Subtle and steady gestures provide the backbone to Tom Haney’s movable figures. He creates characters using a craft called ‘automata’ which replicates human movement using mechanical devices. Each is constructed out of wooden found objects which eventually turn into characters pulled from novels like Winesburg, Ohio by Sherwood Anderson. Haney’s narrative mostly finds its way through small towns of the 40’s and 50’s back to a time when rebellion meant getting drunk off whiskey on a Friday night or flying a kite made out of an American flag. It stays put in a simpler time when things were mostly done by hand and craft meant something. This also manifests in the facial features of the artist’s figures which are painted with deadpan humor recalling Norman Rockwell. This dynamic paired with slight movement focuses your attention on a specific moment which sets it apart from ordinary puppets. It spawns a type of poetry created from gesture. Haney chooses to slow down time and focus on little things that enhance life through his wooden cast.
This is the first in a series where each week we’ll gather some of our favorite street that you definitely won’t want to miss. This week we have a mural from Blu that, like much of his work, utilized features of the building. You’ll also find one in a series by Herr Nilsson of some fiendishly violent princesses, a smart wheat paste piece from Peter Drew, as well as new pieces from INTI, Seth, and Ever. Finally, we have Lego block interventions from Jan Vormann, European historical figures with the heads of Olmec statues by Mata Ruda, and a kitty piece from Jesse Olwen. Enjoy!
Since I started Beautiful/Decay while attending the Maryland Institute College Of Art I have a soft spot for artists working in Baltimore. There’s something about living Baltimore (see “The Wire” for more on that) that changes you and your artwork forever. Baltimore is a giant pot of crazy that just seeps into your work and wont let go. Keep up the good work Suzanna and make us Alums proud!
Swedish artist Camilla Engman sets a calm yet subtle eerie scene of anxiety in her paintings. For instance, a human figure’s face might appear muddled, transforming the safety of a serene woodland setting while the role of a baby or pet might be replaced with a ghosty genderless blob . . . in the most mundane everyday afternoon way.
These instances of nonchalant marring touch on our own youthful fears of masks and humanoids– or “things” that resemble humans, but deceitfully, are not humans. Think Freddy or Jason. Luckily, Engman’s world does not linger too long in these dreadful places. If we mediate on all the images collectively, we start to see her illustrated society as one where such transmutations cross over beyond the weird and into the norms of a progressive accepting society.
Of her craft, Engman states, “For me, the working part has always been more important then the finished artwork. I love to work – paint/draw/cut. But I also have to admit I don’t like to work in vain. So I have to either learn something or to like the finale. In that way this way of creating never fails me. Something always happens. Be aware, there are no shortcuts though. I have to start from the beginning and work myself through it. With an open mind and eye, and with no judgement.”
Alex Da Corte is a Philadelphia-based installation artist who recently created a “dollhouse” of fragmented memories and rainbow-colored horrors out of Luxembourg & Dayan‘s three-story townhouse in New York. Entitled “Die Hexe” (German for “The Witch”), Da Corte’s work guided the visitor on a hallucinogenic journey through a mash-up of absurdist cultural and historical imagery: a wooden rocking chair with overlapping backs; a section of Nicolas Poussin’s Midas and Bacchus beside a coffee shaped like a bondage-clad stripper; and a dove sitting atop a pair of goaltender masks reminiscent of Friday the 13th’s Jason.
The experience went something like this: a drain by Robert Gober was viewed through a peephole in the foyer. From there on, the visitor passed through a series of rooms and hallways filled with seemingly disconnected artifacts — from the mundane, to the absurd, to works of art by Haim Steinbach (who created the “framing devices”, or shelves) and Bjarne Melgaard (the stripper coffee table) (Source). The final room featured green tiles nauseatingly reminiscent of the place where Kurt Cobain shot himself. By overwhelming the visitor with strange imagery that haunts the imagination on an almost subconscious level, “Die Hexe” evoked a variety of emotions and sensations: fear, repulsion, delight, and desire.
