Jess Riva Cooper’s Screaming Sculptures Overtaken By Insects Reimagine Ghostly Spirits

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The artist Jess Riva Cooper’s Viral Series imagines the human body overtaken by malevolent plant life; like the bodies of the dead, her ceramic women busts are infected with ivy, flowers, and insects. Inspired by the Hebrew figures of the golem and the dybbuk, the viral females occupy a space between life and death; like golem, they are anthropomorphic beings brought to life by human (as opposed to divine) hands, but they are also seemingly suffocated by roots that harken back to the cleavage of the ominous dybbuk, a departed soul that fixes itself to the body of a living person. The word “dybbuk,” in fact, arrises from the Hebrew verb for “sticking from the root.”

Unlike the figures of Yiddish folklore, Cooper’s busts are female, modeled after the seductive sculpted faces of Classical Greece. Closing resembling the great alluring forms like Praxiteles’ Aphrodite of Cnidus, these figures abandon the feminine piety in favor of an ecstatic sexuality; serpentine vines crawl across their tender cheeks, and their mouths open wide to give birth to lush roses or to allow passage to fertile swarms of scarab beetles. Their eyes appear to roll back in sensual pleasure; their teeth gnaw on thick roots.

Cooper’s series seems to draw on ancient and Judeo-Christian mythology to construct a cohesive and elaborate narrative of female creative power; these women represent death and birth in equal measure. As the bodies of the dead are consumed by insects, they ultimately give rise to blossoming flora. This strange and natural cycle of rebirth serves as a metaphor for the artist’s beloved Detroit, where buildings and homes succumb to financial ruin and are eventually overgrown with feral plant life. Take a look. (via Colossal and HiFructose)

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Kara Walker’s Gigantic Sugar-Coated Female Sphinx Makes A Powerful Statement

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Kara Walker’s new sculpture “A Subtlety” is pure white, coated in 160,000 pounds of bleached sugar; with this modern take on the ancient sphinx, the legendary artist crafts a towering black face in honor of the slave laborers who worked in sugar cane fields. The powerful work is meant to address racial and sexual exploitation; like the sugar that coats her polystyrene core, this black female figure has been pressured, against nature, into succumbing to whiteness.

The work is now on display at the old Williamsburg, Brooklyn Domino sugar factory shed, where it reaches to the ceiling and extends for a magnificent 75 feet. The mythical creature is a powerful assertion of the black female self; the face quite resembles the artists’ own, and a carefully wrought bandana subtly references the stereotypical (and often offensive) symbol of the mammy, a slave woman who nurtured and brought up white children. Walker has been the subject of debate in the past for her use of contested imagery, and despite the controversy surrounding the “mammy” figure, she is presented here as powerful and divine.

Like the ancient sphinxes of Egypt and Greece, Walker’s monolithic creation is godly, simultaneously fearsome and comforting. The sphinx, known for protecting the tombs of royalty, becomes the guardian of history, interrupting a white-washed historical narrative to make visible the labor of the men and women who were kept enslaved. Her face is serene, assured, and unyielding. The sphinx character, in addition to being a protector, is also dangerous, renowned for devouring those who cannot answer her riddle; Walker’s sphinx is similarly confrontational in her overwhelming size, forcing viewers to confront the complex and painful history of American industry. (via The New York Times)

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Disturbing and Sweet Paintings Look Like A Dark Alice In Wonderland

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The French digital painter Lostfish creates an uncomfortable yet irresistibly alluring landscape of feminine powers; her bashful, pink-cheeked subjects reign supreme, adorned in precious jewels and sparkling crowns. The artist’s characters are abuzz with their own fertility, as expressed by bouncing nude breasts and lush flowers that seem to spring up from underfoot; also pictured are rabbits and eggs, symbols art historically associated with breeding and copulation.

The artist, influenced in part by 19th century art, works within a Victorian sensibility, reveling in an innocent, doll-like vision of femininity; her subjects, pale skinned and with impossibly delicate figures, become queens, armed with crowns and tridents. Lostfish’s female characters also seem pious, divine even; a few wear dismembered hands as jewelry, reminiscent of religious icons like the hand of God or the hand of Fatima. White flowers with yellow centers, often symbolic of the Virgin Mary in Christian art, stand in the place of youthful, milky nipples.

