In: Female Artists

The Tissue Series | Lisa Nilsson
May 7, 2022

The Tissue Series | Lisa Nilsson

Everything that has beauty has a body, and is a body;
everything that has being has being in the flesh:
and dreams are only drawn from the bodies that are.
(D. H. Lawrence)

Lisa Nilsson’s works are immediately visceral. But when you learn how they’re assembled, that bodily aesthetic, suggesting a wetness, a moistness, if you will, suddenly becomes dry and almost antiseptic. 

This image is from her series of Anatomical Cross-Sections in Paper, and the artist offers the following about them and her process: These pieces are made of Japanese mulberry paper and the gilded edges of old books. They are constructed by a technique of rolling and shaping narrow strips of paper called quilling or paper filigree. Quilling was first practiced by Renaissance nuns and monks who are said to have made artistic use of the gilded edges of worn out bibles, and later by 18th century ladies who made artistic use of lots of free time. I find quilling exquisitely satisfying for rendering the densely squished and lovely internal landscape of the human body in cross section.

It’s interesting to consider the reference to bibles here – a tome that has much to say about the body and it’s ‘regulation’ (I’m old enough to remember the NEA ‘controversy’ when Mapplethorpe and Serrano were demonized by the Republican Helms, and how Lucy Lippard cast that in terms of adversarial religious dogma regarding interpolations of the body. Both artists mentioned here self identify as catholic and the late and unlamented Jesse Helms – their most bilious attacker – was a rabid evangelical). How the body is to be ‘regulated’ is also a fiery topic in the United States, right now….

I’m also reminded of the intersection between science and art, in terms of medical illustration, and an exchange from Katherine Dunn’s excellent novel Geek Love

“What made you,” clearing my throat, “decide to be an artist?”
Her eyes flick at my feet under frowning brows. “No, no. A medical illustrator. For textbooks and manuals … ” Her tongue sneaks out at a corner of her mouth as she slaps stroke after vicious stroke onto the defenseless page. “See, photographs can be confusing. A drawing can be more specific and informative. It gets pretty red in there. Pretty hot and thick.” 

More of Lisa Nilsson’s Tissue Series can be enjoyed here. Her work is meticulous and enthralling – like a bloodless autopsy. 

All photographs here are by John Polak. ~ Bart Gazzola

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The Mark – Olga Volgina
August 24, 2021

One of Olga Volgina’s more recent works that she’s shared on social media (as she’s a prolific artist) is a work that resonates in both an immediate and historical manner. Any (well made and meaningful) rendering of children has this power. Volgina’s children evoke a multiplicity of intersecting references: Goya’s portrait of Manuel Osorio Manrique de Zúñiga, who looks doll – like and innocent until a closer examination reveals several cats waiting to devour his pet bird, to the child’s indifference, is one. Delving even deeper into the worn faces and unflinching gaze of the children, I’m also reminded of Robertson Davies’ book World of Wonders. In response to one character relating his harsh yet essential childhood experiences, another defers that though he has experience “exploring evil” through his films, the evil of children is something that requires courage he lacks….

Volgina’s children must also bring to mind Ignorance and Want, from Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, and in that instance offer a more disturbing consideration of how a child is perhaps a larger reflection (or repository) for the world in which they live. Volgina commented that when this work – titled The Mark – was finished, “now I look at them and they look at me”, but what they see, or what they think, is opaque to us. We can guess; but the children in The Mark are silent and staring, offering no answers. Perhaps they’re indifferent to us, perhaps demanding, or perhaps simply exhausted and bruised. 

Volgina lives and works in St. Petersburg, Russia. Her digital portraits, as she describes them, are both a bit unsettling and insightful. This brings to mind how sitting for some artists requires a degree of courage (never mind being nude but what of the deeper self that the artist might excavate and present for the world to see?).

See more of Olga Volgina’s work on Instagram, FB and at Etsy, where she and her twin sister, Liza Volgina, have a variety of engaging works on display. ~ Bart Gazzola

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Fire Caught and Portrait of an Artist (Franklin Ugochukwu) – Kary Janousek
September 7, 2021

There is an ethereal look to wet plate collodion photography that is difficult to describe. It’s no wonder that people thought that early photography was a method to steal the soul of the sitter; as you can recognize the individual, but they look detached, disconnected. The camera seems to catch something more than just the image of the person… it catches their essence.

The reason for this is that these images are primarily formed by collecting the UV light radiating from the subject, a light that is invisible to the naked eye. Kary Janousek (one of 4 of the “Dakota Revivalist Photographers” using wet plate collodion in North Dakota) uses this effect to beautiful ends. Fire Caught and Portrait of an Artist (Franklin Ugochukwu) are perfect examples of the process. Many of Kary’s images have spiritual undertones that are served well by the detachment. The images are of flesh and blood seem to transcend the glass plates they are formed on.

Based in Fargo, North Dakota, Kary is likely one of the only wet plate photographers ANYWHERE with a store front enterprise… walk in to her incredible studio in the historic center of town and you can have a plate made on the spot! Recently she has started experimenting with different types of glass, creating completely unique works of art.

You can find Kary Janousek at https://highhatportraiture.com and on IG @highhatportraiture

Shane Balkowitsch is another of the Dakota Revivalist Photographers and has been previously featured on curated.

~ Mark Walton

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Untitled – Jennifer King
August 29, 2021

Jennifer King’s photography has always intrigued me, so much so that I put this photo of hers (above) on the front cover of the first edition of foto:RE|VIEW magazine in 2019. Her work seemed to capture a certain type of childhood perfectly… all its innocence and curiosity, along with its foibles and anxieties.

Jennifer had always taken photographs but found a stronger connection with the medium after the birth of her first child. “The camera became a tool that allowed me to respond to and embrace a new identity that included motherhood. It also became a way for me to discover who my children were.”

King excels at capturing those minute, physical clues that reflect one’s emotional state: a hooded brow, the quiver of a lip, a flash of exasperation, unbridled energy brought on by wonder and adventure.

You can read more about Jennifer’s work with her children in the article BECOMING, found here at foto:RE. You follow her @jencking and contact her HERE.  ~ Mark Walton

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