Rachael McArthur is a Toronto-based artist whose photography explores the fascinating crossroads of modernity and classical culture, with a particular focus on the family structure. Featured here is an ongoing project called A Family Façade, which examines domesticity and social identity through a Victorian lens. Throughout the images—each with an intentionally staged appearance—McArthur captures the gilded debris of aristocracy and repression: ornamental coffins filled with flowers, pipes and alcohol bottles arranged like cherished knickknacks, and lockable suitcases containing old family photos and letters. Pulled between beauty and contrivance, each photo produces a tension of arbitrary decoration and the muffled underbelly of familial memory and secrets.
McArthur is particularly interested in how the body can be used to project a constructed (and often idealized) identity. In the Victorian era—not unlike today—materiality and the cohesion of the familial unit were a means to manifest an air of “success” and contentment. This is seen in McArthur’s adorned sculptures; well-dressed and surrounded by beautiful, antiquated objects, they appear deceivingly calm and graceful, provided for in every material way. The absence of faces and limbs, however, tells a different story; without eyes or hands to express the figures’ emotional worlds, the viewer sees the beautiful objects for what they are—superficial, gaudy façades that merely upholster an unsettling truth.
Layer after layer of meaning can be unraveled from McArthur’s works as she examines the historical and present-day significance of family and identity. Visit her website, blog, and Instagram to learn more about her work.
At the best of times, embroidery can be impressive and time consuming, but this project shows us just how much of an art form it can be. Flickr user NanaAkua has been uploading pictures of her grandmother’s embroidered balls for a while now, educating us all about an ancient art form popular in Japan. Called Temari balls, they are folk art that originated in China, but were quickly adopted by Japan. And this very talented Japanese grandmother in particular has been embroidering Temari balls for over 30 years – building a collection of over 500 balls. Made from the threads from old kimono, the Temari balls are intricate, full of imaginative patterns and as diverse as they are colorful.
They are traditionally cherished as objects of friendship and loyalty. The bright colors symbolize luck and happiness for the recipient of the gift. And it isn’t only considered an honor to receive a Temari ball, but also to produce them. To qualify as a Temari ball artist, the individual has to display a high level of skill and technique.
Here’s a little bit of more information on the amazing art form that are Temari balls:
Traditionally, temari were often given to children from their parents on New Year’s Day. Inside the tightly wrapped layers of each ball, the mother would have placed a small piece of paper with a goodwill wish for her child. The child would never be told what wish his or her mother had made while making the ball. (Source)
Brett Kern sculpts these incredible “inflatable” dinosaurs and other objects out of plaster. Kern sculpts his own molds out of clay and uses glaze to emphasize his materials’ depth and details. Pop culture has always influenced Kern’s work, and these faux inflatable sculptures are no exception. One of Kern’s first memories as a child was being given an inflatable dinosaur at the hospital for behaving while his mother gave birth to his sister. It’s this playful, childlike wonder that informs the bulk of his work, and the forging of a balance of fragility and buoyancy. .
“I find that the mold-making process imitates, in a certain way, the fossilization process. Objects are covered in a material that captures their shape and texture and this, in turn, preserves the object as a rock-like representation. Movies, television, toys and games dominated the cultural landscape of my youth. I am a product of this specific time period, and I like to think of my artwork as the fossils that will help preserve it.”
Rob Sato’s watercolor paintings are whimsical clashes of documented history and personal dreaming: a magpie pictorial narrative of his own internal processing system or as he says, an “extension of writing” and “sifting through garbage. Getting a lot of trash out of my head.” His ability to condense worlds, communities, and landscapes into one surreal solid depiction, interestingly enough, conceptually harkens back to Vincent VanGogh’s statement on the watercolor medium itself as “a splendid thing” to “express atmosphere and distance, so that the figure is surrounded by air and can breathe in it.”
