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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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Bunny Hop: Peep inside the Playboy Clubs of the 60s, 70s & 80s


A photo taken at the opening of the very first Playboy Club in Chicago in 1960.
 
The first Playboy magazine hit the shelves in 1953 and in 1960, the late Hugh Hefner opened what would be the very first Playboy Club in Chicago. Other clubs would quickly emerge in more than twenty locations including Boston, Wisconsin, and Los Angeles, as well as more elaborate Playboy Club Resorts which you could visit in Jamaica and Manila. Entrance into the various clubs would run a member $25 a year for which they would receive a special key that when presented to a designated “Door Bunny” would get them inside. The clubs were designed to emulate the “Playboy lifestyle” projected by Hefner, though that’s not what initially ignited the vast existence of Playboy Clubs. The actual inspiration for the clubs began with an article in Playboy published in 1959 that detailed the goings-on at the historic Gaslight Club in Chicago’s River North area. The club was the brainchild of Burton Browne who modeled the club around the “Gay 90s” (aka the “Naughty Nineties” or the decade beginning in 1890) a debaucherous period where creativity and libidos ran wild.

Like Hefner’s future Playboy Clubs, entrance to the Gaslight required a key. Naturally, Hef was already a member of the Gaslight Club as it featured his favorite thing—half-naked women with large breasts everywhere you looked. According to Victor Lownes III, the executive of HMH Publishing Company (which would later become Playboy Enterprises in 1955) he recalled that the article received over 3,000 letters from readers of Playboy inquiring as to how they too could join this exclusive club. This set the wheels in motion for Hefner who knew how to recognize an opportunity, though at the time his vision for his Playboy-themed clubs didn’t include expansion beyond Chicago. When the doors to the fledgling club opened, it employed approximately 30 girls between the ages of 18-23 who were said to be “single, beautiful, charming, and refined.” It also somehow qualifies the old saying that people really did read Playboy articles. At least they read one in 1957. And that’s a fact. 

As you may have already assumed, and much like Hefner’s storied, celebrity-studded events at the Playboy Mansion, Playboy Clubs were frequented by Hollywood’s elite, such as Frank Sinatra. The Playboy Resorts featured entertainment from acts like Sonny & Cher, Melba Moore, and Sinatra’s pal and Playboy Club regular, Sammy Davis Jr. The first Detroit club which was located right across from a church attracted prominent members of that city’s vibrant jazz scene. Even Detroit’s mayor at the time Coleman Young (who held the position for twenty years starting in 1974), was an honorary member of the Playboy Club.

The St. Louis location regularly hosted comedy acts like George Carlin, Flip Wilson, Joan Rivers and Steve Martin. One of the more creative locations was opened on Lake Geneva in Wisconson that featured a ski slope, chairlift and according to former Bunny Pam Ellis, a DJ booth known as the “Bunny Hutch” where Bunnies would spin records while a bubble machine and disco ball set the mood. Most if not all of the girls at Lake Geneva lived in the “Bunny Dorm” which Ellis says was surrounded by a chain-link fence topped with barbed wire. If a girl didn’t live in the dorms, a car would be sent for them to their home to bring them to work where they could also eat for free. Ellis looks back on her time at Lake Geneva’s Playboy Club with fondness—especially the fact that she met her husband while she was DJ’ing in the Bunny Hutch.
 

Frank Sinatra hanging out at the Playboy Club in Las Vegas back in the day.
 
I had been working on this post for a while and had just started to get some words committed to “paper” when Hefner passed away on September 27th at the age of 91. Given that somewhat unexpected event, I held off on finishing it until today as I wasn’t crazy about having DM readers think that capitalizing on the death of someone as well-known and controversial as Hugh Hefner is something we aspire to. However, I do, like so many people, look back with fondness to a time where girls in bunny tails and ears were as glamorous as the movie stars that cavorted around the same clubs with them. Below I’ve posted a huge collection of photos taken inside and on the grounds of various Playboy Clubs including some rarely seen images from the Lake Geneva location that were kindly provided to me by Adam Levin with the help of Christina Ward of Feral House.
 

