Beautifully Painted Scenes Of Death And Tragedy

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A beautiful car crash. A lovely death. Chilean artist Fernando Gomez Balbontin paints haunted and haunting scenes in his series “Thoughts About Life and Death.” The subject matter is difficult, though not gory. Crumpled cars rest on roadsides, smashed and crushed beyond repair—these can’t be anything but fatal crashes. The figures next to the devastated vehicles are often otherworldly. A seeming specter of death wears a dark hood. Girls’ faces are obscured with blobs and blotches of color. Is it blood? It’s impossible to be sure. A priest stands next to one ruined car, the pope another. A man flees the scene.

Yet there’s beauty among the wreckage. The colors are often candy bright. A geometric structure floats, untethered, dripping in a way that’s reminiscent of tears, or blood. There are lots of these drippings in the works, adding an organic element to the mechanized disasters.

Balbontin paints the loveliest skies—peach and purple, cyan and gold. Nothing should go wrong underneath those skies, and yet…

“Denying death is denying life. So perhaps it is necessary to understand that tragedy is not the supposedly reality of death. Tragedy is about not accepting this possibility and consequently, not having enough time to live.”

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Japanese Artist Daisuke Ichiba’s Intricate Drawings Interweave The Disturbing And The Grotesque

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Life is an inextricable combination of beauty and awfulness, good and evil, and Japanese artist Daisuke Ichiba captures these dichotomies in his highly detailed, densely populated drawings. Drawing is just one of the media that Ichiba has mastered — he is also a painter, filmmaker, and photographer. No matter the form, though, his content grapples with the reality of life and its grotesqueries.

“Choosing to create work that is only beautiful feels artificial. Thus I paint both. You cannot sever the two. The expression that results is a natural chaos. In my work I project chaos, anarchy, anxiety, the grotesque, the absurd, and the irrational. By doing so I attain harmony. This is my art. Put simply, I paint humanity (the spirit).”

At first glance it’s possible to miss the disturbing elements of Ichiba’s work. The Indian ink compositions are dense and unusual for Japanese art, which tends toward clean lines and minimalism, although they do include Japanese iconography such as the schoolgirl and cherry blossoms. Influenced by his early admiration of comic book art and manga as well as the loss of his mother at age 8, his works fuse vile, often many-eyed, monsters into domestic scenes. Figures are missing features—an eye here, a mouth there—and the occasional introduction of color feels threatening, reminiscent of spreading blood.

He meditates on sexuality and death and the intangible cord that ties them together. Ichiba’s haunting tableaus are a type of contemporary shunga (Edo-period erotic scrolls), in which beauty navigates chaos with one eye closed. (Source)

The impassivity of the deformed figures is striking in the work. Both human and monster accept their fates. The faceless children and severed heads represent the darkness in all of us, ubiquitous and unquestioned.

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SD Holman’s Portraits Of Female Masculinity In BUTCH: Not Like The Other Girls

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Photographer SD Holman uses her talent as a portrait photographer to capture women who fall outside of the traditional gender binary. In her series “BUTCH: Not Like the Other Girls,” masculine women are not oddity or other. These are photos of women who identify as butch captured by a butch woman—they are women defining themselves. In this way, Butch has much in common with the current social campaigns stripping women of makeup, enhancements, and retouching and declaring them more beautiful without the artifice. This is part of Holman’s intent with the show—to use the Butch identity as an example of one of the classifications through which women are objectified. The difference though is the hate and fear that Butch women have faced as transgressors of societal constructs of femininity. Holman says:

“Butches and all gender variant folk walk in a world that is really hostile to them, so we tend to look inward.  I was inspired to show their beauty by my wife Catherine, a femme who loved butches, and encouraged me to do this when I started talking about it.”

The rich diversity of butch women is evidenced here. Just as there isn’t one way to be a woman, Butch includes women of all shapes and colors and styles. The fluidity of gender is apparent in each photo.

