Mexican born artist Ana Teresa Fernández “erased” a portion of the U.S. and Mexican border. Using a fifteen foot ladder, a spray paint gun and a generator, she painted a portion of the metal wall that separates Playas de Tijuana and San Diego’s Border Field State Park. By applying a powder blue paint, Ana Teresa Fernández was able to create the illusion that some of the border had disappeared into the sky. During her performance she wore a “little black dress,” representing the Mexican tradition of “luto,” which is to wear all black for one year during a period of mourning. This act is the artist paying homage to the hundreds of thousands of people who have lost their lives attempting to cross the border, getting to the true heart of the matter. Border patrol between the United States and Mexico has been a controversial topic for decades. Depending on which side of the border you are on, the large metal wall means something drastically different. For many Mexicans, the border represents being kept from opportunities and the ability to have access to a better life. Despite the project having nothing but optimistic intentions, the artist did face some objection. In the middle of painting, Ana Teresa Fernández was stopped by the police who attempted to arrested her. However, after a half an hour of explaining her concept, she was let go. Following the projects completion the artist received hate mail and was called a “Mexican terrorist.” She believes her project is feared because it “re-contextualizes a possibility” of peaceful coexistence.
Moroccan interior design company Habibi Interiors invites us to watch master craftsman create beautifully hand carved terra cotta tiles. These tiles are used in the creation of zellige (also known as zillij, or zellij), a form of Islamic tile work that uses geometric patterns to form mosaics that decorate various surfaces. The most common shapes used are the star, square and cross. The mosaics only portray geometric patterns due to the fact that historically, islamic artists were working in accordance of aniconism, the forbiddance of portraying sentient beings. This art is a primary characteristic of Moroccan architecture. Traditionally, a house decorated using zellige was a sign of a high class family. It is not only the creation of the mosaics that is considered an art form, the sculpting of the tiles is also a highly skilled process. The art is handed down through the generations by maâlems (master craftsmen) and is a long process that begins during childhood. As shown in the video, the tiles are crafted by making clay sheets that are ten by ten centimeters long. The tiles are then painted. Afterwards, the desired shapes are traced onto the tiles and then carved down slowly by hand. Each small piece is crafted perfectly to fit within its neighboring piece. The tiles are then patterned into place and sealed together.
Every year, during the celebration of Eid-ul-Azha, camels are given “makeovers.” Eid-ul-Azha, also known as The Feast of Sacrifice, is a Muslim holiday celebrated in the fall. During this holiday, it is tradition to buy and sacrifice an animal in honor of Ibrahim, who was commanded by god and then willing to sacrifice his own son, Ishmael. Usually, the meat from the animal is then separated into three parts, one third for the immediate family, one third to friends and family, and the last third to the poor.
During his trip to the largest cattle market in Asia, a place he and many families go every year in order to prepare for Eid-ul-Azha, Anas Hamdani was able to meet “camel stylists” and photograph the art in the making. Hundreds of camels are brought to this market every year from the rural area of the south east region Sindh in Pakistan. However, usually only a few camels have been styled, making them potentially worth much more to buyers, as they are looking for the most beautiful camel. Anas Hamdani was able to speak with an artist named Ali Hassan, whose family has passed down camel styling through the generations. Hassan stated that he can make 15 different designs, and choses which design to use based on what he feels would best suit the camel. The process takes about four hours and is performed with just a mere pair of scissors. (Via Dawn)
Melissa Smyth’s photo series, Lay Lady Lay, portrays a set of eighteen self portraits taken with Fujifilm FP-100C instant film. Each picture is preluded by lines from Bob Dylan’s classic love song, Lay Lady Lay, and subtitled with text messages from her rapist. At first glance, her images seem like whimsical coming of age depictions of confused and painful love. Yet, while further committing to the work and understanding each image within its context, the series begins to unravel a intricate, subdued truth. There is a raw honesty that allows the viewer to enter into a realm of undeniable complexity. The work almost allows the viewer to follow a stream of psychosis and true disillusionment as he or she grasps the words written by the rapist. While entering back into the portraits, the viewer must then re-imagine those words not just from him, but then through her, who, despite being the victim, has been forced to address blame. There is a constant shift of consciousness in the work, truly getting to the heart of an endlessly difficult subject. Even further, Bob Dylan’s Lay Lady Lay, allows her to illustrate another layer of convolution. When re-appropriated into this series, the love song begins to take on new meaning. Through the isolation of the lines, a subtle forcefulness is revealed, noting that there is a dark, perhaps unspoken, overlap between love and obsession.
Melissa Smyth‘s series acts as a genuine representation of a deeply complicated issue, that regrettably, is not uncommon and often not spoken about. She uses her work not only as a means to create a discourse on the topic, but also as a means for self recovery and empowerment. She states;
“I use photography to understand and express the ways in which looking and desiring can make an object of the body, and the ways in which images can be used to resist this. To photograph my own body allows me to not only reclaim control over my self-image, but also to comment upon the objectification that occurs though forceful violence and emotional manipulation. The project ultimately is not about my rapist’s actions, but about my strength and growth. I’ve been inspired by other survivors of sexual abuse and gender-based violence, and hope to add to the voices speaking in solidarity and in strength for all of our liberation.”
