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Desolation And Dreams: Michael Massaia’s Haunting Photographs Of Abandoned Amusement Parks

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Michael Massaia is a photographer from New Jersey whose black-and-white imagery has an uncanny way of making the familiar seem unfamiliar: ordinary scenes are transformed into stunning portraits of isolation, desolation, and mystery. Two series are featured here: Afterlilfe and Sheep Meadow: Vertical Abstracts. The former documents vacant amusement piers along the New Jersey coastline, and the latter comprises vertical portraits of people sleeping in Central Park’s Sheep Meadow. While the subject matter is drastically different between the series — urban landscape photography and portraiture, respectively — both convey Massaia’s unique style: the haunting documentation of ordinary things that resonate with a deep sense of reflection and a yearning for connection.

Started in 2008, Afterlilfe features amusement piers in states of vacancy and ghost-like deterioration, photographed in the quiet hours between 4 and 6 o’clock in the morning. Most of the images were shot in FunTown and Casino Pier in Seaside Heights, New Jersey. In environments usually known for noise and elation, silence prevails; carousels lie dormant, and the architectural bones of roller coasters and ferris wheels loom against cloudy, darkened skies. Many of these structures were destroyed by hurricane Sandy in 2012. Shooting before and after the catastrophic event, Massaia’s unearthly photographs trouble us with their radiating atmospheres of stillness and absence.

Sheep Meadow: Vertical Abstracts is an extension of an earlier project titled Deep in a Dream. Massaia photographed people as they lay alone or in pairs on the grass. None of the subjects knew that they were being documented, allowing for candidly peaceful, reflective, and intimate postures. Vertical Abstracts sees photos of sleeping couples turned vertically and flipped backwards, making it appear as if they were floating or dancing through an otherworldly void. Massaia describes how the final prints “are gold-toned silver gelatin prints . . . [and] the grass is severely ‘burnt in’ to isolate and give the look of suspension to the subject” (Source). The strong contrast between the bodies and the surrounding darkness illuminates moments of beautiful (and strangely anxious) connection between the reclining couples.

Visit Massaia’s website and Facebook page to follow his hauntingly beautiful work. More photos after the jump.

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Logan Grider

Geometric compositions and punchy colors collide in Logan Grider’s playful abstractions.

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The Gouache Colored Collages Of Fabienne Rivory

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Artist Fabienne Rivory combines photography, collage, and painting in her work.  She often blends two images of landscapes or scenes by bisecting and combining them as if they were reflections of one another.  A touch of gouache paint is then digitally added to the photos and completes each of her pieces.  The effect on the landscapes is a bit disorienting but familiar.  Her work doesn’t seem to document places or times as much as it documents a feeling.  The bold color of the gouache contrasts against the black and white landscapes, each pulling something out of the scene, each evoking something different. [via]

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Martine Johanna’s Surrealist, Color-Drenched Paintings Unveil Inner Emotional Worlds

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“Nightmusic” (2014). Acrylics on linen, 140 x 180cm.

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“Dear Darkness” (2014). Acrylics and graphite on linen, 60 x 70 cm.

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“Anticipation” (2014). Acrylics on linen, 70 x 100 cm.

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“Cosmic Tides” (2014). Acrylics on linen, 120 x 170 cm.

Martine Johanna is a Netherlands-based artist whose beautiful, color-drenched works transfigure female figures into surrealist expressions of layered emotions and inner thoughts. In 2012, we featured her illustration portfolio, a body of work which depicts her distinctive, artistic tradition of blending abstract elements with whimsical sensuality. Also included in her oeuvre are a number of stunning acrylic paintings — many of them produced more recently — that delve into the worlds of the conscious and unconscious minds with stunning depth and sensitivity.

Characterizing Johanna’s paintings are women — often nude or nearly-nude — posed in contemplation, their eyes deep and shimmering, faces soft and shaded with storms of inner emotion. When I enquired about the use of nudity in her works, Johanna emphasized that while sex and sexuality are parts of our identities that can be used in artistic, representational ways that hold a lot of subversive power, her work is more concerned with an exploration of the mind and the body’s relationship to it. As she explained in a statement provided to Beautiful/Decay:

“There is more layering when it comes to forming the concepts of how [my] works come into existence, [just as] there is so much more going on in a person’s mind, conscious and subconscious; it is a web of complex emotions that contradict each other endlessly. For example: we want to be loved, but being overly loved corrupts, and love in itself is complex because the motivations behind wanting to be loved are already so many, from purity to manipulation to adornment to obsession, etc. In my process I deal with parts of these contradictions, [and] these thought patterns and emotions are endlessly fascinating to me.

However, I do not plan to make a work solely based on a combination of emotions; when I make what I make, I set up the compositions and figures that I feel, at that moment, is the right visual outcome to what my frame of reference and mind is. […] A couple of years back, I had my own sort of sexual revolution and a whole range of personal emotions connected to it. This is apparent in my work, [and] also visible is that I didn’t have my material or ways of expressing under control yet, which I’m now starting to get more of a grip on.”

The products of Johanna’s artistic explorations are paintings depicting layers of both materiality and essence. We see two worlds superimposed over each other: the corporeal, sensual, and sensate body, and the abyssal ocean of unpredictable emotion which surges within each one of us.

