With rippling, coiled muscles, the sculptures of Masao Kinoshita stand skinned and erect. Working with materials ranging from wood to resin to bronze, the Japanese sculptor uses an aesthetic we normally associate with natural history museums to render athletic, flexing creatures of the sea and land. Save for their multiple heads and engorged limbs, these beasts could easily be ancestors of man.
Kinoshita draws much of his inspiration from diverse mythologies, religions and folklores from around the globe. Fusing narratives across space and time, the horned maenads of ancient Greece live alongside the Yoga Asura deities of Buddhism in a visceral, animalistic universe where fitness reigns supreme. The Hindu god Ganesh poses confidently while a human baby and a small teddy bear develop muscles of similar size and strength.
Given the artist’s knowledge of folklore and spiritual histories, we might interpret his massive, hulking walrus as a nod to the beast mentioned in Alice in Wonderland, who is widely assumed to represent the Buddha. Built from wood, he would certainly seem at home in the story of “The Walrus and the Carpenter,” but his soulful eyes maintain a divine dignity that eluded Lewis Carroll’s infamous character.
Throughout Kinoshita’s impressive body of work, the physical and the metaphysical are allowed to coexist. Where modern religions condemn the pleasures of the body and exalt in those of the spirit, these sculptures present a world wherein the gods themselves are proud—even arrogant, as the case may be with those thong-wearing bodybuilders—to live within mortal anatomies. Take a look. (via HiFructose)
The artist Jess Riva Cooper’s Viral Series imagines the human body overtaken by malevolent plant life; like the bodies of the dead, her ceramic women busts are infected with ivy, flowers, and insects. Inspired by the Hebrew figures of the golem and the dybbuk, the viral females occupy a space between life and death; like golem, they are anthropomorphic beings brought to life by human (as opposed to divine) hands, but they are also seemingly suffocated by roots that harken back to the cleavage of the ominous dybbuk, a departed soul that fixes itself to the body of a living person. The word “dybbuk,” in fact, arrises from the Hebrew verb for “sticking from the root.”
Unlike the figures of Yiddish folklore, Cooper’s busts are female, modeled after the seductive sculpted faces of Classical Greece. Closing resembling the great alluring forms like Praxiteles’ Aphrodite of Cnidus, these figures abandon the feminine piety in favor of an ecstatic sexuality; serpentine vines crawl across their tender cheeks, and their mouths open wide to give birth to lush roses or to allow passage to fertile swarms of scarab beetles. Their eyes appear to roll back in sensual pleasure; their teeth gnaw on thick roots.
Cooper’s series seems to draw on ancient and Judeo-Christian mythology to construct a cohesive and elaborate narrative of female creative power; these women represent death and birth in equal measure. As the bodies of the dead are consumed by insects, they ultimately give rise to blossoming flora. This strange and natural cycle of rebirth serves as a metaphor for the artist’s beloved Detroit, where buildings and homes succumb to financial ruin and are eventually overgrown with feral plant life. Take a look. (via Colossal and HiFructose)
The photographer Ingrid Berthon Moine is taken with testicles, both figuratively and physiologically; turning to the anatomically accurate statues of Classical Greece for her project Marbles, she focuses her lens on representations of the male sex organ. Isolated from the rest of the statues, the male sex organs take on new meanings, their textured curves wrought in stone with masterly precision.
The careful renderings of the genitalia reveal tender folds of skin; set against the aged and worn marble, the apparent softness is complicated by durability. Testicles, as a cultural symbol, retain these nuances; they are simultaneously representative of sexual vigor and unfaltering power, but they are also framed as a physical weakness, an immensely vulnerable organ. As Berthon Moine explains, the word itself gave rise to aggressive, powerful words like “detest, protest, or contest or […] testify.” But the artist was also inspired by the theory of the neuroscientist John Coates, who posited that the testosterone hormone played a role in the financial recession; these marble testicles hope to express both the powers and dangers that we assign to them.
In a world where artworks depicting naked women outnumber works by women artists in our most renowned art museums, Berthon Moine’s work serves to turn the male gaze in on itself. She explains that until recently, only women were made to feel aware of being watched, judged by their sexual allure. She sees this dynamic shifting to expose both genders to the gaze of others, and this series, uncomfortable to some and amusing to others, is a part of that transition. (via Hyperallergic)