Bunnies on top of a locally made tractor at the Lake Geneva Playboy Club in Wisconsin. Photo courtesy of Adam Levin.
 

Bunnies having fun at Dunn River Falls in Ochos Rios, Jamaica in 1972.
 

New York 1960s.
 
Much more after the jump…

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Posted by Cherrybomb
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10.18.2017
09:37 am
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That time 100,000 Iranian women protested against mandatory wearing of the hijab, 1979.

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There was once a strong belief among many Iranians that if they wanted something, then they just had to go out onto the street and demand it. This idea was fostered by the role many Iranians had in deposing Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi and bringing back the radical Muslim cleric Ayatollah Khomeini from exile in France in 1979. This ended 2,500 years of Persian monarchy, replacing it with an Islamic Republic.

The Shah was seen as an autocratic, brutal, and oppressive dictator, who was attempting to westernize the country against the will of the people. The opposition to the Shah and his alleged evil western ways brought together an odd mix of Marxists, socialists, Islamic fundamentalists, and even the misguided media outlet the BBC. Together this unlikely coalition succeeded by demonstrations, strikes, marches, and news propaganda in forcing the Shah (and his supporters) to flee Iran and to bring in the Ayatollah and his Islamic revolution.

Many Iranians thought they were taking back control of their country for themselves. It wasn’t quite so simple. Political coalitions, no matter how well-meaning, only ever work in favor of those who appear to have the most power. The Ayatollah Khomeini was a figurehead around whom the country could unite. Therefore, Khomeini appeared to have the most power. Rather than working together to curtail the Khomeini’s influence, the socialists and the Marxists and the liberals all tried to win his support. This only confirmed to the Ayatollah Khomeini (and the Muslims who supported him) that he was in control.

An estimated one million people greeted the Ayatollah Khomeini’s arrival in Iran by Air France jet, in February 1979. By the end of March, the people had voted by an overwhelming margin of 99% to make Iran an Islamic Republic.

Though women were credited by the Ayatollah Khomeini for their essential role in bringing about the Iranian revolution, in early March 1979, he paid back their actions by implementing an edict that made it compulsory for all women to wear the hijab (veil) in public. Suddenly, any promise the Ayatollah offered of a new, better, fairer Iran was revealed as nothing more than a chimera. Khomeini was a hardline fundamentalist and he had no time for individual freedom—not when he knew what his invisible friend wanted. And Allah apparently wanted women covered up.

On March 8th, 1979, 100,000 women marched on the streets of Tehran against the mandatory wearing for all women of the hijab. Photographer Hengameh Golestan was present that day and believed it was her responsibility to document the demonstration as she was witnessing “something historic.”

It was a huge demonstration with women – and men – from all professions there, students, doctors, lawyers. We were fighting for freedom: political and religious, but also individual.

~Snip~

“They were demanding the freedom of choice. It wasn’t a protest against religion or beliefs, in fact many religious women joined the protest, this was strictly about women’s rights, it was all about having the option.”

~Snip~

I was walking beside this group of women, who were talking and joking. Everyone was happy for me to take their picture. You can see in their faces they felt joyful and powerful. The Iranian revolution had taught us that if we wanted something, we should go out into the street and demand it. People were so happy – I remember a group of nurses stopping some men in a car and telling them: “We want equality, so put on some scarves, too!” Everyone laughed.

I wanted to join in all the protests during the revolution, but I knew I had to go as a photographer. My first thought was: “It’s my responsibility to document this.” I’m rather small, so I was ducking in and out of the crowd, constantly taking photos. I took about 20 rolls of film. When the day was over, I ran home to develop them in my darkroom. I knew I had witnessed something historic. I was so proud of all the women. I wanted to show the best of us.

