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MH is a blog and archive featuring artists who are interested in the ways in which humans interact with and experience animals and nature.

MH Digest

Hiatus + Introducing MH Digest

I type this post from a temporary home in Colorado, taking a break from unpacking a moving truck that brought all my belongings from Kansas. Over the next few weeks or maybe months, I’ll be between the Mountain West and the Northwest, attempting to secure a life in the Portland area. I’ll have limited access to the internet and an unpredictable schedule, so although there might be some guests posts during this time, I won’t be posting on MH regularly. Hopefully, things will be back to normal here by the fall. In the mean time, you can stay connected by following the Tumblr account I’ve set up for MH.

MH Digest will be updated twice weekly or so with images on the MH theme. There’s currently a queue of posts with a few images from each MH post over the past two and a half years. Intermixed and beyond that will be new content: reblogs of great animal/nature photography, art I see and love on the fly, a few images when a whole post of ten wouldn’t make sense on MH. There’s also a way to submit!

Even beyond this hiatus, I think the Tumblr blog will be a great digest-style companion to the site. I hope you follow along.

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Tara Sellios, "Luxuria"

Tara Sellios

I have never seen anything else like Tara Sellios’ artwork. When I came across her photography and accompanying sketches in 2012, I was blown away by her originality, ingenuity, attention to detail, and intense overall process. The photographs are rich, luscious, and seductive, and the large 2D works are captivating, enriching the experience of the work altogether. In her art, Sellios explores existence, death, fragility, impermanence, and carnality. Her most recent group of photographs and watercolors, Luxuria, is on view at Gallery Kayafas in Boston through June 27, 2015.

From a statement on the Gallery Kayafas websiteNot unlike 17th century Dutch still life painting, Sellios’ photographs are formal compositions of apparently sumptuous repasts – table linens smeared with fluids, strewn with crumbs left from gluttonous exchanges and lavish banquets. These large-scale watercolors and multi-paneled color photographs vibrate with realism and physical presence. Sellios seeks to represent the totality of human existence, the feel, even the smell of it. We are invited to experience the lasciviousness of the consumption of food and wine – of life passing. The imagery is beautifully unsettling and raw. We are visually satiated. Life and Death inhabit the same moment.

Visit artist's site: tarasellios.com

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Alice Grace Woosey, "Imprint"

Alice Grace Woosey

Alice Grace Woosey’s photographs of ducklings developing in and hatching from eggs are dramatic and captivating. The images in Imprint document embryonic life from conception to emergence, the luscious black of the background and glowing warm hues and bright whites of the embryo and egg creating a seductive contrast. While focusing on the fragility and evanescence of the process, Woosey draws a comparison between the subject of the pictures and the practice of photography itself.

From the artist’s statement: Light reveals the interior of the egg, the porcelain-like shell shifts from opaque to translucent, but the embryo appears only as a shadow, indistinct, fleeting and elusive – resisting being pinned down and immutably fixed in an image. Light is also the substance of photography – its alchemical reaction with photosensitive emulsion leaves an imprint of the referent, but also reveals the image in the darkroom, through projection. Without light, the embryo is concealed, the film records nothing – no imprint is left, and nothing can be projected. There is only primordial darkness.

The darkroom is a maternal, womb-like space in which prints develop and negatives have life breathed into them, turning from immaterial projections into physical, material prints. These creations are fragile like the first shadows of existence they represent, too much light and they fade out into over-exposed darkness, too little light and they barely exist at all.

Visit artist's site: alicegracewoosey.com

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Kent Andreasen, from "Casablanca"

Kent Andreasen

I don’t know much about Kent Andreasen, but since I stumbled upon his pictures, they’ve stuck with me. I’ve written before about how the mystery of contemporary photography portfolio websites, with a lack of basic artist information or a statement, general or specific, sometimes attracts me to the work, causing me to draw my own conclusions and spend time thinking about the images and their meaning. I find myself looking at a lot of this work lately. Maybe I’m drawn to this kind of representation of artwork because my own situation is in such a state of flux right now. Regardless, I enjoy the unknown and the eeriness in Kent Andreasen’s photography. If nothing more, it is a documentation of the strangeness of nature and the world.