Holman is an artist. Her portraits are classically beautiful, with their artful lighting and dramatic contrasts. The subjects mostly gaze through the lens to the viewer, unapologetic and authentic. There is no contrivance in these images, no sense of willful provocation nor is there any sense of apology. Author Amy Bloom writes, “Intimacy is being seen and known as the person you truly are.” These photos are intimate and groundbreaking, brave and matter-of-fact, beautiful and handsome.

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Spellbinding Death Masks And Sugar Skulls

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For Epitaph, British photographer Rankin teams up with Beaty Editor Andrew Gallimore to create spellbinding death masks inspired by the Mexican Day of the Dead and Roman Catholic All Souls Day. Like the sugar skulls, or calavera, used to celebrate the holiday, these elegant masks put a vital and lively spin on death. Decked out in intricate beading and filigree, their models look luxurious and festive.

Calavera, normally colored in vibrant greens, reds, yellows, and blues are often eaten after the holiday; adorned in glittering stars and blooming daisies, these living skulls look like sweet confections. The female faces, painted in black, become a youthful template for imaginative explorations of an afterlife that awaits us after old age. As if from another world, their gray-green eyes stand starkly against coal-toned flesh. Rankin and Gallimore infuse the editorial with a hefty dose of high-fashion edge, introducing elements like metal spikes and and chains. These harder elements blend seamlessly with the iconography of the Day of the Dead; in one mask, a red clown nose made of punk-rock studs puts a contemporary spin on the timeless tradition.

Rankin is not new to the theme of death. In the wake of his parents’ deaths, he was compelled to break cultural taboo surrounding the dead, to face head-on his fears of dying. For last year’s photo series ALIVE: In the Face of Death, published by Hunger Magazine, he photographed those effected most by death, giving voice to grieving family members and to resilient individuals living with terminal diseases. Here, his enthusiastic lens provides solace from the fear of the unknown, inviting us to celebrate those we’ve lost as we mourn them. (via Trend Land)

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Agnieszka Rayss’s Captivating Photographs Of Extreme Bodybuilders

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For her series Beautiful Bodies, the photographer Agnieszka Rayss shoots off-beat images of bodybuilders; in the process, the artist both defines and challenges the notion of physical attractiveness. Each provocative shot, capturing a builder scantily-clad in a bikini or a speedo, is a powerful testament to the human desire to craft our bodies according to our wills; depending on the viewer, they might read as either a condemnation or an affirmation of extreme fitness practices.

Unlike Brian Moss, whose enchanting portraits of bodybuilders can be found here, Rayss works within a distinctive color palette; rich copper, teal, and white hues dominate her images, granting them a moody and otherworldly quality. Rayss’s subjects all seem to rely heavily on bronzers, defining their muscled figures with deep tans. In this way, they look inhumanly sculptural, like bronze statues of ancient warriors. Their metallic sheen stands in place of clothes; though nearly nude, they look somehow impenetrable, thickly armored.

Beautiful Bodies is set in an undefined location that we might presume to be a gym. Against a muddy-colored wall, the bodybuilders appear rough and powerful; the walls are marked with their chalky handprints, lending the models some inherent and mysterious grit. In relative repose, Rayss’s subjects display their bodies, caught between moments of exertion. As viewers, we are forbidden from seeing the extreme exercises that caused paint to be scratched away from the gym surfaces, but the mere presence of these formidable bodies create an atmosphere of inescapable suspense and anticipation. Take a look. (via Feature Shoot)

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Intimate Photographs Of Young Women Capture Private Beauty Routines

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In Rituals, the photographer Noorann Matties catalogs the strange, mystical moments between woman and mirror, capturing young ladies in private moments of self-preparation and styling. As her subjects stand barefaced before public and private mirrors, work in eyebrow pencil, lipgloss, and mascara, seemingly memorized by and in poignant discovery of their own features.

Shooting many of the women from behind so as to capture the self in dialogue her reflection, Matties seemingly preserves the innocence of the experience, allowing the girls to engage with themselves undisturbed and unaware of onlookers. These sacred rituals, haloed in early morning sunlight and fluorescent lightbulbs, celebrate the quiet moments before the start of the day. In the instant before her subjects present their faces to the public, Matties stops the clock, preserving the beautiful self-absorption afforded by secrecy.

