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The Artist as Frankenstein ‘piecing together the sublime’: The paintings of Carrie Ann Baade
03.28.2018
10:42 am
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Carrie Ann Baade paints pictures that link “the power of historical masterworks with [her] own experience as a contemporary artist.” Her work is fragmentary using an image bank culled from Renaissance and Baroque art which is used to contemplate “the ageless issues of morality, politics, and the individual quest for self-expression.” She describes herself “as a kind of Dr. Frankenstein attempting to piece together the sublime.”

Baade developed her collagic-style of painting during grad school when she struggled to find a way to be more like her “dead art heroes, Bosch, Fuseli, Moreau, and Knopf,” but keeping her work relevant to today. She started at the beginning and “rediscovered the artists’ first gallery, the refrigerator door.” 

Upon the door were a sentimental photograph of my infant niece and the Christmas gift of magnets made from cut up discount art books.  By moving some of these magnets over the photograph, the child’s eyes were covered with those from a Northern Renaissance portrait.  A Boschian creature was placed on top of her head to serve as an ornamental hat.  Lastly, a Durer Christ child and a Madonna’s hand scaled perfectly to that in the sentimental photo were placed on the arms in the photo. 

The completed the transformation was far more interesting than reality.  After several attempts at turning the image into a painting, the foundation for understanding the difference between collage and pastiche occurred. 

Through research, I realized that the amalgam of images had precedence in the appropriation art of the 80’s which is described as the advent of the citation style in painting and other mediums.  “Appropriation art” stresses the intentionality of the act of borrowing and the historical attitude of the borrower.  By building upon this accepted practice, my paintings incorporate these purloined fragments and keep the physical identity of the different motifs preserved from the overall unity.

Baade describes her intuitive creative process as “part tarot and part advent calendar.”

I have questions in mind when I am composing, I am searching for a solution to say…this feeling I have about the correlation between women and snakes and the moon. I collect images, I dive into my piles of cutouts that I have been archiving for the past five years. The composition of the collage can be immediate or go through 15 hours of revisions.  It is like reading cards, the answer will come as I am searching and the answer is usually visually surprising.

The process begins with Baade covering her studio floor with images ripped from pages of books and magazines. Once the floor is covered, Baade looks for sets of images that have landed on top of each other in an interesting way. She describes this as a form of divination like reading tea leaves or tarot cards. Often Baade has a question she seeks to answer which she hopes will be answered by the chance arrangement of images. Sometimes this can happen very quickly, mostly it’s a long process of trial and error. When ready, Baade collects the images and binds them together with sellotape. It can then take up to 150 hours to paint a picture.

Baade was born in Louisiana in 1974 and was raised in Colorado where she first took an interest in drawing and painting. Baade received her BFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, studied at the Florence Academy of Art in Italy, and earned her MFA in Painting from the University of Delaware.  She currently divides her time between painting and lecturing as an Associate Professor of Painting and Drawing at Florida State University. See more of Carrie Ann Baade’s work here.
 
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More beautiful and surreal paintings, after the jump…
 

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Posted by Paul Gallagher
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03.28.2018
10:42 am
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Only women bleed: WEIRD advertisements for feminine hygiene products
03.14.2018
11:43 am
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Full disclosure—I’m totally obsessed with a number of things I’m about to talk about—advertising, weird bodily functions and vintage media depicting race, gender and sexuality. More specifically, I’m a huge nerd about examining the questionable ways that different types of representations have influenced our current toxic culture.

Current topic: bleeding is fucking weird. And the various contraptions that the feminine hygiene industry has come up with to “handle” it are also pretty fucking odd. I mean, at the end of the day, from pads and tampons to cups, sponges and rags, to each her own. But bleeding is still weird AF. And the culture that has arisen around it is also weird. Case in point, this Tampax ad. Ladies- do you ever get that Hunger Games-y feeling around that time of the month? Oh you do? Well, by all means…..
 

