Natalie Ryan’s Mysterious Blue Velvet Taxidermy

Natalie Ryan - Blue Velvet Taxidermy Natalie Ryan - Blue Velvet Taxidermy Natalie Ryan - Blue Velvet Taxidermy

Animal sculptures by Australian artist Natalie Ryan are inspired by taxidermy. While conventional taxidermy practices dictate that she preserve the skin/fur of the animal she is preparing, Ryan instead uses synthetic materials to cover casts of squirrels, bears, and monkeys. Her current portfolio cloaks these animals entirely in blue velvet.

While Ryan’s web presence is limited, her gallery representation, Dianne Tanzer Gallery in Melbourne writes about Ryan’s latest exhibition, Evanescere, stating:

Continuing to explore notions of the cadaver as a secondary form, a shadow of it’s living self, these works depict the internals of animals stripped of their dermis and identifying features. Evanescere looks at the body in a suspended state of disappearing. In conjunction with this, these works also explore the idea of the animal cadaver on display and museology as a resting place. These works combine bodies and elements of the landscape that reference the paradigm of Natural History Museum displays. They seek to question the role the body plays in the Museum and the loss of the individual as it becomes a subject to represent an entire species.

Ryan’s decision to color her work bright blue introduces a contemporary aesthetic to taxidermy. It references the trends of home decor over the past few years, in which loud, unnatural colors are applied to natural objects. When thinking about traditional taxidermy and how it uses real feathers and fur, the artist makes a statement about craft and preservation. The prevailing attitude of culture champions innovation and exploration of the new. Ryan is stripping this practice of its ritual, simply using foam casts and not real animals. She’s chosen a color and material that’s more en vogue. We are drawn to this work because it’s a twist on an old practice. She makes taxidermy fresh rather than just feeling old.

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Angelo Merendino Photographs His Wife’s Battle With Terminal Cancer

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death by cancer

Five months after being wed in Central Park, while most couples are settling into a new blissful life together, Angelo Merendino and his wife Jennifer received troubling news: Jennifer had breast cancer.

Of this diagnosis, and the journey that ensued, Angelo states, “With each challenge we grew closer. Words became less important. One night Jen had just been admitted to the hospital, her pain was out of control. She grabbed my arm, her eyes watering, ‘You have to look in my eyes, that’s the only way I can handle this pain.’”

Angelo took his wife’s request seriously and his photographs, collected here, document not just her struggle with cancer, but also a certain compassionate way of looking– a presence from behind the lens that is not exploiting nor agenda-driven. Each black and white image from Angelo shows the necessity of bearing witness or being a vulnerable presence that is sharing in the difficult and very human experience of love and loss.

Angelo additionally notes, “We loved each other with every bit of our souls. Jen taught me to love, to listen, to give and to believe in others and myself. I’ve never been as happy as I was during this time.”

For those of us touched by cancer, we can relate to Angelo’s statement — sickness is not just about the disease, it’s about relationships: how we deepen with one another by practicing empathy and how this feeling palpably echoes long after someone passes. Capturing this feeling in art, the way Angelo has, connects not just two people, but many millions more.

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Kate MccGwire’s Feather Sculptures are Beyond Our World

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Kate MccGwire’s feather sculptures are awe inspiring in their detail; they are the type of thing that is marveled. Gathering, peeling, and layering are just a few ways she constructs her work. The materials, vibrant colors, and tactile quality gives them an uncanny feeling. Seeing layers of feathers, we expect a winged creature attached. Instead, MccGwire has created organic yet indistinguishable forms. Her sculptures wrap around themselves, like the ouroboros, eating their own tail. Like infinity symbols, they are never ending. These forms feel powerful, and the feathers play a large role in it. Their volume, combined with a high level of craft, make us do a double take and demand our full attention.Yes, MccGwire’s winged creatures are kept under glass so they won’t escape. But wait! They were actually real. This uncertainty is exactly what MccGwire wants. From her artist statement:

Kate MccGwire’s practice probes the beauty inherent in duality, exploring the play of opposites – at an aesthetic, intellectual and visceral level – that characterises the way we conceive the world. She does this by appealing to our essential duality as human beings, to our senses and our reason, and by drawing on materials capable of embodying a dichotomous way of seeing, feeling and thinking. The finished work has a consistent ‘otherness’ to it that places it beyond our experience of the world, poised on a threshold between the parameters that define everyday reality.

While we might try and figure out what MccGwire’s sculptures are supposed to be, that isn’t her top priority. The artist is much more interested in combining our uneasiness of the unknown with the beauty of the natural world. (Via Colossal)

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Erin M. Riley Weaves the Photos You Took Last Night

Erin M. Riley - Tapestry Erin M. Riley - Tapestry Erin M. Riley - Tapestry

Erin M. Riley takes the images that usually live on Snapchat, Tumblr, or the privacy of your own phone and translates them into tapestries. They are pictures you wouldn’t want your parents to see. They feature naked and half naked women, drug paraphernalia, used condoms, and more. In an interview with Arrested Motion, Riley states, “I try to take pictures of the condoms after I have sex, the pictures I send to people, pictures of tables at parties, substances & liquids that change the course of events.”

If broadcasted the world, these are the type of photos that would really embarrass someone. Riley takes time to translate these experiences into large, detailed, and colorful weavings completed on a loom. In the same interview, she goes on to say, “I am taking the time to recreate these images as physical tapestries, because these are the events and objects that are significant to me. Tapestry allows images to be given more time, for hookups to gel, for mistakes to be thought over, its a way to over analyze every detail.” This is a cathartic activity for the artist, who says that there is an ebb and a flow in her images over time. Sometimes, they will be more aggressive or explicit, then scale back. Riley says that it’s a reflection in her own life, and she’s open to sharing this with her viewers. Doing so gives the opportunity to start a dialogue with people who admire, question, and collect her work. She’s happy to have conversation with people who might not broach the subject without the help of her tapestries.

Part of the success of Riley’s work is the way it is produced. She combines two different worlds; weaving, an old art form that requires a lot of skill, and the digital age, one that is very focused on instant gratification and accessible by nearly everyone.

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

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Banks Violette

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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

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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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