Joel-Peter Witkin’s Grotesque Yet Beautiful Photographs Capture Private Erotic Longings

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The legendary photographer Joel-Peter Witkin, previously featured here and now on view at LA’s Jack Ruthberg Gallery, weaves strange erotic narratives through his staged images, some of which take weeks to complete. His body of work reads like a love poem to the grotesque, transforming what society deems taboo into miraculously beautiful scenes.

Witkin’s images avoid judging the body, opting instead to reveal mankind’s universal but most private erotic yearnings and fears. In his reinterpretation of Canova’s famously sensual yet demurely reclining Venus, for example, naked male genitalia slip from cover as if by accident, the organ poignantly vulnerable, delicate, and human, seemingly caught between erection and flaccidity.

Sexual hunger again becomes the subject of another image that seems to deconstruct Romantic paintings like Theodore Gericault’s The Raft of The Medusa, famed for its haunting depiction of dead, drowning flesh. Here, a suspenseful, tragic rescue effort is transformed into a sort of desperate orgie on the verge of climax; a pair of heaving breasts is grabbed like melons.

The erotic, though filled with the dangers of physical and spiritual nakedness, is often elevated to the divine. A shirtless woman, her breasts bared, inserts her finger into a book much like the Virgin Mary in Renaissance paintings of the Annunciation. In these photographs, nuns pose alongside nudes, and horns (symbolic of lust) are merged with crowns of thorns (symbolic of Christ)

The gorgeous set of images challenge societal ideas of social acceptability, implying that the most exquisite beauty is often found in our most frightfully private moments of lust and longing. Within all of us, lies erotic impulses that can manifest in magical and dangerous ways. Be sure to check out Witkin’s work at Jack Ruthberg Gallery, where he will exhibit alongside his long-estranged brother, the legendary painter Jerome Witkin. (via Lenscratch and Etherton Gallery)

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Marion Fayolle’s Whimsically Erotic Comic Illustrations

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French illustrator Marion Fayolle‘s illustrations are light-heartedly simple and provocative. Maria Popova appropriately compares Fayolle’s aesthetic to Codex SeraphinianusGregory Blackstock’s illustrated lists, and the vignettes of Blexbolex, but I think there’s also some similar absurdism to be found in Joan Cornellà as well. Fayolle’s illustrations are visually comic poetry, each one representing a surreal and nuanced narrative. Bodies and body parts are often replaced, removed, or erotically recontextualized, something that could be jarring to viewers, but Fayolle’s whimsical aesthetic undermines any potential grotesqueness of this concept. Though her work is playful, the tension between humor, longing, lust, loss, and separation is palpable and creates a space for the viewer to revel in the narrative possibilities in each illustration. It’s the fragmentation of these narratives that connects them, allowing for a cohesion of and engagement with particular themes. Fayolle published a book of her comic illustrations, called “In Pieces,” last September. (via brain pickings)

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Ramona Zordini’s Eerie, Yet Sensual Photography

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Photographer Ramona Zordini creates images that tastefully and powerfully channel sexuality and eroticism between lovers and oneself. Zordini is interested in both showcasing pairs of naked bodies floating on murky water as they interact with one another and portraits of single bodies as they emerge from whitish liquids. Although Zordini’s sensual photography carries an undeniable sexual energy, they embody an aesthetic that resembles organic textures and lines, as well as a concepts (of love, sex and self-discovery) that are poignant and relatable.

In her recent series, Changing Time III, Zordini creates images of posing nude couples in a variety of positions that imply imitate moments. A man wraps his arms around a woman who curls up, head down, under water. In another photograph, a man with an undercut wraps his arms around his nude partner who faces upwards and appears to be pushing against a confining force. Their legs intertwine and one feels their desperation, their need to cling and hold on to one another. The aesthetic and composition of Changing Time IIIrepresent a clear development from the Italian artist’s previous engagement with the human form as beauty and sculpture, into a more nuanced interest in the body as communication.

Zordini’s earlier works, on the other hand, feature single bodies and complex colors and compositions; these are more intriguing and less straightforward that the couple shots.  In many of these photographs, a single female twists and contorts her body to reveal a breast, hand, or leg above the obscuring smoky surface. (via Hi-Fructose)

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Disturbingly Erotic Paintings Capture Growing Up And Innocence Lost

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For her frightening and beautiful portraits, the artist and designer Tamara Muller uses her own face, pasting it atop various haunting figures. Within the context of these crudely drawn bodies, her features, seen over and over again, take on an uncanny, trance-like quality, allowing them to collectively span her entire lifetime from girlhood to the present. Within this expressionistic realm, the barriers between childhood’s innocence and the guilt of adulthood are disturbingly blurred to create a narrative where play and fear work in tandem.

Muller’s faces leap dizzyingly through the ages: baby, child, adult, blurring the lines between male and female in the process. A seemingly incomplete rendering of the bodily form appears to the post-Renaissance eye as primitive or childlike, creating a cognitive and visceral tension with the heavily weighted heads, which are given a disproportionate depth and dimensionality. For this reason, the fleshy, flushed faces seem dangerously precarious, as if they were too psychologically burdened to rest comfortably on a naive and doll-like body.

In a realm where child self and grown self live side-by-side, an uncomfortable eroticism emerges, carrying with it the guilt of innocence lost. In one image, a woman bears her naked breasts, her head taxed with the weight of a baby face robbed of her body. In another disturbing piece, a young girl sits on a rabbit, normally a symbol of fertility and sex, baring her disturbingly youthful genitalia. A woman holds a younger version of herself, and the latter’s body wilts, rag doll like. In these powerful images, it’s unclear who is haunting whom; is the grown self plagued by her childhood, or is it the other way around? Take a look. (via HiFructose)

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Edie Fake Knows How To Handle a Pen

Edie Fake resides in Chicago.  In his work with zines, comics, and illustration, he applies a unique sense of design to playful postmodern compositions, and creates original musings on eroticism with subtle, deft penwork. He recently received a book grant from Printed Matter in NYC. He does pretty rad tattoos as well.

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