 
So if you have a penis, be grateful. I hope you are. If not, you will be by the end of this post. First of all, you never were made to feel excited about “Protecto” sanitary bloomers in the 1920s. These “reversible, snug fitting and always secure” items were made by what I assume was a company that truly cared about women—the New York-based Rubberized Sheeting & Specialty, Inc. OK, so without sarcasm, here’s my thing. I’m all about some fetishes. Ask my pals. You can get me in a set of rubber pants NO PROBLEM and I will be pleased as punch. But this is a whole other ballgame. Would this be menstruation kink? And if so, dear lord, please get this girl as much chocolate, tea and binge watching of WHATEVER SHE WANTS as she needs!
 

 
The Kotex product line is fascinating on a historical level.  Started by Kimberly-Clark in 1920 their wares were created from leftover cellucotton from WWI bandages! Because they had a brand name (Kotex, after “cotton” and “texture”) women didn’t have to ask for the ultra-embarrassing “sanitary napkins” at the counter but these pads were no party. Bulky and lacking in any holding sutures, these items had to either be fastened to your undergarments with safety pins or…worn with a goddamn belt. And that belt was no joke. If you’ve ever read Judy Blume’s wonderful book Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret? there’s a great passage in there about trying to figure out the belt/pad contraption.

But let’s talk about the evolution of the belt for a second. Like many things in American culture, a person of color invented this item and was never given proper credit. In general, belts simply attached to the napkins or to pins holding the napkins and made sure everything stayed put. They must’ve felt like weird diapers.

Along comes Mary Beatrice Davidson Kenner, an incredible black woman who invented a different kind of sanitary belt that had a moisture-proof pocket. While it looks (again) like something kinky, the usefulness in comparison to the straight-up belts that were being sold was enormous. When the company initially interested in Davidson’s invention found out she was black, the belt was rejected. This belt was finally put into production in the 1950s, almost thirty years after she had first pitched it. Oh and by the way? Kenner also invented the toilet paper holder in your bathroom, and if you have a mounted backwasher in your shower? You can thank her for that too. She became a florist later in life.

Belts didn’t really fade out entirely until the 1970s, when someone figured out how to put adhesive on the back of a damn pad. Apparently that idea took a lot of mental energy to come up with. Tampons were intorduced in the 1930s, but there was a litany of reasons why women stayed away. Women were scared it would make them “not a virgin.” Religious leaders railed against the use of menstrual tampons, saying that using them might lead to sexxxxxy feelingz (oh noes!). Their use increased after WWII however and grew stronger during the 1960s and soared during the 1970s. AHEM. WOMEN’S MOVEMENT. AHEM.

At this juncture, women use many different items, and may choose what they like. The information is out there. To paraphrase Virginia Slims, we’ve come a long way baby!

These first two images look at Mary Beatrice Davidson Kenner’s belt (1st picture) versus the average belt in use since the 1920s.


 

 

 
Much more menstruation madness, after the jump…

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Posted by Ariel Schudson
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03.14.2018
11:43 am
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The fractured fairy tales of photographer Miwa Yanagi
03.14.2018
09:39 am
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A photograph perhaps based on the fairy tale ‘Sleeping Beauty’ by Miwa Yanagi from her series “Fairy Tale.”
 
Miwa Yanagi is an artist and photographer with a vivid imagination. Hailing from Kyoto, Yanagi’s work has been exhibited around Europe and the U.S. since the early 1990s. While in high school, Yanagi started to explore her artistic aspirations—though her parents had other plans and hoped that their daughter would find a stable job and get married to an equally stable man. Fortunately, while she was getting ready to take the entrance test for the Kyoto University of the Arts, she took a few drawing lessons from Katsushige Nakahashi (Nakahashi would later become well-known for his “Zero” project which culminated with the fiery destruction of a homemade Japanese WWII plane). Her interactions with Nakahashi would prove to be the impetus for her decision to become an artist herself.

