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Frida Kahlo: Her final years, in black & white and color
07.31.2017
11:45 am
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Monday, I’ve got Frida on my mind, and I’ll tell you why. You see, I’ve been thinking about Frida Kahlo and her paintings and the bravery with which she countered the many unbelievable difficulties in her life. Most of our problems are but very small potatoes when compared to the physical and emotional hardships Frida endured. The cards were really stacked against her. The likes of you and me have it easy by comparison.

As I’m sure you’re all aware, it all really started when Kahlo was involved in a near fatal road accident in 1925. The bus she was traveling on collided with a tram. Frida was impaled on an iron handrail, her pelvis, several ribs, legs, and collar bone were all fractured and three of her vertebrae were displaced. She was bedridden for several months as she recuperated. The fact is: her health never really fully recovered from the damage done, and Frida was in and out of hospitals for most of her life. Her original plans to study medicine at university were now impossible, but rather than give up and succumb to self-pity, Frida Kahlo recalibrated her ambitions and decided to become an artist. She said this was her chance “to begin again, painting things just as I saw them with my own eyes and nothing more.”

A mirror was placed on her bed, enabling Kahlo to paint her own portrait. She later said that she painted self-portraits because she was so often alone and “because I am the person I know best.” After her recuperation from her accident, Frida mixed with her old school friends. She became a communist and she met the artist Diego Rivera, whom she married in 1929. It was to be a tumultuous, passionate and painful relationship. Frida later said:

There have been two great accidents in my life. One was the tram, the other was Diego. Diego was by far the worst.

For his lack of looks, Rivera was apparently irresistible to women. He carried out several affairs during their marriage. In constant physical pain from the accident, Frida now suffered the devastating emotional pain caused by Diego’s serial philandering. The pair divorced in 1939 but remarried again in 1940.

For all the years dedicated to art, it wasn’t until the last years of her life that Frida had her first solo exhibition at the Galería Arte Contemporaneo, Mexico, in April 1953. It was thought she would be too ill to attend, but her four poster bed was installed in the gallery and Frida was taken by ambulance for the exhibition’s opening.

By this point, Frida was in constant agonizing pain. One leg was amputated due to gangrene and a series of different infections meant she underwent several operations. She also had to deal with the damage of another one of Diego’s affairs which led her to attempt suicide in 1953. Yet, Frida ultimately overcame these problems and decided it was best that she lived. She moved the focus of her art away from herself towards the greater more pressing issue of making the world a better place for everyone.

I must struggle with all my strength to ensure that the little positive my health allows me to do [work which] also benefits the Revolution, the only real reason to live.

In her final year, Frida produced work like “Marxism Will Give Health to the Sick” and “Frida and Stalin.” She died in July 1954. The last words she wrote in her journal were:

I joyfully await the exit—and I hope never to return—Frida

Looking at photographs of Frida Kahlo, I can’t help but marvel at her strong features and character. And also how she must have taken the time every morning to “prepare a face to meet the faces” as T.S. Eliot put it. Frida crafted her own image which she maintained like an artwork throughout her life. During her final years, many photographers visited Frida at her home in Mexico. Most of the following pictures were taken by Gisèle Freund who visited Frida and Diego in 1951. The two arresting B&W head portraits of Frida were taken by Marcel Sternberger in 1952. The color portrait of Frida in hospital holding a sugar skull was taken by Juan Guzmán circa 1951.
 
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More photographs from Frida Kahlo’s final years, after the jump…

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Posted by Paul Gallagher
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07.31.2017
11:45 am
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Tattoo You: Vintage photographs of women getting tattoos
07.26.2017
10:48 am
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Janet ‘Rusty’ Skuse—once Britain’s most tattooed lady.
 
Let’s try and imagine just how shocking it once must have been to have seen a young lady decorated in tattoos out shopping on the high street. It must have been quite something. These days, it’s almost de rigueur for young ladies to sport tatts. This morning, for instance, while taking the train to work, on came three young girls who barely looked old enough to be out of junior high let alone inked with a set of rather splendid tattoos. One had an eagle on her shoulder. Another had a snake curled from ankle to thigh, while the third flexed a bloody heart on her bicep. To be honest, it all seemed quite ordinary and utterly mundane. The last time I was ever surprised by a tattoo was when a friend (hi Bert) had a massive, thick, heavily veined penis tattooed on his thigh right down to his knee, no less. It was certainly a talking point when he wore shorts—but that was obviously the idea.

