Miriam Escofet creates rich oil paintings of idyllic scenes that nostalgically allude to classical antiquity. Perhaps the only notes of pessimism in these sumptuous depictions of ornate architecture, statues and jewels is that Escofet’s heavenly world seem to be nearly devoid of human inhabitants. This is a place that seems to belong to the gods — too perfect for mortals. Escofet originally studied 3D design and set out to be a ceramicist, which explains her attention to texture and volume. Each crease of fabric and crevice within a tree’s bark is rendered with precision. Light and shadow are greatly contrasted to a level beyond what we normally experience with the human eye, making Escofet’s fictional lands seem vivid yet illusory.
Austrian-born Stefan Zsaitsits creates intricately-detailed and deranged works with a sense of humor. Take for instance “Puppet,” an uncommon portrait of fairytale icon Pinocchio — half of his sweet face is scratched off with harsh dark lines. His wooden arm seems worn and his one bulging eye shows a mix of fear and sadness. Other anonymous figures seem to come from sort of equally distorted children’s tale. If you line up Zsaitsits’s quirky characters in a row — a little boy with a still-feathered chicken in mouth, a Magritte-like figure with no face except glasses and a floating ear — they look like clues to a larger narrative where it seems things went comically wrong. The artist’s paintings look more somber and eerie in contrast with many severed body parts and depressing scenes. No matter the medium, the artist creates intriguing scenes that entice the viewer even while threatening to turn them away with unsettling details.
Artists’ exploration of the unknown is an age-old practice — a notion that Stephen Romano Gallery’s summer group show “Mysterium Cosmographicum” demonstrates with their diverse roster of artists, contemporary and historical. With its lofty theme, the show explores the role of the artist as prophet or shaman — simply put, someone who uses visual cues to access the spiritual side of human experience.
Seattle-based artist Olivia Knapp conjures ornate arrangements of commonplace objects and anatomical parts in strange still lives that evoke the Baroque period. Though she received her eduction in fashion design from Parsons and the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Knapp focuses her energy on the technical mastery of drawing with pen and ink. Inspired by centuries-old illustrations in scientific texts, she carefully studies the techniques of 16th-century master engravers, boiling her cross-hatching techniques down to a science to achieve a rich range of values and convincing depth.
Never one to shy away from the macabre, artist and graphic designer Hedi Xandt is known in art circles for his beautifully ghoulish sculptural pieces, which often incorporate elements of the human skeleton. His fascination with skulls and the human profile has led to a series of busts reminiscent of classical Hellenic Greek art. Taking inspiration from ancient Gods and beauties carved in marble, Xandt transforms these figures of perfection to align with his own dark vision.
When Finland based artist Kim Simonsson began experimenting with figurative ceramic art in the 90s, it caught people by surprise. The term ‘ceramic’ brings to mind sophisticated objects, but his is a decidedly unusual mix of Eastern traditional materials and pop culture. “The subject of my work, as a rule, are children, animals, or something in between,” he shares. There are glazed-white ghostly children ‘bullying’ exotic wild animals like panthers and deer, or jumping into metallic puddles. See more after the jump!