Rina Dragunova is a Saint Petersburg-based photographer and makeup artist who blends portraiture and still life with vivid and otherworldly imagery. Featured here is a selection of her darker works, all of which explore the ominous crossroads of beauty, death, and transformation. In one series, Dragunova photographed various snakes coiling around animal skulls and sliced pomegranates; the result is a morbid arrangement that weaves together decay and poison with the succulence of fruit flesh. In “Stigmata,” she further unsettles the imagination with the image of flowers planted in a woman’s chest cavity; the seeping blood contrasts grimly with the bleached-white background and sheer lace dress.
In “Conversion,” Dragunova demonstrates an incredible use of makeup art. With onyx-black paint and prosthetic fangs and claws, the model is transformed into a beast in the throes of mutation; charred scales erupt across her face as the possession takes hold. The fiery red eye in the half-turned face haunts the viewer with a look of building terror and inhuman madness. Like the abovementioned series, Dragunova never fails to seize the imagination by seamlessly fusing delicacy and light with savagery and darkness.
See more of Dragunova’s work on 500px, Behance, and VK.com. For Russian-speaking readers, you can watch a video of her snake photoshoot here.
Sculptures of the artist. By himself. Made from his own body. Marc Quinn creates self-portraits with his blood. Every five years he makes a fresh one. Keeping track of his aging throughout the years. The process can appear gory and frightening but it is as close to reality as a portrait can be.
He repeats the operation by making a plaster mold of his face and by going to the doctor to get his blood drawn. The equivalent of a pint is drawn every week (not at once). The blood is injected into the molded face and preserved in a frozen environment. It could not sustain another way. The first realization that blood is actually sitting in front of us can be disgusting and intolerable. It’s really the process that is intimidating. Once it’s understood then the concept behind this idea can be perceived, analyzed and accepted.
Marc Quinn’s intention is not only to make an organic piece but to keep it alive. By manipulating the scientific world to obtain what he wants he opens a new angle. He is redefining the limits in terms of means of expression. Ice and blood in that case coming from the same person making his auto-portrait dematerialize the notion of infinity. There’s also a melancholic feeling. When an artist depicts a self-portrait, the tone is usually neutral or positive. Considering that Marc Quinn chooses to represent himself as a volume of blood interrogates on what are the real motivations behind such a work and the artist’s inner self-regard. (via Ignant)
Nunzio Paci is an artist from Bologna who paints human anatomy with a surrealist flourish. Recalling the studies of the body from the Italian Renaissance, male cadavers are flayed and opened up, exposing layers of raw muscle and twisted sinew. Body parts are numbered and labeled like dissection records, with marginalia scrawled softly along the sides. In the tradition of his Italian precursors, Paci takes an artistic approach to science, blending grim images of death and corporeality with a reverence for the complexity of the human form.
Paci brings his own style into these anatomical portraits by expressively exploring the body’s connection to nature; veins that unravel past the skeletal contours sprout into leaves, and branches twist upwards from shoulders with a spring-sapling fervor. Birds perch on the blooming dead, and in the corner, dissection instruments are curiously mixed with garden tools. Beautifully macabre, Paci’s mutating cadavers explore not only the interrelation of life and death, but the material links between all living matter—expressed, for example, by the similar structures of arteries and branches. On his biography page, Paci describes his creative approach:
“My whole work deals with the relationship between man and Nature, in particular with animals and plants. The focus of my observation is [the] body with its mutations. My intention is to explore the infinite possibilities of life, in search of a balance between reality and imagination.” (Source)
Edith Waddell’s vibrant, surreal paintings form beautiful, symmetrical imagery filled with otherworldly flora and fauna. Her work combines feminine motifs, strange creatures, and delicate, pastel colors to create hybrid imagery. Full of symbolism and feminine spirituality, Waddell’s work does not just depict elements of the natural world, but the emotional, inner self. Her choice of colors seem to glow in neon hues, creating intense visuals that almost seem hallucinatory. Each composition blooms in beautiful symmetry, as they resemble inkblots tests one might see at a psychiatric exam. This resemblance reflects upon our inner psyche, as Waddell often pulls inspiration from imagery often found in her dreams. Many of her compositions resemble the female anatomy, with heavy maternal symbolism expressing the womb. Although whimsical and vivacious, there is an element of darkness that can be found in her work, like the reoccurring skull and the all-seeing eyes. There is a conflicting nature present, as there are elements of life in her budding flowers, but also death in the skulls and bones.
Originally hailing from Peru, Edith Waddell is now based out of LA. She is an artist of many talents, as she not just a painter, but an illustrator and printmaker. She often combines collage, digital, and traditional paintings to create her crossbred, botanical imagery.
“My goal is to make visible that which is overlooked, confronting the public with the dark and mysterious aspects of their own psyches, emotional struggles, and their relationship with the natural environment. My work is an invitation to make an introspective examination and reflection into our own existence, both physical and spiritual.”
