It is always exciting and refreshing to see traditional art methods used in a whole new way. Artist Danielle Lawrence‘s fresh eye on contemporary art takes the conventional framed painting and transforms it into highly textural and sculptural work, taking it to another level. In her work, the frame is often still present, but the art inside it is spilling out, exploding from the frame that confines it. It is almost as if the paint has a life of its own, trying to escape from the cage and constraint we have given it. Lawrence explains that the frame is a symbol of patriarchal structures and restriction.
Lawrence’s non-representational painting method allows the colors to melt and drip, creating incredible movement in each piece. These colors appear bent, folded, and manipulated, creating organic forms. Each bright, glossy color erupting from each canvas and frame turns the typical two-dimensional painting into a more palpable, three-dimensional piece that reaches out at the viewer. Her artistic journey began while experimenting using trash as subject. Still pulling inspiration from found objects, the artist’s work often includes items from her studio, including plastic bags and bubble wrap. Lawrence’s take on form and material is both chaotic and structured, creating order out of an eclectic range of colors and media. She flawlessly creates a beautifully balanced mixture of classic painting methods with a new, contemporary approach.
She’s an avowed formalist with an eye to the street. Her works are lustrous and abject, smooth and sharp, blunt and sophisticated. While painting is clearly her passion, she makes promiscuous use of other media: sculpture, drawing, photography and video.
Photographer Joshua Hoffine is interested in the psychology of fear. His series of horror-centric images called After Dark, My Sweet, focus on what lurks behind us, underneath the bed, and below the stairs. Hoffine’s frightening, realistic-looks photos offer not only a compelling narrative, but are awe-inspiring in their craftsmanship and attention to detail. They look believable, making them even more scary. “I stage my photo shoots like small movies, with sets, costumes, elaborate props, fog machines, and special effects make-up,” Hoffine explains. “Everything is acted out live in front of the camera. I use friends and family members, including my own daughters, as actors and crew.”
The photographer also writes about his fascination with horror:
We are all born with certain inherent and instinctual fears, such as fear of the dark, the fear of lurking danger, and the fear of being eaten. As we grow older these fears lose their intensity and are slowly shuffled away into our Unconscious.
Horror, as an art form, draws its strength from the Unconscious.
I believe that the Horror story is ultimately concerned with the imminence and randomness of death, and the implication that there is no certainty to existence. The experience of Horror resides in this confrontation with uncertainty. Horror tells us that our belief in security is delusional, and that the monsters are all around us.
At first glance, this series by photographer Stacey Tyrell seems to portray nothing out of the ordinary, just portraits of white women living their lives. At closer inspection, however, you realize all of the women look the same; they share uncanny similarities with just a few differences in hair, eye, and skin color. In reality, Stacey Tyrell has staged these scenes representing depictions of Caucasian women using herself as a model. Interestingly enough, the artist herself is black. The title of Tyrell’s deeply memorable series is BackraBluid. Backra, originating from West Africa, means white master or person. Bluid is a Scotch word for the blood of men or kin. These two words combined represent two different points of origin in the artist’s family heritage. Tyrell explores her ancestry in this series, which includes English, Scottish, and Irish.
Most everyone in post-colonial societies, especially in the Western world, is the descendant of a diverse range of ancestry, producing many individuals with what may appear to be ambiguous ethnicities. These individuals may identify with one, multiple, or even none of their racial or cultural identities. However, by nature, humans want to make sense of their surrounding and tend to place others in categories. Stacey Tyrell has experienced this first hand. She explains the significance of this experience in relation to Backra Bluid.
Upon viewing my physical features I am automatically assigned a racial identity by whoever is looking at me. Skin color often obscures and over-rides the features and markers of other races that may be present in my genetic make-up. By simply changing my skin color and making subtle tweaks to my features I wish to show that if someone were to take a closer look at my face they would see that it might not be that much different from their own.
British artist Sophie Derrick paints directly onto her skin and adds colorful layers of swirling pigment to her face and neck. Once she’s completed it, she’ll photograph the result and then paint onto that image. The result is a multi-layered, textured portrait that gives the viewer an incredible sense of depth. Derrick’s painting style is abstract – focusing on bright pinks, blues, oranges, and more – and she’ll vary how the paint is applied. It often looks like she uses a palette knife to make thick, frosting-like strokes, but she’ll also use the paint tube to draw lines on the skin.
