Jess Riva Cooper’s Screaming Sculptures Overtaken By Insects Reimagine Ghostly Spirits

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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)

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Haunting Photographs Of The Stains Left Behind By Victims Of Murder And Illness

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The photographer Sarah Sudhoff traces the physical, bodily evidence left by the dead; for her project At the Hour of Our Death, she gives form to death and the unknown, shooting fabrics stained by the blood and fluids of the victims of murder, suicide, and illness. She follows these material reminders of dead, contaminated and removed from the scene, to a warehouse, where they wait to be disposed of; she knows not the names or identies of the dead, constructing strange and poignant narratives with only the colors and shapes left by their passing.

Shot under flood lights, the close-range photographs are rendered with astounding sharpness, resolution, and color. Aided by titles that only reveal the cause of death, gender, and the age of the deceased, the images veer into abstraction; accidental blood splatter mirrors the deliberate marks of abstract expressionist Jackson Pollack. Textured surfaces are saturated with the traces of the body, their delicate floral and lacy doily patterns colored by a permanent, irreversible reminder of our mortality. The empty, untouched space of the fabrics are assigned new meaning; like unfinished portions of a painted canvas, they stand in for the unknowable significance of a life lost.

These photographs force our eye to face the repulsion and terror we feel for the traumatized human body and the dead, transposing our invisible grief and fears onto jarringly beautiful, vividly textured tapestries. These are the physical and tangible marks of passing and loss; these are the quiet reminders of a life that exists no longer, a body that paradoxically cries out for our touch. (via Feature Shoot)

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Haunting Photographs Of The Dead Laid To Rest In A Funeral Home

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In his series Evergreen, the photographer Bjørn Haldorsen visits the Evergreen funeral home in Brooklyn; like throwing flour on the invisible man, his images hope to give form to the invisible, intangible notion of death. In capturing the peripheral objects and mundane moments of embalming and service preparation, he paints a poignantly nuanced portrait of mortality.

These bitterly honest slices of a life once lived avoid sentimentality or theatricality. Unlike in Victorian post-mortem photography, Haldorsen avoids full portraits of the dead, opting instead to capture the seemingly banal elements of the business of death. Staff members arrange casket pillows routinely and perfunctorily, and only the corner of an urn is shot, revealing the accidental dust allowed to collect around it.

Yet within the work is a potent thread of emotionality and love as seen through subtle tricks of light; where a gray-haired body rests on a gurney, a figure, basks divinely in an overexposed door, as if to mourn in mysterious and unknowable ways. Similarly, a man sits in a dimly-lit room, sequestered from the lonesome darkness of the funeral space. Lifeless hands with yellowed nails seem to reach out at the viewer, exhaustedly collapsing on sanitary plastic wrapping, and swelled feet are contorted by wear, dirt still caught between their nails. Youthful hands gently insert a match flame into the wrinkled nose of the diseased; the ritual frozen forever, made to feel sacred and painfully intimate.

Haldorson’s vision of death reads as jarringly rational, offering little solace in the face of death, and yet upon closer inspection, viewers may discover hints of hope, the slightest traces of loving memory, preserved forever. Take a look. (via Feature Shoot)

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Livio Scapella’s Haunting Sculptures Of Shrouded Ghosts Will Chill Your Bones

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The sculptor Livio Scapella‘s shrouded figures seem to be in eternal conflict with their materiality, trapped like lost souls within the confines of stone. In this strange work, titled “Ghosts Underground,” the artist uses the aesthetic dialogue normally associated with classical Renaissance masters, establishing the suggestion of movement within the frozen busts; necks contort, and mouths hang open as if to speak. Visual weight is distributed uncomfortably, and like Michelangelo’s Prisoners, Scapella’s figures yearn for escape, gasp for air.

Like a moving, writhing funeral shroud, the fabric is rendered with the utmost delicacy and softness, affording the busts a ghostly significance, as if they were invisible men and women defined only by the cloth in which they are contained. Like those caught frantically between life and death, the haunting figures seemingly do battle with the elements of the natural world and its order. As they strain against stone, they are powerfully anchored by spectacular quartz and amethyst held steadfastly to their chest. Like an external representation of the soul or spiritual self, the burdensome yet magnificent gemstones lie cradled within the airy fabric above the heart.

In a particularly powerful diptych, the “white soul” sits beside the “black soul;” where the white soul rests, embracing her permanent and immobile fate, the black soul strives against eternity, his mouth open in a frightful scream. The male, art historically associated with the intellectual and rational, is in turmoil; the female, on the other hand, becomes unified with nature and with the elements from which she is constructed. Within each of us lies this powerful duality: will we succumb to death or will we struggle to escape it? Take a look. (via Hi Fructose and Juxtapoz)

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Spine-Chilling Paintings Of Suffering by Dr. Kevorkian, Practitioner Of Assisted Suicide

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The late Dr. Jack Kevorkian, known for his life’s work of advocating assisted suicide and for helping to end over 130 lives with his ominous-sounding Thanatron, or “machine of death,” was also an oil painter. The doctor, who spend 8 years in prison, created a little-known body of work tinged with the horror of pain; illustrating his controversial ideas on compassion, the paintings take aim at his religious critics and appeal to a nuanced moral ideal where death is seen simultaneously as a terror and an escape.

Kevorkian’s Thanatron takes its name from the ancient Greek personification of death; in his paintings, he also uses mythological themes. In “Fever,” he illustrates a hell composed of the ill and suffering; like Dante’s Virgil, he leads his painted patient through the depths of agony and fear with wide, sweeping brushstrokes. The Christian Brotherhood is reimagined as a monster characterized by multiple grotesque, sharp-toothed heads vaguely reminiscent of Inferno’s Satan.

