In 2004, artist Kim Alsbrooks began painting regal portraits on discarded cans in a series titled My White Trash Family. The work, which features both male and female subjects dressed in elaborate wigs, stately ascots, and enormous hats, is a juxtaposition of literal trash and fine portraiture. It was as initially inspired by Alsbrooks’ friend, a women’s history professor, who pointed out the historical biases that are present in art. In response, Alsbrooks’ tiny paintings mimic those that you’d find in museum collections. The fact that these exquisite works are produced on trash rather than quality materials is both ironic and amusing.
My White Trash Family is prolific; Alsbrooks has produced over 600 paintings since it started. All beverage cans are pre-flattened, mostly by passing cars or trucks. She describes her technique, writing, “One cannot flatten the trash. It just doesn’t work. It must be found so that there are no wrinkles in the middle and the graphic should be well centered. Then the portraits are found that are complimentary to the particular trash. Generally I depict miniature portraits from the watercolor on ivory era (17th-18th century more or less). The trash is gessoed in the oval shape, image drawn in graphite, painted in oils and varnished.”
Part of the success of this series is found in the dedication to craft, and the fact that she paints miniature portraits really well. But, what ultimately makes these works appealing is not necessarily tangible. The reference to high society and its traditional paths challenged by cheap, “lower class” items is instantly recognizable and relatable at a time when the one percenters rule the world. (Via Booooooom!)
New York-based artist Lee Price paints realistic portraits of women as they are caught in intimate moments consuming sweet treats and decadent desserts. They are either in bed or in the bathtub, both places where eating is seen as somewhat taboo (aside from the occasional breakfast in bed). Here, we are the voyeur, gazing at not only their location, but what they are eating. In a short statement about her work, Price writes:
In this society, there’s so much pressure for women to be thin. We’re not supposed to have appetites – and not just for food, but for a lot of things. We’re the givers and not the consumers, and I think some of my recent paintings are about the women staring at the viewers and saying, ‘I’m not going to censor my appetite.’
The women in Price’s work are unapologetic about what they enjoy, and it ultimately seems like they are liberated doing so. Many of them look straight at us instead of shying away. As she insinuates in her statement, Price’s work touches on the repression of desire, and the fact that they match our gaze communicates that they are taking control. (Via iGNANT)
British artist Bruce Munro is perhaps best known for his creation of large-scale installations that offer a great amount of experiential weight to viewers. Choosing materials which reflect, and shine light, a metaphor for the artist’s interests in literature, music and science. Often made of humble materials, Munro has often come back to the use of compact discs, a decision that the artist explains, “Initially I used discarded materials to save on costs. Soon material choices also became the subject matter of the installations,” he says of Light. “For me, there has to be a reason—however idiosyncratic—for everything I do and these days I am drawn more and more to the idea of creating an experience that is gentle on the landscape.”
Various projects of Munro’s use repurposed and recycled compact discs in massive quantities, covering hills, estate lawns and fields. In works such as CDSea, enormous fields of the collected discs have a natural element, in this case a meandering path carved through them. The path, which echoes landscape architecture and fung shui design, allows viewers to experience not only vistas of the shimmering surfaces, but also the now-highlighted beauty of the existing grass itself. Speaking of the installation and its process, Munro says “You never know how something will work out, but now I could not be happier. I’m so grateful to everyone who turned out to help. We had a magical weekend and CDSea looks amazing, like a giant painting on the grass” (via hi-fructose, designboom, inhabitant)
Fra.Biancoshock insists he is not a street artist, but rather the Milan-based experientialist noticed that his street-level installations and interventions spoke using the same language as Street Art. In regards to the movement of Street Art in regards to his work, the mysterious, identity-protecting Fra. says, “For me, that phrase is a provocation: I have not studied art, I do not frequent artistic circles, or amicidell’amicodelcuginodelfratellodelsuoamico … And I have no particular technical and artistic skills. I just have ideas and I like to strain my mind in trying to propose to the common people through what I call “Unconventional Experiences.” I think mine are “experiences” rather than works of art.”
With ties and intentions closer to Performance and Conceptual Art (for those paying off MFA degrees, think Guy Debord), the man who would become Fra.Biancoshock developed the performative avant-garde school of art he calls Effimerismo (“The Effimerismo is a movement that has the aim of producing works of art that exists in a limited way in the space, but that they persist in an infinite way in time…”) as a means of exploring and categorizing his specific means of street engagement (or as he is known to call them, “speeches”).
Operating in this very-intentionally public mode of communication, Fra.Biancoshock uses the streets as a forum, installing temporary interventions to call attention to themes of poverty, urban blight, modern stress and decay. Present in most works is how Fra deals with serious themes with a disarmingly light-hearted approach. His work has mostly been viewed (often quite temporarily) in Europe, though as Fra. says in his Manifesto-like statement, “Prior to founding the movement, [Fra.biancoshock] has made more than 400 speeches on the streets of Italy , Spain , Portugal, Croatia, Hungary, Czech Republic, Malaysia and the State of Singapore, and has no intention of stopping.” (via hi-fructose)
Taking your average shovel, bucket, and spoon, Lithuanian-based artist Severija Inčirauskaitė-Kriaunevičienė embroiders them with detailed cross stitch designs. She often adorns these items using conventional floral motifs, and combines the decorative art with the practical everyday object (view some of her previous work). Most of the time, however, this renders its usefulness obsolete.
