Heavy Metal Art: Banks Violette And Seven Other Artists On The Spectrum Of Dark And Gritty

Banks Violette

Banks Violette

Skinner

Skinner

2

Ben Venom

This weekend on Beautiful Decay we want to welcome you over to the dark side, where a vast amount of artists are churning out contemporary art fueled by the fire of Metal.  A multitude of artists these days are making art inspired by the crushing sounds and dark spirit of Heavy Metal, Death Metal and Doom music, all of which weave in and out of several other genres.

I’ve been a huge fan for a while now of the work made by artists Skinner, Ben Venom and Martin Durazo, which are strongly informed by Heavy Metal.  This past week after chatting with artist and Beautiful Decay owner, Amir H. Fallah and artist Skinner and reaching out on Facebook to learn more about artists tied into this music scene, I was turned onto a breadth of incredible artists.  A lot of artists working with metal as inspiration have strong crossover into design and illustration, album art, posters (especially for the band Mastadon), band merch and murals.  There’s also a strong genre of work that explores dark spiritual matter, mythology and death that is absolutely captivating.  You can expect upcoming coverage of these sub-genres in coming weeks.

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Jason Hughes’ Creates Artwork From Shredded Dollar Bills

Jason Hughes - Dollar Bills Jason Hughes - Dollar BillsJason Hughes - Dollar Bills

Now that the US government is not longer shut down (at least for the time being…), it feels like an appropriate time to visit the work of Jason Hughes. For years, he has used money as his medium, literally. Hughes obtains dollar bills previously removed from circulation and shredded by the government. He takes the bills, weaving them together or applying them to panel. With both approaches, it is staggering to think about the amount of work, attention to detail, and time that goes into each piece.

Sometimes, Hughes will take the scraps and weave them together, while other times he will arrange them to form different icons like a heart, bullseye, and eye. The imagery has ties to American culture. For instance, the star inside of the circle is reminiscent of the classic Converse All Star shoes.

The process of Hughes’ work is as important as the outcome. The act of creating a piece explores ideas of labor, value, and worth. It highlights the disparity between skilled labor and industry in the United States. Jobs that are often tedious, like working in a factory, for instance, are very low on the pay scale. But, they make things we have work and keep our homes, buildings, and society running smoothly.  Another Day, Another Dollar (directly above) reconstructs the dollar bill, which seems to say that yes, another day is another dollar, but when you consider the amount of work that went into that single dollars, it isn’t enough.

By taking this shredded money, which was otherwise worthless before, Hughes assigns a new value by changing its context. Now, composed and presented as art, he creates something that is worth much more than the sum of its parts.

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Aaron S. Moran’s Reclaimed Wood Sculptures

Wood Sculptures Aaron Moran Wood Sculptures Wood Sculptures artist

Location is important to Canadian artist  Aaron S. Moran. The wood sculptures he creates are both inspired by, and dependent on pieces of wood that he finds in a particular area. From them, he assembles the discarded material into works of art. Using a variety of colors, textures, and patterns, he creates pieces that create a dialogue between place, media, and the viewer.

At times, his sculptures feel like they are going to combust. In his series If You Resist This! and Wash Up (Boundary Bay), wood is unevenly matched in color and size. Pieces are wedged, layered, and placed where they will fit. The non-matching feels almost haphazard, like the piece’s shelf life wasn’t supposed to be very long. This visual tension feels volatile, as if there is something is ticking inside them and about to burst.

At other times, Moran’s sculptures are more docile. They hold an entirely different air and attitude. Here, he uses wood that’s been painted colors of a pretty sunset. Moran has considered placement of colors and arranged the wood in patterns. He titled the series Kite Contest/1991, conjuring up the feelings you’d get from a warm, pleasant day. He writes this about the series, poetically stating, “Sun filtered nostalgia, memories of vibrant kites flying high in the sky along the shore of a beach. Lively patterns from days gone by, blurred by time. Sun bleached photographs of smiling faces. Picnic blankets and pinwheels moving in the warm breeze.”

Moran is currently pursuing his MFA with the University of Windsor in Windsor, Ontario, Canada. He lives along the Detroit River on the border of Canada and the United States. You can follow his works in progress and inspiration on his Tumblr, Year On A River.

