Michael Burnett, renowned skate photographer extraordinare, has taken many of the iconic photographs that come to mind when thinking of greats such as Tom Penny and John Cardiel. However, taking a great skateboarding photograph is a much different task than photographing the people above the skateboard. His portraits of suburban kids sprawling for free t-shirts and familiar faces removed from their territory tell a different story- often the much more interesting one.
Jessica Ward has a brilliantly dark mind. The majority of her work is black and white, which really helps to maintain her macabre aesthetic. The nature of her drawings feel sexual and violent, while tempting and frightening the viewer. She has an interesting series of drawings that depicts deities of various eating disorders. According to her bio, Jessica has struggled with eating disorders herself, so the diety series comes from a very personal place.
These installations of Jason Peters began with garbage. While driving he spotted many of these buckets – the five gallon type often found in hardware stores. Soon Peters had collected hundreds of them. His installations utilize these buckets to form huge winding installations. The stacked buckets snake through large gallery spaces lit from within. In his statement, he says of his work:
“By using large multiples of discarded items in repeating designs that establish unexpected patterns, societal cast offs are made beautiful through the alliteration of form. Once removed from their traditional context, the objects’ interaction with the environment becomes unpredictable and unstable”
Dara Scully is a Spanish writer and photographer who captures dark, poetic scenes verging on fairy tale and myth. Nude figures inhabit the faded forests. Esoteric rituals transpire on quiet leaf beds. Death is present in the form of insects, prone bodies, and bleeding wounds, and rebirth occurs as birds escape their abandoned cages. As beautiful and graceful as Scully’s images is her creative biography, which reveals her sylvan, literary essence:
“Forest creature, winter girl. I like birches and aspen leaves. In my other life, I was a white deer, a fox, or a swallow. I’ve never flown. I drink milk tea and my favorite word is chrysalis. My heart belongs to Chopin and my body to the horses, but I’ve never ridden any. I read Jaeggy, Nabokov, Duras, and Müller. I read because it saves me. […] If I have to choose a sound, I’d say: the wind shaking the branches of the trees. Or rain. I always wear dresses and man shoes. I [have] written since I was thirteen. I’m afraid of moths. I have six moles in my pale chest.” (Source)
The power of conceptual photographers like Scully lies in the ability to tell stories in a single frame. Just as she encapsulates an entire sensorial experience in the above paragraph, each photo is a compressed narrative overflowing with hidden meaning and an emotional presence—the innocence of youth, the pain of growing, the sorrow of death. Blending reality with fiction, Scully employs subtly powerful symbols—such as the dead birds—to speak their meaning. Deeply subjective, her ambiguous scenes allow the viewer to instill their own significance.
Illustrator Mark Todd has had work in publications like McSweeneys and The New York Times, and is now collaborating with Mishka for a show in New York. “Power Fury!” opens on April 15th at 350 Broadway in Brooklyn and runs through May 13th.
Ryan Lake’s seamless blend of traditional and digital techniques create loose narratives of characters caught in a world of their own. My favorite works are his ongoing series series of images dealing with boredom in the suburbs which is a theme I can relate to. Being bored in the burbs was one of the main reasons I started Beautiful/Decay! If you like Ryan’s work make sure to pick up a copy of the Beautiful/Decay: Underdogs book which features Ryan’s work.
Thomas Mailaender’s creative use of sunburns in his project “Illustrated People” combines the surface of the human body with already existing negatives of photographs to create stunning and unusual results. His project consists essentially of manufacturing sunburns: he does this by placing negatives on his subjects bodies, and shining a UV light on the designated area. The light from the lamp shines onto the subject’s skin and, around the negatives in such a way that the image from the negative is reproduced. This method yields fascinating results that draw your attention, not only because of the photographs on display, but also the way he transforms the sheer pain of sunburn into a work of art themselves.
His juxtaposition of human bodies and other people’s lives makes for a sort of temporary tattoo, where the subjects carry the story of a stranger on their bodies. This project is truly beautiful in both its conceptual and physical form in the way that it joins human lives both past in present in a single work of art. The use of a natural element, albeit artificially inflicted in this case, such as UV rays in combination with the man made element of photography adds another dimension to the artwork and depicts human bodies as both artwork and creators of art. The temporary nature of the sunburn is also fascinating in its own respect: once it disappears, so will the photographs, giving the process of regeneration of skin an active role in this piece.