This turned out to be the last day women walked the streets of Tehran uncovered. It was our first disappointment with the new post-revolution rulers of Iran. We didn’t get the effect we had wanted. But when I look at this photo, I don’t just see the hijab looming over it. I see the women, the solidarity, the joy – and the strength we felt.

The women lost. The demonstration ended with the women being attacked and some even stabbed on the streets of Tehran. The men and their sexist, superstitious beliefs won. It’s a way of having power over women that continues to this day in many different forms.

Pioneering photographer Hengameh Golestan has been documenting life in Iran for 28 years, see more of her work here.
 
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See more photos, after the jump…
 

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Posted by Paul Gallagher
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10.17.2017
09:40 am
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Fish heads & the feminine form: The dazzling candy-colored art of Hannah Yata
10.12.2017
08:24 am
Topics:
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A painting by Hannah Yata.
 
I was flipping through the most recent issue of High Fructose magazine and came across the beyond enchanting artwork of Hannah Yata and was instantly drawn to her intriguing human/animal hybrids which she expertly drenches in vibrant colors. Much of her work includes images of elegant female forms with animal heads (or “masks” as Yata calls them), such as tropical-looking fish—or in one masterful mashup a woman emerging from the water with the head of a hairless Sphynx cat with a set of curved horns. Themes concerning the animal kingdom and the natural world predominate in Yata’s work and with good reason. Raised in a small rural country town in Atlanta, Georgia, Yata was surrounded by the gorgeous environment that runs deep through the lush Kudzu-covered landscape of that state and her love of animals and mother earth became ingrained in her.

When she enrolled in the University of Georgia, she studied several disciplines in addition to art including feminism and psychology. As I mentioned, Yata’s extensive use of the feminine form in her work speaks volumes about her core values, which the artist spoke about in depth in an interview with WOWxWOW back in 2014. As the topic of female objectification and rape culture is once again burning up our social media feeds, here’s Yata on the moment she realized she was a feminist and how she channeled the power of that revelation into her artwork:

“For me, it started in a class in college that studied the history of bodies in art, which basically focused on women. I was floored. I didn’t know I was a feminist before this class. The only things I’d heard about feminists was talk about some girls not shaving their armpits, hating on men, etc. I had never looked into it myself before. When the class began talking about how women are portrayed not only throughout the history of art but especially in the present day, I realized how much it had affected not only me but pretty much every female around me. Yes, I’ve had a lot of men argue that art and advertising does the same thing to men now, fetishizing and sexualizing them in very compromising ways, but the reality is that it isn’t as ridiculous and far-reaching as what women deal with, nor are the consequences as serious. You hear about women getting beaten up, raped, murdered and dismembered daily and I believe this problem is propagated by images and videos that see women as sexual objects and not human beings with agency.”

Her incorporation of animals are also symbolic for the same reasons Yata’s women convey a sense of struggle associated with just trying to exist, specifically, how our behavior and our insatiable consumption for all things as humans continue to decimate the animal kingdom, our natural surroundings, and even our bodies all so our lives can be somehow made “better” because of the abundance of triple bacon cheeseburgers and 72-ounce steaks. Right now Yata’s work is a part of a dual exhibition called “ORIGINS” along with her husband and fellow artist Jean Pierre Arboleda at the Parlor Art Gallery in Asbury Park, New Jersey. The show runs through October 30th. Much of Yata’s exquisite work that follows is NSFW.
 

 

 
More after the jump…

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Posted by Cherrybomb
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10.12.2017
08:24 am
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Power, Beauty & the Feminine: The collage art of Deborah Stevenson
10.11.2017
10:37 am
Topics:
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‘Cross Pollination.’
 
I could probably spend days looking at artist Deborah Stevenson‘s collage artworks. Well, maybe a slight exaggeration but let’s say hours or at least some considerable time, definitely, as each of Stevenson’s brilliant, complex pictures sets in motion a series of associations and ideas—whether intended or accidental—that connect towards a unifying narrative.

