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Tribal Macabre: Miyu Decay

Miyu Decay is the jewelry label of fine artist and designer Stephanie Inagaki. Her signature bat skull is a motif that adorns many of her accessories. Cats, crows, and wolves also have their place among Miyu Decay’s themes. Influenced by her studies in Middle Eastern dance as well as by Victorian mourning jewelry, her designs often amalgamate the tribal, the macabre, and the mystical. The delicate detail of the tiny skulls is contrasted with the talismanic power of the pieces.

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Dream Sequences from Come True (2020)

The most remarkable part of the intriguing and effectively atmospheric sci-fi horror film Come True is the dream sequences, which are absolutely fascinating, enigmatic, hauntingly beautiful, brilliant. They resemble graphics in the best kind of video game, extremely crisp and precise, exquisitely rendered, but imbued with a poetic quality and symmetry, fluid movement and eerily divine choreography. After the appearance of the first dream, I found myself looking forward to each next one, and being riveted to the uncannily elegant images as the camera inexorably moved through them. In a sense they transcend the film itself, and can be taken on their own terms, as a startlingly distinct new interpretation of dreams in animation. The dimly lit, monochromatic dream imagery is bleakly lovely and restrained although breathtakingly impressive.

Within what I initially took to be a symbology of trauma, the viewer slowly, steadily, effortlessly and resistlessly moves towards these strange landscapes inhabited by sinister human-like figures as object after object looms closer and makes its contours known as you pass through a series of cavernous and mountainous spaces, vast unknown spaces, doors, and rooms and rooms. The way that natural and man-made objects are combined is quite interesting, just as dreams tend to intertwine the monumentally magnificent with the trite tokens of your daily life. Utterly gray and gloomy environments are swept with somberly radiant beams of light which illuminate the elements that need to be seen as they come to the fore. It’s quite a shame to watch it in such low quality, but the video above will give you a sense of the foreboding and horrifyingly graceful nature of those beautiful sequences. This is nightmare poetry at a new height. It almost indicates a new visual language for dreaming.

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Collage by Jane Windsor

Jane Windsor creates lovely three-dimensional collages assembled from historical, natural, and occult imagery. Pastel and lush, elegant and precise, these collages display a delicate playfulness with aesthetic finesse. Arch ladies of yesteryear, their dimpled hands and upturned eyes, combine with symbolically sinister animals such as ravens, foxes, rams, and rabbits, as well as flowers, mushrooms, and other tokens of memento mori, objects of growth and decay, luxury and rot. An exhibition of her new works will be showing at the Ghost Gallery in Seattle from July 7th through August 8th.

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Theeth Jewelry

Mushrooms entwined with crystals and small animals are the signature of Theeth Jewelry, hand-crafted by Portland artist Kimi Kaplowitz. These unusually beautiful and intricately delicate pieces are brilliant in design and marvelously executed. Macabre, lovable, unique, with the little imperfections born of the process that make them more astonishingly memorable, they are cast from original specimens and tiny things, spiders, cicadas, serpents, mantises, ferns, and the omnipresent mushrooms with their fragile striated gills. The resulting dear objects are odd, captivating, and spectacularly special.

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Infernal Physics: The Art of Daniel Martin Diaz

Arizona-based Daniel Martin Diaz depicts a strange, whimsical, and curious blend of scientific and philosophical concepts in his graphite drawings and paintings. His fascination with anatomy, biology, cosmology, quantum physics, and metaphysics comes across in his works, full of an obscure and awed humor. He draws inspiration from old scientific diagrams, which, notwithstanding their utilitarian intent, he finds very beautiful. These bastardizations and quaint amalgamations of disparate themes, esoterica and bygone sciences, the secular and the sacrosanct, give off a sense of wonder pertaining to the universe and all beyond the seen realm, conveying an intimation of layers upon layers of worlds and modes of knowledge.

Aliens, UFOs, Hermetics, viruses, Soviet spacecraft, cathedrals, medieval Christianity, Madonnas, death’s-head moths, sovereigns and memento mori, and the recondite elegance of physics diagrams, all combine in a panoply of visual information and expression. Diaz says of art that “It tries to dissect what is yet unimaginable, give value to the valueless, and meaning to what it is to be human.” The eccentricity and fusion of antique beauty and arcane knowledge in his work reminds me of the wondrous quasi-historical and -scientific imagery to be found at The Museum of Jurassic Technology in Culver City. This form of imaginative alternative-history-making is exactly to my taste, an exercise as much intellectual as it is aesthetic.

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Sparrow and Anemone: Illustrations by Ash Miyagawa

Chicago-based artist/graphic designer Ash Miyagawa takes inspiration from botany, magic, and the natural world. Her delicate illustration style with its graceful dotwork and shading conveys a palpable sense of wonder for plant and animal life, for all the beauties of nature. Herbs, flowers, crystals, bird skulls, snake skeletons, beetles, mushrooms, celestial bodies, and themes of magical lore are threaded throughout her art. Ash seeks to “tread the liminal spaces between science and magic.” Her design and branding work is also phenomenal.