Tattooing has been around longer than we care to think—way back to the Stone Age apparently—and its ubiquity today tells us there is nothing outsider-ish, or edgy in having a drawing inked on the flesh. But at one time, well within living memory, a heavily tattooed woman would be considered dangerous and suspect and could probably only find work in a traveling freak show (right next to the Bearded Lady).

Which brings us to this fine selection of women going under the needle and having some fanciful designs made upon their bodies. In their own way, each of these women was a pioneer of body art at a time when only criminals, sailors and lowlifes sported tattoos.
 
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A soldier has her arm tattooed in tattoo parlor in Aldershot, England, 1951.
 
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1940.
 
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1964.
 
More ladies getting tatted, after the jump…

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Posted by Paul Gallagher
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07.26.2017
10:48 am
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Occult paintings and mystical visions of female surrealist Ithell Colquhoun
06.21.2017
11:00 am
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Like the Abstract Expressionist movement that followed in its wake, Surrealism’s history has largely been written as a narrative of heroic transgressions committed by bad boys, which did no favors for the women involved in the movement. Even Surrealism’s most celebrated woman artists—Meret Oppenheim, whose “Breakfast in Fur” was the first objet acquired by MoMA, and Lee Miller, who moved on from Surrealism to become a celebrated photojournalist—are arguably as well or even better known as nude models for photos by Man Ray as for their own achievements.

Not only was that at work in ensuring that painter/poet Ithell Colquhoun remained an obscure figure, there’s her strong supernatural bent. Surrealism’s interest in automatism in writing and drawing was held in service of suppressing the discipline of the conscious mind in order to develop the unconscious, triggering creativity-enhancing states. But Colquhoun used Surrealism’s methods in service of Hermeticism. She sought not merely the unconscious, but the mystical and transcendent. This pursuit led to her ouster from the official English Surrealist group in 1940. She continued to paint, eschewing her early representational style in favor of increasing automatism, and she increased her involvement in the occult, participating in the Ordo Templi Orientis, and the Golden Dawn splinter group Stella Matutina.

Colquhoun’s biography and body of work merit far deeper exploration than I can offer here, and I’d strongly encourage anyone interested in Surrealism or esoteric art who don’t already know her to engage in that deep dive. The video at the very end of this post isn’t a terrible place to start. What concerns us today is a suite of her paintings and connected esoteric poetic writings called Decad of Intelligence. Based on an early Kabbalistic treatise known as the Sefer Yetzirah, the ten painting/writing pairs were created in 1978 and 1979, based on ten “Sephiroth,” aspects of infinity revealed in creation. The Decad has been published in full for the first time as an extraordinary set of prints and an accompanying book by Fulgur Limited, a UK publisher concerned with the intersections between the esoteric and visual art (if you’re familiar with Abraxas Journal, you know Fulgur). From Dr Amy Hale’s introduction:

A key to understanding the way in which the Decad was designed to work may be found in Colquhoun’s relationship to colour theory, in which she was interested from early in her formal arts training. In the 1930s she studied at the London atelier of Amédée Ozenfant, who spearheaded scientific colour theory in Britain, particularly concentrated on the effects of colour in architecture. Colquhoun’s own studies of colour theory were underpinned by her interest in the Golden Dawn magical system and reinforced for her the idea that colours hold the power to communicate both concrete and more ineffable spiritual principles. Similarly to the theories put forward by Kandinsky in his 1911 text Concerning the Spiritual in Art, Colquhoun believed that colours were themselves intelligences and gateways to other planes of existence.

The Decad of Intelligence…was designed to be a small book of ten enamel pieces, each depicting a different sephira, accompanied by a description of their properties. The enamel is thickly laid on the paper, and each piece is a colour study, encompassing the colours of each of the four colour scales of the Tree of Life. Her text is extremely regular in construction, and provides a list of of the correspondences of each sephira, including its location, corresponding part of the body, elemental and planetary associations, fragrances and flowers, alchemical associations, and the vision that the sephira is intended to inspire.

