Artists To Know

Artists To Know! Installment 6

Susan Saladino

In her bio on her webpage, Susan Saladino states that her work revolves around her belief that “we as humans have a kinship with all life”. In her series of sculptural figures, the series that first hooked me onto her work, they are made using materials from nature, and are often blindfolded. To Saladino, the blindfolds symbolizes humanity’s turning away from realities they find uncomfortable and would rather not face. She believes that the blindfolds must be removed to make the required changes, and that change must occur, especially as it comes to environmental conservation and animal cruelty. I am completely enamored with tree forms, which is why this series featuring the gowns made of branches caught my eye. This blindfolded woman looking up and away from the red bird she cradles could symbolize a variety of different things to different people, but to me, knowing the artist’s symbolic intent further increases my appreciation for her detailed and ethereal work.

Willy Verginer

Willy Verginer resides in Ortisei, Italy. He has been exhibiting his characteristic sculptures since the early 1990s. His exquisite figures carved out of lime tree wood are earmarked by solid color blocking against pale ivory, often with surreal touches. His sculptures interact, but their eyes never truly meet, and they can often be found with things growing from their hands, objects balanced on or connected to their bodies, or cut off at the torso or limbs and sinking into the floor as if it were made of liquid. The series the sculpture shown above is from is titled “a fior di pelle”, meaning “to flower of skin”. It is meant to describe hypersensitivity and to express the fragility of the youth and the ability to dream. Moving, calm, and eerily realistic, I would love to see some of his work in person someday.

Nicole West

I discovered this artist on pinterest, at first thinking her work was some really unique alternative fashion photography, and later learning oh my gosh, those aren’t photographs of real people but SCULPTURES! Is your mind as blown as mine was? Her gorgeous fantasy sculptures are made using polymer clay, and the perfect understanding of human form is apparent if you observe the perfected muscle tone down to the slight undulating in and out of the shape of the arm and the tiny indent in the elbow in the second photo above. As if the sculpting wasn’t amazing enough, each figure is adorned in luscious, detailed costuming including unique decorative jewelry and beyond fabulous hairstyles. Each has a dewy glow, so that it radiates human warmth and you’d be shocked to touch one and find it hard clay rather than soft, velvety skin.

Christina Robinson

I found Christina Robinson on etsy and was instantly intrigued by her whimsical, stylized figures that have a fun children’s book style cartoonishness to them but with a Tim Burton kind of twist. Really, no direct comparisons can be made though, because Robinson’s style is all her own. She paints as well, using the same playful colors and prominent faces with rather neutral expressiosn that still manage to say so much. Her bold, expressive style is certainly memorable.

Christy Kane

I don’t remember how I first discovered Christy Kane, but it was sometime in late high school. I remember ordering her short story book, a play on children’s morality tales including detailed photographs of her dolls posed to enact the sordid turn of events. Shortly thereafter, this short film came out.

Her dolls make up the true island of misfit toys. I love how they are not meant to be conventionally perfect and beautiful and everything you normally think of when you think of dolls, and I love the attention that is paid to each doll’s individual “story”. Each of them has a life, memories, experiences, likes and dislikes. That is truly giving your art life.

Kirsten Stingle

I discovered Kirsten Stingle on pinterest also. Her sculptures are primarily porcelain, and she uses a straight pin to detail the tiny faces, hands, and feet. Stingle is focused on storytelling, and believes our stories are what connects us to one another and explains who we are. She aims to combat isolation by presenting stories common to the human experience. This is something I value as well, and aim to do with my own work, so I really connect to her concept. I know I can relate to her figures struggling towards figuring out an arch for their life and forming their own identity; I suspect we all can.

I was left completely in awe of these artists. After a failed foray into paper mache in a summer art class (My “princess” turning out none to regal…), followed by a lumpy, bubbled copper ice skater I churned out for a project in junior high (I got a B on it! The calamity! Yes, I was one of those kids, but only in art class ;)) , I kind of shied away from sculpture. Forced to revisit it in college, I thought it would be amusing to share some of my projects of the 3-dimensional variety.

Miniature of the Library of Celcus in Ephesus. I thought it would be fun because I love books ... KILL ME NOW!

Miniature of the Library of Celcus in Ephesus. I thought it would be fun because I love books … KILL ME NOW!

We were supposed to make an abstract sculpture out of these little blob guys (balloons filled with plaster) that portrayed a tension between beauty and repulsion. I called this "Sisters". Alternate title, "A Very Angry Drag Queen" (note the feathers and nails).

We were supposed to make an abstract sculpture out of these little blob guys (balloons filled with plaster) that portrayed a tension between beauty and repulsion. I called this “Sisters”. Alternate title, “A Very Angry Drag Queen” (note the feathers and nails).

Just remember guys, nobody’s perfect ;). Keep working at your art and trying new things and you will find your niche. Don’t let fear of failure stop you from experimenting, taking new classes, learning new things … Many of our projects will not be successes but hell, at least you can have a good laugh about it later, right?

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Artists To Know

Artists To Know! Installment Two.