Jay Mohler creates intricate, textile designs, weaving different colored yarns to create brilliant Mandalas. His geometric patterns create Ojos de Dios, Spanish for eyes of God, that are either eight sided of twelve sides, spanning up to over a foot. Mohler began hand-making his Ojos de Dios over 40 years ago, after he traveled to Guadalajara, Mexico in 1965. At a marketplace there is where he first saw these fantastic, small-scale weavings. He was extremely impressed by the complex patterns and how often they would be created from a single strand of yarn, crossing and looping over the wooden sticks that hold it all together. The beautiful Ojos de Dios can be found in many cultures, traditionally in Native American and Mexican as well as Tibetan, where they can hold spiritual elements. They are also a symbol of a physical eye, as the designs of the weavings revolve around the center “eye.”
Based out of North Caroline, Jay Mohler uses wool yarn in all types of colors, including metallics, to carefully weave his vibrant creations. You can buy an Ojos de Dios for your own on his Etsy page, where you can also order custom made patterns and even buy a DIY kit to make your own. Make sure to check out more of his weavings to see the scale and size of his many creations. (via The Jealous Curator)
Brooklyn based artist David Samuel Stern takes still photographs, and fuses them together so that they appear to be in motion. He begins by taking two portraits of the same person, and then carefully and meticulously cuts them apart before physically weaving them back into one another. This not only creates amazing texture and an interesting checkered pattern, but combines physical features until the composition.
become a hybrid of two faces. With a light and airy palette, these breathtaking photographic prints become ghosts of themselves, two versions or the same person. Two different emotions are often present, creating an interesting dichotomy of the internal character. We are seeing two sides of the subjects, as the weaving alters and skews our perspective. Stern’s highly original technique abstracts the portraits so that they seem to be caught in mid motion. Both original images become blurred after they are combines by weaving. The once crisp photographic prints are transformed by their alteration, creating a painterly atmosphere. David Samuel Stern’s method is simple yet powerful, exposing two sides of each of his subjects. However, the abstraction present in his work also hides elements and details of the portraits as well.
You can see David Samuel Stern’s mesmerizing, photographic work on view at the BAM Harvey Theater in New York City from September 16 through December 20th.
Superman meets our ordinary daily laborious life. Ole Marius Joergensen depicts in his pictures the super hero trying to fly and making his dreams come true. An unusual situation here, as we witness Superman failing. We watch the struggle and identify with the character.
The series called ‘No. Superhero’ is inspired by comics and Norwegian values. The fantasy world created by Ole Marius Joergensen is grounded and disciplined. Halfway between a painting and a photography, the color scheme is colorful yet soft. The artist chooses to represent the super hero with different kinds of men and keeps the red and blue costume as well as the cape. He is climbing a high ladder, landing on a tree, falling headfirst on the snow or appearing lost in an empty field.
Failing and holding on until success is reached is part of human life. The unusual appearance of Superman within each scenes makes the introspection interesting. Are we dreaming too much and that’s why we are failing? Or is it necessary to fall and learn in order to progress and attain our goals? Ole Marius Joergensen seems to project his hopes and aspirations. Bringing reality to anyone who doubts of its capacity to make dreams come true. Creating a space for errors and multiple attempts appears necessary according to the artist, apparently even Superheroes fail from time to time.
Tokyo-based designer Yusuke Seki has constructed a stunning, walkable platform made from 25,000 pieces of scrapped pottery and porcelain. The structure is part of the Maruhiro Ceramics gallery, located in Hasami, Nagasaki prefecture, a region known for its production and distribution of tableware dating back to the 17th century. Each fragment was collected from local factories that had disposed the ceramics prior to the glazing process, deeming them defective. After restoring the pieces and assembling them like bricks mixed with poured concrete, Seki infuses them with a renewed creative purpose. A statement from Seki’s website further explains the history and the design approach that drives the platform:
“A renovation of the pre-existing flagship shop, Yusuke Seki’s design marries an architectural knowledge to the artisanal know-how of the region, and in so doing, creates an entirely location- and situation-specific experience. Seki’s vision is to posit the designer as interpreter. His methods seek to amplify Hasami’s heritage by drawing out and translating the potential of the complete local environment, unifying its people. A minimal design interference, a modification in the level of the floor, not only utilizes the pre-existing space to alter the perspective and experiences held by the users until the present, but also gives birth to an entirely new sense of flow within.” (Source)
In a fascinating exploration of space, Seki has designed the stacked ceramics so that they enhance the customer’s interaction with the displayed tableware. Low shelves placed on the surface allow visitors to peruse from below, and if they so wish, they can climb up the stairs to the top of the platform for a closer look. The very act of walking on the ceramics creates an embodied experience of tradition and history; delicate materials, once discarded, are made strong, creative, and participatory, signifying the endurance of and respect for a time-honored cultural art form.