Texas born artist, Teri Haven, documents a collective of outsiders in her series, The Last Free Place. Her photographs seem to capture moments from another era, or perhaps, where time in of itself has ceased to exist. Haven spent three years, 2006 – 2008, living part-time in a squatters community in southern California known as Slab City. Beautifully cinematic, her images draw parallels to Harmony Korine’s Gummo, acting as the aesthetic truth behind his fiction. The carnival-reminiscent, dream land of Slab City is a barren landscape located in between the Salton Sea (a man-made lake accidentally created in 1905) and an active bombing site. Beginning shortly after World War II, Slab City became a safe haven for “drifters, dropouts, artists, outlaws and other cultural dissidents who settle alongside the addicted and the elderly.” During her time spent amongst the Slab City dwellers, Haven set out to document the struggle that exists between the boundaries of freedom and isolation. Each portrait reflects its own unique identity, as the inhabitants of Slab City seem to have created personal selfhood through means alien to societal norms. She states:
“Slab City is a collection of fiercely independent, utterly original individuals. Cast out of, or just drifting away from, the “American Dream,” they come here seeking freedom from rules, rent, and the assaults of a society often unsympathetic to the underclass. Some are victims of poverty, of bad choices and bad luck. Others have renounced the “material world,” refusing to trade their time for money; many simply yearn for the sense of freedom that comes from vast open spaces. And though desert life can be extremely harsh, and in truth there is little freedom in poverty, here they find love and strength within a community that accepts and nurtures the individuality of its members.”
Colorado based artist, Ashley Eliza Williams, creates paintings of geological phenomenons. At first glance, her images appear to be the findings of a microscope, or perhaps, the photographic documentation of some obscure landscape. Her paintings are vibrantly alien, yet convincingly recognizable. Through a “lifelong curiosity about the patterns and biological systems that organize the natural world” she has created a body of work that seems to exist between the realms of science fiction and genuine morphology.
Her choice of titles lift her paintings out of a solely biological and ecological fueled quandary and shift them into a metaphorical, self-reflective, meditative space. The series itself is titled Sentient, directly opening up the work to a channel of emotional conversation, each piece taking the sentiment a little further. For example; The Inner Balance of Things, which features a delicately faded pink rock floating through a soft clouded sky; The Appearance of Quiet Restraint, which focuses on a triumphant looking boulder with small, seemingly measly mountains in the background; or Maybe We Look Like This Inside, which displays a fleshy, internal-organ-esque looking rock hovering over an empty, gray landscape. These titles add a very honest, almost painfully personal aspect to the work, hinting that these pieces act as depictions of an internal space; it is as if she is allowing the viewer into her most personal contemplative thoughts. Through pairing each painting to titles such as these, Ashley Eliza Williams proves her work to be a genuine thoughtful reflection on being human. (Via Booooooom)
Chilean artist Santiago Salvador Ascui paints melodic, colorful arrays of pattern-like assembled people. His careful lines, bright use of color, and charmingly hand painted perfection is reminiscent of work from the Mission School movement, specifically the paintings of Margaret Kilgallen and Chris Johanson. While having the playfulness of the “new folk” work of the 1990s, his work is also informed by a strict systematic structure. His pieces function almost as color studies, guiding the eye through the placement of hue, rather than, as most figurative paintings would, narrative. As he falls in and out of saturation, his work sometimes seems to mimic the cycle of the moon. He arranges his figures in sequences, perhaps forming the aesthetic of Josef Frank meets Josef Albers.
Though the work is aesthetically joyful and decorative, his use of repetition and unification through tonality also speaks to a certain aspect of conformity and monotony. He speaks about the work as a pictorial representation of consumer culture. During the digestion of each piece, the viewer cannot help but to see every figure as the same. The patterned pieces create a true sense of identity-less beings; as if to say that everyone is within the same cycle, drawn into the same pattern (if you will), and unlinked to any sense of individuality. However, Santiago Salvador Ascui’s work also draws an important question; when does the need to be different begin to silence the need to be the same? Despite the burden of a plastic society, perhaps the unification of all figures is actually, in a sense, a positive message. (Via The Jealous Curator and Artishock)
Documentary photographer Cristina de Middel’s striking new series, This is What Hatred Did, displays a collection of beautifully cinematic photographs that bend the boundary between reality and magic. Her photographs are both playful, yet inherently insightful. The series acts as a photographic narrative of Amos Tutuola’s book, “My Life in the Bush of Ghosts,” a novel loosely based on Yoruba folklore. Written in child’s prose, the book follows a 5 year old Nigerian child whose village was attacked by soldiers, leaving him without his mother, and provoking him to flee in order to avoid the chaos. He manages to find his way into a magical bush where no humans are allowed. The novel follows him for 30 years, during which he achieves many states of being. Tutuola’s book, published in 1964, caused him to flee the country due to a violent reaction, leading him to open a new path for African literature. Cristina de Middel explains the series; she states:
“The series “This Is What Hatred Did” (derived from the mysterious last sentence of the book) aims to provide an illustrated contemporary version of the book, adapting the characters, and ambiance to the current situation of the country. The “Bush” is now the Lagosian neighborhood of Makoko, a floating slum with its own rules, commanded by Kings and community leaders, often the subject of popular media coverage. A place where logic does not prevail and forbidden for those who do not belong. With the conviction that contemporary issues should be described in a way that includes the agent’s traditions, perspectives, fears, and hopes, this series documents the enhanced reality of one of the most iconic places in Nigeria.”
Cristina de Middel, a spanish born artist now living on London, is known for her important, self-published photo book, The Afronauts, 2012.