Art Talk: New Fascinations

As I’ve said before, I’m kind of an art junkie. It has yet to become as much of a problem as my book addiction, but it is quickly gaining. One of the reasons I decided to start this column for the blog was to talk about all the amazing contemporary artists that are breaking out onto the art scene. Luckily, because I am subscribed to several art magazines on social media, there are new artists and new art popping up every day on my various feeds and it is wonderful.

Not only does social media allow us to be exposed to new fascinations we would have otherwise never known, but it also gives us the chance to explore further. It begins a chain of events that leads to an ever-expanding world view in terms of art and the messages it carries. This will be a recurring topic in Art Talk, possibly every two weeks, so that we may revel in beautiful art while also having intelligent and meaningful conversations about new artists continuing to mold and shape the contemporary art world.

1. Bethany Radloff

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I discovered Beth Radloff via a Youtube ad promoting a series she makes with a Youtube channel called Snarled. In this series, Rad Portraits, Radloff creates a portrait of an awesome figure in popular culture while also giving us a rundown of their lives and why they are powerful and important figures in society. These videos, as well as a few others on her personal channel, BethBeRad, are so mesmerizing. Radloff is also a freelance illustrator and motion graphics designer and has worked for several big-name clients including Disney, Marvel, Paramount and HBO.

Her style is so bright and colorful. She often draws inspiration from anime/manga, comic books and video games. However, she is also skilled at more realistic interpretations. Her work is simply a joy to look at because not only is it vibrant, but it is also clean. I often feel like illustrations that rely on color become too much for viewers and it takes away from the intended message or emotion. My favorites of hers by far are the Rad Portraits and her more detailed drawings such as “Hawk” and “Time.” You can view more of Radloff’s work at www.beradloff.com. 

2. Alicia Savage

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I discovered photographer Alicia Savage earlier this week through a Facebook post from Aesthetica Magazine. Savage is a fine art photographer originally from Boston Massachusetts. She has had several exhibitions across the United States and abroad, including shows in Edinburgh, Scotland and Tokyo, Japan.

Her most recent project, titled Destinations, is a series of self portraits that document her solo road trips through rural areas of the Northeast United States and Canada, according to her website. These portraits are so soft and delicate in their treatment, while still maintaining some sharp, stark elements. This contrast is part of what I think make them so intriguing that I find myself staring at them for hours on end. Each portrait features a lonely figure, her face nearly always obscured, in a barren landscape. This entire composition, as well as the dress of the figure, gives the pieces an ephemeral quality — leaving the viewer longing for a taste of internal self-reflection and the simple beauty of aloneness. I wish I could just jump into these places myself they are so striking and beautiful. I can’t say enough good things about this series. It is so difficult to pick favorites, but mine include numbers 1, 10, 11 and 14 in the slideshow of the series. Savage’s work can be seen at www.aliciasavage.com. 

3. Ben Rubin: Subway Doodles

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While I was attending college in Arizona, I rode the Lightrail every single day between Phoenix and Tempe to get to classes or work or what have you. And while I adhered to the unspoken rules of public transportation, I always found myself wondering about my fellow commuters, I created imaginary stories for them about what they did or who they were when they left the train.

This is similar to what I imaging Ben Rubin does when he is creating his Subway Doodles of animals and monsters on his daily subway commute. I first learned of the artist and his now-famous Instagram account through this article from Hi-Fructose Magazine. Rubin’s monsters are reminiscent of those we grew up reading about in Where the Wild Things Are, and they give me a deep pang of longing for childhood. Rubin will snap photos of the subway car and his fellow commuters with his iPad and then insert his drawings. Many feature the monsters as simply fellow New-Yorkers getting through the day, while other drawings show the characters interacting with the commuters without their knowledge. These drawings, while they could be reduced to the simple, incredibly creative musings of a bored commuter, also carry important social commentary about the behaviors of commuters. Whether he is addressing our obsession with technology or our incessant need to ignore what is happening around us, Rubin points out our flaws and makes fun of them with his hidden, yet insightful creatures. He also has some really hilarious and amazing Donald Trump satires that seriously made my day. Rubin’s doodles can be seen on Instagram @subwaydoodle. 

4. Eric Drooker

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There are very rare moments in an art-lovers life when you come across a piece that literally makes everything stop. You take a breath and fall into the deep abyss of a world created from the simple imagination of a talented artist with a message. This is what happened when I first saw the illustrations of Eric Drooker.

Drooker is an illustrator and painter who made a name for himself as a social critic through posting his images across the streets of his home in New York City. Eventually, his artwork was featured in several news organizations including the Nation, the New York Times, and The Village Voice. However, his most notable works are those featured as covers for The New Yorker. He has also published graphic novels and currently works for DreamWorks Animation. Drooker works in a wide range of styles, although most of his works are reminiscent of the Harlem Renaissance, to me. There are some softer, more impressionistic works, such as “Autumn in New York” and “Brooklyn Winter.” While others remind me more of the Jazz Age, such as “Gears” and “People vs Military.” Drooker’s work is an insightful, romantic and often biting criticism of a city that has situated itself on a pedestal of both creative expression and destructive habits. While I do enjoy all of his work, my absolute favorites include: “Autumn in New York,” “Twilight,” “Flood,” “People vs Military” and “Censorship.” Drooker’s work can be seen at www.drooker.com.

5. Carrie Waller

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I was talking to an artist a few weeks ago for work, and we were discussing the merits of watercolors. This artist, a still-life watercolorist who specializes in realism, said, “People have in their minds that watercolor should be loose and flowing with big splashes of color.” I have to admit that I myself held this prejudice. Now, there are some watercolorists that specialize in this style, but that is not all watercolor can ever be.

Carrie Waller is another prime example of this. Waller paints still life paintings of ordinary objects like Ball mason jars, lightbulbs, tea pots and marbles. Her background in Interior Design and Graphic Design lend a unique eye to her subjects, while her chosen medium of watercolor gives her pieces a unique, vibrant aesthetic. The main subject of each of her paintings is light. In many pieces, Waller chooses a glass or transparent object and studies the way different light shines through and refracts off of the surface. These interpretations seem to give the objects new life — a life filled with shimmering colors and new friends in the feathery shadows they create. Honestly, before seeing the work of artists like Waller, I never imagined watercolor could hold such deep color or show such delicate transparency. I don’t know how she does it but I’m so thankful she does. My favorites of Waller include “Celebration,” “Rainbow Row” and “Incandescent.” Waller’s work can be seen at carriewallerfineart.com.

Who are your favorite contemporary artists? How have they changed your view of a certain medium or style? How do you discover new art? Let’s talk.

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