Yet within Lostfish’s ethereal and seductive images, there seems to linger an ominous supernatural strength within womankind. Where the Victorian woman is domestic and obedient, Lostfish’s heroines roam like wood nymphs, emboldened by their own reproductive powers; in one image depicting a human fetus within a pink oval, a foreboding reptilian creature seems to invade the womb, its grotesque navel in full view. In one painting, doll faces emerge in a group of six from blood red roses, reminiscent of biblical devil. These tempting, enchanting women dress in excess, giving themselves over to material pleasures. In Lostfish’s gorgeous imaginings the female is both delicate and demure, ravenous and dangerous. Take a look. (via HiFructose)

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Milo Moire Drops Eggs From Her Private Parts To Create Abstract Paintings

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The German performance artist Milo Moire gives birth to her paintings… literally; in pushing eggs, filled with ink and acrylic paint, from her vaginal canal, she allows them to break and splatter onto a pristine white canvas. The unusual work, titled “PlopEgg,” necessitates that the artist be nude from head to toe, and it is the first of a series of similar performances at the opening of 2014’s Art Cologne fair.

For Moire, the work embodies the creative and spontaneous powers of femininity; her exposed body and vagina give rise to streaming rivers of earthy colors: rich reds, browns, and grays. The muddied hues recall human birth, from the breaking of the water to the release of blood; her hulking, straining body stands like a statue on high, and the act of labor is elevated, made majestic and potent. The visceral image of her lengthy squat, the cracking noise as egg hits pavement, serves as a testament to the symbolic strength of the vagina, the power of both woman and the creative mind to conceive and reproduce.

Inspired perhaps by Carolee Schneemann’s 1975 Interior Scroll (and even Casey Jenkins‘s recent vaginal knitting project), Moire uses her internal sex organ to birth something external and tangible, but she simplifies the process; where Schneemann removed complex words, Moire births primitive splashes of colors. In doing so, she doubles the sensuality and feminine context of her efforts; where text is often associated with maleness, the chaotic, free-flowing aesthetic of “EggPlop” is normally iconographically linked to womanhood.

At the close of her performance, the artist folds her paper canvas like a bed sheet, sweeping over it so as to transfer the paint from one side the another. In this way, the image is reproduced; like a cell divided, one becomes two. The symmetrical of the resultant image is also evocative of the female reproductive system, vividly mirroring the uterine structure. Take a look. (via Source Fed)

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Intimate Photographs Of Young Women Capture Private Beauty Routines

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In Rituals, the photographer Noorann Matties catalogs the strange, mystical moments between woman and mirror, capturing young ladies in private moments of self-preparation and styling. As her subjects stand barefaced before public and private mirrors, work in eyebrow pencil, lipgloss, and mascara, seemingly memorized by and in poignant discovery of their own features.

Shooting many of the women from behind so as to capture the self in dialogue her reflection, Matties seemingly preserves the innocence of the experience, allowing the girls to engage with themselves undisturbed and unaware of onlookers. These sacred rituals, haloed in early morning sunlight and fluorescent lightbulbs, celebrate the quiet moments before the start of the day. In the instant before her subjects present their faces to the public, Matties stops the clock, preserving the beautiful self-absorption afforded by secrecy.

The inconsistent, accidental lighting serves only to heighten the sensuality of individual skin and hair tones, textures, and shapes; a towel hangs, left over from the night before, and reflections distort serendipitously in still-wet shower doors, affording the photographs deeper psychological meanings.

The repetition of these rituals is expressed through careful self-examination and knowledge; these women have seemingly memorized the curves of their brows, the textures of their skin, the movement of hair moved effortlessly and invisibly into a bun. The poignancy of these photographs, then, lies in part in the efficiency of the grooming activities; to the voyeuristic viewer, these intimate seconds are precious; to the girls, they’re routine, automatic, forgotten until the next morning. Take a look at the series, originally published in Inconnu Magazine, below. (via BUST and Inconnu)

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Poignantly Raw Photographs Show An Uncensored Motherhood

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The photographer Elinor Carucci’s recent series Mother reads like a visual diary of the pains and pleasures of motherhood, a raw and uncensored confessional of love and a complex relationship to the female body. Within the aesthetic framework of more traditional portrayals of the mother, she highlights the visceral and bodily with romantic reverence.

Carucci relies in part upon the image of the art historical Virgin Mary, mirroring Renaissance paintings in which the virgin clasps the child in her lap, his soft baby limps coiled around her abdomen. Similarly, a strange and beautiful self-portrait features the artist in a hospital bed, a mysterious and seemingly divine light shone directly over her womb. With symmetry evocative of Renaissance art, her newborn twins nurse at her breasts, each head resting on a pillow of deep blue characteristic of the virgin.

