Dirk Staschke is a sculptor who knows how to stimulate the appetite while also turning the stomach. Drawing on the 16th century artistic tradition of vanitas — referring to morbid still life paintings from Northern Europe that depicted arrangements of bones, decaying fruit, and hourglasses — Staschke creates ceramic mountains of pastries and piles of organ meats and root vegetables. Initially, the soft colors and glistening glazes make the cornucopias seem innocent or even beautiful. However, like vanitas (“vanity” in Latin) — which symbolize the futility of life and the temporary nature of all earthly materials — Staschke’s works critique the fleeting and destructive power of human desire. Beautiful abundance becomes disturbing; the skinned animals and raw meats, although carefully arranged, remind us of our own bodily death and decay. Even the sweet pastries — flesh-toned and topped with a cherry — become gross and oddly cannibalistic, representing an insatiable urge to horde and consume that ends in self-destruction.
Not all of Staschke’s works are so obviously grotesque. In a series titled Translation, he features framed sculptural still lifes of flowers (in addition to the more obviously macabre meat arrangements). The 3D medium, however, unveils the compositions’ inner vanity and morbidity; look behind the sculptures, and you will see messy hollows, buttresses, and layers of sculpted construction. An appealing and seemingly flawless work of art becomes a false edifice for a grim and roughly-hewn interior. Whether comprising ceramic flowers or flesh, Staschke’s works demonstrate how beautified desires cover up an earthly reality of transience and rot.
Visit Staschke’s website to see more detailed images of his creations. He exhibited recently at Winston Wächter in Seattle, and you can see his artist page here.
Alex Stoddard is a Los Angeles-based photographer who produces inspiring, conceptual images exploring the beauty and pain of the human experience. Each image is charged with emotion, combining dark fantasy with images alluding to death, isolation, intimacy, and strength. Bodies lie prone on the beach, or amidst piles of torn paper; elsewhere, in a scene connoting anything from desire to sacrifice, a man collapses into the arms of a woman with arrows protruding fatally from his back. Among the images featured here are two of Alex’s series: Hunting for Pearls and Wake of Thunder, the former depicting a moon-pale water nymph wandering a dusky shoreline, the latter featuring a mysterious young woman possessed by the storm. Whether they are part of a series or standalone images, Alex’s narrative-rich works strike us with an emotional roar.
Named one of Flickr’s 20 Under 20 — a collection of the 20 most talented young photographers on Flickr — Alex has been taking the photo community by storm. His growing distinction is well-deserved, as he has worked hard to produce the images arising from his unique imagination and the fantasies of his youth. In a video posted on The Weekly Flickr, Alex describes the daring commitment that led to his burgeoning success:
“I put myself in so many different extreme circumstances. One day I would be hanging off a cliff, another day I would be throwing myself in a giant fish tank in the dead of winter, or putting a snake around my eyes. I didn’t really care if I was uncomfortable, I was just focused on creating a unique shot.” (Source)
Alex’s advice for succeeding as an artist is as equally inspiring, as he makes the astute point that “you’re never going to grow if you’re doing the same thing every day. You need to be afraid of what you’re doing to learn from it.” Just as his images depict the human body in transformative states of emotion and peril, Alex demonstrates how materializing your dreams involves staying brave and moving through the intensities and difficulties that shape our lives.
Artist Kim Rugg’s incredibly meticulous artwork consists of slicing up and breaking down everyday sources of information, like newspapers and maps. Dissecting newspapers, she rearranges the words and letters, creating a new depth of meaning. She often cuts the letters out and places them in alphabetical order, throwing the message in disarray. If these newspapers were real, they may cause panic and mayhem, as they disrupt our normal access to worldwide information. Can you imagine if even online news from all countries suddenly appeared as Rugg’s newspapers do? Both her surgically cut newspapers and transformed maps deconstruct society norms of information and the restrictions our culture has placed upon them, and therefore us as well.
This London-based artists slices up maps and pieces them together again backwards, or purposely arranging the once solid land mass in a way that fuses together all elements of land, border, and ocean. She also creates her maps by hand, erasing borderlines and geopolitical issues that are so relevant in today’s society. Her recreations of man-made territories display a new topography; a world with no boundaries, where we all can live with no territorial restrictions. Each carefully incision made forms a part of the whole, redirecting your view to its small details. Rugg’s complex work invited you to investigate the information laid out right in front of you that is often overlooked. Other work of her that require our close inspection to really understand her subtle manipulations include magazines, comic books, and even cereal boxes. Her work can be found at Mark Moore Gallery in Culver City, CA.
A young photographer named Mahdi Ehsaei has published a book of photographs depicting a little known minority in the Middle East. Afro-Iranians are a group of people descendent from slaves and traders who were brought over from Africa in the 8th century. These illicit transactions were conducted through slave markets in the region continuing through the 19th century. The demographic Ehsaei photographs is interesting because it represents a group mainly unknown in the Arab world.
In his new book Afro-IranEhsaei photographs beautiful children who in their smiles hold a link to their history but most likely are unfamiliar with how their ancestors initially arrived in the region they call home. Using youthful energy he creates a narrative focusing on the future set against a backdrop of the past since many are photographed close to the ocean which is how their ancestors first arrived. In others we see women dressed in traditional African garments, a sign mentioned in Ehsaei’s statement as a way to keep their African heritage alive. This is also true of the segment’s strong culture which is rich in music, dance, oral tradition and ritual.
