Just when you thought you had a lock on the permutations of fine art crossing over craft, here comes Yulia Ustinova. She mentions in this profile a Facebook page, but I haven’t been able to find it.
I promised myself I’d curb use of the word “whimsical,” but this work is not only full of it, there’s a serious side. Honestly celebrating body shape is a big part of figural study, whether big or small.
I have an early shift following a close tonight so my time has run out, but everyone should go check out Anna King’s fabulous landscape and building studies. They’re haunting and beautiful, deftly rendered but also gloriously abstracted. Confident strokes and color, all the way.
If the macabre, the weird, and the bizarre had a champion, his name was Gahan [GAY-un] Wilson, who loved all things dark and dreary. He’s been one of my visual delights since childhood, for as long as I can remember, and he gave us so much to enjoy and be disturbed by.
I wasn’t old enough to discover his Playboy cartoons, but one early Christmas I was given one of my favorite and inspiring books: Bob Fulton’s Amazing Soda-Pop Stretcher, one of numerous boy genius volumes I devoured with excitement and ambition when I was a pre-teen. The illustrations were goofy, but had a dark edge, something that thrilled me.
I kept an eye out for his unusual name, and soon found his darker cartooning, which was both disturbing and funny, like Charles Addams was, but Wilson’s work filled the page with ballooning strangeness, in contrast to Addams’s more modest form and line.
There’s a wonderful interview with him below, discussing his origins and work.
I was reading a piece about a book I read ages ago, Dahlgren by Samuel R. Delany. It, like many works of literature, is a difficult book to read and to understand. Mostly, I interpreted it, because there was plenty I didn’t understand. The timeline is weird and almost mazelike. I wasn’t sure where the beginning really was. And that’s all by Delaney’s design for a post-apocalyptic world that’s lost its sense of history and progress and perspective.
I always think of Rothko when I consider tough or obscure art. Seeing that painting up there may make you think “ooh, that’s nice,” or “what a simple piece of junk,” but we aren’t really experiencing it the way it was meant to be seen.
Literature that’s difficult, like Joyce or Wallace or Woolf, challenges readers. The struggle to get through it, or to figure out what’s going on, or to understand what it means gives us a prize of accomplishing those things. The view from the mountain.
But we usually have to chuck a preconception or two out the window. Like Rothko’s paintings. They’re meant to be seen in person. They’re beautiful—to many—in photos. But they’re huge in reality. The one above is nearly 9 feet square. But you meet it head on in museums lucky enough to have one. If they understand it, too, it’ll be hung so near enough to the floor that you can get it to fill your entire field of vision. And then you feel your soul filling up, as well.
Sort of, anyway. Yuko Takada Keller makes gorgeous and intricate tracing paper installations that often reflect natural dynamic forms. She does everything on her own, from crafting each piece to hanging them, which seems a massive task, and her care and personal investment make her sculpture intimate and more meaningful.
The size of her works masks the delicacy of each individual piece, like a drop of water is always at risk of evaporating or splashing out of its wave or pool, but can be powerful with many others like it.
Metaphors abound. Keller’s use of paper takes the thing most often used as substrate for other images—or to obscure them—and makes it the focus.
The photo above is number 799 in my camera roll. It’s an accident. I wasn’t trying to frame an image and pressed the shutter button by mistake. Is it art? It kind of is! It’s a pleasant minimalist composition. Art can be accidental, which is number 1.
It engages your sense while you make it and while you experience it, connecting artist and patron.
It makes us consider alternative interpretations of the world.
Few are famous enough to make a living at it, but everyone can do it.
There’s just. So. Much. Left. If ever I find myself thinking everything’s been tried, there are no new directions to explore, I’ll chance upon something unexpectedly weird, or watch kids draw. There’s always possibility.
Toyin Odutola, Unclaimed Estates (detail), 2017
The first thing I noticed about Odutola’s work is the fabulous attention to texture and changes in surfaces. Most obviously, it’s the skin of her subjects. Faces and bodies writhe with sheen and curves tightly bound together.
It’s mesmerizing stuff and is worth staring at for a good while to take in the complexity of her drawing.
I’m sad I haven’t noticed Lucinda Parker’s work before. There’s a building near our apartment that has two of her paintings in their lobby, which faces the street. I passed by one night recently and they stopped me in my tracks. Her visions are chunky and hard edged, but they fit together and turn in unexpected ways, like I’m seeing them in a dream.
She’s got a visceral style of painting, making lovely rough fields of color that join together in a vaguely cubist way. Similarly, her perspective shifts in unexpected ways. The image draws my eye, but then bends space, pulling me further in. It’s wonderful to experience in the larger works in person.
About the Author
Marcus is a maker of things and thoughts. He currently resides in Portland, Oregon.