Visit artist's site: kentandreasen.com

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Adam Batchelor, "America, Rectangle, Megaphone, Monday"

Adam Batchelor

You might recognize the work of Adam Batchelor from his drawings of birds with bags on their heads, which have been popular all over the internet lately. That’s how I discovered his strange animal drawings, and their absurdity stuck with me. Batchelor’s work is similar in style and concept to that of a favorite artist of mine, Josh Keyes, with animals in curious predicaments against bold white backgrounds, although Batchelor’s pieces are less photorealistic in style. Playful yet critical, Batchelor’s artwork examines the imbalance between humans and the natural world and how we as humans portray and understand ecology and the animal kingdom. (The Observation section of his site has a great collection of animal/nature photos.)

Visit artist's site: adambatchelor.co.uk

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Valeria Scrilatti, "Siberian Tiger, Berlin"

Valeria Scrilatti

Valeria Scrilatti’s comprehensive series, Almost Wild, is made of a wide variety of types of pictures. Made in zoos all over the world, some are magnificent and breathtaking, showcasing the brilliant color of autumn leaves or specks of dust in a beam of light; some look like they were made by a child, with animals’ heads chopped off or faces obscured; some look like ordinary, almost accidental photographs of a zoo environment until a figure is spotted so small and nearly out of the frame. Many of the animals pictured don’t look like they belong in these places, or maybe it’s that, based on what we can see, they can’t possibly be happy.

From a statement on the artist’s website: The zoo is certainly not exclusive to Western culture, nor is it the result of the consumer society. Men have always had the urge to “capture” and “tame” wild beasts, removing them from their native habitats and putting them on display in other places, just as men have also done with “savage” humans who lived in the wild. The Renaissance popes brought elephants and rhinos to Rome, where they lived in the Vatican gardens… But industrial society did something more and it created a sort of “total institution” that is a parallel universe and a world unto itself. The zoo is in fact a kind of theme park where life, with its dimension of the unusual and the [marvelous], is taken away from our everyday experience and is hermetically closed off and vacuum-packed inside the box of a vulgar and low-quality spectacle.

Valeria [immerses] herself in this phony universe that is rooted in the childhood memories of us all, with its strange mixture of the menacing power of wild nature and the humiliating fiction of fairground papier-mâché scenarios. The eyes of children, without bothering with questions of ethics or aesthetics, focus feverishly on these incongruous presences; on the animals that, heedless of the spectacle of which they are the protagonists, give us brief glimpses and inglorious fragments of their “real” existence. With the merging of the “natural” into such an “unnatural” context the false and artificial scenario is totally dominant, and it has the sweet and cloying taste of an obscure and clichéd art-house film, emerging grotesquely from an indecorous and tasteless trivialization of uncontaminated nature.

Visit artist's site: valeriascrilatti.eu

Found via: Life Framer

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Sebastian Magnani, "Reflections"

Sebastian Magnani

I stumbled upon this series of photographs by Sebastian Magnani and I found it so calming, right when I needed something like that. Magnani’s pictures of circular mirrors on various natural textures create the illusion of planets unlike any we know. Some of the backgrounds reference a speckled universe; some make me think other galaxies could indeed look like bursts of pink and green. My favorite of the images are those in which what’s reflected either fits in perfectly or goes against completely the surface upon which the mirror is resting. The white line seems to continue right through the sphere of reflected tree branches in the first image below, and the blue sky and orange leaves in the image after that are pleasantly unexpected against a black asphalt background. Maybe it’s my mood, but I feel relaxed and hopeful when I look at the photographs (cigarette butts and all), thinking about nature figuratively and literally reflected.

A note: The time is nearing to step back from Muybridge’s Horse for a while as I leave my current home in Kansas, relocate to a temporary “home base” in Colorado, and make the move to Portland, OR, where I hope to settle in (and find a job!) before the fall. I won’t be able to post regularly over the next few months, but I’ll do my best. I’m thinking of posting content in a digest-style format to keep myself from missing MH too badly; I’ll write about that soon!