Seemingly drawing inspiration from symbolist painters like Paul Gauguin and Edvard Munch, the artist, often referred to as “Dr. Death,” distorts the form of his subjects so that they might express psychological despair and heightened anxiety. In one image, titled “Coma,” a man, draped in a bed sheet, is inhaled by ghostly skull, his body absurdly foreshortened and his lined feet disproportionately swelled to express profound weariness. As the monstrous spirit of “coma” sucks him in, his tiny, darkened eyes beg for release. In “Paralysis,” the body becomes a prison, the brain removed and bound in chains.

When exhibited alongside the doctor’s paintings illustrating his love of music (Johann Sebastian Bach, a treble and bass clef), as they are at Gallerie Sparta, the more frightful images take on a strange operatic quality, evoking eery tonal climaxes with expressionistic bursts of color. 11 of the doctor’s paintings will be on view through April 30. (via Huff Post)

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Delightfully Morbid Still Lifes Feature Disney Princesses And My Little Pony

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The surrealist artist Cristina Burns creates tiny, magical worlds made of skulls, toys, and delightfully kitschy knickknacks; her series Through the Mirror appeals to the subconscious mind, inviting viewers to engage with seemingly disparate materials that together form a strangely cohesive narrative. Inspired in part by the Oniric movement, the bizarre and delightfully pink work allows viewers to make surprising associations within carefully constructed scenes; the familiar and the frightful work in tandem, frantically blurring the lines between fantasy and reality.

Burns’s images, imbued with the innocent connotations of budding flowers, baby deer figurines, and Victorian lace, introduce comically dark elements: a round eyeball, brains served on a platter with a fork. Together, the delightful and the dangerous work to create arrangements that might be viewed as manic and surreal altars to the dead. In one elegant image, a skeleton attracts the attentions of a large beetle, an insect often symbolic of decay, with the presence of budding funereal flowers and sweets.

The meticulous symmetry of Burns’s compositions heightens the idea of supernatural harmony between purity and sin, between life and death. Much of the work centers around a symbol of man and especially womankind’s fallenness: Eve or Snow White’s skull bites an apple, or a mermaid figurine peers woefully at a deteriorating skull at her feet. In this state of death and corruption, there exists too a powerful sense of play, as seen through delicate china mice, candy hearts, and Disney princess dolls. In this way, Burns’s imaginative and feminine dreamscapes capture the allure of mischief, for in our disobedience and fallenness lies a magical sort of madness and celebration.

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Spooky Portraits Capture Death And Ecstasy

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Through careful manipulation, Silvia Grav‘s ethereal black and white images capture a psychological realm where death and fear lurk around each corner, a world beyond the material where rich blacks and blinding white tones evoke a heightened anxiety and ecstasy. In her spooky portraits, the self is blurred by smoke and transparency, as if transported from the page by some unknowable force.

As with the works of the prolific photographer Francesca Woodman, Grav’s images are often set against the backdrop of the domestic space. The house, associated symbolically with the female, is no longer seen as safe or comforting; deteriorated walls and filthy floors cannot protect or contain inhabitants, and a woman rises ghostly towards a lit window. In another eerie image, the sleeping female is disturbed in sleep, her delicate floral bedding overcast by a foreboding shadow whose presence forces her to cover her breast and frightfully clasp at her back. Later, she is shown to be levitating, reaching out for the comforts of her mattress.

Within the terror of the images lies a sort of ecstasy, a dreamy surrender to instability and fright. The woman subject, surrounded by smoke clouds that seem to melt away her flesh, clasps her skeleton hands in rapturous prayer. Her nighttime slumber is seen in mysterious light, and she basks in its warmth, seeming to wriggle with delirium so that the majority of her body is pulled out of the frame.

The impressive work seems to invoke the memory of troubled women artists who came before. In one poignant image, the artist seems to mirror the famous profile portrait of Virginia Woolf by the photographer George Charles Beresford, down to the dark, pulled-back hair, the white blouse, and the ominous shadow below the eye. Contributing to the dialogue on femininity and mortality began by the likes of Woodman and Woolf, Grav adds a unique and potent modern voice. (via Colossal)

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Soulful Portraits Of Deceased Animals Laid Down To “Sleep”

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After the death of a dear friend, the photographer Emir Ozsahin was struck by the poignancy of life and grief, choosing to confront by creating heartbreaking images of deceased animals. In his series Pastel Deaths, he captures lifeless creatures in gentle tones, hoping to undo the fact of their tragic deaths with the naiveté of a child incapable of processing mortality: with the utmost innocence, he poses a dog beneath a blanket and offers the grey-nosed canine a book to read.

The series conveys this youthful optimism and poignant refusal to accept death with the use of tiny fixtures that could easily reside within a child’s dollhouse: a bed on which a bird might lay his beak, a straw nest for a guinea pig, a tiny, sudsy bathtub for another, darkly featured bird. The artist’s relentless striving to erase the fact of and his own personal knowledge of death is utterly heart wrenching; we follow him as he personifies each creature with a soft pair of miniature pajamas, a stuffed toy, or a pair of fallen glasses.

The juxtaposition of the dead with the artist’s infant-like insistence upon life results in a painfully intimate conversation with death and with each once-living being. Ozsahin’s subjects are so unflinchingly peaceful in their eternal slumber that the viewer must approach them only with utter care; the eye holds each for a moment like a tender newborn baby, then sets him down to rest. As viewers, we waver between acknowledging the facts and whispering to ourselves quietly, “No, look, he’s just sleeping.” While using once living creatures as subjects normally raises ethical flags for me, Ozsahin’s images read like Victorian post-mortem shots of humans, serving to tenderly and lovingly memorialize each creature. (via Feature Shoot)

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