You may remember the murder of French filmmaker/ photojournalist Christian Poveda in 2009, following the release of his documentary La Vida Loca, which depicted the lives and inner workings of gangs in El Salvadore. These very same gang members are now the subject of artist Renato Garza Cervera’s latest work “Of Genuine Contemporary Beast” depicts the MS-13 and MS-18 gangs in a series of hyper realist skin rugs. In this series, he depicts gang members in such a way that we are accustomed to seeing animals such as bears and, by doing so, he plays upon the notions of beasts and fear of such beasts.
His work offers a series of harshly realistic rugs and severed heads whose accuracy makes you question their nature. The “skins” of the gang members are splayed out, wit the heads included in order to make a sort of “gang skin rug”. His depiction of members of these specific gangs comes with a deeper ethical message in the sense that it allows us to determine the parameters of our definition of “beast”, such as we do with regards to wild animals and other aspects of nature.
In this thought provoking series, Cervera is underlining what he refers to as the “ world-wide scapegoating process”, and by this he aims to point our the ways in which certain minorities and groups are viewed as “dispensable people”.He allows us to examine a societal problem and, to a larger extent the ways in which we blame and sometimes demonize the things we do not understand.
Discovering Stephanie Calvert’s artwork is entering her world of shame. To break free from the memories left from her childhood, the feeling of discomfort due to her parent’s hoarding and her denial through all these years; she has come up with large sculptures on which she accumulates the symbols of her heavy past.
Stephanie Calvert was raised in a school house in the middle of a prairie in Colorado. With no electricity or hot water, she grew up feeling embarrassed of her living situation. Her parents were hoarders, piling up junk in every corner of the house. After she, her siblings and parents left their home town to pursue their life, the school house was left abandoned, in the middle of the prairie.
The artist eventually moved back for a while to explore the house ruins and the deep hole it had created inside of her. White taking care of her mother who had encountered a severe bike accident, Stephanie Calvert decided she needed to rekindle with her family, therefore her past. This process meant that she would have to dig into herself and face the feelings she had avoided during all these years. She went back to the school house and lived there, back to her childhood lifestyle. She then started to create, paint, collage and carve; letting out harsh feelings on the canvas. The sculptures are the expression of her past, shame and hope. They imitate the hoards she witnessed, although this time they represent the future, a message of promise and optimism to the ones that can relate to her story.
Off the coast of Hinoba-an in the Negros Islands region of the Philippines, artist Azuma Makoto has constructed a floating, 13-foot-tall bouquet of Heliconia flowers and banana leaves. Shimmering against the ocean horizon in stark contrasts of red, green, and blue, the installation rises like a paradisiac mirage. Entitled “In Bloom #2,” the project juxtaposes terrestrial environments with the sea, bringing art and floral life where there would otherwise be open space. The following artist’s statement describes the construction and context of the art-island:
“A 4-meters long botanical sculpture consist[ing] of approximately 10,000 red Heliconia [was] installed on a simple raft used by the local fisherman. With nothing block[ing] the harsh sunlight, blown by salted water, the sculpture of flowers quietly floated in the cobalt blue ocean. The ocean accounts [for] 70% of the surface of the earth, and therefore it created [a] magnificent stage for the project.” (Source)
Following “Exobiotanica” — an exceptional project wherein Azuma sent boticanical arrangements into the stratosphere — “Bloom #2” demonstrates his creative goal to explore the visual and thematic effects of putting flowers in “environments where nature does not allow them to exist” (Source). The result is a detached form of beauty. Azuma’s work brings up questions of nature and place, and, by doing so, fosters an appreciation for the Earth’s harsh, disparate, and yet ultimately connected environments.
The nightmarish sculptures of Italian artist Sasha Vinci are both alluring and unsettling. With the human body often being his subject, his work portrays a sense of longing, a palpable sense of a tormented soul. Having work with titles like The Eternal Wait and You Are Here You Exist, the suffering of human existence is strongly felt. Ripe with emotion, his mutated figures look for a sense of belonging in the world. His fleshy subjects seem to have skin that melts off their feet and hands, binding the two together. Vinci’s subjects are trapped by means of their own body, perhaps a metaphor for humanity’s own self-destructive nature.
Although monochromatic, we can almost see the color of flesh and blood absent in many of his sculptures. In his artwork titled The Eternal Wait, the drips of flesh coming down from the entire body add an intensely graphic, carnal element that is extremely alarming. We cannot see the face in this or any of Sasha Vinci’s figures, adding another layer of isolation to these already lonely creatures. One of Vinci’s more disturbing sculptures is The Hung, where a person’s body, or what’s left of it, is being hung. The body has been disfigured, with half of its limbs missing from its faceless body. The artist’s work forms a truly ominous atmosphere that draws you in while at the same time chilling you to the bone. Sasha Vinci, being a multi-talented artist, also creates work in mediums such as installations, performance, painting, drawing, and writing.
(via Hi Fructose)
The artist Kim Jae Il is playing a game, using a make-believe print effect to entice the eyes to get lost into the pattern; voluptuous lines of textured round drops running on the canvas. This is the beautiful visual Kim Jae Il is giving us. If watched from far awaythe viewer is mesmerized by the scenery, colored water bubbles creating a spiral, loosing itself within the white background.
The bubbles seen are in fact the opposite of a texture. They are the result of an image incised into a surface, the negative space accentuating the hollow shape. This technique is called intaglio. It’s a print technique where the lines to be printed are cut into the base material. Kim Jae Il is using three dimensional sculptural expressions blended with two dimensional pictorial expressions. The cubic and plane layers are meant to push forward the perspective and fabricate an optical illusion.