Mother transforms our understanding of the divine, expanding it to apply to real, mortal women, our bodies and our fears. Unlike Mary, our protagonist is not a virgin; instead, her sexuality is the source of her creative energy; her milky breasts are shown alongside the vulva, her stretch marks and scars creating s subtle cross in the center of her torso. Her daughter, appropriately named Eden, sneaks a look down her mother’s underwear, marveling at the beauty and power of the genital area with moving innocence, her face bathed in light.

With the beauty of life and love comes the poignant fact of growing up and innocence lost. As the girl’s hair is cut, her green eyes are stricken with fear, the bothersome remains of lost hair littering her face. Similarly, a child bears a wound, which swells painfully from her lip like a ripe pomegranate seed; during bath time, she wriggles from her mother’s arms, shot in relative darkness, desperate to return to a state of play. Take a look. Mother is currently on display at New York’s Edwynn Houk Gallery. (via Beautiful Is Now and Feature Shoot)

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Tristan Pigott’s Paintings Capture Social Awkwardness And The Male Gaze

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The painter Tristan Pigott heightens the drama of everyday awkward interactions by imagining the mundane in dreamlike ways; altering proportion and shape to express his subjects’ self-conscious anxiety, he constructs an uncomfortable world dominated by the uncertainty of twenty-something men and women. As they form their adult identities, Pigott’s subjects fret over their appearance and public behavior.

Alcohol, hip clothing, makeup, and grooming products cease to be superficial or incidental and are transformed into poignant markers of inner dialogues. Two female subjects abandon words, opting instead to communicate through their own physical presentation; one applies mascara in her skivvies, while the other furrows her brow at a magazine advertisement. An attractive persona is of the utmost importance; a seductive lip tattoo becomes the subject of another painting, and similarly, a lady is shown carefully eating a hamburger that perfectly coordinates to her outfit, sure not to spill on her blouse.

Further heightening the psychological importance of public surroundings and everyday objects, the artist plays with perception, placing an out-of-context wine glass here, a gravity-defying newspaper there. Similarly, a see-through table alters the hue of the legs below as harsh brushstrokes break the illusion of realism, and a man peers at his watch, his anxiety seemingly circumventing the laws of physics and allowing his body to float above ground.

In this world where identities are malleable and uncertain, the male gaze is uncomfortably prominent. Where a man is shown to watch himself in the mirror, the women are seen with a subtle degree of voyeurism. In mixed company, women peer thoughtfully, even fretfully, at the viewer, where men seem to please only themselves, remaining blissfully unaware of onlookers. When the male subject is nude, his back and face are turned away, but breasts and glances of the unclothed female are directed outwards. Dominated by familiar social anxieties and uncomfortable sexual politics, Pigott’s imaginative public space is perhaps not as surreal as it might seem. (via iGNANT)

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Former Playboy Bunnies Photographed Decades Later In Provocative Portraits

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When the renowned photographer Robyn Twomey visited the Former Playboy Bunny Reunion, she shot simple and engrossing headshots of women who had been Playboy Bunnies decades before, hoping the capture the complex and often contradictory nature of their former field. On one hand the women are mesmerizingly assertive, and yet, traces of vulnerability and self-consciousness mark their wrinkled brows.

Often, the women appear empowered by their sexuality, and their expressions border on the confrontational. Abandoning any show of passive feminine gentleness, a woman spangled in hot pink costume jewelry adopts a laissez-faire posture normally associated with masculinity, pursing her lips into a smirk and tossing her shoulder back with calculated attitude. Another makes an orgasmic facial expression, relaxing her lips around her open mouth, boldly pressing her breasts towards the camera.

Yet within these powerful and stunning individuals lies a poignant anxiety over growing older, one that boarders perhaps on self-doubt, expressed through a turn of the eye, a furrowed brow. A few turn away from the camera, staring into to the corner of Twomey’s tight frame with strained smiles or almost bashful eyes, their features and the passage of time made more noticeable by make-up that glistens under the bright lights.

Each woman is deeply sympathetic and beautiful, but the work calls into question the ethics of societal pressures enforced by brands and magazines like Playboy. When budding sexuality is valued above all, and when young women are both objectified and exalted, where does that leave aging women? The work is far from an indictment of its subjects; instead, it captures the complexities of a controversial industry that toes the line between supposed empowerment and potential degradation. What do you think? (via BUST and Feature Shoot)

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