As part of our ongoing partnership with In The Make, Beautiful/Decay is sharing a studio visit with artist Marci Washington. See the full studio visit and interview with Marci and other West Coast artists at www.inthemake.com.
We visited Marci in her backyard studio in Berkeley. It sits just behind her home, a kind of garage/storage space that got converted into a cottage. It’s comfortable and functional, with an open feel to it. Marci is full of gusto— she talks with her hands, takes on all kinds of facial expressions, and she’s funny as hell. She enthusiastically moved through our conversations, at turns awkward and eloquent, but always unguarded and real. We talked about a lot of things, but her affinity for the landscape of the English moorlands, particularly within the context of Romantic Literature, really struck me. Those rolling, uncultivated hills covered in low-growing grass, shrouded under heavy fog and moody skies have wholly captured Marci’s imagination. And it makes sense that they have— much of what interests Marci is mirrored in that rugged, desolate scenery. In various Romantic and Gothic works of literature, the moorlands often represent mystery, mysticism, liberation, turmoil, and passion; they frequently echo the psychological state of the characters, and reveal their greatest desires and fears. Marci’s current work references not just the physical landscape of the moors, but also speaks to themes found in a lot of this kind of literature, and the universal emotions that are evoked—all those feelings and ideas that run wild with mystery, awe, darkness, terror and beauty. I think Marci is after a particular kind of mood that toes the line between terrifying and thrilling, creating a response that’s simultaneously overwhelming and invigorating. All of this plays into her sensibilities as an artist, but also as a person: her love of Edward Gorey and his eerie illustrated books, her unflinching need to feel everything very deeply, her leanings towards the bizarre and unique, and her fondness for the not-entirely-explained. It’s pretty damn amazing that come November Marci will be showing work in England, not far from the wild and lonely moors that have taken up so much of her imagination.
A self-taught painter, Fatima Ronquillo layers her portraits with the traditional symbols and charms of classic-style portraiture — objects that meant different things in different times and have to be studied to be completely understood. Ronquillo’s subjects similarly face the viewer decorated with blindfolds, eye patches, fauns, flowers — and by pulling them into the contemporary, we are reminded us of the aesthetic value of these objects that we are free to attach our own significance to.
According to photographer Ismael Moumin everyone has two sides to their personality. In his cleverly crafted collaged pictures he renders a kind of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde narrative. In portrait style pics he explores dual sensibilities. Some are traditionally made with happy/angry faces while others are left more open to interpretation. The flawless models are aesthetically pleasing to view and in some Moumin cuts parts of their faces to fit perfectly into another, thus making comment about the interchangeable definition of beauty. In one an Asian model is split with a Caucasian lady. Again a subtle reference to what appears on the outside might not necessarily coincide with what is on the inside. Then there are some where he erases the face altogether except for the silhouette and fills it with cosmic looking substances. These become scientific planetary like images which recall mood rings and heat sensitive substances which change at the touch.
Moumin makes his living as a professional photographer. He has done shoots for Rue Blanche, Cacharel, Sage, LESinrocks and Hero Magazine. He is represented by Frenzy Picture in Paris.(via Ineedaguide)
Baltimore-based artist Jordan Kasey creates large-scale oil paintings of surreal scenes that include monumental figures and objects. In these strange worlds, her subjects occupy entire compositions and are often distorted by a canvas’ constraints. Although they could seemingly exist anywhere, we see them fused with both the aquatic and natural landscape.
There’s an emphasis on hands and fingers in Kasey’s paintings. We’ll often see pair of hands hugging or carefully cradling colorful, rock-like objects. Fingers on opposing hands match up to form tiny arches that make her faceless subjects look as though they’re plotting something. It doesn’t feel sinister, though, but almost absent of any emotion whatsoever.
While some of Kasey’s works are devoid of identifying details, others replace the expected with the unexpected. Facial features are altered with aquatic rocks, coral, and sea plants. It creates an odd-yet-familiar place whose tightly-rendered subjects begin to approach a level of uncanniness. While we know Kasey’s work is fantastical, it looks realistic enough that we might try and apply logic to it.
Artist, illustrator, and muralist Saddo creates paintings that are a fusion of birds, humans, armor, and more. In stately-looking portraits, these hybrid creatures look as though they’re ready to enter battle or to try and cheat death. Sometimes, act as the grim reaper themselves. The dark-colored images match the somber subject matter, and many of Saddo’s surreal works are meant to echo that sentiment.
The catalyst for Saddo’s subject mater comes from a move to Lisbon with the artist Aitch. Some imagery is influenced by Spanish and Portuguese explorers and conquistadors from the 15th to 18th century, as well as illustrations of birds, Islamic miniatures depicting battle scenes, and science fiction movies. Other paintings are inspired by the cold. “…the winter caught us by surprise, we didn’t expect it to be so rainy, gloomy, and depressing.” Saddo explains.“It deeply affected our mood and even our physical state, we often felt trapped inside our dark, moist house, inside slow moving, joint aching bodies.” Every once and a while, a coffin would appear in their illustrations and paintings.
The culmination of these disparate influences facilitate morbid, strange, and fascinating works that have intriguing small details hidden within each composition.
Italian artist Federico Lombardo’s portraits are washy, delicate, and often straightforward, yet in their best moments they possess qualities that are strange and askew. His subjects look distinctly Angelo Saxon or Scandinavian, light skinned and fair, and are conventionally attractive. Their faces, bare and plain, stare straight at the viewer with the knowing look of being gazed upon, often smiling or glaring in response. He has series of women and men, as well as couples and children made with oil, watercolor and by digital tablet, but by far, his watercolors showcase his best efforts. The way Lombardo applies his paint is mostly very controlled, yet in crucial areas he gives way to the fluid nature of the medium and in effect produces subtle, bizarre deviationsin his otherwise bland looking subjects. In this sense, these instances of surrender are reflective of the work of Marlene Dumas; however, Lombardo’s work is wholly different in that it stays safe in its uncontroversial directive.