Jay Briggs is a London-based designer who uses unconventional materials and dark, empowering themes in the creation of alternative women’s fashion. The two lookbooks featured here, entitled Malleus Maleficurum and Melusina, draw on witchcraft and folklore as their inspiring influences, the former referring to the book written by inquisitor Heinrich Kramer in 1486, the latter referencing a European myth about a water nymph, which Briggs has given his own dark twist (you can read more about that here). Among his gothic designs are elaborate headpieces and couture that transform his models into dark specters and serpentine creatures, as beautiful as they are fierce. Incorporated into some of the pieces are taxidermied objects — from feathers, to entire wings, to hundreds of iridescent beetle shells — fused so seamlessly with the looks that we perceive the beauty of the designs before the grimness of their reality.
Briggs’ work is a product of extreme dedication and attention to detail. As he explains in an interview with Portis Wasp, the collection Malleus Maleficurum took 5 months of constant work to create, and all the intricate pieces were painstakingly embellished by hand. Beyond the dark details, what makes these two lookbooks so notable is the origin and depth of their influences — the history and the folklore — and how Briggs has reinterpreted them through contemporary, avant-garde fashion, enmeshing everything into a complete and original narrative. His style is consistently stunning, bringing an expressive and often macabre edge into the world of fashion. Visit Briggs’ website, Facebook page, and Instagram and follow him as he creates his upcoming designs.
The photographer for both these series is Fabio Esposito, whose incredible fashion and beauty photography can be found on his website, Twitter, and Facebook page.
In his series Evergreen, the photographer Bjørn Haldorsen visits the Evergreen funeral home in Brooklyn; like throwing flour on the invisible man, his images hope to give form to the invisible, intangible notion of death. In capturing the peripheral objects and mundane moments of embalming and service preparation, he paints a poignantly nuanced portrait of mortality.
These bitterly honest slices of a life once lived avoid sentimentality or theatricality. Unlike in Victorian post-mortem photography, Haldorsen avoids full portraits of the dead, opting instead to capture the seemingly banal elements of the business of death. Staff members arrange casket pillows routinely and perfunctorily, and only the corner of an urn is shot, revealing the accidental dust allowed to collect around it.
Yet within the work is a potent thread of emotionality and love as seen through subtle tricks of light; where a gray-haired body rests on a gurney, a figure, basks divinely in an overexposed door, as if to mourn in mysterious and unknowable ways. Similarly, a man sits in a dimly-lit room, sequestered from the lonesome darkness of the funeral space. Lifeless hands with yellowed nails seem to reach out at the viewer, exhaustedly collapsing on sanitary plastic wrapping, and swelled feet are contorted by wear, dirt still caught between their nails. Youthful hands gently insert a match flame into the wrinkled nose of the diseased; the ritual frozen forever, made to feel sacred and painfully intimate.
Haldorson’s vision of death reads as jarringly rational, offering little solace in the face of death, and yet upon closer inspection, viewers may discover hints of hope, the slightest traces of loving memory, preserved forever. Take a look. (via Feature Shoot)
In the past years, bee populations have been devastated by something scientists are calling Colony Collapse Disorder, causing a global crisis for humans and other animals. Sam Dreoge, a biologist at U.S. Geological Survey’s Patuxent Wildlife Research Center, catalogs hundreds of bee species in his lab. As the head of the USGS Bee Inventory and Monitoring Lab, Dreoge produces stunning high-resolution images that capture the diversity and spellbinding beauty the fascinating and helpful little creatures.
Dreoge’s photographs, which are used to identify and track bee populations, are often magnified up to five times the actual size of the insect. Focusing on minuscule details normally only visible under a microscope, most of the pieces are composites of numerous images, shot at multiple ranges with a 60 millimeter macro lens. Each image is also carefully edited, scrubbed of specks of dust. In preparation for the photo shoots, each bee specimen undergoes a bath in warm water and dish soap, after which they are carefully blow-dried to showcase their astoundingly beautiful, vibrant hair.
Dreoge’s images of bees read like the technological age’s answer to Leonardo da Vinci, who studied and sometimes killed insect specimens for the dual purpose of art and science. Research like this always raises ethical flags, but that moral question becomes more complicated when we are confronted with environmental crises like CCD. Bee populations are effected by parasites as well as problems caused by humans, like pesticides and climate change; it’s imperative that we find a way to save these miraculous animals, and Dreoge’s work could go a long way. What do you think? (via Smithsonian and Colossal)
Alicia Martín (formerly featured here – as well as in our Best of 2012) has kept busy this year, expanding on her signature style of cascading book installations that we first saw in Biografías. Each installation begins as a wire and aluminum structure, to which hundreds and thousands of books are attached, creating the illusion of waterfalls of pages and spines wrapping around objects, wrapping around themselves, and pouring from windows and underneath walls.
In works such as Singularidad, the Madrid, Spain-based artist focuses her waves of books into a more circular shape, resembling a vortex rather than a waterfall. Playing with the idea of a black-hole, or naked singularity, the collective swathe of books consumes itself, rather than bursting forward. In Contemporaneos, Martín plays with the idea of the books being the background, the support, or what’s behind the object, pouring out of (or cracking through) a wall – engaging in a dialogue with more indoor, site-specific contemporary installation. However, Martín continues to re-imagine her waterfalls, with newer pieces expanding on previous work’s pouring from buildings, as well as running down streets, through windows and around trees, with pages blowing in the wind at each amazing installation. (via mymodernmet)
Todd Hale lives and works in Virginia. He is producing an ongoing series of vibrant and grotesque illustrations using nothing but his fingers and an iPad. Eyeballs floating in gloomy waters, skulls fused with dripping watermelons, and a deranged clown with a cherry for a nose are a few examples of what can be found in the drawings. It is refreshing to see a series of work that resembles vector illustration and discover that it was created in the age old manner of “Finger Painting”.
Ondrej Konupcik is a Czech artist offering organic and original watercolor brush strokes and ink splatters on a tattoo. He depicts explosive impressive animals like hawks, foxes and wolves but also other simpler objects. Customers don’t choose from catalogs when they come to Ondrej Konupcik, each drawing has to be almost custom-made.
The artist, who also goes by Ondrash, has to feel a connection to the subject before starting the process of tattooing. That’s the reason why he only takes care of one person per day. He wants to know on a deep level the story behind the tattoo. He traces directly on his customers to embrace their bodies and curves. He illustrates their wishes and desires from what they reveal.
A lot of the time mistaken for watercolor paintings applied directly to the skin, Ondrash’s tattoos has gained the appellation of compositional, figural art and today art brut tattoo. He gets his inspiration by browsing the web, getting ideas from other artists andpainting daily for himself using watercolor and oil. Ondrash also tried to graffiti. Enjoying the way the colors evolve in front of his eyes at a faster pace than when he tattoos, this could maybe his lead to a new project. (via deMilked).
Welcome to the hotel Au Vieux Panier in Marseille, France where graffiti artist Tilt has literally painted graffiti on half of the room. Covering every square inch of exactly half of the room with a mix of tags, throw ups, and more drips than your last DIY paint project, I cant help but think that Tilt’s room is a metaphor for the double lives that most graffiti artists lead. By day they are a minimalist going to work and paying your taxes and by night you are busy climbing billboards and vandalizing everything in sight. (images big addict, via my modern met)