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Collage by Jane Windsor

Jane Windsor creates lovely three-dimensional collages assembled from historical, natural, and occult imagery. Pastel and lush, elegant and precise, these collages display a delicate playfulness with aesthetic finesse. Arch ladies of yesteryear, their dimpled hands and upturned eyes, combine with symbolically sinister animals such as ravens, foxes, rams, and rabbits, as well as flowers, mushrooms, and other tokens of memento mori, objects of growth and decay, luxury and rot. An exhibition of her new works will be showing at the Ghost Gallery in Seattle from July 7th through August 8th.

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Theeth Jewelry

Mushrooms entwined with crystals and small animals are the signature of Theeth Jewelry, hand-crafted by Portland artist Kimi Kaplowitz. These unusually beautiful and intricately delicate pieces are brilliant in design and marvelously executed. Macabre, lovable, unique, with the little imperfections born of the process that make them more astonishingly memorable, they are cast from original specimens and tiny things, spiders, cicadas, serpents, mantises, ferns, and the omnipresent mushrooms with their fragile striated gills. The resulting dear objects are odd, captivating, and spectacularly special.

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Infernal Physics: The Art of Daniel Martin Diaz

Arizona-based Daniel Martin Diaz depicts a strange, whimsical, and curious blend of scientific and philosophical concepts in his graphite drawings and paintings. His fascination with anatomy, biology, cosmology, quantum physics, and metaphysics comes across in his works, full of an obscure and awed humor. He draws inspiration from old scientific diagrams, which, notwithstanding their utilitarian intent, he finds very beautiful. These bastardizations and quaint amalgamations of disparate themes, esoterica and bygone sciences, the secular and the sacrosanct, give off a sense of wonder pertaining to the universe and all beyond the seen realm, conveying an intimation of layers upon layers of worlds and modes of knowledge.

Aliens, UFOs, Hermetics, viruses, Soviet spacecraft, cathedrals, medieval Christianity, Madonnas, death’s-head moths, sovereigns and memento mori, and the recondite elegance of physics diagrams, all combine in a panoply of visual information and expression. Diaz says of art that “It tries to dissect what is yet unimaginable, give value to the valueless, and meaning to what it is to be human.” The eccentricity and fusion of antique beauty and arcane knowledge in his work reminds me of the wondrous quasi-historical and -scientific imagery to be found at The Museum of Jurassic Technology in Culver City. This form of imaginative alternative-history-making is exactly to my taste, an exercise as much intellectual as it is aesthetic.

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Sparrow and Anemone: Illustrations by Ash Miyagawa

Chicago-based artist/graphic designer Ash Miyagawa takes inspiration from botany, magic, and the natural world. Her delicate illustration style with its graceful dotwork and shading conveys a palpable sense of wonder for plant and animal life, for all the beauties of nature. Herbs, flowers, crystals, bird skulls, snake skeletons, beetles, mushrooms, celestial bodies, and themes of magical lore are threaded throughout her art. Ash seeks to “tread the liminal spaces between science and magic.” Her design and branding work is also phenomenal.

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Dylan Garrett Smith

Dylan Garrett Smith uses ashes, chalk-lead, and black cotton rag paper in his illustrations which depict occultism intertwined with the natural world and memento mori. There are haunting, lovely images of ram skulls writhing with a living mass of snakes, of small human hands protruding from the bones of a decaying goat, bearing branches. Ruminants, foxes, and birds are transmogrified by corruption, bloom, and the interlacing with other beings, along with the ever-present serpent. This surreal subject matter is rendered in a careful, vivid style, the white strokes intense against the dark paper.

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Anastasis: The Transcendent Art of Agostino Arrivabene

The surreal, mystical, and exquisite artwork of Agostino Arrivabene never ceases to amaze me. In his lambent dreamlike style, the otherworldly and the unearthly are depicted with the painstaking detail and techniques of classical art. I believe he is one of the best artists working today – his paintings have an unsurpassable beauty, showing a masterly quality that is nothing short of virtuosic and inspired. He has also really perfected his art and vision over the past several years.

Arrivabene’s work evokes the Old Masters and Renaissance painting, hybridized with a modern style which transforms venerable images into uncanny things, combining religious iconography with a strange surrealism. His pieces have a numinous, glowing spiritual quality, focusing on the human form imbued with a sense of divinity. There are also landscapes which are colossal in scope and sublimity. These forms often have parasitic or symbiotic growths upon their limbs and faces – they are in the process of being overrun and eventually overtaken by this inhuman accretion. The Madonnas and Christs of his creation appear to be merging with iridescent and nacreous, strange alien flora, becoming a new form of bodily and spiritual life – a concomitant death and resurrection. It does not seem necessarily sinister, but is certainly dark, profound, and unfathomable.

The decaying, rot-eaten textures of the paint also lend to the antique air of his works, as if these were artworks of a realm immeasurably distant in the future, being rescued from the obscurity of its ancient past. Arrivabene’s is an alien, primal religious world, which is constantly transformed by preternatural forces – organic matter with an ethereal dimension. The themes bring to mind the mythology and sense of indescribable mystery of Jeff VanderMeer’s Southern Reach novels (and the film adaptation of Annihilation). His visions are encrusted and endlessly elaborated with an organically baroque beauty, forms developed by a nature unknown to us, rather than by human artifice. I love the luminous colors, and the incredible detail – overall his oeuvre exudes a delicacy and subtlety which is truly otherworldly. It perhaps portrays the ecstatic agony of alien saints.