The prints in the folio are quite vivid, printed with metallic highlights that help to capture the essence of the enamel originals. The versions of the same works in the booklet are still quite nice, but less expensively printed, and the digital images we have to share with you resemble the latter more closely. They give you the idea quite well enough. Elements of the corresponding poems were derived from information found in Aleister Crowley’s Liber 777, and perhaps accordingly, the Decad of Intelligence is limited to 777 copies.
 

 
ABSOLUTE OR PERFECT INTELLIGENCE

Sphere of Mercury
Pillar of Water
Splendour a Hermaphrodite

Opal storax moly
Quicksilver mescal
Left foot navel
The names versicles and apron octagram
Zinc Venus as metal

Jackal of the west healer of plagues
Truthfulness angelic Sons of God
Analysis into Four Elements vision of splendour
 
More after the jump…

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Posted by Ron Kretsch
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06.21.2017
11:00 am
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Crystal Uterus jewelry: Sacred and feminine
06.12.2017
09:59 am
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“Jewelry,” Elizabeth Taylor once said, “has the power to be this one little thing that can make you feel unique.” Romanian-born artist Ouvra (aka Maria Rozalia Finna) creates original, bold, and beautiful jewelry that would make anyone feel unique.

Ouvra produces Crystal Creatrix Pendants in collaboration with the outlet Crystal Child. Her designs look like the uterus, ovaries and fallopian tubes of the female reproductive system and are tagged #scaredfeminine and #divinefeminine on her Instagram feed. Ouvra’s designs “explore the feminine experience, its intuitive receptivity & connectivity to nature, through bio-electric creative fertility.”

The pendants consist of “aurafied agate” together with a pair of rainbow moonstones set in an electroformed copper base attached to a copper chain. Each pendant is completely unique and available in various different sizes and designs—including some with Ethiopian Opals and an Amethyst Aura Quartz cluster. To purchase one of Ouvra’s beautiful pendants check Crystal Child for details.
 
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See more of Ouvra’s beautiful pendants, after the jump…
 

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Posted by Paul Gallagher
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06.12.2017
09:59 am
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Zoë Mozert: The pinup model and artist who painted actress Jane Russell’s most iconic image
05.31.2017
10:44 am
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Artist Zoë Mozert painting actress Jane Russell for the iconic image used for the 1941 film ‘The Outlaw.’
 
Zoë Mozert was not only one of the most well-known pinup model painters of her day, she was also a pinup herself and her work and image have appeared in hundreds of magazines and on film posters. Though there was no shortage of female models willing to pose for her, Mozert often used herself as a subject and why not? Mozert was gorgeous—the perfect embodiment of the quintessential blonde bombshell—and her successful modeling career helped to fund her art school education at the Philadelphia School of Industrial Design. Mozert would later head to New York City to start her long career as an artist.

Mozert’s work was unquestionably on par with her male peers. She would go on to become part of an exclusive all-girl artist “club” that included two other prominent female artists—the creator of the “Coppertone girl” Joyce Ballantyne and Pearl Frush whose photo-realist paintings broke sales records due to their popularity. In the early 30s, Mozert’s work was everywhere including ads for popular products like Kool Cigarettes and Dr. Pepper. She scored a lucrative long-term contract with Brown & Bigelow, who in the 1940s were the largest publisher of calendars in the world.

Mozert would also work as an artist for Warner Brothers where her art was used not only for movie posters but for props that appeared in the films themselves. Her artwork associated with two films that would add more noteworthy credits to Mozert’s expansive resume: the poster artwork for Carole Lombard’s 1937 film True Confessions and the notorious image of Jane Russell for the 1941 film The Outlaw. The sessions with Russell were thankfully photographed for prosperity (pictured at the top of this post).

I’ve included a mix of Mozert’s stunning work as well as a few photographs of the artist in action below. Some are NSFW. Just like Jane Russell and a gun.
 

