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Immortal Veil: The Art of Maëva Stancil

Maëva Stancil’s lovely dotwork drawings convey a sense of occult grandeur. A cold glitter of stars, skulls, sigils, moths, and sprays of flowers create a visual language for a mystical world made ominous by statuesque hooded figures and mysterious disembodied hands. The medieval combines with fantasy elements in a style that is spare, yet rich with the suggestion of arcane knowledge. Grim and somber as the strange figures are, their foreboding is offset by the fragments of nature surrounding them.

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Ghoulishly Beautiful Portraits by Roberto Diaz

The gory and rather sensationalist mixed-media creations of Roberto Diaz are wonderfully disturbing. Diaz combines traditional drawing with digital painting to execute darkly surreal portraits of dignified figures from past epochs, deformed by monstrous changes, additions, and appalling transformations. He uses a somber palette with warm, burnished tones which is evocative of the Old Masters, offset by the more lurid reds of the blood and grisly flesh. There is a constant tension and balance between the repulsive and the pleasing in all Diaz’s works.

A multiplicity of eyes, breaches in flesh, gaping maws, woeful signs of decay and ruin warp these subjects painted with a beautifully classical quality, who are often surrounded by a sort of halo or bubble of air. They are blessed – or kept alive – by graceful swirls of thin red tubes like veins or IV lines. The skeletal noses, stitches, and exposed subcutaneous flesh are reminiscent of rotting cadavers, while other distortions look as if their bodies had been cloven and fused back imperfectly. The tearfulness of some of these beings leads one to feel that they suffer terribly, with the ceremonial, grave sadness of those looking out at us from history. They possess the mournfulness and piety of old paintings, while at the same time they are corrupted by this macabre modern aesthetic which seeks to amalgamate and subvert all.

There is an alluring, palpable luster and glisten to the gore and viscera in Diaz’s paintings, the substance of the imperfect bodies. Unsubtle in horror, intensely impactful, the verisimilitude and level of technical achievement, the masterly chiaroscuro, draw in and seduce the eye. The juxtaposition between aesthetic pleasingness and sinister conception exploits our instinctual revulsion against perceived flaws and deformities in the human visage. This accomplishes a profanation of the allegedly divine, marries the lovely with the hideous, and evokes in us a delicious combination of disturbance and aesthetic gratification.

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Igor Skaletsky

Igor Skaletsky is an artist based in Tel Aviv, Moscow, and Berlin, who creates playful visual pastiches using a combination of traditional and digital painting and collage. His works ironically blend historical imagery and iconography with the aesthetics of modern high fashion. The resulting oeuvre can contain the somberness of an Andrew Wyeth landscape, the pious richness of the Old Masters, absurdly alongside satirical symbols of contemporary life and culture.

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The Glass Coffin: Liza Corbett Revisited

Below are some recent works from one of my longtime favorites, Liza Corbett. Her fanciful watercolors enchant me with their elegant, melancholy surrealism, sweeping, willowy lines, and languid Victorian ladies. I especially like the motif of eyes peering out of women’s skirts, as if their vestiture were a kind of morbid extension of their bodies/selves. Her delicately lovely images put me in mind of spiritualist seances, mythological stories where women are transformed into animals, and the membranous veil, as diaphanous as her art, between the living and deathly realms. I love the artist’s statement on her site, which elaborates:

{Liza Corbett’s work contemplates The Summer-Land, the spirit world that lays unseen alongside our own. She creates visual narratives populated with otherworldly women and animals, under heavy suns in hazy, wan skies. Her subject matter is tinged with the menace of pre-modern life and suffused with an air of melancholy. Influenced by nineteenth-century spiritualism, by Dark Romanticism, and by myths, fables and old tales, Liza aims to create images that, like tarot or other methods of divination, suggest a strange and impenetrable significance underlying our worldly existence.}

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The Hellish Dreamscapes of Aleksandra Waliszewska

Warsaw-based artist Aleksandra Waliszewska paints the inner landscape of nightmares. With her rather primitive, naive style, her oil and gouache paintings also have an ostensible childlike sweetness which is belied by the horrific themes depicted. She is fascinated by themes of torture, sadomasochism, and the macabre, drawing from a variety of influences including Renaissance art, fairy tales, folklore, and horror movies. Her paintings are often inhabited by young women with an androgynous, waifish physique and uncanny children, alongside monstrous cats, spider-women, and other hybrids of beast and man. These strange beings perpetrate and have perpetrated upon them gruesome acts of violence and violation – the line is often blurred between prey and perpetrator. The subjects, whether victim or villain, tend to possess a malignant or sinisterly mischievous air.

As S. Elizabeth writes on Unquiet Things, “Whether against the backdrop of a well-lit classroom, a shadowy forest landscape, or the viscera-strewn confines of a dusty cave, madness, magic, and mythology cavort hand in bloody hand.” These morbid and perversely jovial scenes take place in eerie wastelands, lonely forests, empty and surreal wildernesses. I find her work to be reminiscent of the classic surrealist painter Leonora Carrington. Waliszewska is more inspired by historical art and the Quattrocento than contemporary movements, although she also takes imagery from modern sources such as video games. The Dark Arts: Aleksandra Waliszewska and Symbolism explains: “Drawing from the specifically Slavic histories of the Upiór (the living dead), Waliszewska claims her artistic and conceptual descendance from premodern art and Symbolist works of the late 19th and early 20th century from Nordic, Baltic, and Eastern European regions.”