After finishing up her studies, Yanagi found a job teaching. In 1993 she would hold her very first, and very successful solo live art installation/show called “Elevator Girls” based on Japan’s famously female department store elevator attendants. Elevator attendants have been a part of Japanese culture since the 1930s and though their numbers have dwindled Mitsukoshi Nihonbashi (a large International department store chain headquartered in Tokyo) still employs an attendant at their main location in Chūō, Tokyo. Yanagi’s subjects in the captivatingly dark series “Fairy Tale” are exclusively comprised of women from a variety of age groups, and all of her photographic series take years to complete. Yanagi’s subject matter of choice has earned the artist a reputation for being a feminist, and she hopes that her photographs might help bring about more progressive societal attitudes as they pertain to gender-bias and equality in the nation. Here’s more from Yanagi on that:

“I’m happy with people thinking of my work as feminist art, but I don’t set out with that intent. If you are making art on the basis of an agenda, it will inevitably lose its power.”

I’ve posted images from Yanagi’s “Fairy Tale” series (which can also be purchased in book form, here) below. Most are NSFW.
 

Yanagi’s nod to ‘Snow White.’
 

Yanagi’s twisted riff on the classic German fairy tale, ‘Rapunzel.’
 

 
More after the jump…

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Posted by Cherrybomb
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03.14.2018
09:39 am
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Medicine Women: Photographs of the pioneering students at the world’s first medical school for women
02.26.2018
08:42 am
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Though many women worked as nurses in hospitals and within the medical profession, it was deemed “inappropriate” for a woman to become a doctor. This changed when Elizabeth Blackwell (1821-1910) became the first woman to receive a medical degree in America and the first woman on the Medical Register of the General Medical Council.

Born and raised in England, Blackwell traveled to America to fulfill her ambition to become a doctor, where she privately studied anatomy under the tutelage of Dr. Jonathan M. Allen. As a woman, Blackwell faced tremendous obstacles in achieving her ambitions. It was suggested she disguise herself as a man to gain admittance to medical school or move to France where she could possibly train as a doctor. Blackwell’s mind was made up and she was determined to go through with her studies despite enormous opposition.

The horrors and disgusts I have no doubt of vanquishing. I have overcome stronger distastes than any that now remain, and feel fully equal to the contest. As to the opinion of people, I don’t care one straw personally; though I take so much pains, as a matter of policy, to propitiate it, and shall always strive to do so; for I see continually how the highest good is eclipsed by the violent or disagreeable forms which contain it.

The argument against Blackwell’s hope of a medical career was double-edged. Firstly, it was claimed women were inferior and therefore not up to the work. Secondly, if women were capable of becoming doctors then this would be troublesome and unnecessary competition for male doctors.

Blackwell applied to twelve different schools. In October 1847, she enrolled as a student at the Geneva Medical College (now Hobart College). Her admittance was decided upon by the male students who were told if one student objected to Blackwell’s admission she would be barred. The 150 male students voted unanimously in her favor.

On January 23, 1849, Elizabeth Blackwell became the first woman to achieve a medical degree in the United States. Her actions opened a door to which there was no way of closing.

The Woman’s Medical College of Pennsylvania was established in 1850 as a school solely for the training of women in medicine. The college was the second medical school for women opened in America but the very first medical school in the world authorized to award women the title of Medical Doctor or M.D. It would go on to become one of the most pioneering and inclusive medical schools in the country, accepting students from every ethnicity, creed, and nation. Students traveled from as far afield as India to study at the school.

The college was originally set up by Quakers who believed in a woman’s fundamental right to education. They also firmly supported full equality between the sexes and were understandably flummoxed by those men who vehemently argued against it. The idea for a women’s medical college had long been considered a necessity. Dr. Bartholomew Fussell argued the case in 1846, two years before Dr. Samuel Gregory opened the Boston Female Medical College, in 1848. Fussell was inspired by his dead sister, who he claimed would have made a brilliant doctor.