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The Inner Cathedral: The Exquisite Dolls of Mari Shimizu

The ethereal creations of Mari Shimizu are hauntingly beautiful and impossibly detailed. Shimizu crafts elaborate ball-jointed dolls which possess an angelic appearance of purity and seem haloed by their tragic suffering. The figures are saints, martyrs, Madonnas, and vampires emanating an aura of innocence overshadowed by affliction. Many of them contain intricately carved Gothic arches, chapels, or even miniature Gardens of Eden within their torsos – the most delicately beautiful element of her works. These hollowed-out cavities of the architecture of anatomy are inhabited by demons and angels, homunculi, scenes evoking Hieronymus Bosch’s Garden of Earthly Delights, as well as antique cabinets of curiosities. Combining biblical themes with her love of historical fashion, Mari Shimizu’s doll sculptures are like three-dimensional paintings with as much detail and subtlety as that medium, in their small-scale, inner paradises and hells.

The roughly 2-foot dolls are characterized by both captivating realism and disturbing surreality. Their unnnerving, almost obscene quality reminds me of the doll projects of Hans Bellmer, an inspiration of Shimizu’s. Working with traditional Japanese materials, Shimizu forms the heads and limbs out of papier-mache or clay, and the hair is made with goat’s hairs or silk threads.

Reminiscent of Anatomical Venuses, these entrancingly lovely, dolorous ladies have a wasted, spiritual look and sometimes are even dissectible/vivisected, with removable organs. The lacy decay of some of their figures, with spots in their flesh as if eaten through by decomposition, exposing ribs and inner cavities, is touched with a melancholy, morbid sensuality. Their bodies seem to be both the sacrifice and the altar upon which they are sacrificed. Also intriguing are the sculptures that represent dryads of the dead, human-tree hybrids seemingly overtaken by decay and strange growths of skulls and corpse-like beings.

These fragilely beautiful girls, with their air of adolescent bloom, at the same time give the impression of being catacombs containing hordes of the dead and decomposing. Thus, they are always both radiant and dark. Although they seem like the miraculously preserved and incorrupt bodies of saints, they have a breath of the crypt. I particularly love the Death and the Maiden-themed pieces which vividly depict the juxtaposition between a young girl in the bloom of youth and the macabre specter of Death, giving shape to a figure that seems literally torn between youthful beauty and grim dissolution. One of these is currently available for sale on Akatako, as well as one of her anatomical girls, in a violin case.

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Monique Motil’s Miniature Marvels

The very eerie and very elegant creatures of Monique Motil are assemblaged from a variety of organic and synthetic materials, including bones, beads, textiles, and animal body parts. Attired in exquisite, fanciful costumes which are meticulously crafted, rich brocades and velvets, embroidery, and beadwork, each one-of-a-kind creation presents a persona combining the historical and the present, the live and the dead, the human and the animal.

With a sense of the dramatically uncanny, these aristocrats of the macabre, beautiful apparitions, avian or mink, beaver or cat skull-headed, carry out an endless mourning. They are pervaded with a sense of agedness, which is soaked into the richness and detail of their garments, and have all the delicacy of the most fragile and lovely dolls, without their quality of preciousness.

Instead, these creatures exude a foreboding sense of being timeless, deathless, ruthless executors of justice, vessels of past vengeances, long-carried grudges and dark passions. With their cruel claws, their magisterial dignity, their lace and fripperies, Monique’s hybrid creations embody haunting gracefulness on a small scale. Monique Motil also designs shadowboxes, assemblages, headdresses, and other artistic artifacts.

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Black Veil Studio

Black Veil Studio comprises a team of identical twin brothers who are tattooists and artists, based in Salem, Massachusetts. Their work is inspired by their fascination with Victorian mourning etiquette/culture and the rich lore of their ancient city. The resulting imagery is lovely and often disturbing. The vacant, fixed eyes of the spectral female figures gracefully haunting their work convey a subtle horror, and witches, demons, spiders, bats, crescent moons, New England colonial houses abound in their illustrations. The macabre panoply of images which merge beauty with eeriness make for arrestingly picturesque tattoo designs. Prints, candles, and sundry goods are available from their Shoppe of Drear and Wonder.

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Julie Heffernan’s Surreal Historical Portraits: Worlds/Selves On Fire

Julie Heffernan creates delightful, gorgeously rich portraiture which is a sly twist on historical art. Evocative of Renaissance, Baroque, and Rococo paintings, her works feature a bursting profusion of flowers, trees, vines, fruits, animals, cities, gemstones, and fires in varying scales. Landscapes like visions, so shimmeringly lovely and ethereal, alternate with classical nudes surrounded by prodigious masses of flora and fauna, as well as portraits of high society dripping with luxurious ostentation. The colors are sometimes amazingly vibrant, the reds almost painfully beautiful. Heffernan combines a masterly technique with irony and surrealism in a super-encrusted, elaborated, and enameled style that synthesizes many genres and periods of painting. These metaphorical self-portraits and portrayals of an opulent and decaying world represent the trail of disaster, the constant crises, small fires catching on the exquisite hems of ladies’ gowns…in short, the picturesque carnage of a society in decline.

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