Kunihiko Nohara creates lofty sculptures whose subjects hover between the earth and sky. Using a single piece of wood for each of his pieces, Nohara replaces clothing with clouds making his figures seem ready to take flight in a hot air balloon.
Nohara’s works have earned him the name “The Cloud Man” in Taiwan. But while this name visibly connects him with his works, the clouds also mean something else to Nohara. In interviews he says that clouds are emblematic of his practice in that he often feels “blurry” within his own thoughts. Dealing with this space of fuzziness between thoughts and dream, he further says that his “creations are not necessarily based on fantasy, but neither are they overly grounded in reality – they’re just reflections of my experiences of the world.”
Despite the delicacy and softness of these sculptures, Nohara works entirely in wood and, more notably, only uses one piece for each work. His preference for wood emerged in school but he also believes the use of material aligns his work with Japan’s propensity towards wooden objects, like houses and furniture.
Nohara’s works were recently shown at “Laissez Faire,” a group show presented by Gallery UG at the Luxe Art Museum in Singapore. His sculptures were included with works from 17 other Japanese artists.
Brooklyn based multimedia artist Emily McMaster has created a provocative video series featuring one shot scenes of masochism. Her work invites us into intimate and unsettling moments that provoke questions of power dynamics. Each work is a test for the squeamish, a pit of anxiety, and a platform for confusion and quandary. When entering the work, it remains unclear whether these acts are that of pleasure or torture. It remains unclear who is empowered and and who is dominated. Within her piece Steeple, McMaster sews her fingers together in a gesture from a childhood hand game. She struggles to break the ties, only to be unsuccessful and greeted with blood. Perhaps this piece speak of the disfunction within power structures, the loss of innocence, the impurity of self destruction. Baby’s Breath begins with the act of a masculine arms covering the head of the topless, red lip stick stained artist with a plastic bag. Again, the question of pleasure versus pain, power versus abuse, and in this particular video, female subjection. Her work is powerful, allusive, and perfectly hard to watch.
The following is her artist statement;
“Emily McMaster is a Brooklyn based artist who studied Printmaking at Bard College and The University of New Mexico. Her work, whether solo or in collaboration, focuses on delicacy, remarks on femininity, draws from fetish, and values playfulness above all else. She couldn’t put an x-acto knife down for a decade, but has recently swapped it out for a video camera. Baby’s Breath and Steeple are recent examples of this transition. With this new work Emily explores her endurance by confronting specific physical challenges. In this process she showcases texture, vulnerability, and masochism.”
Last year, we featured the work of Dutch artist Patrick Bergsma. Featured today is a selection of his newer works, which demonstrate his endless creativity in sculpting floating, post-apocalyptic homes. Appearing to defy gravity, old ramshackle buildings painted in rustic shades meld with rock formations and elaborate root systems. Bonsai trees sprout from the top, creating darkly beautiful habitats for tiny, marooned people; a helicopter lands perilously atop one, and on another, a girl kneels pensively amongst the roots of a dead tree.
Aside from being objects of imagination and extreme detail, many themes seem to be occurring throughout Bergsma’s sculptures, such as the reclaiming power of nature; trees appear to be taking over the ruined buildings, returning the small, blasted fragments of earth into a more natural state. There are also dual feelings of sorrowful entrapment and isolated simplicity; the inhabitants appear lonely, but their quaint living spaces are also beautiful and calming, referring to a simpler way of life. Whatever your response to Bergsma’s sculptures is, they each tell a story that will pique your curiosity.
New York based artist Mindo Cikanavicius photographs portraits of men with foam “facial hair.” Within this series, titled Bubbleissimo, (perhaps making a play on the word “machismo”), the artist distorts the notion of masculinity through a comedic display of the growing obsession with groomed facial hair. His work aims to speak about the fragility and absurdity of what “manliness” means, depicting it as being just as allusive and indefinite as the bubbles meant to represent it. These works portray the sitters in a sort of kitschy, glamor portrait style, engulfed in one side of sky blue and one side of bubble gum pink, the colors used to denote gendered objects. His series mocks the need to define and portray what it means to be masculine, and, through what seems at first glance to be an overtly serious series, successfully, upon further inspection, invites in a air of making fun of itself. Once it becomes clear that this facial hair is in fact made of bubbles, the work switches from being a strange cataloging of men, to a witty depiction of gender norms. His artist statement notes that “Mindo is focused creating story based unexpected moments with touch of cinematic drama, humor and mystery. His work is a blend of ideas, imagination, observations, experiences and emotions into making intriguing constructed reality photographs.”