Originally called The Female Medical College of Pennsylvania, the school was situated at 229 Arch Street, Philadelphia. The college offered women the very rare opportunity to “teach, perform research, manage a medical school” within a hospital setting. This led to the establishment of the Woman’s Hospital in 1861. These were hard-won achievements. Rival men-only medical schools refused to accept many of the women students and doctors—on one occasion “cat-calling” and “jeering” women students in attendance at the Pennsylvania Hospital where they were to receive clinical instruction. But the blow had been struck and the forces of reaction inevitably crumbled.

The following selection of photographs show what life was like at the Woman’s Medical College for these young heroic women who fought and won the right to become doctors. The school went onto become active in the Feminist movement of the 19th and early-20th centuries. The college and hospital merged with Hahnemann Medical School in 1983, before joining Drexel University College of Medicine in 2003.
 
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Students came from all over the world: Anandabai Joshee, Kei Okami, and Tabat Islambooly, photographed at the Dean’s Reception on October 10, 1885.
 
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Inside the packed operating room, North College Avenue, circa 1890.
 
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Student life 1890.
 
More photographs of America’s first women doctors, after the jump…
 

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Posted by Paul Gallagher
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02.26.2018
08:42 am
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Girls on the Verge: The subversive art of Zoe Hawk
01.19.2018
11:09 am
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‘In Her Willows’ (2017).
 
I like figurative paintings because they tell stories. I like stories. I like paintings that have embedded narratives waiting to be discovered that tells me something about the action contained within the frame and perhaps a hint of the artist’s own experience.

Zoe Hawk paints pictures based on her experience. Her work feature schoolgirls on the verge of womanhood being socialized towards conformity and adulthood. There is something otherworldly about her paintings as if we are looking at an illustration from a fairy tale or perhaps a scene from a play. There is a sweetness in her use of color and light that belies the darkness of the small acts of violence and strange rituals contained in her canvases.

For example, in one painting, “Waterway,” a group of girls gathers by a body of water. The pink sky and the soft pastels suggest a pleasing scene of children out for a day swimming and playing. Then our eye sees the hair of a drowned girl and then the two children abandoned in the water while two others are trying to climb up the rocky outcrop. Is this the moment after some tragic accident? Or, have we interrupted something far more sinister?

Sometimes, there are clues in the titles like “Cry, Sally, Cry” or “Murder Ballad.” Then there are titles that capture the beauty and innocence of childhood like “Candy Stripers” and “Little Lamb, I’ll Tell Thee” that are riven by troubling and subversive content.

Hawk says of her work:

...investigates the complex experience of coming of age. The costumes, colorful dresses, mournful funeral attire, and matching uniforms signify various modes of feminine identity and set the stage for the girls’ interactions. Somewhere between childhood and adulthood—between fairytales and the dark realities of womanhood—these characters develop an intricate play of yearning, contention, camaraderie, and mischief, as they navigate their social and physical environments.

The daughter of a celebrated artist, Hawk was at first intimidated by the thought of being an artist herself, but once she experienced the empowering feeling of putting paint on paper and of creating her own world through pictures she knew there was only one career open to her. Hawk studied Fine Arts at Missouri State University, graduating in 2005. She then went on to graduate as a Master of Arts, Painting and Drawing in 2010 at the University of Iowa. Hawk has been exhibiting her paintings across the world since 2007 and has held four artist residencies in Norway, Belgium, New York, and Qatar. She has been residing in Doha for the past seven years, where she teaches. See more of Zoe Hawk’s work here.
 
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‘Waterway’ (2015).
 
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‘Candy Stripers’ (2011).
 
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‘Little Lamb, I’ll Tell Thee’ (2013).
 
See more of Zoe Hawk’s work, after the jump…
 

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Posted by Paul Gallagher
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01.19.2018
11:09 am
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Ladykillers: Murder ballads and the country women who sang them


 
Country music is my favorite genre to listen to if I want to hear really dark shit. My favorite tunes should probably come with warning labels. These amazing songs sound ridiculously upbeat to the point where they are disturbing as hell. If you can’t stomach true crime podcasts, serial killer interviews or horror films, perhaps relaxing with a drink and a Porter Wagoner album isn’t for you.