The inconsistent, accidental lighting serves only to heighten the sensuality of individual skin and hair tones, textures, and shapes; a towel hangs, left over from the night before, and reflections distort serendipitously in still-wet shower doors, affording the photographs deeper psychological meanings.

The repetition of these rituals is expressed through careful self-examination and knowledge; these women have seemingly memorized the curves of their brows, the textures of their skin, the movement of hair moved effortlessly and invisibly into a bun. The poignancy of these photographs, then, lies in part in the efficiency of the grooming activities; to the voyeuristic viewer, these intimate seconds are precious; to the girls, they’re routine, automatic, forgotten until the next morning. Take a look at the series, originally published in Inconnu Magazine, below. (via BUST and Inconnu)

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Feminist Photographs Show The Dark Side Of Beauty

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In a startling critique of the ways in which images of women’s bodies are consumed, the artist Jessica Ledwich presents “The Fanciful, Monstrous Feminine,” a collection of surreal photographs documenting the psychological consequences of contemporary beauty standards and practices. For Ledwich, female sexuality is viewed as “threatening” and is therefore oppressed; here, she exaggerates the femme fatale image, showing her red-lipped, square-nailed protagonist engaging in violence with her own body.

The female form, shiny and lacquered, appears like a hybrid, part human and part domestic cyborg; her youthful flesh is overtaken by the mechanics of beauty. In one image, severed and still-wriggling fingers are replaced with tweezers, and in another, she uses a vacuum cleaner to suction fat from her thighs, injecting it into her lips.

Improvements to the home and domestic realm take a literal toll on the female body and self; after awkwardly sculpting a just-budding lemon tree, a matriarch forces her own natural body into an hourglass with restrictive garments. The monotony of the daily grooming routine turns brutal and dehumanizing, and with each ritual, our subject sacrifices a bit of her identity until, like slabs of lifeless meat, her limbs, brains, and heart are sold off at a butcher shop cleverly referred to as “Limbsons.”

Tied to this endless pursuit of female perfection is the idea of motherhood, presented without an ounce of warmth or sentimentality. A C-section yields only an endless stream of identical plastic dolls, each removed with the same sterile, unfeeling determination that we see with the surgical implantation of breasts. The mother, robbed of her sexuality, is shown inserting biohazards material into a cooked egg, an uncomfortable action we might presume to represent her own impregnation. This bleak, unromantic portrayal of female beauty and fertility serves to remind us of the physically and psychologically painful demands placed on modern women’s bodies, leaving viewers yearning for a more humane world. (via Lost at E Minor and Design Taxi)

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Cyril Crepin Poignant Photographs Of Facial Reconstruction Patients

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Photographer Cyril Crepin creates an extraordinary, poignant collection of photographs featuring portraits of facial reconstruction patients within the confines of the hospital in which they were operated on.

With the help of Professor Bernard Devauchelle, a leading surgeon at the hospital in which these individuals were in, Crepin photographs these subjects in order to celebrate, but most importantly, accentuate these individuals’ self-respect, playfulness and courage  regardless their ‘monstrous’ appearance after surgery.

 “They want to be recognized as human beings. Contrary to what people might say about this series, it’s not meant to be obscene or voyeuristic. Obscenity is to ignore their humanity and their extraordinary courage.”

Crepin’s work is emotionally intense and it is by no means easy to look at. It is sad to say, but many people will have a tough time looking at these just because of the deformities. This consequence is tough to acknowledge, but it is true. It is hard to admit that many of us will be disturbed and disgusted by the appearance of these people, but it is this sole purpose that, I think, runs Crepin’s artistic fuel throughout the creation of this series. The rawness of his subjects’ gaze and the fearless aura they portray is powerful and inspiring… their brilliance transcend the normative ideas about beauty. Their humble controbution to Crepin’s work teaches us that everyone, no matter what they went through or how they look like, deserves a little self-praise and respect.

(via frameweb)

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