Heitor MagnoUntitled (2013)

There’s no question: this piece owes a debt to David Lynch.

I know that portraits of someone’s head and shoulders presented in front of a textured wall in contrast-y B&W or monochrome is so ubiquitous as to be cliché but consider the preponderance of this motif in portraits of Lynch himself–it’s almost as if this manner of presentation is an extension of his brilliant white button ups, under shadow dark sports coats.

I’ve talked a fair amount of piss about Lynch in the past. I am a huge fan of most of his work–in fact, if you disregard Dune and Inland Empire, his oeuvre situates him as among one of the most consistently masterful, active, contemporary artists.

I watched the Twin Peaks revival in it’s entirety this spring. I am of a mind that it’s the best work he’s ever done–by quantum margins. There is honestly no way whatsoever I can oversell it; it’s an ingenious tour de force that is utterly exquisite to experience. (Also: some of the criticisms that I’ve lobbed Lynch’s way previous about the demarcation between the surreal and the oneiric–and how Lynch tends to play fast and loose with that boundary–well, Twin Peaks: The Return demonstrates that even if such a criticism was valid previously, it is certainly no longer the case.

I’ve not seen all the original run of Twin Peaks. (I was a about three years to young to catch Twin Peaks fever and subsequent efforts to re-watch it have been sabotaged by a constellation of factors. At this point: it is unlikely that I’ll ever see it.)

I am curious if the trope of facial voids and flames feature in the original run–because while the notion of a facial void is very Lynchian, I’m not sure I can recall that specific image in the rest of his work.

Lynch is one of those influences from whom artists would do well to exercise caution in riffing on without careful consideration. Someone much smarter than me pointed out how many ‘artists’ use Lynch as an excuse, i.e. going light on plotting so as to focus on compelling visuals and a sinister surrealism to pull things together. There is always an underlying logic to Lynch’s work–to the extent that even inconsistencies will be consistently applied.

Anyway, I would be curious if the facial void image occurs in the original Twin Peaks because if it doesn’t then I feel like Magno’s image is actually even better than I understand it to be–and I’m basing that of the premise that it ceases to be theft if you take an idea and in the process of making it your own, improve upon it.

This is fantastic for the way it constantly turns in on itself. The lit B&W cigarette resonates with the flame burning through a print. (This appears to be a collage effect, where the picture of a burning print has been digitally imposed over the B&W portrait–creating a mask that is in turn a void with dimension deeper than the image on which it has been overlaid; like one of those haunted houses that is bigger on the inside than the outside.)

Also, the trope of burning photos possesses a sinister value. Typically, when we see this in a piece it indicates someone surrendering something that costs them too much to keep. Think of unrequited lovers burning pictures of the one who has abandoned them or of a criminal destroying evidence.

In a lot of ways I feel like this takes ideas that almost certain were sparked by Lynch and internalizes not only the symbolism but the logic underlying the symbols; then: applies both to personal expression. That would already be impressive. But what I adore about this is that this goes even deeper by then taking the concept and then applying the same system of logic and symbols that codified the conceptual trappings and then applying that awareness to questions of how the presentation of the work will be seen and interpreted by the viewer.

It’s a level of commitment to consistency that is damn impressive. Even more so if it intuited this underlying theme in Lynch’s work and then extrapolated it into something that pushes things a great bit further than Lynch manages to in the Twin Peaks revival.

Flora BorsiHome (2015)

Generally–for me–photo manipulation is a turn-off.

It’s not that I find it inherently dishonest or anything like that–in fact, I find the conceptual implications of photo manipulation super intriguing; it’s the fact that it is so rarely attempted by someone with any real sort of well developed craft.

Although, Borsi’s Photoshop approach is almost certainly too clean and minimal for it’s own good–only an inept idiot would dispute that she’s got some goddamn mean fucking chops.

I’d be absolutely in love with this based solely on the interplay of color. (In that regard, it reminds me of Amanda Jasnowski; while avoiding Jasnowski’s tendency to favor high key lighting as a means of compressing shadow density.)

And I’m intrigued by the process. Yes, the orange heat blur is not consistent given the flames. However, there’s no way to get that completely 120% correct, so she adds just enough to sell the drama and then focuses on secondary details. (The subtle bluer around the right shoulder and the careful way the light given off by the flames cast on the body.)

But what floors me is what I see as one of the conceptual notions underlying the image: the burning vegetation recalls the shape of the lungs–and presumably having your lungs on fire is a pretty serious affliction.

Yet, with this degree of Photoshop mastery, Borsi could have made it look as if these were her lungs. She decidedly doesn’t. They appear outside the body.

And I begin to view this as a comment on how damaging it is to effectively set women on fire simply because society has sexualized female bodies.



I haven’t Tumblred in a while.

It’s cause this girl happened.

Deal with it.

this is an amazing image…

^I agree.

But I also think it could have perhaps been improved. In tone, form and content it reminds me of Jim Richardson’s A thunderstorm halts haying as two farmers watch the sky–which is less compositionally muddled and self-contained.

I say that not as a slight to the above–just as an example of how people who make images like the above need to think differently if they want fine art legitimacy.


Benjamin Koelewijn [Anxiety (2012)]

This is definitely some #skinnyframebullshit.

Glossing over that whole hot mess, the fire, the obscured face and the smeared black ooze recall Sarah Michelle Hoey’s kick-ass Requiems.

I am becoming irked as I look into this though. It’s fine to riff on your inspriations; but it’s another to claim someone else’s idea as your own.

Hoey posted Requiems on January 12, 2012, including a bad (but charmingly so) explanation of her inspiration and process.

Koelewijn subsequently posts Anxiety to his DeviantArt in late June/early July.

It’s not that Anxiety–which couldn’t be more knee-jerkily named–owes an obvious debt to Requiems and brings nothing its own to the table; it’s not Koelewijn failure/refusal to credit Hoey; it’s that Hoey’s work is of a fundamentally higher level of quality and skill, yet it still hasn’t achieved half the Flickr likes and comments that this post of Koelewijn’s has achieved on Tumblr.

If you agree, please don’t like this post; instead duck over here and like the only post of Requiems there seems to be on Tumblr.


Annamaria Kowalsky

I dig this image. Part of it is definitely due to the latent pyro in me. Plus it captures all the best of what Kowalsky—no, not Kowalski—brings to the table as a violist-by-day/photographer-by-night.

Yet, I feel my response has to address the indebtedness of Kowalsky’s work to Brooke Shaden—whose work I loathe.

What makes Kowalsky’s work attractive—besides the violist bit (I am a love fool for musicians, dontcha know?)—is the manner whereby she dodges Shaden’s derivative interpretations with sincere photographic inquiry. Her images tell the story of how she sees herself as well as how she wishes she was seen.

In other words, photo manipulation is not an end in and of itself to Kowalsky—and make no mistake this and much of her work are composites (to which I normally object but if I’ll give Jeff Wall a pass…); instead, the implausibility of her contrived images recall in-between-ness of the moment after you glimpse something you are certain is impossible and the moment before you looking again to discover it was just the play of the light sparking your eyes’ imagination.