Visit artist's site: sebastianmagnani.com

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Samantha Friend, "We Are Interested"

Samantha Friend

Today I’m featuring work by Samantha Friend again because as much as I enjoy her series Swatches, what she’s currently up to is a project I find even more intriguing. We Are Interested is “an honest contemporary look at America’s constantly changing relationship with nature and the various ways we try to understand the role the outside world plays in our society.” More from the artist’s statement: “By exploring how we also play a significant role in nature’s life span—though at times without intending to, or in an inevitably negative manner—what’s revealed in the process are ways in which we preserve and enhance this symbiotic relationship too. As humans, one of our primary goals is to obtain the mentality of a life well lived. Since fresh air and sunlight are intrinsic to a high quality of life, we seek to experience these necessities of enrichment while still remaining true to our desires, never forsaking the opportunity of having fun by experiencing a scheduled good time. As our vacations from the norm and surrounding environment begin to feel increasingly more forced and elaborate, we must also keep in mind that at all times we are a customer of life.”

I mentioned recently that bodies of work like this continue to show up on my radar, and I love them because they’re broad in content but specific to the image-maker, their location, their age, etc. The general questioning of the human relationship with animals and nature is my favorite kind of photography right now. You can present any artist with this concept and be met with a vast array of types of images. I think it’s important that many of Friend’s photos depict people in some way obscured, from behind or interacting with technology. Even when with others or amongst animals, each person feels strangely isolated.

Visit artist's site: samanthafriend.com

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Beth Kleinpeter, "Cat Shows"

Beth Kleinpeter

I’m a sucker for cat show pictures. There’s no venue of experiencing animals quite like cat shows, where either you’re an absolute cat fanatic or you’re overwhelmed by how enthusiastic about cats the people there are. These pictures by Beth Kleinpeter do an excellent job describing the scene. They’re straightforward and funny, not making a mockery of cat shows or the people who attend and “exhibit” (?) but illustrating this rich other world that’s rife with cat obsession artfully and with humor that’s hard to avoid.

Visit artist's site: bethkleinpeter.com

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Lex Thompson, "Viewing Station"

Lex Thompson

I love Lex Thompson’s work, particularly his series All Our Pleasant Places. In his photographs of abandoned amusement parks and other strange landscapes, Thompson explores “the American myth of Manifest Destiny and its seemingly endless horizon of optimism and possibility. The images depict the construction of fantasy and desire in our landscape, offering a return to the innocence of the Garden, but revealing the frailty of the hopes we bring to the world.” I really enjoy Thompson’s statement for the work, from which I’ve shared more below. I’ve also included a few poignant pictures from another of Thompson’s projects, Mahalo, about the collisions that occur within the islands of Hawaii. That “Breaking Wave” is a new favorite photograph of mine.

From the artist’s statement: From religious conviction to manifest destiny to Disneyland, America has struggled with fusing two human desires, to return to a state of childlike innocence and to realize a future utopia. Theologically and culturally these ideas are often conflated. Though antipodal, they share a core longing for purity, happiness, and enjoyment. There is a sense of wonder, awe, pleasure and fun to be experienced in Arcadia. The purity of an unadulterated landscape and a snow covered field, the wonders of flight and the magic of electric light, the creation of fantastical environments and the transplanting of exotic locales all bring us some sense of a return to an untainted way things were, or of the transformation of things to the way we hope they will one day be – through human or divine dominion.

Despite all the promise of these visions, each has failed us. They have been left empty, seeming to only inspire wonder in short spurts. Spectacular creations scattered around our country sit abandoned. We no longer visit them or participate in them… Decay hangs heavy on the dinosaur resurrected in concrete, facing extinction for the second time. Desolation tells the tale of our crippled mystical Puritan dreaming. “All our pleasant places are laid waste.” But even in their vacancy, they give rise to the knowledge of former faith, stoking the dwindling fire, rekindling the flame of our paradise.

Visit artist's site: lexthompson.com

Found via: Feature Shoot

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