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Alex Roulette’s Uncanny And Nostalgic Paintings Of The Suburbs

Alex Roulette - Oil on Board Alex Roulette - Oil on Board Alex Roulette - Oil on Board

To be a visual artist is to also be a researcher. It is observing, questioning, and ultimately drawing conclusions that are reflected in a body of work. Not surprisingly, Alex Roulette begins new series with research. He gathers a large collection of source materials, including found images like vintage postcards. He photographs environments. They are all incorporated in his landscape paintings, which explore a place that is quasi-nostalgic for many of us – the suburbs.  Roulette’s hazy, dream-like atmospheres allow us to  draw upon our own memories and remember a time when things maybe weren’t so complicated.

Roulette’s paintings are of quiet moments. He’s depicted silent meetings, teenage hijinks, stormy nights, and more. They are meticulously detailed and his technique is reminiscent of Old Master paintings from the 16th and 17th centuries. While this type of rendering is not the most innovative approach to painting, Roulette’s obvious skill and talent for crafting a narrative make it hard to take your eyes off these paintings.

The longer you look, more details present themselves. You begin to question the intent of them, guiding your mind beyond what is painted. Where does the road in Crossroads (directly above) lead? What is down in that lake? Furthermore, what is inside the colorful structure in Backdrop (below)? We are supposed to ask these questions. Roulette wants us to find these images subtly uncanny. It’s not just in those strange details, but in our vantage point. He’s composed the compositions in a way that makes us the voyeur. We spy on a woman from a motel as she sits in a parking lot. Our view of swimmers is obstructed by plants, like we are seeing something shouldn’t be. It feels exciting and a bit strange.

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Brandi Strickland’s Inner Space Collages

Brandi Strickland - Mixed Media

 

Brandi Strickland - Mixed Media

Brandi Strickland - Mixed Media

Brandi Strickland’s collages are a mixture of photographs, painting, and drawing. Exploring different themes, Strickland fills her compositions with people and textures, utilizing a lot of old, faded papers, and National Geographic-like magazines. Inner Space is a series about the galaxy and our world, examining topics such as overcrowding, our relationship to our planet, and our perception of space.

Strickland combines a dizzying amount of black and gray tones, playing with scale of stars and fractured light. Each work in Inner Space seems to illustrate a different aspect of space. In one work, The Duat, (directly above) the artist has included pair of eyes, signifying fear of intergalactic exploration. In that same piece, Strickland has a woman diving, as if you say we should embrace these fears.

The piece titled Inner Space (below) focuses more specifically on Earth. It is a visual magpie; Strickland has collected shiny, colorful, manmade, and natural imagery to represent a world that’s focused less on the great unknown and more about ourselves. The sphere takes up most of the composition, too – it’s just all about Earth. Amulet (also below) has the same thematic considerations that Inner Space does, but it recognizes that we are just a very small but valuable part to the greater universe. Scale-wise, the Earth that was so large in Inner Space is significantly smaller by comparison. An amulet’s most important characteristic is its alleged power to protect from evil, so the title suggests that we are either in need of one or we are one.

Strickland describes her work, stating, “For me, collage begins with collecting, saving, acquiring, searching; then, as if they were memories, I meticulously sort, separate and organize them into something new, something that is both happily accidental and tediously arranged.” The series demonstrates a meditation on this theme, and I’d be curious to know what conclusions she drew.

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Ernesto Neto’s Massive Installations Address Mind/Body Relationships

Ernesto Nesto - Installation

Ernesto Nesto - Installation

Ernesto Nesto - Installation

Ernesto Neto’s installations ache of a strange dreamy womb I’m sleepwalking towards, one that promises 100 years of hibernation, an extended respite that is sensually comforting and yet also terrifying claustrophobic. It’s a peculiar feeling– a mushy feeling, a propelling and repulsive feeling, or push and pull, that I can’t stop leaning into.

I am not my body, yet I am my body.

Unintentionally echoing motifs in David Cronenberg’s psychological horror films, Neto’s “beyond abstract minimalism” worlds seem to confront the dysfunctional relationship we have with our internal and external selves, and the weeping orifices that connect us to one another on a physical and emotional level. Each path is carved viscerally, interactively– ideally, playfully, but admittedly, horrifyingly in our own image, resembling internal organs and wads of flesh and goo. We are attracted to this, and this attraction is disturbing.

