Rebecca Morgan creates a collection of characters and types, a cross between Brueghel’s stylized peasants, R. Crumb’s winking harlots, “Deliverance”, and the inbred mutants of many a horror flick. Morgan takes her background in rural Appalachia as the point of origin for her personae – as they become uncultured tourists, or especially in her self-portraits, expatriate interlopers ambivalently negotiating their depiction. Morgan’s more exotic rednecks inhabit a rural America where people exist intimately and potently with the wilderness, a relationship which urbanites can only smirk at and envy. Nature is either wistfully idyllic – the idyl found in a margarine ad – or the scene of demonically perverse debauchery.
Morgan’s style fluctuates between hyper-detailed naturalism, reminiscent of Dutch painters such as Memling and Van Eyck, and cartoonish caricature, which pushes the imagery to a ridiculous, repulsive, even absurd dimension. Jagged teeth, furry brows, corpulent bodies symbolic of sloth and over-indulgence, and a general air of dirty unkeptness all exploit the demonization of the Appalachian. Internal traits come to the surface, and while Morgan exorcizes her country folk’s demons, ridicule mixes with pride and defiant celebration. In her alternately tender and aggressive depictions of herself, she bares all – a metaphoric exposure of her former rural character, or to prod the viewer to question their own position.
Assume Vivid Astro Focus, an artist collective oozing in an overflow of psychedelic energy, has been making a name for themselves within the art scene since 2001. They have recently published a book that documents six years of their projects, which consists of a combination of multimedia installations and performance art.
Samuel Fosso is one of the most renowned and prodigious young African photographers. His fantastical portraits of different types of people – from African Chiefs to American women – are revealed, upon closer inspection, to be self-portraits. A witty and ironic exploration of self-identity, Fosso’s work has been shown in major global venues such as the Photographers’ Gallery in London and the Guggenheim Museum in New York.
Guda Koster photo series turns fashion on its head, using prints and patterns to evoke both whimsy and existentialism. Her models’ faces are somehow always hidden, conveying a feeling of both freedom and suffocation. A bright palette with bold patterns are eye-catching but also an eyeful, a bombardment of the senses.
In an interview with Art Cart, Koster says, “In our everyday lives we communicate our identity and social position primarily by means of our clothing. Clothing can be seen as a visual art form that expresses the way we see ourselves and our relationship with the world around us.”
Some of her photos seem to recall the innocent days of playing dress-up as a child: In one, the model is truncated and swathed in black, topped by a bright red bow and set against a playful polka dot background. Others use fabrics that are reminiscent of corporate carpeting. Koster’s photos seem to be both an expression of self as well as the impact our environments can have on us, showing the ties that bind us well nigh literally.
“The clothed human figure becomes an integral part of a space or environment,” Koster says. “I am inspired by daily life, but I exaggerate it or I give it a humorous twist.”
Beth Livensperger’s painterly canvases are full of confusingly convincing visual miscues. Fluorescent lighting, mirrors, and expanses of reflective glass complicate vision by blinding, doubling, and flipping what we see. Livensperger uses these illusions in ways which prompt the question “what exactly am I looking at?” She makes us pay attention to places we would normally ignore, like store fronts, wood shops and laundry rooms. In the process bringing us into a one on one confrontation with our sense of sight.
The photographer Sarah Anne Johnson snaps shots of the most intimate kind, asking friends and acquaintances to sit for her while engaging in sexual activity: intercourse, foreplay, kissing, masturbation. Later, the artist enters into a new kind of dialogue with the erotic photos, covering her portraits in glitter and gold plate or scratching away their emulsion in strategic places.
The form of Johnson’s series, titled Wanderlust, brilliantly echoes its content. In penetrating the materiality of the photographic medium by altering its surface, Johnson makes as much of a statement about artistic or creative lust than she does about human sexuality. The gently cracked, ashy layer of a burnt chromogenic print mirrors a lover’s tender caress; similarly, a halo of scratches parallels a couple’s orgiastic pleasure.
Despite Johnson’s unconventional process—perhaps even because of it—Wanderlust seems a powerfully honest rendering of sexual intimacy. At times, human closeness becomes cosmically infinite, a moment of love solidified in gold plate or starry glitter. But many of the photographs complicate the notion of what it means to be truly vulnerable; often, her collage work obscures and flattens one lover, leaving his or her partner alone, isolated in the frame and utterly naked.
Johnson’s work relies on this tension between connection and isolation, a theme which serves to imbue the series with a palpable sense of sexual tension; for instance, two bodies are deconstructed in Puzzle Pieces, formatted to appear unified under one complex and paradoxically disjointed aesthetic. Simultaneously penetrating the viewer and and leaving us to gasp for air, the body of work is a must-see. It is currently on view at Toronto’s Stephen Bulger Gallery. (via Art in America and Feature Shoot)
Marcelo Monreal is a graphic designer and creative director based in Santa Catarina, Brazil. In a project titled Faces [UN] Bonded, Monreal opens up the faces of actors and models and fills them with flowers. Although some of them might be hard to identify from within the ferocious bloom, you’ll see the faces of Julianne Moore, Cara Delevingne, Christopher Walken, and more. By splitting the model’s/actor’s faces along the fine curvatures of their jaws and down the center, the artist accentuates their physical features. The flowers reveal a deeper, more internal vitality.
The idea for Faces [UN] Bonded comes from a very important memory for Marcelo: an insight passed down from his late mother. As he explains in this interview with Dettona, when his mother was dying, they worked in the garden together, and she told him “we are made of flowers” (Source). Marcelo now continues this understanding of human vulnerability and beauty by filling photos with floral arrangements. He seeks to “think, experiment create, recreate, learn, destroy, rebuild” in his work, encouraging all burgeoning artists to explore their potential in a similar, imperfect, and blossoming ways.
Micah Ganske’s paintings will give you a headache….in a good way. The unbelievable amount of detail that goes into his often large-scale paintings is absolutely a testament to his passion and dedication to the subjects he addresses. Detail doesn’t even seem to describe the amount of disciplined attention that goes into each piece. In his paintings, which can measure up to 120” x 150”, Ganske will draw in every window on every building and every car. In another painting, a giant tripod supporting a tiny digital camera in the foreground has such smooth gradation on the metal, you know exactly how it would feel if you could reach into the image. The result is something that demands attention.
Once you get over the amazement of how much visual information he provides the viewer, (a process that takes a fair amount of time) the signification of the layered symbolism begins to appear. Ganske explains that he wants “the world that [his] work exists in to be a streamlined synthesis of all visual stimulation [he] has ever taken in; nothing sacred, all sources brought down to the same level.” Once all on the same playing field, Ganske imprints his opinions about the way people interact with the natural world and the technological world. Most recently, Ganske is currently pursing a body of work titled, Tomorrow Land, which combines both a disappointment in the broken promises of mid-century technology, and a hopefulness borne from knowing that certain individuals are still devoted to exploring new frontiers and changing the way we think about the world.