Mozert’s portrait of Jane Russell that was used for the movie poster for ‘The Outlaw.’
 

 

The gorgeous and talented Mozert modeling for fellow pinup artist Ed Moran.
 
More after the jump…

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Posted by Cherrybomb
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05.31.2017
10:44 am
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Bohemian like you: Vali Myers the Witch of Positano
04.19.2017
12:06 pm
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Vali Myers was never going to be ordinary. Her talent, wayward spirit and shock of flame-red hair marked her out for a life less ordinary. Ordinary was nice and nice was boring and Vali Myers hated boring.

But Vali had come from ordinary. She was born in Canterbury, Sydney, in 1930 to a wireless operator father and a talented violinist mother. Her mother had given up her career with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra to raise her family. Vali watched in growing horror as her mother slowly fell to pieces with the frustration of her small town life. Wives were expected to be drudges for the benefit of their husbands and nothing more. Her mother’s unraveling inspired Vali to focus on and nurture her own talents. She was good at art and loved to dance. She hated school and had difficulties with reading and writing. Her classmates thought her odd, but Vali thought them odd and frighteningly unimaginative.

She quit home at fourteen and worked in a factory to finance her ambitions to become a dancer. Vali eventually became a principal dancer with the Melbourne Modern Ballet Company. This early success confirmed her belief there was more to life than just being some man’s wife as most women her age were expected to be. She later told photographer Eva Collins:

Men always have women backing them up. But show me the bloke who back up his woman if she is an artist. They don’t like doing that, makes them feel like they’re sitting in the back seat. If a man is a real man, why does he need a woman to clean for him? He should look after himself, otherwise, he should go back to his Mummy!

At nineteen, Vali traveled to Paris where she earned a meager living dancing in cafes. For three years she lived on the streets in a hand-to-mouth existence with many of the city’s homeless youngsters. But she was free to do as she pleased and had the opportunity to mix with many of the city’s famous artists and writers like Jean-Paul Sartre, Jean Genet, Django Reinhart, and Jean Cocteau, with whom she often smoked opium.

This gaggle of young beatniks on the fringes of Paris attracted the interest of Dutch photographer Ed van der Elsken, who chose the iconic Vali as the main character in photo-essay Love on the Left Bank (1954). Van der Elsken’s black & white photographs followed Vali as young beatnik girl “Ann” through the gangs of bohemians, musicians, and vagabonds who hung around the bars, clubs, and flophouses of St Germain-des-Prés. Vali’s distinctive look inspired a whole generation of women including Patti Smith who later described Vali as:

...the supreme beatnik chick—thick red hair and big black eyes, black boatneck sweaters and trench coats.

Though a freeform impressionistic tale, van der Elsken’s book did capture much of the life Vali was living among the “young men and girls who haunt the Left bank”:

They dine on half a loaf, smoke hashish, sleep in parked cars or on benches under the plane trees, sometimes borrowing a hotel room from a luckier friend to shelter their love. Some of them write, or paint, or dance.

Vali was dancing and painting and keeping a journal of her daily life. She was occasionally arrested as a vagabond but was usually bailed out by Jean Cocteau. During this time, she met and married Hungarian architect Rudi Rappold and for a time they lived in Vienna, Austria, and then in Positano, Italy. After Rappold’s death, Vali remained in Italy where she had gained the moniker “the Witch of Positano” because of her outsider existence. She continued to paint and write and spend time looking after the local wildlife.

In the sixties, Vali moved to London and then to New York. She was a friend and muse to Salvador Dali and became friends with the likes of Mick Jagger and Marianne Faithful. In 1968, Vali starred with Marianne in a little-seen film called Dope about London’s drug scene. Vali then moved to New York where she lived at the Chelsea Hotel. It was here she met Patti Smith for whom she famously tattooed a lightening fork on her knee. But Vali didn’t like New York. It was brutal, hard and false. After an aneurysm in 1994, Vali eventually returned to Australia.

With her gypsy dress, her flaming red hair and distinctive facial Maori tattoos, Vali was instantly recognizable wherever she went. But it was her outsider artwork that achieved the greater attention. Her paintings were bought by museums and galleries in America, Europe, and Australia and were collected the likes of Mick Jagger and George Plimpton.

