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Tip Toland’s Hyperrealistic Sculptures Confront Us With Complex Questions Of Race And Prejudice



African Teen with Albinism

African Teen with Albinism

African Child with Albinism 4

African Child with Albinism 4

African Child with Albinism 1

African Child with Albinism 1

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.

Click here to view more of Toland’s work.

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Seth Alverson’s Grotesque Paintings Of Deformed And Severed Body Parts


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Artist Seth Alverson paints the body in a realistic fashion, but not in a way that looks aesthetically appealing. Severed hands, bizarre contortions, and skin linked together like a sausage casing are just some of the ways he’s depicted the figure. It stands in stark contrast to the Old Masters traditions of life-like renderings, which are all about idealizing and hiding flaws. Instead they’re in-your-face in a way that it’s hard to look away from.

There’s a range of grotesqueness, from detached body parts (bloody ends and all) to oversized hands, and finally to things that aren’t shameful, but our society dictates they are. This includes cellulite on thick legs or sagging breasts. They seem to mock the airbrushed media and when compared with Alverson’s other more ghastly alternatives, definitely aren’t as bad. (Via Hi Fructose)

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Jonathan Allen


Tommy Angel is Jonathan Allen’s bible-thumping alter ego, whose cheezy 70’s kitsch performances blend “miracles” culled from Christendom, Joke-shop magic and art’s own hall of mirrors alike. Drawing parallels between faith and illusion, conceit and deception, religion and slight of hand, Allen raises complex issues surrounding the nature of spectacle and its myriad applications across history.

Zines & Books Galore!


It’s always fun getting zines, books, and artist editions in the mail. Recently we got a cornucopia of goodies in the mail so we thought we’d share.

1. Jammer SlammerMakeout Creek Books

R. Nicholas Kuszyk and his gang of robots have been part of the B/D family since the beginning. You’re probably used to his massive murals painted all over the world but from time to time Mr. Kusyzk puts down the spray paint and paint brushes to do a bit of publishing.  His new book Jammer Slammer is part robot comic book part epic futuristic philosophical musings.

2. The Rattling WallNarrow Books

Our good buddies at Narrow Books have teamed up with PEN Center USA to bring you this ongoing literary journal featuring sophisticated short fiction, travel essays, and poetry alongside cutting edge illustrations by  Albert Reyes and B/D’s very own Lyndsey Lesh. Get both of their current releases here.

3. Esther Pearl Watson & Mark Todd ZinesFun Chicken

Illustration guru couple Easther Pearl Watson & Mark Todd recently handed over a small mountain of their zines, books, and stickers over to me. They have too many titles to list here so just head over to their shop and stock up now!



Pearl C. Hsiung


LA based artist Pearl C. Hsiung paints out-of-this-world scenes that are just breath taking. It’s almost like you are entering a surrealist realm.  A lot of her work incorporates heavy use of spray paint and stencils. Her latest series, Never Ends, will be showing at the Steve Turner Contemporary later this year. It will show case her newest painting, installations, and video art.

Richard Nicholson’s Last One Out, Please Turn On The Light

As digital technology takes over analog traditions it becomes harder to keep alive the tried and true methods of yesteryear. Case in point, analog photography. This is why British photographer Richard Nicholson began documenting the few remaining professional dark rooms in London before they  all slowly disappeared and were replaced with high resolution digital cameras and massive digital printers. Will these labs one day only live in history museums and through the work of such photographers such as Richard? Only time will tell.

Benjamin Lowy’s iPhone Revolution In Libya

It’s amazing how technology changes the way we view and document the world. Case in point, Professional photojournalist Benjamin Lowy’s blog of  iPhone photos.  Benjamin’s photos of the revolution in Libya give us an intimate look into the peoples struggles to gain their freedom and break away from the regime of Gaddafi. Here is what Benjamin had to say about his blog: ” This blog is part of a project borne during my travels as a professional photojournalist. For years, I have worked with bulky digital cameras, always mindful of the technical maneuvers from setting the shutter speed and aperture to editing and toning on a computer screen. In the last two years I have discovered that my iPhone has allowed me to capture scenes without feeling that I am once again on the job. To “point and shoot” has been a liberating experience. It has allowed me to rediscover the excitement of seeing imperfections and happy accidents rendered through the lens of my handheld device. I am able to create imagery, edit, and transmit all the images straight to this blog, creating a modern and efficient workflow for the most inefficient of pursuits – self expression.