Severija’s work is cognizant of the history surrounding craft in her country. In an essay about her embroidery, Dr. Jurgita Ludavičienė writes:
Employing irony, Severija conceptually neutralizes the harmfulness of kitsch’s sweetness and sentimentality. Irony emerges in the process of drawing inspiration from the postwar Lithuanian village, with which artists have lost connection today, or from the destitute Soviet domestic environment, which women were trying to embellish with handicrafts, no matter what kind of absurd forms it would take. The intimacy of indoors freed from all tensions is the essence of coziness, that is crystallized in Severija’s works as cross stitch embroidery on various household utensils not intended for it.
The artist’s portfolio goes beyond floral arrangements. It has a sense of humor, as she embroiders trompe l’oeil cigarettes in an ashtray, the reflection of a mouth on a spoon, and fruit in a bowl. In addition to its meticulousness and amusement, it also blurs the lines of gendered objects, as she stitches “girly” flowers in to “manly” car parts. (Via Colossal)
Georgia Theologou (or Georgia Th as she is also known) is a self-taught Greek artist who paints hauntingly beautiful portraiture. Created by combining traditional and digital media, Theologou’s intentionally limited palate and trademark visual rendering gives both a soft lushness and a harsh reality to her subjects, like mascara tear trails being transformed into softly dabbed paint glitter. In a conversation with Beautiful/Decay (and with the help of Google Translate), Theologou explains what inspires her symbolic subjects,
“Creating something is a way to express the feelings that are inside me that I maybe didn’t even know about before. It’s a way to explore myself and what I have on my mind, so when I am making my work I feel like I find something new about me and about how I see things that I did not even realize was present.”
Theologou’s internalized subjects are taken from many sources of art research and random bits of internet ephemera, and blended with other imagery that gives each portrait an allegorical depth and visual tension. Noting themes of nature ranging from human and animal, the stars and the cosmos in many of her colorful works, Georgia explains these combinations, saying
“I don’t paint people but the existence of a person. The subject of my paintings is the feelings of this existence or the situation they experience that moment. All of the objects I use in my paintings are random, but this helps me to create the right place and mood, so I choose objects that are common on fairy-tales and dreams. Nature and space are also places with the same strong sense of vitality, so the person can feel closer to his/her inner world. My paintings are not about a story or a specific idea or symbol, I think about painting “that” moment.”
Kostis Fokas is a rare photographer who possesses the innate ability to both create and capture personifications of the provocative in our human form. Challenging and sexually-charged, the work is visually reminiscent of fashion photography, but pulls inspiration equally from painterly compositions by using the body as a metaphor for sexuality, potency, and humanity. In a conversation with Beautiful/Decay, the London-based, Greek photographer explains, “Through my photos I wish to present a new take on the human body and explore its infinite capabilities. The use of quirky, and sometimes hidden faces communicates exactly that. Unlike photography that seeks to reveal the feelings of the objects portrayed through the use of faces and expressions, I shift my focus on the complete freedom pertained to the image of a human body. Stripped from its clothes, I leave it fully exposed and completely surrendered.”
With faces hidden and bodies often stripped bare, the human form becomes a landscape of tension, fully exploring the paradox of submission. A balding man running a brush over his head becomes a metaphor for self-conscious impotence and existential awareness, while a naked woman hovering over a cactus represents a more immediate (and less philosophical) danger. In Fokas’ work we realize that submission is often related to acceptance, mirrored by the artist stating, “Submissiveness often conveys surrender to something greater and more powerful than us.” This duality becomes both a metaphor for the nature of photographic direction, as well as for life, as the human experience is compressed into simultaneously simple and complicated gestures arranged by the photographer with willing participants, and captured on film.
When asked if the work’s sometimes daring exploration of sexual themes and sexuality is ever misinterpreted, or even offensive, Kostas diplomatically responds, “My images aspire to touch on some of these issues, among others, and definitely raise many questions but it is ultimately left up to each individual viewer to decide and reach his own conclusions.”
Let’s face it. Going to the movies can be an expensive and sometimes obnoxious endeavor. As the popularity in streaming services like Netflix and Hulu grow, it’s so much easier and cheaper to just stay at home. But, when you look at these photographs of grandiose theaters by Franck Bohbot, it makes you wish you paid the $15 to be there. In his series simply titled Cinema, he captures the old elegance and spectacular detailing of these places, all of them empty so you can see all of their idiosyncrasies.
Not surprisingly, all of the photographs are theaters in California, in Hollywood and beyond. Some of the decor of these places is totally over the top, like the Orinda Theater, where faux Egyptian hieroglyphics line the walls and guests sit in red velvet seats. Or the Brava Theater in San Francisco, which has an absinthe green ceiling. The Crest in Los Angeles lines its walls with a city landscape and its ceiling dotted with stars, making its patrons believe they are viewing a film outside.
Bohbot’s photography frames these places so they really shine. He controls the lighting and exposure, making these venues appear glitzy and impressive, probably more so than they actually are. But isn’t that movies are trying to do, and by extension the theaters, too? They want you to escape your everyday life for a few hours and believe that you are somewhere else. (Via Flavorwire)