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Semi-Opaque Sleeper: The Art of Christina Bothwell

These extraordinary and peculiar sculptures by Christina Bothwell play with transparency, opacity, and the meanings conveyed by textural contrasts. Suffering seems to engrave the faces of her figures and to stamp its personality upon them. They have a naive simplicity along with their subtle symbolic tones. I have never seen sculptures quite like these before, and they are instantly distinctive and unforgettable. Her rendition of the sleeper using solid, opaque substance for the physical form and that lovely, occluded-glass material for the astral body or spirit is such a succinct, apt, and beautiful visual metaphor. Friendship, childhood, transformation, isolation, the aching love and expectancy of motherhood, the waking nightmares of life…everything within the shadowy depths of the vast human heart seems embodied in her bold yet delicate sculptures.

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Pan and the Maiden: Hand Embroidery by Adipocere

Melbourne-based embroidery artist Adipocere, whose exquisite fabric works I posted about previously, is a needlecrafter of a marvelous magnitude and takes this medium to a whole new level. These pieces are lovely, tender, humorous, macabre and subtly disturbing.

“Adipocere” refers to a wax-like organic substance which is formed by bacterial hydrolysis of body fat in corpses. A fitting pseudonym for this artist of the jauntily grotesque. Adipocere is a devotee of Surrealism and stop-motion animation (their favorite film being the stop-motion short The Street of Crocodiles by the Quay Brothers, based on the incandescent 1934 short story of the same title by Bruno Schulz), and experimented in other mediums before taking to needle and thread. Adipocere had their debut solo show, I do not exist, at the Beinart Gallery in Melbourne, Australia in December of 2017.

Danse macabre, Death and the Maiden, the occult, and similar themes inspire these stitched artworks on natural linen (and sometimes on the artist’s skin). The raven-haired maidens/witches of this delicate textile world go about partially eviscerated, cavort with giant black cats, are lovingly embraced or menaced by leering skeletons, or caught in webs in a complex, oft-ambiguous relationship between worshiper and idol, victim and destroyer. Spiders, moths, bats, skulls, Satanic goats, exposed anatomy, and deadly flora abound in Adipocere’s dark, minimal yet suggestive vision.

This artwork uses “motifs and symbolism to delineate concepts such as martyrdom, asceticism, existentialism, and the eventuality of death.” It also has touches of irony, an element of camp and retro charm. Adipocere breathes new life into a great-grandmotherly medium that has traditionally been very sedate and by no means overimaginative, turning it into something irreverent and intriguing.

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Fire

“I have to be rent and pulled apart and live according to the demons and the imagination in me. I’m restless. Things are calling me away. My hair is being pulled by the stars again.”

{Anais Nin}

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Lana Crooks’ Soft Curiosities

Lana Crooks constructs perfect, delicate, macabre little “soft sculptures” out of hand-dyed wool, silk, seed beads, and vintage materials. They are like Victorian mourning relics in plush form. Bird skulls dripping blood like jewels, snake bones, death’s-head moths, human teeth, and lush, funereal flowers repose beneath antique bell jars. Whimsical, imaginative, resplendently colored and gorgeous, her “faux specimens” are artfully arranged, reminding one of some long-dead madcap’s oddities collection and also giving off a curious effect of two-dimensional drawings brought to three-dimensional life. These soft creations blending natural history and craft are exquisite and adorable.

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Baroque Biomech Ceramics by Laura Hewitt

Alaska-based artist Laura C. Hewitt creates ceramic housewares that are wildly imaginative, bold, and unique. They convey a sense both of the ancient and the futuristic, the organic and the mechanical, and put me in mind of the china service of an alien dynasty, regal relics of bygone opulence and sinister glory. Delicate and grotesque, they are impactful and lovingly crafted.

Her hybrids of the rustic and the decadently ornate, of the homely and the high-tech, are a delight to behold. I love the shadowy little clustered hollows or dents which are suggestive at once of old lace, of mushrooms, of rot and decay, and of insect hives. Hewitt plays with the juxtapositions among nature, art, and technology, between creation and destruction, and seeks to “animate the pragmatic with mischievousness.”

Gorgeous, savage, one-of-a-kind, Hewitt’s teacups, mugs, and plates are unlike any household ceramics I’ve ever seen. They embody the biomechanical aesthetic in a practical, intimate form, with a touch of playful irony. To use one of these pieces would transport you into otherworldly realms, directly off the Earth, and introduce the unnerving into the mundane, blending the familiar with the mysterious, the deeply unknown and the alien.

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Gris

Gris is a platform adventure game by Nomada Studio which was released in December 2018 and looks absolutely beautiful, taking the artistry possible in the medium of video games to a new pinnacle. It resembles a watercolor painting and, using its delicate, perfect visuals and bright and tender colors, weaves a story which represents themes of fear, trauma, grief, and how we deal with suffering. The imagery of the girl named Gris, as well as the airy palette of the art design in general, reminds me of the gorgeous 1973 anime film Belladonna of Sadness.

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The Double Image

{The Double Image
by Anne Sexton}

1.

I am thirty this November.
You are still small, in your fourth year.
We stand watching the yellow leaves go queer,
flapping in the winter rain,
falling flat and washed. And I remember
mostly the three autumns you did not live here.
They said I’d never get you back again.
I tell you what you’ll never really know:
all the medical hypothesis
that explained my brain will never be as true as these
struck leaves letting go.

I, who chose two times
to kill myself, had said your nickname
the mewling months when you first came;
until a fever rattled
in your throat and I moved like a pantomime
above your head. Ugly angels spoke to me. The blame,
I heard them say, was mine. They tattled
like green witches in my head, letting doom
leak like a broken faucet;
as if doom had flooded my belly and filled your bassinet,
an old debt I must assume.

Death was simpler than I’d thought.
The day life made you well and whole
I let the witches take away my guilty soul.
I pretended I was dead
until the white men pumped the poison out,
putting me armless and washed through the rigmarole
of talking boxes and the electric bed.
I laughed to see the private iron in that hotel.
Today the yellow leaves
go queer. You ask me where they go. I say today believed
in itself, or else it fell.

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