polar opposite art

okay, I just got back from (hopefully) dominating my american studies final (three hour writing marathon, hope my TA loves to read!) and I have no segway into this update so here it is:

I would like you, dear parents wide and growing readership, to check out two artists that address subjects that couldn’t be more dissimilar: the absurdity of pop-culture and life in war-torn Afghanistan…

first, we have Brandon Bird, who incidentally is a UC Santa Cruz Alumni, though that’s not how I discovered his work. I actually don’t remember how I came across him, but in any case, virtually every piece he has on his site has made me laugh. I have a strong weakness for the absurd (but not overly silly!), and this guy is nothing if not that:

his descriptions can be pretty golden, too:

Here, raw sexual aggression is symbolized by the sperm whale, while the squid acts as a thinly-disguised metaphor for the multi-armed oligarchies of Rockefeller, Hearst, and Morgan. Their battle plays against the backdrop of the sea, standing in for–what else?–the vastness of the unconscious mind.

And now, just to make Bird’s work look even more playful and trite by comparison, the photographer Fazal Sheikh:


the collection, “The Victor Weeps,” brings together Sheikh’s stark landscape photography, documenting contemporary ruins that seem to be at the brink of desert reclamation, various pieces of Afghani poetry and a long narrative of his own personal history and relationship with the war-torn country, his portraiture, and possibly the most striking (and disturbing) of all, several drawings by Afghani children. These rough sketches imply a close familiarity with death, who has taken the form of anti-personnel mines, a widespread problem since the war with the USSR in the 1970s. I can’t even begin to comment on the project as a whole, because it is so lengthy (indeed, it was published as a full-sized book) I haven’t even come close to appreciating all of it. But from what I’ve seen I can say without doubt that it is a powerful, powerful piece of art, history, and humanity.


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