Monday, August 29, 2011

Walter Potter

As we move further into the 21st century, it becomes obvious that as a culture, we are at a loss as to how to deal with mortality, to the point where we'd rather hide that fact behind the beauty of innovation, surgery, and media than face it as the only definite truth to our humanity. A hundred years ago, one winter could wipe out one's entire family, and the idea of death was a local, personal idea that was not shied away from. Our move away from this can be seen in the near extinction of funerals held at home, the antagonization of people who kill animals for food, and more interestingly, the demise of the taxidermist. If you have some country cousins, you may have encoutnered the eternally-bored disembodied deer head, or in my family's case--the striking rattlesnake under the glass coffee table, perfectly preserved for whatever reason. While I've previously showcased some modern taxidermy art by Sarina Brewer, recently I was introduced to the grandfather of modern taxidermy art, English artist, Walter Potter. He made most of his morbidly cute little assemblages at the height of the Victorian era when people would put these weird things under glass domes in their sitting rooms (no shit), and they really speak for themselves. If you can get over where this guy got his hundreds of dead kittens, guinea pigs, owls, frogs, and squirrels, each piece is weirdly whimsical and interesting, and incredibly detailed.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Deborah Butterfield

There's nothing that can express the duality of domestication like the horse. They are powerful, spirited, amazing animals capable of incredible feats of majesty and unrestrained force and beauty. At the same time, most of their species exists in the humble service of man, willing to run and work until their backs are broken, or they collapse in death from the struggle against the reigns. This makes the mercurial works of Deborah Butterfield so magical. With each piece, made from metal castings of driftwood and scrap, she encapsulates so many different facets of the life of horses, from their most powerful to their most mundane. Each piece has a life all its own, and a personality that is befitting of its title, which instead of giving glory to the artist, are mostly names that breath life into the memory of these amazing beasts.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Laurie Lipton

Surrealist art is probably one of the easiest types of art for anyone to make. None of the content really has to make sense (maybe not even to the artist) and any lack of artistic talent can be explained by "stylistic experimentation". However, if you take a stroll through the pages of DeviantArt, and after sifting through all the paintings of furries, you'll find that surrealist art also probably one of the hardest genres to actually do well. As much as art teachers want to say surrealist work is all about juxtaposition-- you know,like putting a train in a fireplace , or this thing, the truth is, the surrealist works that really capture the human imagination are not those about objects, but about atmosphere. Works of artists like Salvador Dali or HR Geiger transport you to an unseen world that exists in each of our subconscious, places we only witness in our dreams, and only return to in unsettling moments of deja vu. While good surrealist art can unsettle you from your moors, the best can force you to question the nature of your own perceptions of reality. I find the works of Laurie Lipton to fall into the latter category. Her works, mostly in pencil, are driven by an intense sense of unease, and each has a morbid atmosphere that is delightful in its unrest. While most of her works surround two themes, the eternally trite and ever important events of birth and death, the melding of these ideas lends for an interesting and morbid appraisal of the human condition.

All of these works and more by Laurie Lipton can be found at her website:

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Jenny Odell

In this day and age, the ubiquity of satellite imagery has left the realm of science fiction, and has moved into the commonplace. As a child of the nineties, I remember revelling in the fear experienced by characters in movies as they tried to escape the ever seeing eye of Big Brother, how something hundreds of miles away in space can pinpoint a zit on your face, and then pop it with a nuclear weapon. Today, however, with the advent of things like Google Earth, these world images are as part of our human condition as radio, print, or television. In this respect, it also has the potential, like these other media, to used as a venue for artistic expression. This is where the art of Jenny Odell comes in. While simple in composition, the items and places in her collages found on Google Earth range from the odd to the mindlessly mundane, but never lose their visual interest. Each piece reminds us of the enormity of our human biome, and the physical mark that we leave with our love of parking lots, baseball fields, swimming pools, and landfills. However you feel about the implications of these facts, Odell's work forces us to reexamine our world from a different view, which is more than most people can say they've done before their second coffee on a Tuesday morning.

 Baseball Fields

 Basketball Courts

 Landfills (my favorite)

 Empty Parking lots




Swimming Pools

Silos and Water towers

All of these works and more can be found at Jenny Odell's website: