Amidst the violence and chaos ravaging parts of her native Lebanon, the photographer Rania Matar does not aim to make sweeping political statements about the Middle East; with her complimentary bodies of work titled Ordinary Lives and What Remains (now on display at Houston’s Bank of America Center), she hopes to capture the resilience of the human spirit. Fighting the photographic and documentary urge to re-victimize survivors of war, she offers a more nuanced picture of the lives of Lebanese women and children.
Much of Matar’s work explores global representations of femininity—in a recent monograph, she published images of adolescent girls inhabiting a space between freedom and familial responsibility, the childhood bedroom— and in Ordinary Lives, the artist’s powerful sensitivities color the otherwise bleak black and white war-torn landscape. In “Broken Mirror,” a young woman meticulously adjusts her veil before a shattered mirror, her perception of self seen as fractured by her environment but preserved within her emotional core. Similarly, “Dead Mother” captures the veiling process as a ritual connecting female youth to a monolithic photograph of the matriarch, an undercurrent of modern political and social debate serving as a relentless backdrop.
What Remains operates as an arguably less subjective series of architectural photographs, documenting the aftermath of 2006’s war between Israel and Hezbollah. The series separates itself from Ordinary Lives in its deliberate use of color; the bright blues and yellows read like surrogates for the displaced families that once inhabited the violated spaces, offering a powerful tonal continuation of the striking and complexly seen human spirit captured in Ordinary Lives. Where we once viewed children, embracing the walls in rich gray tones, we are offered a Winnie the Pooh wall hanging, daydreaming beside an empty closet. Take a look.
Allie Pohl uses the measurements of an ideal woman (36-24-36) to engage in a number of conceptually driven art projects. Taking this ‘perfect form’, she fabricates a mannequin torso to represent the prototype for her conversations. To Pohl, this middle area constitutes a place of birth, renewal and assists the artist in her studies about self esteem, image and determination. In one project, the form is used as a chia pet showing the grass growing in the torso’s genital area. In another, the form is created using a red mirrored material and placed on a pedestal.
Pohl reassesses our idea of beauty and reflects on what women deem important. Some of her other work has examined the torso in the bathroom where she photographed a model on the toilet in gallery and museum restrooms. Her intention was to show the amount of time woman spend in the john. Another saw her take on the high heel. In 6″ shoes with a strap-on camera she went hiking. The result bore an all too familiar metaphor to the extremes women go to achieve physical perfection.
The hairier sex has also been the subject of Pohl’s studies. Using male mannequin legs from different eras, she created a group sculpture. The idea was to show what the perfect ‘male leg’ looked like throughout the years. Most recently, her torso has been used for philanthropy through a line of jewelry where all the proceeds go to various women’s organizations where Pohl lectures and discusses these important issues.
Japanese photographer Takehito Miyatake’s images capture darkened compositions with illuminated trails of fireflies and forests. The ethereal works are lyrical in their treatment of light, and we see it dancing throughout fields, streams, and into the night sky. It captures not only the beauty of nature, but of the way that darkness can feel magical.
Miyatake’s work is influenced by two things: the devastating Tohoku earthquake and subsequent tsunami of 2011, and waka, a classical form of Japanese poetry. These types of poems are written in 31 syllables and arranged in five lines, of 5/7/5/7/7 syllables, and they are meant as an expression of the human heart’s response to nature. The photographer considers his work similar to the poetry form, as “snapshots” of the forces that have shaped and destroyed Japan.
In an interview with Mia Tram, Associate Photo Editor at TIME, Miyatake talks about an influential piece of Waka poetry, stating:
The poetry of Kubota represents what I saw and felt when I took these images. When I photograph, a mystic feeling comes over me. I sometimes admire the mysterious legends that are a part of Japanese folklore that express a fear of nature. I believe Waka also intends to capture this sort of fear of the mystic beauty of nature. (via Lightbox)
Using discarded inner tubes and a needle and thread, South African artist Hannalie Taute embroiders portraits onto rubber. She takes cuts the abandoned material and cuts them apart to stitch together and form a “canvas.” Often, this means that her subjects have a subtle honeycomb pattern as their backdrop. “Besides the durability and availability of rubber from inner tubes found in car tires, I also decided to embroider on rubber because I find the contrast of working with needle and thread on these inner tubes fascinating,” she says in an artist statement.
As you might imagine, rubber is a tough surface to embroider on. Every stitched line is shown, and Taute isn’t able to seamlessly blend together the different hues. The results are fractured areas of color that abstract her portraits, although not to the point of unrecognition. And, this is partially the idea – to subvert materials. The rubber’s coarse texture is offset by the delicate thread, but at the same time the thread can seem rough with its choppy arrangement.
The artist’s inspiration comes from a number of places, but boil down to identity. She writes:
Titles, words, phrases from books, music, stories, sayings and toys play an integral part in conveying meaning and biographical info about me as a mother, wife and artist in society. Relationships between people and objects are something I prefer to explore using my chosen medium.
David Clarke brings on a whole new meaning to metal work. He is known as Britain’s very own groundbreaking silversmith. Master of his craft, he has a way of transforming domestic household items into intelligent and engaging pieces of art. Clarke’s work uses traditional silversmith techniques and takes it to a whole new extreme. His willingness to experiment sets his work apart from anyone else.
Fashion illustration meets inky goodness in Erin Flannery’s large scale paintings. She notably works with stencils and dewy ink, pen and paint to create these ethereal pieces. Each of her series are full of equally strong, striking portraits of mysteriously lovely ladies. She’s preparing for her 2nd solo show at Anthea Polson Art which is open July 2-16 2011 ( Shops 18-20 Mariners Cove Seaworld Drive Main Beach QLD 4217 )
Burned heads on life-size matches. A representation of human kind living in today’s society by German artist Wolfgang Stiller. The artist works either from an established concept coming from his mind or from random pieces he finds wandering in his studio. The ‘Matchstick Men’ series got created from left over molds he once used while working in Beijing and thick bamboo woods lying in his studio. Wolfgang Stiller started out by playing around with the heads and the sticks until they both merged, the heads on top of the sticks. The artist is interested in in-situ (specific site) installations. Therefore, the need to build matchboxes and different heights of ‘Matchstick Men’ became obvious.
This faces lying on the bottom of a matchbox resemble vulnerable corpses lying in a coffin. Each face, each person has a similarity with its neighbor. They all experienced a tragedy and are now resting in piece. The fact that they seem to always be displayed as a group of more than two matches makes the process easier to contemplate. Because staring at these heads makes us feel compassion and care. Wolfgang Stiller is not looking for a general interpretation of his art. He creates for a reason and has his own intent but he prefers to leave a space for interpretation between the art piece and the viewer. (via Fubiz).
Baltimore-based artist, Dan Everett, has a great body of work that really packs in a detailed glimpse into the artist’s comedically strange mind. With inspiration coming form Indian miniatures and Buddhist Mandalas, Everett’s pieces feature bizarre characters that are born from a stream-of-conscience making process. As a way to give back to the city he works in, Everett displays his work throughout the town by hanging them on abandoned buildings. We’ve got a great selection posted here, but be sure to take a peak at his portfolio site.