“I have a great interest in the materiality and substance of paint, and execute this interest through photography, creating a juxtaposition of the two mediums,” Derrick writes. “My body becomes the canvas for the paint, questioning the traditional concept of painting and portraiture, and the barriers between painting and photography. The body becomes both object and subject in the work.” (Via Art Fucks Me)
Photographer Mark Holthusen shows an unexpected side to cockfighting in his aptly-titled series Pelea De Gallos (Cockfight).Instead of capturing the brutal matches, he went a more tame route. Holthusen rented a photo studio called Hollywood Fotos and invited the Partido Tres Hermanos cockfighting team in Zaragosa, Mexico to have their portraits taken.
Holthusen’s pictures focus on seven different team members that pose with their beloved rooster. Some cradle the bird in their arms with others grip it with both hands. Either way, the majestic-looking creature sits as calmly as the men do.
In a blog post about Pelea De Gallos, Holthusen shares his experience. The team is made up of people who are a dentist, teacher, businessman, and student. “In the end they were nothing but smiles, excited to have their pictures taken.”
However docile these images appear, they are tainted with the knowledge that these birds are forced into a cruel blood sport where death is an outcome. Roosters are specifically bred, fed, trained, and given steroids to make them into killing machines for our entertainment. It’s illegal in the United States but still popular and prevalent in many other countries.
If you enjoy Holthusen’s photos, check out his Second in Show series that we recently featured. It highlights the eerie similarities between show dogs and their owners.
In a professional dog show, the canines are supposed to be the stars, and the humans’ presence fall to wayside. But, just because people aren’t the main focus doesn’t mean that they aren’t picture-worthy themselves. When photographer Mark Holthusen was on an advertising assignment for Purina at the National Dog Show, he was supposed to just take pictures of the dogs. He also snapped these photos while their owners were prepping the canines. The result is a candid series titled Second in Show.
Holthusen set the portraits against a solid black background that highlights the gestures and facial expressions of the owners. Some are seen seriously primping and preparing for the dog’s show, while others look more relaxed and even eccentric. And, you can’t help but notice how the duos (or trio) take after each other. Hair color, style, and demeanor are all eerily similar, proving that people really can look like their pets.
Photographer Cameron Bloom captures the innocence and love in the unlikely friendship between a boy and his bird. His son Noah had found a baby bird alone in the wild around their Australian home. The bird being without a mother, the family decided to take it in and raise it themselves. This bird, affectionately named “Penguin,” was found right after Cameron’s wife, Sam, broke her back. This crucial and difficult time in the family’s life was met with an unforeseen visitor and friend for life. While both Penguin and Bloom’s family was coping with life’s hardships and struggles, a connection between them began and continues to grow into something extraordinary.
Bloom has documented intimate scenes of tenderness between his son, as well as his entire family, and their unique companion. Each image holds radiating warmth that can be felt by the viewer. It is amazing to see a bird share such a strong bond with humans, in a way that we might expect a dog or a human to have. Bloom shows Penguin sitting on Noah’s head, eating at the family’s kitchen table, and even snuggling with them in bed. Each moment is a glimpse of a magical friendship that has been shared with us through the beauty of Bloom’s photography. Beginning this series in 2013, we can see the relationship and closeness grow along with the three sons Rueben, Noah, and Oli. Although Penguin has the freedom to fly out into the wilderness away from her family, their connection is so strong that she never fails to return home every time.
If you love Penguin as much as I do, make sure to follow his Instagram account!
The intensity and electricity in Mickael Jou’s photography can only be matched by his equally immaculate dancing skills. In his series Air Through my Ashes, Jou captures the precise positions of his dance through the lens of a camera. Each movement, leap, and bend is shown being done not on a stage, but through city streets, in breathtaking nature, and even in a grocery store. Jou, now living in Berlin, was trained as a dancer, and started out dancing through the streets of Paris. He got the idea to photograph himself after so many tourists began taking pictures of him as he danced. He then taught himself how to use a camera and turned his dancing into frozen moments in time where he can levitate and defy gravity.
Jou’s dance positions are turned into still statues that pulsate with energy in each photograph. The incredible scenery of the images is almost as breathtaking as Jou’s suspension in mid air. The series has a kind of magic to it that transports the viewer into a world where your feet never need to touch the ground. What makes each composition so dynamic is not only the sheer power felt in the dancer’s stance, but also the addition of a scarf in the dance movements. This scarf that often appears adds color and balance to the rhythm of each photograph as it floats alongside this multi-talented dancer. Jou combines these two art forms harmoniously to create ethereal and graceful photographs. He explains how using these two mediums further his creative vision and expression:
My self-portraits help me express the emotions that I feel while dancing. Dance is a very powerful art form, and I try to translate my emotions into my photography.