America artist, Stef Cook has produced a series of wonderful watercolor portraits of men. The subjects are painted in their everyday clothes in profile. Take a look and study those jawlines!
Emily Deutchman‘s 44 watercolors liven up the genre of presidential portraiture with — you guessed it — boobs. Each take on the president’s official portrait becomes a super easy, lowbrow Where’s Waldo. But, you know, with boobs. While seated portraits can often be elitist, the results here are a great reminder on Election Day: just because you may have held one of the highest offices in the world, your image is still very much in the hands of the people.
As part of our ongoing partnership with In The Make, Beautiful/Decay is sharing a studio visit with artist Marci Washington. See the full studio visit and interview with Marci and other West Coast artists at www.inthemake.com.
We visited Marci in her backyard studio in Berkeley. It sits just behind her home, a kind of garage/storage space that got converted into a cottage. It’s comfortable and functional, with an open feel to it. Marci is full of gusto— she talks with her hands, takes on all kinds of facial expressions, and she’s funny as hell. She enthusiastically moved through our conversations, at turns awkward and eloquent, but always unguarded and real. We talked about a lot of things, but her affinity for the landscape of the English moorlands, particularly within the context of Romantic Literature, really struck me. Those rolling, uncultivated hills covered in low-growing grass, shrouded under heavy fog and moody skies have wholly captured Marci’s imagination. And it makes sense that they have— much of what interests Marci is mirrored in that rugged, desolate scenery. In various Romantic and Gothic works of literature, the moorlands often represent mystery, mysticism, liberation, turmoil, and passion; they frequently echo the psychological state of the characters, and reveal their greatest desires and fears. Marci’s current work references not just the physical landscape of the moors, but also speaks to themes found in a lot of this kind of literature, and the universal emotions that are evoked—all those feelings and ideas that run wild with mystery, awe, darkness, terror and beauty. I think Marci is after a particular kind of mood that toes the line between terrifying and thrilling, creating a response that’s simultaneously overwhelming and invigorating. All of this plays into her sensibilities as an artist, but also as a person: her love of Edward Gorey and his eerie illustrated books, her unflinching need to feel everything very deeply, her leanings towards the bizarre and unique, and her fondness for the not-entirely-explained. It’s pretty damn amazing that come November Marci will be showing work in England, not far from the wild and lonely moors that have taken up so much of her imagination.
It’s a rich territory that Liz Insogna explores with dream-like watercolors and oils, lingering, swirling and fading near subjects that seem despondent.
Marion Bolognesi makes emotive watercolor portraiture that seems to appear out of the nothingness of their stark, white backgrounds. She often uses drips and large blots to echo the transient feelings that make us human. This technique also adds a nice aesthetic to the artist’s work, which has spawned a few biters and copy artists. Bolognesi demonstrates a lot of economy- the artist’s ability to do a lot with a little is commendable. With such fundamental subject matter, it’s probably best to keep things simple anyway. It’s not always easy to capture the deeper elements of life with grace, but she pulls it off. The artist, who also does illustration and design work, lives in NYC.
Alejandro Cardenas, based in NYC, creates watercolor and guache works in which stark, flat figurative elements blend seamlessly with abstract flourishes and branches of washed out color. Set amidst a deep black background, this work stands out well. Too often, water based media is used as a generator of quaint atmosphere; whimsical drawings that take up very little space on paper or canvas. Cardenas’ work, conversely, is bold and fully composed where others may have defaulted into paltry understatement.
SVA grad Mu Pan brings East Asian woodblock aesthetics to his colorful, animated paintings. Not much of a “Zen” vibe is to be found here, though. Full of life, the Brooklyn artist’s work explodes off the canvas in a rush of sex and violence. Base, animalistic sensibilities are collected and processed en masse within each piece, and hardly any opportunity for impact is passed over. Really engrossing stuff, whether the focus is placed on a few central figures, or all-encompassing atmosphere.
I first got into Zach Johnsen’s work a few years ago when he lived in New York. But for a while now, he’s been in Portland, and it looks like he’s making his raddest stuff yet. He always incorporated fantastic characters into his mixed media work, and he’s continued to do so, creating more wooden cut-out installations and a series of graphite drawings infused with explosive watercolor elements. Johnsen’s always done a great job of rendering the darker side of life. His characters are full of dark eyes and yellowing teeth. Seriously awesome stuff from this dude, always.