Norman Rockwell (1894–1978) was a celebrated 20th-century American painter and illustrator, whose works became the imagery depicting everyday life in the States. It appears, Rockwell’s photo-realistic artworks were often accompanied by staged photographs which artist then used as a reference to paint his nostalgic scenes.
Storytelling is a natural part of all of Rockwell’s paintings. Often disguised, the true story would reveal itself through the smallest details which the artist always considered beforehand. Take his illustration called “Marriage Counseling” (below): the intention is clear but there are many unfolding details like the man’s black eye or even the books stacked in the shelves reading Van Eyck and Giovanni Bellini. Due to these impeccable narratives, even the reference photographs become works of art.
“There were details, accidents of light, which I’d missed when I’d been able to make only quick sketches of a setting. A photograph catches all that.”
At first, Norman Rockwell was hiring professional models but after awhile he switched to having his friends and neighbors posing for the photographs. For example, the tattooed sailor (below) was also Rockwell’s neighbor, Clarence Decker. During his career, artist produced over 4,000 original works and snapped more than 20,000 reference shots. The collection was revealed by the Norman Rockwell Museum and its curator, Ron Schick. It was also turned into a traveling exhibition and book titled “Norman Rockwell: Behind the Camera”. (via NPR)
The Taiwanese photographer Yung Cheng Lin presents the female body in unusual, erotic and sometimes absurd ways; his surreal, staged images capture a raw sensuality that oscillates between the fantastic and the grotesque. Here, women are seen initially as objects of desire, but they contort their bodies in ways that defy objectification and veer into abstraction.
Lin’s images, wrought with sexual tension, are at times uncomfortable to look at; a girl grips a box of milk, and its liquid ejaculates on and into her ear. Another woman holds a ripened, banana, which we might assume to be symbolic of the phallus, between her thighs; a finger penetrates and abstracted mound of flesh. A replica of the Mona Lisa sits between a woman’s legs, the part of hair mimicking a vulvar shape. The viewer, often seeing these female subjects from above, feel like strange voyeurs, peering into intimate rituals undetected.
Amidst Lin’s exploration of sexuality is a growing sense of anxiety that may be read perhaps a fear of female sexual power. A rose intimately penetrates a woman’s throat, and her head falls back and out of the frame as if in pleasure. But this symbolic intercourse is foreboding, dangerous: the flower is dead, wilted, and blood trickles down the model’s neck. Dead bugs infest the sets, sitting atop bananas and dangling from blood-red threads, signifying impending decay. Like drone bees who flock to mate with their queen only to die after the moment of fertilization, the insects fall at the feet of women. Take a look. (via Lost at E Minor and White Zine)
When the photographer Aline Smithson found an old, discarded doll from the 1970s, she was touched by his seeming unlovability; his bald head and uncannily wizened features made him unsuitable for most children. Like a lost boy, pitied for his strangeness, the doll found a home behind the artist’s camera. In rich and moody gray tones, Smithson constructs a visual narrative of poignant self-discovery, titled The Lonesome Doll.
The doll’s distinctively his floppy, childlike body works in tension with the firm face of an older man; in choosing to shoot him in black and white, Smithson heightens this drama, creating a dreamy, nostalgic atmosphere. The doll, no longer a boy and not yet a man, exists in a anxious state of perpetual adolescence; where he sits bolt upright in his bed as if woken by a child’s nightmare and dressed in a footed onesie, he also cautiously explores his sexuality, his oversized fingers grazing the shining nude body of another doll. Similarly, he submits to the caresses of a disheveled barbie.
Smithson’s doll is touchingly outcast by his own awkward existence; more mature than his companion toys, he must act out his fantasies with smaller, less ornate dolls, pressing their lips together, his wide-set eyes spit between each figure. He’s too small for the dollhouse, weighty for the clothesline. This strange adolescent is woefully confused, just verging on the point self-awareness. When stuck in a washing machine, he pleads for release, his stunned face reflected in the floor below. Take a look.
Smithson has created from these images a beautiful book that tells a poignant story of hope and love. She is currently looking for a publisher.
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)