Da Corte’s rooms drew on more personal memories, as well. As Luxembourg & Dayan’s press release reveals, “Die Hexe” included “a pantry smelling of spices and filled with anonymous products,” recalling the artist’s grandfathers, who both “worked along the food supply chain” (Source). Elsewhere, Da Corte has transferred childhood emotions into objects remindful of his grandmother’s house, including “craft-based décor such as woven rugs, quilt patterns, and wreathes.” Such intimate artifacts, when coupled with dislocated bits of cultural imagery, express identity as a patchwork, one that repeatedly falls apart and is sewn together again by memories and emotion.
While “Die Hexe” ended April 11th, you are not out of luck; Da Corte will be opening his first museum solo exhibition at the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art in March 2016. For more pictures and thoughts on “Die Hexe,” check out Hi-Fructose’s fascinating summary, as well as this insightful article on artnet News. (Via Hi-Fructose).
Hawaii-based photographer Brigette Bloom uses her own urine to create beautifully distorted images of herself and the Hawaiian nature. Before shooting, Bloom soaks the film canister in a cup of her own pee. The fluid warps portions of the emulsion, what creates colorful amoeba-like spots on each frame.
Bloom’s urine-affected photography series titled “Float On” pays tribute to a spot she and her dog used to visit daily. After her secret desert retreat became discovered by more people, photographer drifted away from the secret refuge, preserving its magical aura only in her unusual artworks and memory. Apart from the title, even Bloom’s dynamic posture in most of the shots points out to that drift.
“I was born in the desert and this was the spot I had spent everyday for the past couple years. It was a truly sacred place to me. <…> As time went on, I started noticing a couple people wandering in the desert. It just felt like it wasn’t our secret refuge anymore. I knew it was time for me to ‘float on’ and find new places. This series is my way of saying thank you to the desert, and a farewell at the same time.”
Bloom discovered this technique by a total accident. She told The Huffington Post she’d accidentally washed her pants with a roll of film inside. Photographer decided to take a shot at developing the film and it turned out the results were unexpectedly good looking. Since then, Bloom has been experimenting with all sorts of liquids: from lemon juice, wine, soapy water, etc. “It’s a process of trial and error. I’ve had many, many rolls of film that didn’t turn out, but it’s all part of the process,” she says. (via Feature Shoot)
Rachael Yamagata has been busy lately, she’s just about to release her new Heavyweight EP and has just embarked on a Fall Tour which will bring her back to Los Angeles next Tuesday, November 20th at the El Rey Theatre. I was lucky enough to talk with her briefly as she made her way to Vancouver for the first show of the tour.
“Sorry it’s so noisy, I’m sitting in the back of a van on the road.” Laughing, I said that I’m in an art gallery with construction going on… we make quite a pair (more laughter). She then asked me if we had met because my name sounded so familiar (oh how I wish I had the guts and split second timing to joke around and say that we had once dated). I told her that we had met at one of her past Hotel Cafe shows, but was also one of her Pledge Music supporters for Chesapeake (her last release). “That’s it! I even remember writing you a note – once I write a name down, it’s hard to forget.” Yup, she pretty much made my day. Moving on, she was excited that the first thing I brought up was the cover art for her new record. All her previous releases have photos of her, so I asked how she found the painting.
“I was just searching online and came across this artist named Jan Zoya. Her work had this feeling of sadness, nostalgia, and passion that I could relate to.” Her artist statement also made an impression. She told me it wasn’t easy though, apparently the artist didn’t believe who she was so it took a bit of going back and forth, “I finally just had to tweet at her saying, look this really is me and I’m trying to contact you.” That finally worked and now one of her paintings graces the cover with even more collaborations possible in the future. As for returning to Los Angeles, I had to mention that I always felt that she belonged to us. “I feel the same way.” She said she still has so many friends here and that it was really hard for her to move to Woodstock. As for the show, “I’m really excited to play the El Rey, I’m touring with strings this time around and really wanted to have seats to keep it intimate.” If you’re familiar with the El Rey, you know it’s usually standing room only.
If you’ve never seen her before, do yourself a favor and go to one of her upcoming shows. Her onstage banter and incredible voice makes her one of my favorite singer/songwriters. Tickets are still available for the El Rey show via Ticketmaster and you can also download a free mixtape from NoiseTrade. Also, don’t forget to buy her new EP, Heavyweight from her website. Thanks again to Rachael for taking the time to speak with me, it was a real pleasure.
Watch the video to her single Even If I Don’t after the jump.