Thus we come to my favorite socially unacceptable subgenre: the murder ballad. Being a badass feminist, it IS weird that I love an entire collection of music where the majority of tunes are about men killing women or visiting horrific violence upon them. I can’t help it though. I can’t get enough of these songs.

Here’s where it gets interesting. The country music world has always been male-centric. For every forgotten woman like Rose Maddox, Wilma Lee Cooper or Moonshine Kate, there are ten famous male stars like Johnny Cash, Hank Williams, or Merle Haggard. So when I come across my murder ballad-singin’ women, I rejoice!  Bring that gore to the floor, ladies! Country women who sing about murder and violence are extra subversive, especially if they are making that narrative gender-flip of and sing those stories usually sung by men with murder on their minds… 
 

The Coon Creek Girls

The Coon Creek Girls formed in the 1930s and were the first all-women string-band. Their manager, an exploitative jerk named John Lair, went so far as to change the band name from their self-chosen Red River Ramblers to Coon Creek Girls because he “thought it sounded more country.” Apparently he thought the low/working class exoticism of that band name would sell these Appalachian-raised women better at shows. It didn’t. These gals sold themselves!
 

Lily May Ledford of the Coon Creek Girls and her banjo

Banjo player Lily May Ledford recalls:

“What a good time we had on stage… jumping up and down, sometimes ruining some of our songs by laughing at each other. Sis, when carried away by a fast fiddle tune, would let out a yell so high pitched that it sounded like a whistle. Sometimes, when playing at an outdoor event, fair or picnic, we would go barefooted. We were so happy back then. Daisy and Sis, being good fighters, would make short work of anybody in the more polished groups who would tease or torment us. We all made short work of the “wolves” as they were called, who tried to follow us home or get us in their cars.”

Tons of “I drowned my girlfriend/lover/wife” songs exist in the murder ballad canon but “Pretty Polly,” is easily one of the nastiest and most violent. That’s what makes the Coon Creek Girls’ version is especially good. While I quite enjoy the song as sung by The Byrds, it’s not as unique as the all-female arrangement. Great band, great tune. 
 

 
Plenty more after the jump…

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Posted by Ariel Schudson
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01.15.2018
02:58 pm
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Hairy moments: The deep roots of women’s hair history
01.10.2018
12:09 pm
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I want what they're having
 
This is one of my all-time favorite photographs. I have no idea who took it, where it was taken, dunno who the hell these ladies are. But goddamn. I adore them all.

I’ve seen tons of people look at this photo and mock these women for unconventional hairstyles, awkward facial expressions, and what is likely a highly Texan aesthetic (my geographic guess). Fine, laugh. But there’s something so charming, so uniquely pleasurable about the way these women (probably family) are enjoying each other’s company, standing out in that ratty backyard. That yard of dead grass laid out in front of a patio overhang that seems to be one short storm away from crashing to the ground. And our youngest girl—the one with the flowing hippie hair and glasses—she’s wearing pink slippers! There’s this weird strength reflected here in this cadre of creatively-coiffed chicks. I bet they made great cocktails and killer cookies.

Women’s hair and beauty dynamics are intensely personal. Since the beginning of time women have invested spaces like beauty parlors/salons with the power of the personal in order to have a location to freely access aesthetic self-care practices. Generally, we do this for our own benefit, to impress someone else, or both. These spaces have also traditionally served another equally important function: they are community social zones and “safe spaces” for women to gossip, exchange intimacies that they would never do around male friends/family. Beauty parlors have always served a critical function for women.
 

 

 

 

 
The cosmetology world made huge advances in the 1920s. Thanks to the invention of the hair salon (and hair salon franchise) by Canadian-American business woman Martha Matilda Harper, women’s beauty centers shifted from “home visits” to the communal environment we are now familiar with. Harper sold many of the franchise models to lower income women and ended up profiting greatly as a result. With Harper’s floor-length Rapunzel-like tresses, it was hard not to take hair advice from this marketing genius. 
 