Vali died from cancer in February 2003. She had no regrets. She had lived her life as she wanted to live it. On her deathbed she said:

I’ve had 72 absolutely flaming years. It doesn’t bother me at all, because, you know, love, when you’ve lived like I have, you’ve done it all. I put all my effort into living; any dope can drop dead. I’m in the hospital now, and I guess I’ll kick the bucket here. Every beetle does it, every bird, everybody. You come into the world and then you go.

 
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Vali in Paris photograph by Ed van der Elsken.
 
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See some of Vali’s artwork and more iconic photos, after the jump…

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Posted by Paul Gallagher
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04.19.2017
12:06 pm
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‘An ABZ of Love’: Kurt Vonnegut’s vintage go-to guide on sex and sexuality
04.10.2017
07:14 am
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The great Kurt Vonnegut.
 

“An erect penis has no resemblance to the kind that they have seen on statues in parks or on small boys paddling the seashore.”

—Authors of An ABZ of Love, Sten and Inge Hegeler on what it is like seeing a penis for the first time.

 
Inge and Sten Hegeler were a bit like the Danish version of Masters and Johnson, the transformative American research team that revolutionized human sexuality. Hegeler was a psychologist and author who specialized in sexology. In 1948 Hegeler published the book Hvordan, Mor? ( How, Mother?) which was considered one of the first books of its kind to detail such direct, honest advice on how to provide sexual education to kindergarten-aged children. After getting his own psychology practice up and running he and Inge would go on to publish a few other notable books including one that Kurt Vonnegut kept on his own library shelf, An ABZ of Love.

Vonnegut was so taken with the publication that he wrote a letter to his wife letting her know where she could “find” the book in his library. The book itself, which was self-published by the pair in 1962, was exhaustive when it came to its range of information. And I mean they covered everything including topics that were (and are still by some) considered taboo which made ABZ a rather boundary-smashing publication that voiced a clear, positive opinion about equality and its relation to gender, color or one’s sexual identity. They were also fond of using proper words such as “cock,” “pussy” and “fuck” to describe specific actions or attributes within the book’s nearly 300 pages. No wonder Vonnegut adored it enough to write his wife a love-letter of sorts about it. In fact, here’s a short epigrammatic passage from ABZ that sounds a whole lot like Vonnegut wrote the advice himself.

So there are two paths we can take: one is try to deny and suppress our emotions and force ourselves to think sensibly. In this way we run the risk of fooling ourselves.

Hi ho. At this point, it seems pretty clear to me that everyone should own a copy of An ABZ of Love. It is also quite possible that there are many among us that could use a little refresher course on the ins and outs of what we all think about every single day, sex, as it just doesn’t come in one flavor. You know like vanilla? I’ve included many illustrations by Krag from the vintage book, which has been published in fifteen different countries, along with their often amusing captions below. Many are NSFW.
 

Text reads: “It is possible to be lonely in a group, too.”
 

 
More after the jump…

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Posted by Cherrybomb
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04.10.2017
07:14 am
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Trophy Wife Barbie
03.29.2017
09:25 am
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Like most boys of a certain generation, I had an Action Man. Action Man was the British equivalent of America’s G.I. Joe. A twelve-inch doll with movable parts, “gripping hands,” short-cropped hair, and sometimes a stubbly beard. It sounds like a sex toy. Maybe it was. Most likely not as Action Man didn’t have a dick.

I never thought of him as some kind of ideal man. Action Man may have had a ripped body, a macho scar on his cheek, and a military wardrobe the envy of every tin-pot dictator but he had no dick. Action Man was just a piece of plastic that I gave meaning by inventing various games by which to play with him. This was mainly fighting Nazi zombies, escaping Frankenstein’s laboratory, and the occasional scientific experiment like testing the law of gravity by throwing Action Man out of a bedroom window with a homemade handkerchief parachute. Action Man was just a toy that lived through my imagination until books, records and girls came along.

