Chinese artist Liu Bolin doesn’t need to be in the spotlight at all times. He prefers to kick back and literally blend into his surroundings. Watch him as he disappears into piles of trash, various landscapes, and literally merges with buildings after the jump.
The subjects of Ridley Howard’s paintings dwell within a dreamy, still world that seems frozen in time. His figures are executed in simple but believable form; rounded at the edges and in soft focus, they are flawless characters suggestive of stylized CGI on the precipice of the uncanny valley. The scale of his paintings range dramatically, but regardless of size, his work feels intimate and yet enveloping. Abstract nooks of color takes form in between background corners – a crevice painted powder blue behind a man’s neck, a patch of yellow between two lover’s embracing. These details might initially go unnoticed, but the mood they provoke resounds.
Sarah Duyer is a San Francisco-based artist who brings ceramic tableware to life in unsettling and thought-provoking ways. Teapots with spidery legs scuttle across their platforms, dripping with black and blood red paint; bowls and mugs with human teeth and fingers resemble the offspring of botched laboratory experiments. Infused with body parts and the illusion of movement, each pot, bowl, and mug seems to take on a half-consciousness that troubles its status as an ordinary, innocent object.
Duyer’s creations arise from a curiosity about how an object’s design can produce comfort or discomfort—and her works elicit both. By coupling fun, pastel colors with creepy body parts, her works make us amused and repulsed. The interplay of life and death is also visible; one teapot (or “creature pot,” as she calls them) appears to stumble wearily, half of its legs broken off. The use of encaustic wax and rough, exposed clay in some of her pieces further adds to this ominous theme of biological deterioration.
In the following statement provided to Beautiful/Decay, Duyer explains her unique and investigative approach to ceramics, which seeks to re-explore the medium while reinvesting familiar objects with meaning:
“Ceramics as a medium is kind of tricky to classify, since it’s still stuck in the debate of whether it should be considered a fine art or a craft. I think with this project I really wanted to utilize my knowledge of traditional forms and techniques and challenge the idea that the two have to be separate. I wanted to alter the tradition and explore the relationship we have with the ceramic pieces that we interact with on a daily basis.”
In addition to these sculptural works, Duyer creates functional ceramics, such as plates and mugs etched with unique designs. Check out her website, Instagram, and Tumblr to learn more.
Oakland-based artist Kara Joslyn’s work is paradoxically pop: combining bright, neo-geo, child-of-the-90’s color and pattern with dark subject matter that is somewhat empty, yet mystical—almost pre-ancient. The forms that take shape in her work seem to be tied together by a series of faint mythologies, maybe containing traces of some vague storyline buried in alien artifacts.
Her process begins with “sourcing photographic reference, which she curates by pairing selective images in dialogue with each other. This source material is then photocopied in black and white and rendered in paint—a document of a document, serving as an allegory for painting.” Her surface treatment is nice, and color choices (while not easily photographable), hit like a laser beam in front of the work.
Brooklyn artist James Blagden isn’t worried about offending you with racial stereotypes. Or rather the aim is to offend to get the point across. Fusing together a myriad of influences and topics found in African American popular culture, the artist pokes fun at the ideas and images we accept on a regular broadcasted basis. Whatever the common conception, the nerdiness of Asians in mainstream cinema, African Americans and basketball, gold teeth and bling, he’s done it all. Check out an interview Format Mag did on James.
Andi Schreiber refuses to disappear. In her ongoing series, “Pretty Please”, she documents life as an aging suburban mom in a youth-obsessed culture. “Middle-aged mom” must be one of the least sexy descriptors around, redolent of yoga pants and stretch marks and sun-damaged skin. Yet as the years have passed, Schreiber has continued to feel young and sexual, even as she’s felt that society has closed those roles to her. She says:
“When I was in my thirties I heard the expression “Invisible Forties.” I couldn’t imagine how sexually inconsequential I’d feel throughout this decade.”
The powerful documentary style photos in “Pretty, Please” beg you to look. Honest and vibrant, they are not always comfortable. Victoria’s Secret has trained us to expect sexy lingerie on a young, taut body, not on folded and stretched skin. And yet, why isn’t this just as beautiful? Grow old or die, those are the only options. Why can’t we appreciate the child-scarred body of a woman who wants to be seen?
Self-portraits are interspersed with images from Schreiber’s life. A drop of blood on the toilet seat symbolizes her ebbing fertility; the lit interior of her closet holds neatly hung clothes and shelves of shoes, but also, stashed up and away, naked kewpie dolls, whimsical and eerie.
“You get into your 40s and things are very different, your perspective changes, and the way the world looks at you changes as well.”
In “Pretty, Please” we’re looking at Andi Schreiber and she’s looking back. This is definitively her — her life, her body, her blood — and yet this desire to be seen, to be valued on her own terms, could also represent the scores of middle-aged women who chose family and stability and have had their sense of self sacrificed to their suburban houses, and diapers, and carpools.
Based in New York, figurative artist Dillon Utter has a penchant for portraits. With a strong focus on urban decay and everyday encounters with others, Utter presents intimate portrayals of people we would otherwise look right past, such as tenants, workers, drifters, and the elderly.
Particularly influenced by his small hometown in upstate New York, Dillon uses real-life experiences as inspiration for his genuine—and often gritty—portrayals:
Binghamton’s rich history and urban decay create an ideal backdrop for my portraits. The city once flourished with industrialization and major manufacturers. Many of these industries are now in ruins and have left economic hardships for the area. I use my street photography as reference for my paintings. This allows me to capture people at a more intimate level, revealing more about them and myself.
While some of his portraits possess titles that reference the scene itself, such as The Corner, Dog Days, or Cold Afternoon on Court Street, others—like Lonely Child and Wounded—poignantly describe the individuals portrayed and focus entirely on their plight.
Unidealized and true-to-life, Dillon Utter’s portraits are unquestionably compelling and exceptionally intimate.