Of his work, and perhaps of this feeling I’m describing, in an interview with Bill Arning, Neto states, “Do you understand the word sacanagem? It’s a Portuguese word that does not translate well. It is beyond flirting. It’s after that, in that moment when both of your faces change into something else because the erotic charge is so high, when your bodies move towards each other. I wanted the work to manifest sacanagem without talking about it. It’s all subtextual. My work is first and foremost a contemporary sculpture; it speaks of the finite and the infinite, of the macroscopic and the microscopic, the internal and external, by the masculine and feminine powers, but sex is like a snake, it slithers through everything.”

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Joseph Parra’s Manipulated Photographs Are Braided, Folded, Cut, And Scratched To Reveal The Unseen

Joseph Parra - Digital Print Joseph Parra - Digital PrintJoseph Parra - Digital Print

Joseph Parra is an artist working with the human portrait and figure. While he obviously draws and paints very well, Parra is not necessarily concerned with perfectly replicating what someone looks like. He finds this notion limiting to an artist; after all, a photo or realistic painting can only go so far. You’ve made someone look like their outward appearance, but now what?

Parra strives to delve deeper into the figure or portrait and reveal what is unseen. His work questions what it means to be human using a couple of different methods. One way is through layers. Aside from a portrait, he adds of media that distorts the face or the body. Parra scrapes, pricks, and sands his subjects. In his words, this is “acting as reminders that we are merely a union of ideas.” Additionally, he will cut, braid, or fold paper as a way to express the complex nature of humanity. Oneself (directly below) is the same portrait but manipulated in three different ways. It references the fractured, multiple, and twisted ways we often view ourselves. Some days we think we’re great, while others we are loathsome.

Much of Parra’s work is screen prints and digital prints, which I think enhance his ideas and again parallels the human experience. We see these images mutilated and/or distorted, and they look very textural. Yet up close, they are mostly reproduced images and have a smooth sheen – the rawness is kept contained. I compare it to having a friend who appears very put together on the surface, but beneath you know they are a mess.

Parra was featured last year on Beautiful/Decay, not long after graduating college. Since then, he’s created more work that focuses on the braiding or manipulating of paper, which are some of my favorite pieces. I’m looking forward to seeing where Parra goes from here.

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Pamela Council’s Sculptures Made Of Fake Acrylic Nails

Pamela Council - Acrylic Nails, Paint Pamela Council - Acrylic Nails, Paint

Pamela Council - Acrylic Nails, Paint

Pamela Council - Acrylic Nails, Paint

New York-based artist and product developer Pamela Council creates sculptures using hundreds of fake acrylic nails. Putting together these tiny, mundane objects, she builds extraordinary busts, lanterns, and sculptures about Olympic athletes. Her socially-conscious work focuses on the deeper meaning of these objects. What kind of associations do we have with them? Council writes about her thought process, stating:

I take everyday objects and re-figure them as I consider their associations and power. The process begins with research and includes a dissection of the cultural implications of the product, from why it was created, to how and where it is made, sold, and used. This enables me to extricate the object from its commercial value and present it in sculpture. Through this process, the object becomes re-possessed.

Mass-produced objects that are used on the body interest me the most; recently, my focus has been almost exclusively on beauty products. As I continue to investigate these cultural artifacts, my goal is to create a new dialogue and awareness about the things that we collect, consume, and discard. Hopefully, it will encourage an analysis that eulogizes the significance of these objects even as it allows for a more critical view of their value. If it works, my art will serve as a proxy for the objects and psyches we decide we can live without.

Council created a sculpture titled, Flo Jo World Record Nails, which used 200 sets of the manicured nails that Florence Griffith-Joyner wore during the 1988 Olympics, when she set the 200 meter world record. Council painted each set and had them for sale. You too could harness the same power as Flo Jo – being young, extremely talented, all while remaining stylish.

You can visit Council’s Tumblr, Blaxidermy, for her photos, work in progress, and things she comes across in her day-to-day life.

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