Guia Besana, born in Italy and based in Paris, has created a photography series titled “Under Pressure” that portrays women in contemporary society with its neuroses and complexes, but with an artistic and stylistic flourish – one evocative of tales from a storybook. Besana stages scenes, creating single, still images that are representative of a fictional story reflecting the pressures women face to be perfect including themes of marriage, burn-out, conflict with body aesthetics, excesses, and other questions involved in a woman’s identity. Besana’s thoughtful series is at once dark and playful and demonstrates the photographer’s artful vision- she has an eye for composition, patterns, and style, and creates a striking fine art aesthetic that pairs beautifully with the theme of contemporary women’s identities. (via dark silence in suburbia)
For her new installation “Stroke” at Jupiter Artland, Scottish artist Anya Gallaccio constructs a room made of dark chocolate, inviting visitors to lick the walls if they so dare. The richly aromatic work is designed in part to be a rare feminine space in an art world defined mostly by men. The artist, who has worked with red roses in the past, sees her unusual medium as one normally associated with the female; here, she brings the domestic out of the shadows and boldly into the public realm. The room itself is evocative of female sensual pleasure; painted in thick, gentle layers of sweetness, it is dark and cavernous, a space to be entered into.
Housing only a small bench, the piece maintains ambiguity, relying upon its inhabitants to draw meaning from the slights, smells, and tastes. The work is as much about fantasy and anticipation as it is the actual experience of sitting in a chocolate room, which the artist explains is not what one might expect. As time wears on, she expects that the sweet odor will turn sour; the chocolate, painted onto the walls with brushes, will oxidize. Bugs have already moved into the space.
Galloccio’s title “Stroke” alludes to the dual nature of the work; she explains that a “stroke” can describe a tragic and sudden heart attack as much as it can a soft caress. Ultimately, the impact of the work is in the hands of viewers, who may either choose to abandon social etiquette to indulge in a feast of licking or might simply sit in uncomfortable silence. Either way, it will be a sight to behold. (via Design Boom)
The painter Kira Ayn Varszegi substitutes her own 38DD breasts for traditional brushes, covering them in paint and pressing them to her canvas. For Varszegi, fun is an essential element in art making; she hopes to inspire amusement and smiles. Though her work has of course been criticized and cast aside as “frivolous,” the artist has made a name for herself, boasting at least one painting purchased in each American state.
Before we give in the the impulse to judge, let us take a minute to appreciate the product of Varszegi’s efforts. Her paintings quite resemble the work of abstract expressionists like Jackson Pollack or Mark Rothko; she, like them, hopes to inspire more primal and visceral emotions with her marbled surface of color, texture, and form.
But unlike most (but not all) of the 1950s trailblazers, Varszegi is a woman, and that fact is essential to her art making process. Where many modern art movements have been dominated by an idealized machismo, the boob artist embraces what some might call the feminine or the sentimental. Here, the breasts, symbols both of female sexuality and fertility, are the means of creation, as opposed to the paintbrush, an instrument whose form is vaguely evocative of the phallus.
The artist’s compositions mirror the “feminine” tenor of her process, their soft, glittery tones forming elusive and symbolic butterfly and floral shapes. Paint drippings and splotches swirl together in an evocative, orgiastic blur. Take a look, and let us know what you think of the project. It is groundbreaking or silly? (via Oddity Central)
Unfortunately, today’s media offers a limiting vision of female beauty, urging all women to have slender waists and full chests. Bodies that deviate from this standard are tossed by the wayside by publishers and media giants, photoshopped into figures that conform to an often impossible ideal. But it wasn’t always like this; Baroque painters like Titian and Peter Paul Rubens idealized fuller figures, imagining their nudes with sensuous curves of the flesh.
Lauren Wade, a senior photo editor for Take Part, has seen firsthand the digital nipping and tucking that goes on behind the scenes in the publishing and entertainment industry. In response to the societal obsession with “perfect,” unrealistic female bodies, Wade has digitally altered Renaissance, Modernist, and Post-Impressionist masterpieces to mimic the ways in which fashion models and celebrities are edited today. By releasing a series of gifs showing the extreme lengths to which industry standards alter the human form, she hopes to bring awareness to the fact that what we see in the magazines is entirely unrealistic and to remind us that “beauty” comes in all shapes and sizes.
Here, the female subjects of Paul Gauguin and Edgar Degas, once considered to be idealized, get uncomfortably slim waists and oversized breasts. Raphael’s three graces, once representing the characteristics of female perfection— charm, beauty, and creativity— are also cruelly altered. The goddess of beauty herself, Botticelli’s Venus, doesn’t conform to 21st century societal standards, and she too is deeply changed. Even Titian’s Cupid gets a makeover. Wade’s work reminds us that definitions of “beauty” are in constant flux; as the centuries pass, we set one arbitrary ideal before another. In the end, aren’t all figures lovely and worthy of artistic representation? (via Design Boom)
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)
The indie-feminist rock-artist Jessicka Addams marries the gothic with the whimsical, creating heartbreaking portraits of innocence lost. In her wonderfully sweet yet disturbing paintings and sculptures, the artist builds a candy-coated dreamscape ripe with sexuality, drug use, and metamorphosis. Her pale, virginal subjects look much like babydolls possessed, embodiments of mythical female mischief and corruption. These works, in some ways, serve as testaments to the pains and labors of the biblical Eve, the mythological Medusa.