Martha Matilda Harper - Wouldn't YOU take hair advice from this woman??
 
With these advances, there are some unfortunate facts. These sacred communal spaces were structured for Straight White Women and they have never quite lost that flavor, even today. What’s unfortunate (but not surprising) is that there are women of color who helped establish this space and who should be far more famous than they are. Women like Sarah Breedlove Walker aka Madame CJ Walker was born to freed slaves and was an extraordinary businessperson. Employing some of the highest numbers of black women in the United States, Walker developed her own line of beauty products and became one of the first self-made millionaires in the United States.
 
Sarah Breedlove Walker
 

 
Continues after the jump…

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Posted by Ariel Schudson
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01.10.2018
12:09 pm
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The morbid and grotesque feminist art of Elif Varol Ergen
12.06.2017
10:36 am
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‘Witch Mom’ (2016).
 
Turkish artist Elif Varol Ergen‘s paintings sometimes make me feel like I’ve accidentally chanced upon a page in her private diary which is filled with intimate descriptions of her darkest fears. It’s a bit like opening some blood-splattered horror novel and have a writhing, fanged, gelatinous-limbed creature plop from between its covers. Her paintings are sometimes that disturbing and grotesque, yet always strangely and utterly compelling.

Ergen’s mixed media pictures offer commentary on female sexuality, identity, motherhood, and sexism, through images of monstrous children, witches, rebels, and mythical goddesses. These may be the expected themes but Ergen’s approach sublimates any quotidian predictability.

There is the suggestion of torment and trauma here. Whether personal or imagined is unclear. In one painting a woman’s head is cleaved in twain revealing dozens of eyes watching, prying, and forever judging. In another, a strange, multi-breasted push-me-pull-you figure suckles guns while two small ruthless children prepare to open fire with milk-splattered handguns. In a third, young girls are punished by a rain of sperm-like snakes that fall from the sky penetrating and devouring their flesh.

Ergen describes herself as “visual artist and instructor.” She graduated in graphic design from the Fine Arts Department at Hacettepe University in 1999, before going on to study for an M.A. in the “Development of Comics in Japan and Far Eastern Cultures” in 2003, then completing a Ph.D. in “Abstract Concepts in Illustrated Children Books” at Hacettepe University in 2009. Ergen’s first paintings focussed on children and their often traumatic and abusive relationship with adults. Following the birth of her son, Ergen refocussed her attention towards motherhood and the often quite literally all-consuming relationship between mother and child, alongside the strange alienation some women feel after childbirth.

Most recently, she has created images of women and girls as witches, wiccans, and goddesses battling against the accepted censures and enforced roles of society. Here, there can be seen the influence of Japanese horror myths and the religious artwork of Albrecht Dürer. This is powerful thought-provoking art that engages both heart and mind. See more of Ergen’s work here.
 
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‘Witch Hunt’ (2016).
 
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‘Punishment of the Witches’ (2106).
 
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‘The Apocalyptic Woman’ (2017).
 
More grotesqueries, after the jump…
 

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Posted by Paul Gallagher
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12.06.2017
10:36 am
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A girl’s best friend is her automobile: That time Dodge marketed a car exclusively for women
11.01.2017
11:24 am
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Dodge hasn’t always been a man’s car. In fact, there was a once time when the manufacturer of such testosterone-pumping machismo machines as the Viper, Challenger and the Charger had seriously considered a woman’s role behind the wheel. This speculation came at a time when post war America was seeing a serious shift in gender roles, allowing more women to find their independence out on the open road. And with style, no less.

After receiving favorable feedback on Chrysler’s refined showroom model “La Comtesse” in 1954, Dodge began production on a new line of automobile that was marketed for the female motorist. Costing just an additional $143, the Dodge “La Femme” was a special option of the 1955 Custom Lancer, complete with a feminine twist. The hardtop two-door coupe came in a color combination of painted “Sapphire White” and “Heather Rose,” featuring blossoming rosebuds to decorate its elegant upholstery.
 