Annelies Hofmeyr uses her imagination to cast Barbie in various satiric images that challenge gender identity. Hofmeyr is a South African conceptual artist who operates under the name WIT MYT. This is pronounced as “vit mate” and according to Hofemyr:

WIT stems from the Afrikaans word for WHITE and MYT, a derogatory term for a domestic worker, a job usually reserved for coloured (mixed race) and black people. The same phonetic word in Dutch (the colonisers of South Africa), means girl.

Hofmeyr was born in South Africa sometime in the 1980s, the daughter of a gunsmith father and a British mother. She studied Fine Art and Graphic Design in Cape Town before beginning her peripatetic life traveling around the world due to a “combination of study debt” and South Africa’s “strained political situation.” Living in various countries, Hofmeyr studied a Contemporary Jewelry course in Melbourne, Australia. This started her career creating “Contemporary Adornment” and conceptual art.

Hofmeyr started her Trophy Wife Barbie pictures on the day of her divorce. Her first photograph featured Barbie clutching Ken’s decapitated head with the caption “Yay! My divorce went through today!” underneath. She posts her pictures on her Instagram page. Hofmeyr uses Barbie to make satirical and politically-charged comment about gender and everyday sexism. As Hofmeyr has said:

She has been judged by her appearance and now that her situation has changed (and she’s no longer a wife) she needs to find her identity outside of her label.

Prints of Trophy Wife Barbie are available at $18 a pop. See more of Hofemyr’s work here.
 
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More Trophy Wife Barbies, after the jump…

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Posted by Paul Gallagher
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03.29.2017
09:25 am
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Painted Ladies and Broken Figurines: The dark feminist art of Jessica Harrison
03.17.2017
08:54 am
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There must have been thousands of these figurines perched on shelves, mantelpieces and end tables in suburban households across the land. I know my grandmother had about half-a-dozen of these porcelain figurines of fair-skinned women lifting the hem of their dresses that mysteriously billowed like a sail from some absent breeze. Some held poesies or baskets crammed with yellow daffodils and roses. They were difficult to keep clean. Dust clung limpet-like in tufts. My grandmother accidentally broke them all at various times—usually when trying to remove resistant clumps of dust. Hands cracked at the wrist, arms amputated at the elbow, noses chipped off. She always stuck them back together again which made these scarred, now imperfect figures seem oddly more real.

I suppose this in part explains why I like Jessica Harrison’s beautiful and dark creations made from such popular mass-produced figurines. Jessica is an Edinburgh-based artist who refashions these found objects into quirky and visceral works of art. She works with a scalpel and electric saw, and then paints.

My original attraction to these objects was precisely because of this image they portray of the female body – my desire was to counter it and present its opposite within itself. This was quite simple to do, by breaking apart the hollow cast pieces and ‘revealing’ the interior, a standard formula in Western knowledge for making discoveries about the body. The female interior is a space still laced with taboo in a way that the male interior is not, and for me this gender bias of what is most often an invisible space in our everyday lives was a fascinating and important one to address.

Harrison has produced several exhibitions using these startling figurines—her solo shows Broken (2011), Pink, Green, Blue and Black (2016) and most recently in the group show Between Poles and Tides (2017). More of Jessica Harrison’s work can be seen here.
 
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More of Jessica Harrision’s beautiful art, after the jump…

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Posted by Paul Gallagher
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03.17.2017
08:54 am
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There are handmade vagina purses
03.10.2017
12:20 pm
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These aren’t exactly regular-sized purses. More like coin purses to store your small valuables in like credit cards, coins, makeup or really whatever. And of course tampons. They’re made by Etsy shop Not Made In China Sewing and each one sells for around $19.00 + shipping.

They’re made in Austraila and take about 1-2 weeks to ship because there’s such a demand for them. The pubic hair comes in five different colors: blonde, light brown, dark brown, black and ginger. There are also four shades of skin tones to choose from as well.

I dig the different merkin “hairstyles” on the purses. The names of ‘em are even better: “The Tidy Twat,” “The Overly Manicured Muff,” and last but not least “The 70s Porno Pussy.”


 

 
More after the jump…

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Posted by Tara McGinley
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03.10.2017
12:20 pm
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