James Jean

James Jean is a double threat Taiwanese American artist – known equally well for both his commercial (DC Comics, ESPN, Prada, and Atlantic Records to name a few) and fine art gallery work. I know James Jean most from his arresting illustrations that grace the covers of Bill Willingham’s “Fables” graphic novel series. I am not one to ever keep up with series, but I cannot stop adding more of these books to my collection. Not only is the art obviously exquisite, but the stories are gripping, and the very reason I just cannot get into that “Once Upon A Time” TV show everyone is freaking out over – Same idea, but “Fables” is just so much better. Jean’s illustrations range from the ultra colorful to the monochromatic as featured below, but they all have a transparent, ghost-like quality to them that is just made for depicting fantasy characters, not fully “real” themselves. His website features a lot of his non-fables work, which was fascinating to see since I wasn’t as acquainted with it.

James Jean

Madge Gill

Madge Gill is not a current artist, being born in the late 1800s and passing in 1961. Though I usually highlight artists still working today, her primitive ink drawings drew me in the moment I first saw them. One of my workplaces had a couple-month-long focus on outsider art over the fall, which prompted me to want to learn more about the genre. Outsider art is literally art created by outsiders or untaught artists, art created outside the boundaries of official culture. I watched a documentary about outsider artists on youtube one evening, and Madge was one of the artists highlighted. She had a life filled with more hardship than many have to face. After delivering a stillborn child in 1920, one more painful life event, Madge claimed she had become inhabited by a spirit guide named Myrninerest. This connection continued throughout her life, and she would often go into trance like states, withdrawing more and more into herself. Though her detailed drawings of characteristic females; most of which took her only minutes at a time; continue to captivate viewers, it seems she never found peace. Near the end of her life, even her art-making had become a burden, more an obsessive-compulsion than a therapy. The biography on her website asks, “Are these in a sense self-portraits, or rather: attempts to stabilize her own fragile being, as it were through fleeting snapshots? Another reading equates the faces with Myrninerest, envisaged as the artist’s otherworldly alter ego, immune to the traumas of actual life.” (In the documentary, I noticed the alter ego’s name was pronounced as “My inner rest”, which would seem to suggest that the alter ego created as an escape or explanation for behavior she could not control is a plausible hypothesis). Her story is a sobering realization that although art helps us in coping with difficult emotions and can be a vital form of self-expression to those whose voices are stifled, creation alone is sometimes not enough, especially in isolation.

Madge Gill

Yayoi Kusama

I first saw Yayoi Kusama’s work at The Mattress Factory on a school trip to Pittsburgh (shown in the photo below). Though I wasn’t familiar with her at the time, this installation was my absolute favorite. Same as with Madge Gill, I learned about Yayoi Kusama through my outsider art documentary binge. A clip of a similar installation to the one I saw was shown in the film, and I suddenly realized “Oh my gosh, I’ve walked around inside her work before!” Also similar to Madge Gill, Yayoi Kusama has wrestled with psychological issues throughout her life, though her story has a far happier ending. Kusama began creating art with polka dot motifs as early as 10 years old, one of her first pieces a drawing of her mother with dots emanating from her portrait (Her mother was physically and emotionally abusive). She also began suffering hallucinations at an early age, seeing these dots everywhere, flowing towards her, in her own words trying to “obliterate” her. To date, many of her works include the words and themes of “self-obliteration”. In 1973, she checked herself into Seiwa Hospital for the Mentally Ill and still lives there to this day by choice, her studio nearby. Kusama has reached out, and come to enjoy the residents and staff and art continues to be a source of joy and purpose in her life. A creator of all trades (and master as well), she creates paintings, sculpture, installations, clothing and accessories, fashion editorials, films, and poetry and short stories all cloaked in her trademark surreal, ultra colorful, polka dot covered world.

Yayoi Kusama

Yayoi Kusama

Martine Johanna

Martine Johanna is a Dutch artist who started out in fashion design, but left the industry desiring more freedom to devote to her own work. The fashion influence is evident in her figure’s pose, gaze, and design. What I love most is how she sometimes leaves areas of pieces less developed to draw the viewer’s eyes to where she wants them to rest. If you look through the rest of her work as well, you will also see how she uses bold, bright colors you wouldn’t think of using for skin tones like blues and yellows to render her figures’ flesh. Bringing these natural undertones to the forefront gives her work an otherworldly quality that it is impossible to look away from, and highlights her imaginative nature.

Martine Johanna

Arabella Proffer

Google+ is a great place to discover artists as far as social media goes, and that is where I found Arabella Proffer. She was born in Ann Arbor, Michigan (woohoo, shout out to my home state, where I still reside) and now lives in Ohio (second shout out to where my parents are from and where most of my extended family still lives. I guess some cool art CAN come out of the midwest, huh?) – I thought that was pretty cool. Her work combines old school, aristocratic portraiture with pure 1980s punk rock and gothic culture. She also has an interest in medical history, remnants of which find their way into her work. The contrast of all these elements creates a tension that makes me want to get to know the fabulous women in her pieces, sit down and have a cup of coffee with them in their imaginary, velvet curtained living rooms – they all seem like so much fun.

Arabella Proffer

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