New York based artist James Connolly gives old and worn out record covers a new spin. The artist transforms each one by hand painting fun scenes within the given content, turning calm and commercial images into outlandish and other worldly painted depictions. The artist finds these used records in junk shops and revives them through manipulating their covers to become fun, psychedelic, and slightly bizarre. His works transform singing beauties into strange oblong creatures, it melts and merges the flesh of trumpet players, it implants nature where is does not belong (such as trees growing from eye sockets and fungi from faces), it even gives shrimp heat ray vision and adorns a “Top of the Pops” dancer with a ribbon of sausages. Perhaps the most interesting of these works are those which almost act as a play on color theory. Connolly disappears figures into perfectly mixed hues that blend bodies into backgrounds, allowing them to fully be a vehicle for shape and pattern. There is a very fun a vintage feel to these works, even outside the reality that they are, in fact, vintage. There is a hyper specific handling of imagery that does truly speak to the illustration style of the 70s which promotes a certain aspect of fluidity. There is a sort of quiet contemplation, and if you can almost follow the artists train of thought and innocent playfulness. This series seems like an excellent exercise in creativity.
Chad Wys is an artist, designer, and writer from Illinois. Inspired by postmodern thought, Wys’ works examine the reproduction of the image, and the way plural images—as superficial iterations of an original object—operate on us to suggest a sense of meaning and worth.
This theoretical approach is brilliantly exemplified in Wys’ Readymades series, featured here. The Readymades consist of found busts and ceramics that Wys has adorned with eye-popping colors, bold gradients, and silvery tears. By re-contextualizing objects of “antiquity” with garish, modern color schemes, Wys compels the viewer to contemplate their feelings and values in relation to such objects. He explains further on his website:
“By retooling the object and then re-presenting it for the viewer I intend to elaborate on the conversation that takes place between the observer and the reproduction in its ‘initial’ state. Through the reclamation and manipulation of these objects I mean to acknowledge, to underscore, that our possessions can, and often do, manipulate us.” (Source)
Wys observes how, as markers of class and income, art pieces and knickknacks signify arbitrary measures of personal worth. By “disfiguring” the cherished objects, Wys produces a visual, mental disparity that deconstructs their value; the clownish colors show the tenuousness of their “high status.” While subversive in intent, the finished Readymades are curious and beautiful art pieces in and of themselves, at once celebrating and critiquing contemporary art practices and embracing imperfection. The ultimate significance of the works, however, is the viewer’s cognitive responsibility; as Wys states, they are “meant to mean different things to different people who are at different stages of understanding” (Source).
Artist Noah Scalin has created a series of fantasized “anatomically correct” guns. Within his series Anatomy of War, the artist aims to humanize guns in order to depict gun violence as an even more sensitized and complex topic. He wants these pieces to provoke a discussion about the possibilities of violence if guns were “as fragile as the lives they can potentially take.”
Noah Scalin creates these “anatomically correct guns” with a mixture of polymer clay, acrylic and enamel. He has sculpted a handgun and an AK-47 from their own parts, literally making these machines from their own “guts.”These works act as tiny metaphors for the actual act of human choice within gun violence; as if the weapon is in fact a part of the human that uses it. These sculptures remind us that it is not the machine that commits an act of violence, but the brain that has decided to use it. These pieces take away the notion that a gun shoots someone, but in fact, a living thing does. He states “…too often the discussion around guns in America gets wrapped up in emotional terms around the 2nd Amendment. Anatomy of War brings the discussion back to the individual human level.” (via Lost at E Minor)
AnaHell is a photographer who portrays the body in ways that change the way we perceive it. Playing with unusual angles and wigs (see the My Little Phony series, for example), normative representations of bodies are broken down, resulting in images that are playful and often unsettling.
Featured here is a series titled Secret Friends, wherein AnaHell manipulates the appearance of bodies to create unique “creatures.” Each photo depicts people bent double with faces drawn on their backs, the subjects’ spines and ribs creating freakish contours. Adorned with hair and clothing and standing in ordinary rooms, they resemble domestic gremlins with a dual ability of charming and disturbing their viewers.
The following project statement explains—in fairly ambiguous terms—AnaHell’s approach and process:
“With a childlike fascination for rawness, flesh, and the absurd, photographer AnaHell plays with the ordinary and deconstructs it to reveal another perspective. She takes advantage of her immediate surroundings, often photographing close friends and family members in their own living spaces. Secret Friends are playmates, reflections, and villains—strange and wonderful creatures from another world, the kind that children create when they’re alone.”