Derek Albeck has a magical way of transforming the ordinary into the extraordinary. Using only pencils, a bit of paint, and masterfully honed traditional portrait techniques, Albeck creates pieces that are anything but traditional.
Frequently working from snapshots taken in his daily life, Albeck amplifies the expressions and motions of his subjects, revealing the completely comfortable, unguarded, and usually hilariously unflattering parts of ourselves that manifest most intensely in candid photos taken seconds too soon, or when chemically compromised. In fact, much of Albeck’s work is characterized by a sort of “magic brownie effect,” turning mundane, common symbols, people, and objects into mesmerizing sources of irresistible humor. His eye for details — like the logo on a beer can, the crinkle of a flag, or the cover of a book by Aleister Crowley – capture escapist fantasies, moments of carefree bliss and rebellion that appear at once precious but fleeting, intensely personal but universally familiar. In Albeck’s world, a pile of dirty laundry becomes an eerily expressive smiley face, a cheeky rainbow forms the frown of an aptly titled “Sad Murderer,” and a skull with hypnotic eyes, comprised of the floating heads of the happiest, goofiest people you’ve ever seen, leaves you giggling in a trance-like state for hours. This happiness proves contagious as you find yourself smiling back at the bearded, flannel-clad man collapsed in a joyful stupor beneath a rainbow in a drawing called “Have a Great Day Forever.” And with an attitude that makes us want to do just that, Albeck’s work provides a fresh viewpoint with which to view, and laugh at, everyday life.
Taisuke Koyama describes his works as “organic abstract photography”. He shoots surfaces and various states of degradation of artifacts in a city and thinks about those changes in state as the city’s metabolism- it’s an organism that’s changing every moment. It’s such a simple and beautiful idea.
Tessa Farmer’s miniscule sculptures reinvigorate a belief in fairies: not the sweet Tinkerbell image in popular conscience, but a biological, entomological, macabre species translating pastoral fable into nightmarish lore. Constructed from bits of organic material, such as roots, leaves, and dead insects, each of Tessa’s figures stand barely 1 cm tall, their painstakingly intricate detail visible only through a magnifying glass.
Hovering with rarefied, jewel-like beauty, Tessa’s tiny spectacles resound with a theurgist exotica: their specimen forms borrow from Victorian occultism to evolve as something alien and futuristic. Playing out apocalyptic narratives of a microscopic underworld, Tessa’s manikin wonders rule with baneful fervour: harnessing mayflies, battling honey bees, attacking spindly spiders. Presented as wee preternatural discoveries, Tessa’s sculptures conjure a superstitious premise, dismantling the mythos of fantasia with evidence of something much more gothic, sinister, and bewitching.”
London-based Japanese photographer Chino Otsuka has created a series of time-traveling photo manipulations that allow her past and present selves to exist in the same time and place. Titled “Imagine Finding Me,” the series is a result of Ostuka digitally splicing her image into old photographs from her childhood during the 70s and 80s, creating seamless collaged manipulations. These photographs represent a doubled identity for Otsuka, reflecting both her Japanese roots and the heavy influence of Western culture. They also raise questions about how we remember our pasts and how these stories intersect with our modern lives. Otsuka explains, “The digital process becomes a tool, almost like a time machine, as I’m embarking on the journey to where I once belonged and at the same time becoming a tourist in my own history.” (via my modern met)
Darla Teagarden is a former make-up artist, hair stylist, model, and writer whose diverse past shines through in her photography. Included in her work are hand-made and personally staged props that she uses to create a mythical setting for the viewer, rather than using digital means such as Photoshop. The rabbits, bees, and strange body parts that make each piece unique are staged at the time of the photo shoot and are not altered.
The figures in Sarah Louise Davey‘s world are haunted, magical, nymph-like creatures who are both hard to look at, and delightful to see. She sculpts double headed woman-beasts who are tortured, but hopeful; disgusting but ethereal; grotesque, but innocent. Her work is a blend of aesthetics and emotions. By presenting us with these gruesome half-human half-monsters, Davey is essentially asking us to evaluate our own aesthetic measures – what do we consider beautiful and why?
Can a bald dwarf with saggy pig ears and forlorn eyes sprouting fungal forms still be attractive? We can definitely appreciate the craftsmanship of the object, and yes – somehow find ourselves wanting to look at it again and again. Davey says she also wants to question her own standards of beauty:
Through the vessel of the figure and materiality of clay, I create sculptural objects and installations to evoke intuitive, visceral responses informed by our subjective notions of physical image and societal norms. I question my own experiences of these through the various personalities that emerge with each hybrid portrait, as they are often an exaggerated mix of whimsical beauty and exaggerated macabre. (Source)
She herself calls her creation-beasts ‘feral’ and ‘beastly’ – yet she can see parts of herself and various personalities she can relate to within them. She is able to reflect on her own experiences through the broken brutes and we can see that while we are all human, we are all also part ugly, tortured animals.
At the heart of these works is the eternal push and pull of the spirit. The two-headed beast, the twin within, living just beneath the skin, sharing the shell and breathing life in through the cracks. They are psychic creatures blistered by hope and beaten with twinges of nostalgia. (Source)
Photographer Gabriele Galinberti‘s series Toy Stories is a simple concept revealing a complex story. Over the course of 18 months the artist photographed children throughout the world with their most prized possessions. He would often play with the toys along with the children prior to arranging them for the photographs. It is surprising how much the toys can reveal about each child. Often children would prize toys that reflected the occupations of their parents – a large collection of cars for the son of a taxi driver or rakes and shovels for the daughter of a farmer. Also, Galinberti relates that poorer children’s play focused more on friends and activities rather than possessions. He says:
“The richest children were more possessive. At the beginning, they wouldn’t want me to touch their toys, and I would need more time before they would let me play with them. In poor countries, it was much easier. Even if they only had two or three toys, they didn’t really care. In Africa, the kids would mostly play with their friends outside.”