Referring to both vulnerability and impermanence, Suzanne Jongmans’ investigates the texture and feel of both the present and past. Since 2007 she has been working on the series ‘foam sculptures’: caps and collars, inspired by 16th and 17th century Flemish and Dutch “Golden Age” paintings, made from materials currently used for packaging and insulation (cheap material which is often discarded after use). By using these materials Jongmans makes a reference to consumerism and the rapid circulation of materials. Jongman transforms old costumes into new plastics and old masters into new photographic works. By using time foreign materials, plastics and techno’s, she is creating a time crux, a tension of time for all of us to enjoy.
Deb Sokolow creates a vertiginous world of invented narratives. Her large-scale, ink on paper installations are hung in a kind of methodized-madness that call to mind police investigations bulletin boards, a mad scientist’s chaotic formulas and revelations, or the bedroom of an obsessive-compulsive conspiracy-obsessed fanatic. Sokolow leads viewers into the tangled web of an information-saturated schematic, leaving viewers at once disoriented and exhilarated. Sokolow talked to us about her creative process and sent us a bunch of behind-the-scenes shots, including her “research binders” detailing subjects such as “Ghosts, Email Scams, Pigeons & Squirrels.” Full interview after the jump.
As an arts blogger I spend most of my day looking at amazing things created by artists, performers and creatives. If you’re reading Beautiful/Decay, a good portion of your time is likely also spent in awe of the creative output of others. I decided to make a move to the other side of the screen, rolled up my sleeves and learned to create something awesome. I joined forces with Skillshare, an online learning community that provides access to over 15,000 creative classes, to help accelerate my creative inspiration. Whether you’re looking to learn graphic design, illustration, photography or practically anything else, Skillshare can teach you what you need to know to execute your vision. Even better, they’re offering Beautiful/Decay readers two free months of Skillshare Premium (usually it’s $10 per month). Visit this link to redeem the promo or use the promo code BEAUTIFULDECAY..
Portland-based artist Matt Hall creates mixed media assemblages and large-scale ink on paper drawings. He explores the connections between historic perceptions and our sense of wonder with the natural world. As a child, Hall was fascinated with the ability of birds to fly, fish to breathe underwater and other amazing animal abilities. Hall’s work incorporates animal parts with other found objects, sketches and notes in an attempt to re-create, analyze, and pay homage to the seemingly magical powers of animals.
There is also a keen interest in death in Hall’s work. A piece with a snake and a mouse is most obviously about predator and pretty. The title, however, Mithraicism, refers to the practice of inoculating a person against poison by administering non-lethal amounts. The piece becomes a metaphor, or sorts, whereby you can’t be immune to death.
As written in Ampersand Gallery’s press release about their last exhibition with Hall, “[his] finely detailed assemblages bring to mind the dioramas & curiosity cabinets of natural history museums, yet on a deeper level they allude to the ritualistic strangeness of reliquaries, thereby serving as an intersection where notions of religion, science, folklore & quackery collide with the artist’s imagination.” Exquisitely detailed, the animal parts in Hall’s assemblages have been broken and put back together. Hall uses found road kill as the basis for his works. Evoking the spiritual practices of animalistic religious whereby interaction with animal parts was thought to transfer magical and totemic powers, Hall is creating both object and mythology.
The paintings of Whitney Van Nes are narrative portraits that recall the flatness and oddly elongated static figures of Byzantine art. Yet Van Nes’s unique aesthetic and iconography do not emulate any historical style — her approach is at once naïve and sophisticated. Van Nes paints from her imagination and her intimate personal knowledge of things, never drawing from found images, models or other visual references.
Her works are simultaneously autobiographical and universally relevant. While the images and narratives suggested in the work are drawn from the artist’s personal experiences, they serve merely as the impetus for the exploration of archetypal themes. One such issue prevalent in many of Van Nes’s paintings is the power struggle between authority and the subjugated. This adversity takes many forms, and Van Nes’s depictions of discontented figures leave the role of subjugator intentionally vague.
Photographer Ana Oliveira‘s Identities II is a touching series of portraits. She begins with old photographs of her subjects and through similar lighting, clothing, and poses she creates a parallel photograph. As much as sixty years lies between some of the older and newer portraits. The two portraits arranged side by side become a sort of existential before and after. I find myself imagining what took place in the decades between the two photographs, evidence of something in the now more pronounced lines in each sitters face. Its difficult not to envision expressions of expectation in the younger portraits, and mixtures of disappointment or content in their older counterparts.
Painter and sculptor Emma Hack‘s collection, “Wallpaper,” is a series of meticulously painted models made to blend in with the designs behind them – true wallflowers! Hack must have been incredibly patient when working on canvases that move and breathe; her work is so precise, if you blur your vision, the models effortlessly become part of the wallpaper.
Debra Baxter, You have to believe we are magic, (barf bag)
These four artists are interested in exploring nature through crystals, minerals and natural stones. Toronto-based Carly Waito makes small oil paintings (about 5×6 inches) of crystals and minerals. Inspired by the natural world Waito is interested in geology, geometry and light. With a sense of wonder and curiosity, Waito explores via paint tiny mineral specimens, revealing the beauty and magic nature is capable of creating.
Seattle-based Debra Baxter uses stones and minerals, and their contrasts or relationships to investigate human interactions. To address notions such as human power plays, vulnerability and gender differences, Baxter plays titles like You have to believe we are magic (barf bag), 2010 off visual displays of ceramic, minerals and reflective acrylic. Her sculptures become small visual metaphors replete with symbols and juxtapositions that form ideas and narrative.
Amy Brener works by layering resin, glass and Fresnel lens to create light sensitive sculptures that resemble large crystals or minerals. Brener’s process involves mixing and pouring pigmented resin into wooden frameworks. Only able to control certain aspects of the process, Brener embraces the surprises that happen along the way. The process gives her sculptures a quality that exists between the geological and the man-made.
Jonathan Latiano’s Points of Contention, 2011, was an installation at School 33 Art Center in Baltimore. The piece was made out of plastics, resins and polymers and appeared to be exploding out of the floor. Meant to address the effects the sculpture’s materials have on the geological landscape, Latiano’s work is a visual reminder of our impact on nature.