Kim Jae Il’s intention is to turn the most ordinary into a dynamic mode. Using the motion as a vanished mirage; leaving a vague trace that can only be remembered. The artist wants to “engrave his own vestige”. He gracefully invites us to dig into his art, not just to admire it from far. Because like this vibrating world that we are living in, there’s more that can be decrypted.
Tip Toland is an artist known for creating hyperrealistic, larger-than-life sculptures that confront the viewer with issues pertaining to identity and the body. We featured her in 2012, focusing on the aspects of her work that explored age, vulnerability, and death—material (and often stigmatized) states that have profound effects on personal psychologies. Characterizing her sculptures are combinations of clay, pastel, paint, and synthetic hair that create beautifully and uncomfortably real simulations of human anatomy.
In the years since then, Toland has continued to push the boundaries and create sculptures driven by important social messages. Featured here are various works: “Echo” (2014-15), “Africa,” and the “Africa Child” series (2014). “Echo” recalls many of Toland’s previous works: a nude, elderly woman appears to breathe deeply while her clouded eyes gaze skyward. What is most moving about this sculpture is the peace that emanates from her expression and figure; death and age are not feared, but rather accepted as states of near-transcendence.
“Africa” and “Africa Child” delve into more political territory, provoking questions pertaining to race, prejudice, and systems of objectification and “otherness.” “Africa” depicts a black woman awakening to an unseen problem, concern visible in her eyes. The “Africa Child” series involves five portraits of children with albinism, portraying—with astounding intricacy and realism—their expressions of fear and sadness. Explaining her motivations for “Africa Child,” Toland describes the extreme prejudice and violence enacted against those with this genetic condition in Tanzania:
“In Tanzania, horrific acts of mutilation have been taking place due to prejudice, ignorance, and superstition. According to lore, people with albinism are viewed as ghosts or bad omens. Despite this delusion, indigenous shamans have conjured up magical potions from body parts to bring wealth and good luck. Potions have been used in a variety of contexts: gold miners have poured them on the ground and fishermen have poured them on their nets or in their canoes. Living people are attacked and mutilated for their arms, legs, hair, genitalia, and blood. Ultimately the bottom line from these superstitions and prejudices is economic—in a country in which the average annual income is less than $450, a limb from a person with albinism can bring anywhere from $500 to $2,000.” (Source)
Certainly, Toland’s work challenges its audience, asking that the viewers acknowledge and examine systems of oppression and the violence occurring in Africa. But, as Kaiya Gordon astutely asks for the Pioneer Log, “What authority does Toland have to ‘inform’ viewers about a practice happening in Tanzania?” (Source) And how can we ensure that the viewer’s engagement is not one based in misinformation and unintentional, internalized systems of objectification? The pamphlet accompanying Toland’s 2014 exhibition at the Portland Art Museum states a progressive objective, deeming the works “portraits of horror that serve to inform Toland’s audience and, potentially, motivate them to take action” (Source). Trust, then, is left in the viewer to recognize—through the process of their own seeing—practices of “othering” and, by deconstructing these practices, foster a form of empathy and action that is not rooted in cultural assumptions.
Artist Nate Stewart has been using his medical background as an intensive care nurse to apply intense precision to sheets of paper. The result is a series of stunning paper sculptures full of intricate details, shapes, and angles. Stewart states that his process includes blade, which he uses to “carve, fold, and sculpt the paper.” This combined with his medical precision make for beautiful and original sculptures that each tell stories of their own.
The angular details of these paper sculptures are fascinating in their architectural structure and the use of paper as a medium, not to paint or draw on, but as the material being sculpted adds to their magic. Stewart explains that his work reflects the different aspects of life approaching elements like growth, disease processes, and decay. He cuts into the paper with a surgical precision that merges art and science in a most fascinating way. Stewart has managed to take his knowledge of the various processes and steps of life, death, and disease and has applied them to blank sheets of paper. By doing so, he has given new life to the paper and has extended its use beyond that of being a platform for other types of art. With these sculptures, paper is the medium and the message.
Stewart’s art has recently been in an exhibition with artist Li Hongbo’s work, he has also shown his work at SCOPE with Rush Arts and the Bombay Sapphire Artisan Series. His work will be making its way to AQUA and Art Basel later this year.
The world of Chu Teppa is magical. She recalls memories from her childhood and from those she creates mythological goddesses. Among the seven dolls forming the family, there’s Cîz, Goddess of light, predictions and hope riding her swan and leading a bottled frog; Dvü, Goddess of inspiration and fertility with her cat nose and Hyê Goddess of maternity, kindness and antics holding two pigs and wearing a pig nose herself.
Each doll is white, a color dear to Chu Teppa which, according to her, brings peace and comfort. Interested in the expression of feelings and emotions, she uses white as a mask, a layer that helps forget worries. In opposition, the touch of vivid colors symbolizes life as joy and pain. Wanting to design tender sculptures, the artist nevertheless claims that imperfection is part of being human and that it shouldn’t be forgotten. If color has a strong meaning in the art of Chu Teppa, the 3 lettered names of the goddesses are even more relevant. The number three, according to the artist, is an expression of artistic expression, vital optimism and abundance.
The artist is sensible to the duality between clarity and darkness. Two concepts that are identified by almost everyone and part of their mission “to transcend into eternal light as we evolve”. Through her fantasy universe, her goddesses and her symbols, Chu Teppa suggests an introspection of the combination of agony and its polar opposite, pleasure.