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The Ethereal, Fractal Collages of Dan Hillier

Dan Hillier is a collagist extraordinaire, producing striking, intricate, and meticulous works through the manipulation of 19th-century wood and steel engravings, added to by his own linework. These finely conceived hybrids give off a sense of the mystical and the ironic. The loveliness of demure Victorian ladies is fragmented and modified; fractalization is combined with religious themes; flowers abound. The result is an impression of the divine slightly twisted, a corruption of the past by the modern, or by timelessness. The irruption of light from the faces of saints is compassed by the vast darkness of the irremediable void.

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3D Sculpture by Arsen Asyrankulov

The nightmarish beings from the imagination of Kyrgyzstan-based artist Arsen Asyrankulov are hauntingly beautiful and detailed beyond belief. Majestically alien, biomechanical, and torturously intricate, they have both the ethereality of a divine plane and the insistently organic, macabre physicality of an extraterrestrial world. Seemingly part-god, part-corpse, part-demon, Asyrankulov’s digital sculptures have a visceral and fluid anatomy hybridizing different forms and merging with their environments, as in a queenly figure who seems inseparable from the vast throne-like structure behind her, which also evokes a skeletal form embracing/imprisoning her. Asyrankulov’s art calls to mind immense scales and landscapes of frightening grandeur, colossal voids housing the palaces of dead alien gods, all emanating an outré baroque quality and rendered in disturbing splendor.

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Ruffs, Pearls, & Rotten First-Fruits: The Art of Nicole Duennebier

The marvelously vibrant works of Nicole Duennebier remind me of a heavenly amalgamation of 17th- and 18th-century aristocratic portraits, vanitas still lifes, and biological illustrations of mysterious deep-sea creatures or perhaps microscopic entities. These complex arrangements are both glisteningly corporeal and abstract, evoking the opaline, viscous translucency of internal organs, at the same time as they cluster in formations seemingly impossible to this earth. They appear to represent a combination of vegetable, organic, and mystical matter. With intriguing titles like Floral Hex and Out of the Strong Came Forth Sweetness, her series of remarkable paintings present “hybrid images that resemble Baroque still lifes, coral, fur, crystals and close-ups of microscopic fauna,” as well as “chandeliers of polyps, spores, and puss, glowing, growing, oozing, dripping…with hundreds of strands of delectable tiny spheres, tangling and cascading…”

Grapes and pearls are visible in beautiful shimmering dimensions of color, reminding me of the tempting bloom on the exquisitely painted fruit in antique still lifes. Ruffled formations abound, resembling the stiff ruffs and elaborate vestiture of a bygone era. With her classical, masterly style, Duennebier creates a world of fascinating, alluring, corrupt, repulsive, alien, and divine organisms and systems. They are invested with the otherworldly light of the Old Masters, while depicting ungodly combinations, things that ought not to be contemplated too closely. The fantastic forms emerging from the dark void of the background are sui generis, bursting forth in a profusion of incandescent textures and transparent layers.

As the artist statement on her Website elaborates:
Natural phenomenon—dermoid cysts, fungus, invasive flora/fauna—and my love of candied, old-master opulence have a constant presence in my work….I’ve become accustomed to the fact that nature itself, or anything living really, never totally allows you to have a perfectly idealized experience. Everything is always spewing, dripping, rotting a little. Similar to 17th century still-life paintings with those vibrant lusty fruits that show the light fuzz of beginning decay, I don’t see these works as allegorical depictions. To me it is more the realization that both the rot and the fruit are a textural attraction in their delicacy…
The classic chiaroscuro darkness in still-life is a primordial soup, a pool of black that springs forth a decadent, and sometimes horrible, growth. I’ve always been attracted to the obsolete idea of spontaneous generation, all that awful stuff popping into existence for no reason. The paintings reflect this; they are more spontaneous generations than firmly rooted in actual living organisms.

The luscious strangeness of the objects/beings Duennebier depicts, along with her historical influence, composes an incredibly dynamic and scintillating aesthetic universe. Tumorous, malignant, lavish, sumptuous, delicate all at once, vegetable, animal, mineral, undersea, microbial, alien, viscera, carcass, the proliferations of renegade life in Nicole Duennebier’s art are iterations of an invasive, entropic, and unsettling, ever-evolving beauty. The gorgeousness of the cancerous growths of her imagination is limitless. Vaguely sinister, with their alarming encroachment of color, these organic forms are sublime, intricate, and arrestingly unique.

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Dancing with Ecstasy: The Art of Hydeon

Ian Ferguson/Hydeon creates fascinating, lurid, elaborately vivid artworks depicting group scenes and vignettes from decadent, fantastic civilizations. Striking black and red predominate among bold and vibrant colors, like slashes in the face. The rather flat perspectives and characterizations of the individual faces are reminiscent of medieval and Renaissance paintings. The strange composition and techniques serve to give his work its utterly unique feeling, also its sinister yet alluring air.

Naive and sumptuous at the same time, his mixed-media drawings parade a multitude of masked perverse figures in a claustrophobic world of morbid and lavish imagery. The color is so intense that it draws the viewer irresistibly into these complex tableaux, as if one could become lost in them, in this place and time of a past that never quite existed, a princely realm that never was, but is rather an inventive amalgamation of many, as well as a starkly new imagining.

Hydeon states that his arrestingly imaginative work is inspired by “ancient civilizations, Baroque, Gothic, and Victorian-era architectural movements, medieval, folk, and outsider art, ancient myths, fairy tales, and ideas of consciousness.” Many of Hydeon’s works are available at the Mortal Machine Gallery in New Orleans, including the second one shown below, Losing at Backgammon.

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