Take for example Cross Pollination which instantly startles with its reworking of Ingres’ portrait of Mademoiselle Caroline Rivière with Harold Edgerton’s photograph Bullet Through Apple.

Okay, so let’s go for basics. My first (obvious) thought was Adam and Eve and the eating of the apple and the start of institutionalized misogyny. Then I noticed the clothes worn by Rivière. Adam and Eve had supposedly been naked in the Garden of Eden. Being naked often signified the status of being a slave in ancient times. While being clothed is about power, freedom, and performance. Ingres’ portrait shows the teenage Rivière (she was about fourteen at the time) as a “ravishing beauty”—even Ingres’ words have multiple connotations—dressed in her finest clothes. She is presented as pure and virginal with the loop of a boa encircling her arms and body like a snake from the Garden of Eden.

Ingres has idealized this portrait and sexualized Rivière. The painting was not well-received when first exhibited as it was considered too Gothic and shockingly eroticised. Mademoiselle Rivière died within a year of the painting’s completion.

Then there is the violence of the exploding apple which is used to replace Rivière’s head. This could suggest the whole history of violence against women or the frustration of being a woman in such oppressive times. What it may also suggest is that in this collage, this photographic image captures one fleeting moment in time. Edgerton invented the electronic flash which enabled him to take his incredible photograph of a bullet passing through an apple. This image, this portrait, is similarly only one fleeting glimpse, one two dimensional aspect of something far more incredibly complex and subtle of which we only have but a small understanding.

Then there are the conversation pieces about identity, the male gaze, religion, and science, and the female body. And so it goes on… Of course, whether Stevenson’s intends all of this micro-reading I dunno, but you get the idea. You can, or at least I can riff on Stevenson’s work for hours. Whether that’s of any value to you, is for you to decide. What I do know is this is one of the things that makes Stevenson’s collage work so rich, so important, so beautiful, and so utterly compelling.

American artist Deborah Stevenson first came to prominence as a painter. Her work includes a series of Brooklyn skylines and another on structures and buildings. These works are beautiful, iconic and idiosyncratic. They mark the talents of an artist who can surprise the viewer by making them aware of the strangeness and beauty in the most unexpected of places.

About seven years ago, Stevenson started making collages. As a painter, she found the process of making collages accessed a different part of her consciousness. This was no longer representational work of urban landscapes but something that worked intuitively as she explained to Klassic Magaizne:

I don’t set out to do a specific image. My work table is crowded with stacks of images I have cut from a variety of print sources (I only use original material, never printing out or doing digital) and I shift them around until something strikes me. I may pick out one image as particularly striking, and then continue moving the images around until I see something that seems to ‘fit’ with the first one. It is an adventure with my muse, and most important to the process is my ability to pay attention and listen to the whispers the muse makes to me, then I see the piece. There are recurring themes in my work: the Feminine, current events, moods and internal states of being, and fashion mash ups. Finding pieces to put together is the easy part: it is the cutting and pasting that can be very labor-intensive and delicate.

Stevenson’s collages aren’t decorative work but intended to express “ideas that would be difficult to put into words, but come out very easily and clearly in imagery.” Her work is an “exploration of concepts of power, beauty, the Feminine, and mysterious archetypal conjunctions.”

The work arises in an ‘automatic’ way; I do not set out with an objective or goal in my mind when I sit down to make something. The images compose themselves spontaneously as I mix and move the masses of paper around on the table in front of me. I feel as though my eyes and hands facilitate the ‘arrival’ of the pictures that I make.

See more of Deborah Stevenson’s work here and here.
 
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‘Cover Up.’
 
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‘Show Horns.’
 
See more of Deborah Stevenson’s collages, after the jump…
 

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Posted by Paul Gallagher
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10.11.2017
10:37 am
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