Lin Tianmiao is considered one of today’s most notorious contemporary artists in China, especially among women who are under-represented there in her field. Her signature medium is everyday materials, particularly woven textile such as silk, which she uses to convey modern women’s frustrations and identity. This has earned her the “feminist artist” label, one that she rejects. Male or female, her cryptic and ethereal works have captured the imagination for decades. Her “Focus” portrait photo series is currently on view in the “Conceal/Reveal: Making Meaning in Chinese Art” group showing at Seattle Asian Art Museum (SAM).
Upon viewing Adam Makarenko’s photos of snow-capped mountains, turbulent waves, and rare wildlife, one might picture the artist as a fearless world explorer. But Makarenko, who also works as a director and cinematographer, actually creates these images without leaving his studio: They are photos of tiny dioramas he painstakingly builds. Makarenko’s work toes the line of believability but almost always betrays its artificiality after a few moments of inspection. While his jagged cliffs and flowing rivers are all sculpted, the artist does occasionally employ real bees that hover over his landscapes like giant monsters.
Daesung Lee’s photo series “Futuristic Archeology” visualizes the threat climate change poses to Mongolia’s traditional nomadic culture. As global warming takes its course, the country’s once-lush land has become increasingly arid. According to a Mongolian government survey, hundreds of lakes and rivers have dried out. Twenty-five percent of the territory has turned into desert within the past 30 years. Mongolia’s nomadic people, who comprise about 35 percent of the population, haven’t fared well with these changes, as they depend on the land for their livelihood.
London based photo-collage artist Jess Littlewood takes us into a spacey alternate dimension. These prismatic future worlds, dotted with geodomes, are her vision of a failed Utopia that is perpetually doomed. Littlewood’s images are the result of built up layers of found images which she exhaustively archives. Alien crafts and upside-down pyramids hover in forboding skies overhead and forests burn in the background, while abandoned landscapes show little sign of survival below.
Exquisitely long hair is an age-old hallmark of femininity — one that Czech photographer Bara Prasilova humorously subverts with a photo series that features models with impossibly long braids. While the length of a heroine’s braid was always a point of praise in Eastern European folklore, Prasilova takes this aesthetic preference to its extreme. Her models use their braids as scarves and jump ropes. One woman casually lies on her stomach like a teenager talking on the phone, her ankles tethered to her head with braids that act as leg warmers.
Korean photographer Hansol Choi (aka Rala) creates images that are simultaneously seductive and off-putting, carefully toeing the line between the two in a way that would do Freud proud. In a recent series, a model writhes behind a plant like a deranged Eros with his crimson, smeared lipstick and eyes rolled back in his head. In other pieces, models’ hair becomes tangled in branches as they hide from the viewer. Choi’s work is sexualized yet voyeuristic and the models’ shy body languages makes us uncomfortably aware of our own prying gaze.