong, but these oil paintings by Tom Birkner make me want to dig through my tape collection– yup, tapes– and pop a little Tom Waits in before heading out onto the highway. I would extrapolate on this connection, but I think the actual lyrics from “Diamonds On My Windshield” illustrate it best–
Blazing through this midnight jungle Remember someone that you met One more block; the engine talks And whispers ‘home at last’ It whispers, whispers, whispers ‘home at last’, home at last
Self Portrait in Black Lingerie with Camera and Mirror, 1955
Bettie Page Reclining on Sofa at Coral Gables, FL, 1954
Self Portrait in Polka Dot Bikini with Rolleicord Camera, 1963
Original personal and behind the scenes photographs of infamous pin-up models Bettie Page and Bunny Yeager are now on view at the art gallery Gavlak, in Los Angeles as part of the exhibit How I Photograph Myself. You may think this is a strange title, but it actually refers to a book that Bunny Yeager herself wrote during her lifetime. Born in 1929, Yeager was not only a wildly successful pin-up model, but also a photographer herself who very often took her own photographs. She came into modeling after meeting actress Bettie Page shortly after studying photography at Lindsay-Hopkins Technical College. Bettie Page asked Bunny Yeager to photograph her, and Yeager eventually began modeling herself. She was not only an accomplished photographer and model, but also a scriptwriter and author, publishing How to Photograph Nudes and How I Photograph Myself, hence the exhibition title. These books went on to influence such well-known photographers as Cindy Sherman and Diane Arbus.
What is so interesting about these photographs, besides the obvious appeal and seductiveness of the pin-up style clothing and curvy women, is that Bunny Yeager was able to become so successful both as the photographer and model; the artist and the muse. Her femininity and beauty was laid out on a silver platter as a model, yet she could be taken seriously in a time when men dominated almost any scene. To portray yourself in such a sexual way and also sought after as a woman in your craft would still be an accomplishment today, let alone in the 1940s and 50s. Bunny Yeager was able to work against the traditional male gaze, and create her own photographic style that is both delicate and alluring. How I Photograph Myself will be on view at Gavlak from July 25th to August 29th.
The annual International Ice And Snow Festival that takes place in Perm, Russia has resulted in this impressive sculpture. Carved entirely out of one solid block of ice, a group of artists produced this 1:1 scale Toyota Land Cruiser complete with an open door and interior seating. From an outsiders perspective the work can be viewed as commentary on the current state of the automobile industry or the false perception of wealth and success. (via)
Pieter Hugo, a South African photographer, plays with color channel manipulation to create portraits that highlight the impurities on his subject’s skin to make a statement about race, the colonial experiment in South Africa, and contemporary ideas of beauty.
There’s a Place in Hell for Me and My Friends entails portraits of the artist’s friends- all whom call South Africa their home. Through the manipulation of color, Hugo emphasizes the sitter’s blemishes and sun damage making them look darker than they would normally appear without the editing process.
In these portraits one sees how the sitters’ environment, a place where there is incredibly harsh sunlight, has started to ‘corrode’ our epidermis. This speaks to me about the South African colonial experiment – all these people from all over the world, thrown together within the confines of a nation by the forces of history. The damage left by the sun and the environment becomes allegorical of the burden of South Africa’s tempestuous and fraught past. History leaves its marks on us. It eats away at us. We cannot escape its heavy weight.
Besides the political allegories found in the work, Hugo is also interested in highlighting the errors of racial distinction by revealing that beneath it all, beneath our skin, we all look the same. As the critic Aaron Schuman writes about Hugo’s work, “although at first glance we may look ‘black’ or ‘white’, the components that remain ‘active’ beneath the surface consist of a much broader spectrum. What superficially appears to divide us is in fact something that we all share, and like these photographs, we are not merely black and white – we are red, yellow, brown, and so on; we are all, in fact, colored.” (Images via Stevenson)
I’m delighted to feature Stephen Alan Yorke , who has created an exhibit space simply by observing, documenting, and titling changes in one corner of the world. In Bromley, Kent there exists a ledge on Morgan Road – a paneless brick recession – that frames the littered objects left there by passerbys. Stephen has deemed this small walkway moment the Morgan Road Gallery. The artists themselves will forever remain anonymous, but their contributions become works when infused with Stephen’s titles such as The Many Mistresses of Captain Cola (Parts 1 and 11) and The Trident of Lucifer Jr.
I’m absolutely loving Nike Savvas’ brilliant installation Atomic: Full Of Love, Full Of Love which is created with thousands of suspended
bouncy balls organized in a hyperspectrum of colors. Created in 2005 this piece is a rainbow-brite labryinth of color that I’d love to get lost in for hours and hours. (via colosal & jobs wife)
There is always something wrong about Yvonne Todd‘s photographs. By utilizing the effects and techniques of commercial photography studios, Todd creates quietly strange images reminiscent of 90s glamour shots, or of head shots that always turn out looking amateur. Full of ill-fitting clothes, cringe-worthy props and awkward poses, Todd pushes the ideas of what is conventional beauty, and how quickly these norms change.
Her palette in itself is very rarely considered beautiful – saturated with sickly pinks, boring beige, flat creams, dull greys and flooded with unflattering light it is hard to find these images attractive.
The subjects appear confident at first glance, but there is an underlying sense of sadness, longing and an unease about themselves.
These people are reminiscent of trophy wives; of people obsessed with vanity and image; of compulsive individuals determined to be the best version of themselves. Men sitting uncomfortably, surrounded by objects they are unsure of; women staring into the mirror, practicing how to be seductive; girls striving to act above their age; amateur dancers trying to appear more skilled than they are. These poses are so often seen in modern advertising, and popular media. Todd says:
“My interest is a bit broader than beauty and artifice; I’m really interested in manipulating the conventional and familiar. I feel compelled to create “revised” photographic conventions drawn from advertising imagery, stock photography, catalogs, brochures, corporate portraits, mass-market fiction, religious cults, soap operas, show business, and the glimpses and fragments that resonate in my memory and imagination.”
These photographs may seem outdated and surreal, but could as easily be a reflection of all that is toxic in our modern day western capitalist society and our focus on image and representation of oneself.