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.
Gary Ward uses charcoal, graphite, oil pastels, and an overall sharp wit to examine humanity’s mess of emotion over the confusion of body and identity.
His Archeology Series, collected here, is a playful response to the quandary of life after death: how, despite fame, class, or notoriety at the end of it all, we are basically just a slew of skulls with slight form variations.
Regarding process, Ward, a self-taught artist based in Los Angeles, says he is “interested in how the mind and hand talk to each other in one uninterrupted sitting.” He likes to see the authorship of a flawed line and honors how each mistake can spontaneously charge the work in a new direction.
Eric Franklin‘s sculpture’s glow with a certain life. Though the series focuses on skulls and skeletons, it isn’t exactly dead. These skulls are carefully made of flameworked glass, or glass melted and shaped with a torch. The hollow skulls are then filled with ionized neon, krypton, and mercury gases. The ionized gases cause the skulls to glow from within complimenting their eery shape. [via]
One of my favorite tendencies in Mexican cultures is their positive relationship with death, and the above skulls are some beautiful evidence of it. Our Exquisite Corpse partnered with artists from the Huichol community of the Sierra Madres in West Mexico to create a series of stunning beaded skulls. Bead art goes back centuries on centuries on centuries in Huichol culture, from enormous tableaus to, more recently, tiny tourist coasters and covering every object on the way . The skulls are a combination of Huichol artists and OEC designers, painstakingly hand-beaded, and for sale on their website. ( via )
Nicholas Lockyers’ collage work distorts the human figure in response to out of balance priorities placed on the pursuit of external beauty. Death and Misfortune remain a constant throughout each piece, lending a certain gravity to the fairly familiar aesthetic of “collage culled from vintage illustration archives” which is kind of popular right now. Lockyers definitely has his own thing going on though. His particular selection of imagery is set at a pretty good pitch, and I dig the dark vibes. More snakes, skulls, and bats after the jump.
As part of a summer workshop at Duke University’s Center For Documentary Studies, Frith Gowan and Ayanna Seals created a short film about printmaker Bill Fick. The video cuts back and forth between an interview with Fick and footage of the artist’s lino cut process. It’s always great to get a glimpse into a talented artist’s process, but the interview is really insightful as well. Fick, who features monsters and skulls pretty heavily within his work, speaks about what his subject matter might indicate about his personality, his interests, and his response to the world. He never takes himself too seriously though, which is nice to see. Watch the video after the jump. (via)
Time to once again danse macabre by way of self-taught artist Wayne Martin Belger. Belger uses unusual materials (human skulls, HIV-positive blood, bullet shells) to build functional cameras that lend their composition to the work itself.
Wayne Martin Belger is one of the rare two-part artists that create works relying on each other through the synonymity of the repeated aesthetic. That is to say, when you look at his cameras, sculptures that represent something painfully graphic and simultaneously beautiful, you relate to the photographs in a different way. I find it fascinating that his installations show the cameras first, then you see the completed ancient photograph — it was made with this thing?
Based in France, skull artist Jim was born in New Caledonia, “gateway for Oceania and many other horizons. He goes to New Zealand, stops over the New Hebrids, discovers Australia, India, and lands in Hong-Kong. Human experiences, cultural, ritual, he is marked by his travels and encounters…” He is informed by “contemporary art, African, Oceanian, Amerindian, popular, religious…multiple passions and a melting-pot of influences”. Now that’s a lot of location-dropping, but it’s evident that a lot of brain-stewing and new-material-hunting goes into his sculptures.