Ehsaei is of German-Iranian descent and has completed photo essays on boxing, Iran and the nature of photography. He currently resides in Berlin.
New York-based artist Marco Gallotta uses paper cutting as a way to create intricate portraits that “portray people in their natural state.” A combination of linocuts, watercolor, and collages, the multilayered images feature frontal views of people who have decorative shapes masking their faces. Patterned flourishes, water-esque ripples, and clashing swirls appear front and center as they obscure any sort of realism and transform it into an abstract work of art.
Despite these different techniques and media, Gallotta brings them together in a harmonious way. Here, each layer seems to tell a different story. There’s often a photo beneath the artist’s hand cut work, but it’s what’s above it provides a conceptual look at who the subject is. It’s their essence, and these decorative adornments speaks to the complexities of who someone is – their perceived versus actual identity. (Via Lustik)
Utah photojournalist Trevor Christensen‘s latest photographic project Nude Portraits is not what it sounds like. He has come up with a clever twist on the usual relationship between photographer and subject and the normal practices of taking photographs. Toying with the idea of himself being naked, taking photos of people fully clothed, Christensen was intrigued by the idea enough to follow it through. He started out by taking snaps of his girlfriend in the kitchen while in the buff, and had continuing doubts about the direction he was going in. Feeling as if it was unnatural, or definitely not normal for a photographer to work in a state of undress, he pursued the activity further to see just what he could capture on the other side of the lens.
By creating a memorable experience for his subjects, he is able to record a variety of reactions and emotions, revealed only in this unique set up. People range from laughing awkwardly, to averting their eyes, to being quietly stern, mildly bemused, or completely unfazed. His project has turned out to be a comprehensive and interesting study into different individual’s and societies’ attitudes toward nudity, personal space and the borders between public and private.
Throughout the process Christensen is exposed and vulnerable, but sees it as a necessary tool to ease the tension between artist and muse, and to level the playing field – where everyone is just as nervous as each other. In one case he enters the domestic space of Kendal, a gay Mormon man and what follows is indeed interesting. For Christensen, he is very confronted by this particular photo and worries he is taking advantage of some one who is too uncomfortable with the situation.
He says his main aim is to show people something they have seen or experienced before, and is worth seeing again. He wants his models to go back to that place they were in during the portrait and to feel those same things once more. Check out more images on his Instagram account, and an interview with him here.
A smart new campaign launched on Earth Day (April 22) in Hong Kong has ambitious plans aimed at changing the littering epidemic the city is facing. Called ‘The Face of Litter’ and developed by The Hong Kong Cleanup, in partnership with Ecozine and The Nature Conservancy, it is a multi-media attempt to curve people’s messy habits. Groups of scientists have targeted certain areas around the city, and with the help of DNA phenotyping and specialized software, an image of the litter culprit is developed. Then by considering the type of litter found, and where in the city, an even more accurate description of the person and their demographic can be developed. The faces of the guilty litterbugs are then displayed around the city, in different bus stops, on billboards and on social media.
By publicly shaming people who drop their rubbish, The Hong Kong Cleanup hopes to drastically change their citizen’s habits. China and Indonesia are among the top polluters around the world, and now many people are acting to change this sooner rather than later.
95 per cent of marine refuse in Hong Kong comes from local sources, with over 80 per cent originating from land-based activities. Additionally, more than 70 per cent comprises plastic and foam plastic items. (Source)
Lisa Christensen, Founder and CEO of The Hong Kong Cleanup, says:
We are thrilled to be part of this innovative campaign, which is sure to have a positive impact on people and the community. Last year, during the six-week Hong Kong Cleanup Challenge, 418 teams comprising 51,064 participants, collected a total of 3,894,000 kilograms of litter from city streets, coastal area’s and country trails. Sadly, we suffer from a serious ‘pick up after me’ mentality, and this simply must change. (Source)
Tania Shcheglova and Roman Noven are a Ukrainian photography duo also known as Synchrodogs whose surreal imagery frames the human body in odd-yet-intimate relations with the surrounding landscapes. This particular series, Reverie Sleep, takes this theme of the “strange natural” a bit further, drawing on the expansive and unearthly realms of lucid dreams. Made with the support of the Pinchuk Art Foundation in 2013, this project emerged from visions the artists experienced while wandering somewhere between sleep and awakening:
“[Reverie Sleep] deals with the stage of Non Rapid Eye Movement sleep, during which some people may experience hypnagogic hallucinations caused by [the] natural process of falling asleep. Experimenting with those lucid dreaming techniques, [Synchrodogs] woke themselves up in the middle of the night to make a note of what they had just seen, gathering their dreams to be staged afterwards.” (Source)
In order to recreate their dream imagery, Synchrodogs traveled to Iceland where they immersed themselves in dangerous and bleakly beautiful environments. As they explained in an interview with NYMag, they shot near “glaciers where you can fall into an ice hole and be found in a week, or in hot lakes where you can get boiled alive if there is a geyser which decides to eject hot water while you are in [it]” (Source). This earthly threat lends the images an impassive quality, just like the intangible lands we explore in our sleep while uncertain of what threats or joys await us.
Inhabiting Synchrodogs’ eerily sublime landscapes are female figures, nude or bedecked in colorful paints and surreal costumes. Bodies morph into ferns and fruit, or lie on cold earth and exalt in the light of an alien sun. Each figure is simultaneously human and inhuman, existing in a hallucinogenic, unquestioning state that dissolves and realigns our notions of reality. Shifting between forms and consciousness, they represent creatures of a limitless and symbolic universe.