Addams’s work is elegantly imbued with an uncomfortable anxiety that arises from the tension between icons of innocence and the suggestion of impurity. Rabbits, used in early Christian art, symbolize the coming of spring, the resurrection, and the rebirth of innocence. Here, this iconographical connotation is poignantly subverted; alongside images of bleeding nostrils, suggestive of cocaine use, these white rabbits could easily find themselves in the drug-induced Alice in Wonderland of Jefferson Airplane. Addams’s rabbits cry bloody pink tears and sprout sea witch limbs.
The cat, an animal both adorable and foreboding, also figures prominently in Addams’s pieces, often in the form of hybrid human or ghost. Addams’s aesthetic is distinctly modern, characterized by thick, dripping brushstrokes and somewhat taboo subject matter. Like those of the modernist trailblazer Goya, her cats seem to represent sin as it creeps in upon the untainted child; a burlap sack, with embroidered feline ears, envelops the face of a pale babe, who weeps as if mourning a lost childhood.
Addams’s exquisite works are charming and unsettling in equal measure, inspiring pity and empathy for our own former innocence. Here, human beings—especially women— are neither madonnas nor whores; instead, the human soul is a complexly woven tapestry, colored with surprising and miraculous shades of gray. Addams’s work is currently on view at The Cotton Candy Machine. (via BUST)
In 2010, Gemma Green-Hope’s grandmother died; scanning a flimsy memorial service program, the illustrator desired a more intimate way to remember her grandmother. After inheriting her beloved relative’s old possessions, she animated them in search of traces of permanence left behind by a mortal soul. In this stop-motion video, titled Gan Gan, viewers see an entire life literally flash before our eyes; both mundane and exquisite objects are transformed into momento mori, as if we ourselves were at the moment of our death.
The whimsical, nostalgic animation elegantly draws upon literary and artistic themes of womanhood, so that in the wake of Gan Gan’s passing, a fertile, creative and distinctly feminine presence remains unharmed. Green-Hope recites the “Eternal Father, Strong to Save” hymn, a poem associated both with funerals and the sea. The sea remains a theme throughout the entire short film, and bodies of water are often seen as female, powerful, penetrable yet containing mysterious depths. The countryside, fairies, and the hearth—all iconographically seen as the woman—skip mirthfully in and out of the video. Left with the shot a books written about the sea, pulsating like waves, viewers are encouraged to see the matrilineal thread as something permanent and endlessly magical.
For Green-Hope, the cosmic and the personal are intertwined; amidst religious and natural icons, we see photographs that are poignantly unique to the deceased. Similarly, we are told in Gree-Hope’s sing-song voice specific things like “she rode a blue bicycle” and “she once shot a spider.” Unlike the mortal life, this video can be played over and over, forever preserving a memory that might otherwise fade away. (via Colossal)
The artist Sarah Best creates astounding replicas of the female body, using it as a symbol that tracks the human desire for connection and intimacy; severed from the rest of the body, her sculpted hands and a cut-out collaged breasts take on a life of their own, worming their way up walls and pages and sometimes tracking blood in the process. The work, though sometimes gruesome, maintains a pulsating beauty; as if with clear intentions, her vital sculptures navigate space, dangling from hooks and exploring piles of cloth.
From both a feminist and an aesthetic standpoint, Best’s work operates in a miraculous, subversive manner; the feminist philosopher Susan Bordo, for example, writes that the body, coded female, is often seen as passive and lacking in intellect, explaining that therefore the body alone has the power to challenge those sexist ideas. Positioning parts of the body within cubistic collages and arresting installations, Best allows it to transcend societal definitions. Rather than figuring as part of a whole to be admired and objectified, limbs actively seek out understanding of the outside world, touching and feeling everything in their paths.
Wonderfully vulnerable yet undeniably powerful, female arm bears Christ-like stigmata, and the physical body searches for spiritual meaning. The oppressive boundaries between the corporeal self— too often considered to be unintelligent, immoral, and “feminine—” and the elevated metaphysical self are effectively shattered, and a new kind of humanity begins to emerge, one to which we can all relate, one that is beautifully desirous, yearning, and sometimes lonesome.
I got the amazing chance to speak with Best, and when I asked what advice she’d give to aspiring artists, she simply said, “Keep your integrity. You will only count, for yourself and in your art, to the extend that you keep your integrity.” Take a look.