Thinklab’s video “Caskets” for musician Damien Jurado is hauntingly beautiful and embodies all that is possible with the joining of hi-def technology and a great sense for poetics and nostalgia. Great work.
Sean Anderson is a painter based out of Santa Barbara, CA. The jungle is a reoccurring theme in his work, and connects to his past experience of being an artist in residence in Bolivia for two years. He plays with novel color relationships and combines non-traditional media, such as spray paint and florescent enamel alongside oil on canvas. Bold and vivid, with their dilapidated houses fixed in florescent hues, the paintings often appear lit as if by nuclear blast.
His jungle paintings sometimes demonstrate an interest in commercial art and advertising, taking direct influence from pop artist Ed Ruscha by combining landscape and text to bring new meaning to ordinary or nonsensical phrases.
The work of photographer Nadia Lee Cohen is a stimulating, modern take on vintage American and British style. Her diorama-esque compositions — with their nude, cigarette-smoking femme fatales and garish 1950s/60s/70s iconography — explode with color, attitude, and fetishized, retro-suburban life. Scattered throughout are bold insertions of cultural, consumer artifacts, from packs of Marlboro cigarettes, to Coca-Cola bottles, to lip-shaped telephones, which further emphasize the images’ glossy and style-saturated appeal. David Lynch and Alfred Hitchcock fans will certainly be able to identify a few crafty allusions; whether it is red curtains, or birds hovering menacingly in the background, Cohen has seamlessly meshed her own cinematic style with that of influential film directors, thereby creating a clever and campy pastiche of Western arts and culture.
When I asked Cohen what drives her work, she expressed that she primarily hopes that people enjoy the aesthetics of her photography, which is a “humorous, tongue-in-cheek” response to the way she views the world. And, aside from creating fascinating portraits of what she identifies as “strong, quirky, dark characters,” Cohen’s exploration of retro aesthetics through a modern lens provides a visible commentary on the way styles and cultural tastes have shifted over the decades — all from an alternative and progressive point of view; her work represents a range of personal styles, as well as a variety of body shapes and sizes. “I hope to convey a wider message of changing our perception of taste in terms of modern beauty ideals in fashion,” she explains, “which is why I tend to look to the interesting people around me rather than casting from agencies.”
Cohen has recently finished her MA in Fashion Photography at the London College of Fashion, and judging by her success and the in-depth nature of her style, she will be creating a lot of exciting work in 2015. Be sure to check out her website and Instagram. More adventurous (and amusingly retrospective) images after the jump. (Via Huffington Post)
Michael Cina has created a world-renowned career by fusing elements of both design and art into a signature style of technically-sound, visually striking, and uniquely glossy works. This approach has brought massive clients ranging from Facebook to Coca-Cola to MTV, as well as fine-art success. His latest efforts involved opening up control of his personal practice, however, as Cina worked side-by-side, though miles away, with a collaborator. For over a year, Cina and New York-based photographer John Klukas worked together to create a new body of work, which they began to call “digitally handmade” – a true synthesis of each creator’s respective styles. This collaboration yielded some twenty works, which are collected in the exhibition, She Who Saw Deep, at Minneapolis’ Public Functionary.
Beginning their complicated collaborative process with photos of the exhibition’s singular muse in Klukas’ New York studio, Cina then took the images and digitally overlaid his handmade paintings in his Minneapolis studio. Working the files back and forth between the two several times, the finished files were often so large and dense that they were as large as 16GB. These pieces were then printed and mounted, where Cina made final edits by hand – embellishing, spraying, drawing, and painting each piece to give them their own unique finish.
The digitally handcrafted images in She Who Saw Deep are then titled around the loose parallel of the Epic of Gilgamesh, “where the hero passes through the absolute darkness of grief, fear and death to be reborn into the light…the resulting works in this exhibit are both a visual and conceptual interpretation of this classic and universal human story.” Public Functionary, which offered support for the printing and creation of the works, is offering unique, limited-edition prints of these collaborative works, which can be purchased here.