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!)
Cornelia Hediger‘s series of “Doppelgänger” portraits portray contrasting aspects of her self, creating suspenseful and awkward narratives. For this series, Hediger shoots single images in the same environment and composes them in a grid. Her style of composition allows for the distortion of sizes in both space and body; the grids she uses to configure these distortions also break up her images, further reflecting the presented fractured sense of self. Hediger prefers to work alone as an artist because of the time and patience it takes to design her set and capture all of the images in just the right positions.
Of her series, Hediger says, “I was interested in exploring the concept of the Doppelgänger in a broader way. Doppelgänger in German means ‘double walker’, it is a ghostly double of a living person, an omen of death and a harbinger of bad luck. The idea of the Doppelgänger also allows me look the alter ego, the conscious mind vs the unconscious mind, inner conflicts, the duality between good and evil and split personalities – the concept gives me plenty of material to think about and work with.” (via this isn’t happiness and feature shoot)
Israeli photographer Dori Caspi has spent 10 years capturing personal and intimate portraits of the Himba African tribe, a tribe that is facing extinction. For this particular series, Caspi traveled to Namibia 15 times and formed a close relationship with the people of the Himba village. This village has been encountering a progressive amount of challenges, including the intrusion of roads upon their land, and the increasingly severe threat of the AIDS epidemic which has the potential to eradicate the village entirely.
“My camera was never used as a tool of anthropological or research-like documentation of the tribes’ way of life, but always as an instrument with which I could express my love for its wonderful people, and my admiration of their inner and physical beauty. They had opened their hearts and huts to me and with time, as we shared deeper and intimate relations, they became my second family.”
Caspi’s most recent project is taking place in Southern Ethiopia, where he is capturing the tribes from the Lower Omo Valley. “In contrary to my intimate relations with the Himba people, here I have to build trust, to create an atmosphere which would allow me to photograph the tribes’ people in a relaxed situation, yet proud and reserved as they naturally are.”
Joe Black is an artist who uses Pop Art against itself. Collecting iconic imagery (often choosing those which have already been famously exploited by other artists), Black creates large-scale hued portraits using copious amounts of consumer items. One of many artists using collected masses of materials into larger mosiac-style works, Black claims that he is open to using any material as long as it is small and plentiful (past pieces have used Lego pieces, toy soldiers, pins, ball bearings, badges) and relates to the source image. These images, which are best seen from a distance of fifty feet, offer a contextual surprise for viewers upon closer inspection.
Though trained as an artist and painter, Black claims to be uncomfortable labeling himself a professional artist, preferring to consider his work more based on image-making and craftsmanship. One such aspect is the time-consuming application of several thousand smaller pieces which make up his whole images, which Black hand-alters by using aerosol to add tones that give gentle gradients which become the lines and shading of the portrait. (via u1u11)
None of the people photographed for Klaus Pichler‘s newest series, “Just the Two of Us” are dressed in Halloween costumes. For this project, Pichler documents Austrians involved with various types of costume play (cosplay) at home in full costume. By capturing these costumers in their domestic spheres, Pichler allows his subjects the comfort of home, but for objective viewers of the work, the subjects could feel a bit out of place.
“Normally, all the costumes and traditions, they have one thing in common: there is some kind of public use of these costumes,” Pichler explains. Some of his subjects are enthusiastic participants of the Carnival season, which is called Fasching in Austria, while others are part of a LARP – live action role play – community. Pichler even captures portraits of the Krampus and the Perchten – traditional Austrian figures associated with Christmas and Wintertime who are often conflated.
“Who hasn’t had the desire just to be someone else for awhile? Dressing up is a way of creating an alter ego and a second skin which one’s behaviour can be adjusted to. Regardless of the motivating factors which cause somebody to acquire a costume, the main principle remains the same: the civilian steps behind the mask and turns into somebody else…’Just the Two of Us’ deals with both: the costumes and the people behind them.”
Berlin-based artist Sebastian Bieniek‘s double-faced girl portraits are a little humorous, but they also provoke a more menacing or unsettling feeling. With an eye pencil and lipstick, Bieniek draws a face onto each side of the model’s face, using one real eye for each face. After her hair has been strategically placed around her face, Bieniek photographs this subject in the context of daily routines, thoughtfully using objects that appear in everyday environments. For this series as well as his other work, Bieniek enjoys creating a narrative that contains absurd elements and surprises viewers. Junk Culture notes, “Bieniek first came up with the idea one morning while playing in the bathroom with his son. He explains, ‘Wet hair covered one of his eyes, soap covered his ear, he looked in the mirror and said, dad look my face moved!'” This creates a manufactured or mannequin like image, with a hint of humanity evoked with one eye.
Bieniek enjoys engaging and provoking responses from his viewers, something his Facebook page of 54,000 fans attests to. He notes, “Art will be consumed differently, the market is constantly changing. Nearly every day, I make an artwork and post it on Facebook. You no longer have to see art in a gallery or see the original.” (via design boom)
It is almost difficult to believe that these self-portraits by Spanish Eloy Morales are oil paintings. His oil painting are generally executed on large panels such as the one above. Morales carefully blends colors and layers to flawlessly recreate his portraits. He nearly seems to consider each painting a separate test of his abilities. Morales is known to write notes prior to a painting of goals to meet that he felt weren’t met on a previous work. However, there is more to his work then a simple recreation of a photorgaph. Morales explains in Poets and Artists Magazine:
“I am interested in working on reality through the use of pictorial codes, previously understanding that it is a false relation and I always keep in mind that painting is an independent expression. Finding a meeting point that truly represents my vision keeps me going on painting.” [via ignant]
“Over the last decade, Nina Surel has been developing a unique series of mixed media portrait-landscapes that offers a vivid portrayal of what it means to be a modern woman, in a way that is witty, provocative and honest. Ironically enough, she uses the visual language of early feminist literature and the aesthetics of 19th Century Romanticism to make statements about repressed desires, complicated lives, and the interactions of women with their own selves and their surroundings, that are absolutely modern and of-our-time. They are scenes that can only happen deep in the understory of the most primeval of forests, under cover of the bountiful canopy, and they have their genesis even further below, where the oldest roots of these trees are.
Surel employs a wide range of media, such as photography, painting, collage and assemblage. The conceptual underpinnings of the work are in Surel’s own childhood stories, fairytales, and romantic literature.” – from the artist’s website