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Dylan Garrett Smith

Dylan Garrett Smith uses ashes, chalk-lead, and black cotton rag paper in his illustrations which depict occultism intertwined with the natural world and memento mori. There are haunting, lovely images of ram skulls writhing with a living mass of snakes, of small human hands protruding from the bones of a decaying goat, bearing branches. Ruminants, foxes, and birds are transmogrified by corruption, bloom, and the interlacing with other beings, along with the ever-present serpent. This surreal subject matter is rendered in a careful, vivid style, the white strokes intense against the dark paper.

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Anastasis: The Transcendent Art of Agostino Arrivabene

The surreal, mystical, and exquisite artwork of Agostino Arrivabene never ceases to amaze me. In his lambent dreamlike style, the otherworldly and the unearthly are depicted with the painstaking detail and techniques of classical art. I believe he is one of the best artists working today – his paintings have an unsurpassable beauty, showing a masterly quality that is nothing short of virtuosic and inspired. He has also really perfected his art and vision over the past several years.

Arrivabene’s work evokes the Old Masters and Renaissance painting, hybridized with a modern style which transforms venerable images into uncanny things, combining religious iconography with a strange surrealism. His pieces have a numinous, glowing spiritual quality, focusing on the human form imbued with a sense of divinity. There are also landscapes which are colossal in scope and sublimity. These forms often have parasitic or symbiotic growths upon their limbs and faces – they are in the process of being overrun and eventually overtaken by this inhuman accretion. The Madonnas and Christs of his creation appear to be merging with iridescent and nacreous, strange alien flora, becoming a new form of bodily and spiritual life – a concomitant death and resurrection. It does not seem necessarily sinister, but is certainly dark, profound, and unfathomable.

The decaying, rot-eaten textures of the paint also lend to the antique air of his works, as if these were artworks of a realm immeasurably distant in the future, being rescued from the obscurity of its ancient past. Arrivabene’s is an alien, primal religious world, which is constantly transformed by preternatural forces – organic matter with an ethereal dimension. The themes bring to mind the mythology and sense of indescribable mystery of Jeff VanderMeer’s Southern Reach novels (and the film adaptation of Annihilation). His visions are encrusted and endlessly elaborated with an organically baroque beauty, forms developed by a nature unknown to us, rather than by human artifice. I love the luminous colors, and the incredible detail – overall his oeuvre exudes a delicacy and subtlety which is truly otherworldly. It perhaps portrays the ecstatic agony of alien saints.

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The Inner Cathedral: The Exquisite Dolls of Mari Shimizu

The ethereal creations of Mari Shimizu are hauntingly beautiful and impossibly detailed. Shimizu crafts elaborate ball-jointed dolls which possess an angelic appearance of purity and seem haloed by their tragic suffering. The figures are saints, martyrs, Madonnas, and vampires emanating an aura of innocence overshadowed by affliction. Many of them contain intricately carved Gothic arches, chapels, or even miniature Gardens of Eden within their torsos – the most delicately beautiful element of her works. These hollowed-out cavities of the architecture of anatomy are inhabited by demons and angels, homunculi, scenes evoking Hieronymus Bosch’s Garden of Earthly Delights, as well as antique cabinets of curiosities. Combining biblical themes with her love of historical fashion, Mari Shimizu’s doll sculptures are like three-dimensional paintings with as much detail and subtlety as that medium, in their small-scale, inner paradises and hells.

The roughly 2-foot dolls are characterized by both captivating realism and disturbing surreality. Their unnnerving, almost obscene quality reminds me of the doll projects of Hans Bellmer, an inspiration of Shimizu’s. Working with traditional Japanese materials, Shimizu forms the heads and limbs out of papier-mache or clay, and the hair is made with goat’s hairs or silk threads.

Reminiscent of Anatomical Venuses, these entrancingly lovely, dolorous ladies have a wasted, spiritual look and sometimes are even dissectible/vivisected, with removable organs. The lacy decay of some of their figures, with spots in their flesh as if eaten through by decomposition, exposing ribs and inner cavities, is touched with a melancholy, morbid sensuality. Their bodies seem to be both the sacrifice and the altar upon which they are sacrificed. Also intriguing are the sculptures that represent dryads of the dead, human-tree hybrids seemingly overtaken by decay and strange growths of skulls and corpse-like beings.

These fragilely beautiful girls, with their air of adolescent bloom, at the same time give the impression of being catacombs containing hordes of the dead and decomposing. Thus, they are always both radiant and dark. Although they seem like the miraculously preserved and incorrupt bodies of saints, they have a breath of the crypt. I particularly love the Death and the Maiden-themed pieces which vividly depict the juxtaposition between a young girl in the bloom of youth and the macabre specter of Death, giving shape to a figure that seems literally torn between youthful beauty and grim dissolution. One of these is currently available for sale on Akatako, as well as one of her anatomical girls, in a violin case.

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