The surrealist elements of Johanna’s works likewise express the emotional contradictions mentioned in the above quote. Recurring motifs in her paintings are dualisms, shadowy “others” who embrace and accompany the female figures (see “Cosmic Tides” and “Dear Darkness,” for example). When I asked Johanna what this signified, she insightfully replied:

“[T]here is a balance of contradictions within us. You need dark to see the light; it’s nothing new, it’s yin and yang, it’s life. Denying darkness and not dealing with it doesn’t make life better — it makes it superficial.”

Hence why, in many of Johanna’s pieces, we often see layers of seemingly “contradictory” experiences, such as beauty alongside death (“The Hunted”), and hope alongside grief (“Opaline Blue”).

Visit Johanna’s website, Facebook, and Instagram to see more stunning examples of her work.

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Pascal Pierrou Explores Alternative Feminine Beauty -NSFW

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French photographer Pascal Pierrou takes interest in creating the ultimate ‘modern girl’ photo catalogue. Pierrou, a fashion photographer, is interested in showcasing alternative ‘feminine beauty’, the type that we are not really used to seeing in popular television or mass-produced advertisements. He primarily focuses on girls with short hair/no hair, tattoos, and piercings. While these women’s looks are not uncommon per se, Pierrou is looking to create a fashion-like photoshoot that shows off these women in a way that is uncommon and unexpected. For instance, his way of pairing a naked woman with a sword tells us that he is looking to show off a double-sided profile, one that  shows off a rough edge, and another that features the soft lines of a slender and feminine naked body.

This idea of rough and soft lines is somewhat of a pattern amongst the photos on this series. These characteristics are indicative of what Pierrou thinks about today’s modern girl- often times, a woman that carries a powerful and tough, but ultimately soft appearance and character.

His inspiration for the series was Andy Warhols ‘Factory’ which was popular in the 60s in New York. Pierrou imagined people of a new factory, free women, feminists, artists that would exhibit their skin, hair, tattoos and words without being ashamed.

(via IGNANT)

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Graham Caldwell’s Prismatic Hand Blown Glass Sculptures Mirror Myopic Organisms

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Graham Caldwell sculpts intricate organic-like structures from hand blown glass. His artworks mirror natural life forms on a molecular level. He pulls, twists, stretches and blows 2,000 degree glass into all sorts of shapes, arranging them into globular, spiky, prismatic, concave, convex, and densely myopic configurations. Caldwell uses the hard shiny metallic properties of glass in contrast to the forms he is recreating. He references nature – flowers, leaves, tropical fronds, water drops, fly’s eyes and eyebrows, but chooses to present them in a man-made, futuristic, fractured, cubist fashion.

Using mirrors, metals, steel and epoxy he likes us to reflect on the way we see the world around us. His interest lies in the act of perceiving, the function of eyes, the purpose of lenses, and how sight works.

Much of my work focuses on glass as a conduit or modulating agent for light and its parallel in the functionality of the human eye: using a lens to flip an image of the world, upside down and backwards, into the brain where it is reassembled, through illusion and forensics. (Source)

Caldwell is the ultimate advocate for art as science. His process is all about trying to recreate an organic process through a completely manufactured one. He enjoys the tactility of glass and the bizarre shapes they can inhabit.

Imagine the shape that balloons take on when they’re half filled with water; now imagine them flash-frozen and sticking sideways into space. Glass, says Caldwell, “is a slowed-down, meaty version of water.” (Source) (Via Hi Fructose)

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Wilson McLean’s Jazz Portraits

I usually don’t post work like this but there’s something going on in Wilson McLean’s paintings of Jazz musicians and portraits that caught my eye. Maybe it’s the surprise of seeing a more traditional illustrative painting style mixed with hommages to Francis Bacon and David Hockney.

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Robert Larson Turns The Ugly & Destructive Act Of Smoking Cigarettes Into Something Unexpectedly Beautiful

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Robert Larson uses discarded cigarettes packaging, matchbooks, and rolling papers to create his compositions. Somewhat reminiscent of Tom Fruin’s drug baggies, the artist creates abstract patterns from smoking paraphernalia, and turns the ugly and destructive act of smoking into something unexpectedly beautiful.

Larson finds the materials by scavenging neighbourhoods in Santa Cruz, where he lives and works. There’s an interesting play between personal and impersonal in his work. The consistent grid of the items, be it shiny packaging or used matches, gives a sense of the systemic nature of urban life, while their individual treatment – worn by weather or use – sustains a sense of individual experience.

Cigarettes are rarely if ever associated with beauty, at least in our moment. Certainly in the past they were glamourized, but happily, people are beginning to see quite clearly their highly detrimental effect. Still, they maintain a heavy presence, and it’s exciting to see something positive come out of a predominantly negative thing. Larson’s compositions are surprisingly colourful and dynamic. He has a good eye for placement, as in the Marlboro packaging where he distributes the various tones of grey-brown wear to radiate outwards from the middle of the work. His pieces are mostly quite large, reaching over six feet. It makes me wonder how long it would take him to collect his materials, which could give him some understanding of the smoking population of each neighbourhood he collects from.

Images courtesy of CES Gallery

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