 
The most unique ploy on Dodge’s part wasn’t only that this was a vehicle of grace and class, but should also be seen as an everyday fashion accessory. Each La Femme came outfitted with a pink calfskin purse (bundled with coordinating paraphernalia), a matching rosebud-inspired raincoat, rain bonnet, and umbrella. The items could be conveniently stored in compartments behind the two front seats—so you never had to leave the house empty-handed. The American woman didn’t just drive La Femme, she lived La Femme.

Although the chichi cruiser returned the following year with a new orchid palate, the La Femme’s supposed fanfare wasn’t enough to keep Dodge from discontinuing the “project” in 1957. It is said that out of the 2,500 lady vehicles produced, only about 60 exist today. What a damn shame.

(This post on an unusual Dodge product comes by inspiration of pop culture humorist Charles Phoenix and his stellar new book, Addicted to Americana. If roadside attractions, cosmic kitsch, and wondrous cultural curiosities are your thing, it is without question that this is the book for you.

Some photos of the La Femme below:
 

 

 
More after the jump…

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Posted by Bennett Kogon
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11.01.2017
11:24 am
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Meet the woman who photographed Frida Kahlo, the Kennedys, Elizabeth Taylor, fashion & war

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Fashion of a woman, wearing a long gown, floating in water, Weeki Wachee Springs, Florida, 1947.
 
Toni Frissell (1907-88) was one of the greatest photographers of the 20th-century. During her lifetime, Frissell produced a staggering amount of diverse work including fashion photography, photojournalism, and portraiture.

In 1971, she donated her entire photographic collection of some 340,000 items to the Library of Congress. This included “270,000 black-and-white negatives, 42,000 color transparencies, and 25,000 enlargement prints, as well as many proof sheets.” Some of her work has yet to be processed for public use.

Frissell came from a well-established and fairly affluent family. Her grandfather was the founder and head of the Fifth Avenue Bank in New York. Having the stability of a wealthy family allowed Frissell to pick and choose what she wanted to do. She originally trained as an actress then worked in advertising before taking up her career as a photographer. Her brother Varick, a documentarian and filmmaker, taught Frissell the basics in photography. After Varick was killed in a freak explosion (along with 26 others) during the making of his feature film The Viking in 1931, Frissell started her career as a photographer in earnest. She apprenticed herself to Cecil Beaton (whose influence can be seen in her early photos) and began working as a fashion photographer for Vogue.

It was more than obvious from the outset Frissell was a natural photographic talent. Her fashion work pioneered the use of outside locations, often photographing models in a highly cinematic style against famous monuments or exotic locations. She claimed she preferred working outside as she didn’t “know how to photograph in a studio.” Whether this was her being disingenuous or not, Frissell did shoot the majority of her work outdoors using natural light.

When America entered the Second World War in 1941, Frissell volunteered her services as a photographer to the American Red Cross. She worked with the US Airforce then became the official photographer for the Women’s Army Corps. After the war, Frissell still continued with her fashion work but mainly concentrated on photojournalism and portraiture—capturing some of the most famous names of the day from politicians like Winston Churchill and the Kennedys, to artists like Frida Kahlo, and Hollywood stars like Elizabeth Taylor and Rex Harrison.

Unlike many other photographers who find one style and keep reproducing it time and again, Frissell developed, changed, and pioneered many different styles throughout her career. Her work is now rightly regarded as among the most influential and iconic imagery of the 20th-century.
 
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Fashion model Lisa Fonssagrives poses with an English bobby in background on a railway station for Harper’s Bazaar in 1951.
 
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Fashion shoot, Washington DC, 1949.
 
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Back view of fashion models in swim suits for Harper’s Bazaar, 1950.
 
More iconic photographs, after the jump…
 

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Posted by Paul Gallagher
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10.24.2017
09:06 am
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