Autodidact: self-taught

Nov
07
2014

The Empire of Death

by V. L. Craven

Empire of Death

Humans haven’t always tried to hide death away–it’s only relatively recently (and in Western culture)–that we’ve decided death has nothing to do with life and we want nothing to do with it. As though not thinking about something will keep it from happening. (This is something Caitlin Doughty addresses wonderfully in her book Smoke Gets in Your Eyes , which I reviewed last week.)

by Paul Koudounaris. Loggia of the Oratory of Sant'Anna. Poshiavo, Switzerland

by Paul Koudounaris. Loggia of the Oratory of Sant’Anna. Poshiavo, Switzerland

The Empire of Death: A Cultural History of Ossuaries and Charnel Houses by Paul Koudounaris is what it says on the tin, but it’s so much more, as well. It has 290 photographs, 260 of them are in colour. The average person wouldn’t be able to visit all of the sites he did, so perhaps the tag should have been: The Empire of Death: Koudounaris Confronts Mortality in Seventy Places Since You Couldn’t Afford to.

by Paul Koudounaris. Church of San Bernadino Alle Ossa. Milan, Italy.

by Paul Koudounaris. Church of San Bernadino Alle Ossa. Milan, Italy.

Because that’s essentially what happens when looking at the photographs. If you really take the time to look at them it has a similar humbling effect of contemplating the size of the universe. Every skull was once a person with hopes and dreams and families who fought and laughed and loved. It’s an exercise in existentialism.

by Paul Koudounaris. Ossuary Chapel of San Marino Della Battaglia. San Martino. San Martino, Italy.

by Paul Koudounaris. Ossuary Chapel of San Marino Della Battaglia. San Martino. San Martino, Italy.

Which was the intent of the original designers. They were created for people to sit in and contemplate their own mortality–to be aware that they weren’t going to live forever and so they’d better act properly because eternity was a very long time to spend in hell and/or separated from their loved ones who would no doubt be in heaven. Often there would be quotes on the walls, one of my favourites was from the Chapel of Bones of Valleta, Malta:

The world is a theater and human life is the boundary of all worldly things. Life is the personification of vanity. Death breaks and dissolves the illusion and is the boundary of all mortal things. Let those who visit this place ponder well these maxims and carry with them a lively remembrance of death. Peace be with you.

Chapel of Skulls. Valletta, Malta

Chapel of Skulls. Valletta, Malta

I’ve long been a fan of charnels–since I visited the Capuchin crypt by the Santa Maria della Concezione del Cappuccini in Rome and was rushed out before I could properly appreciate the chandeliers made of human bones. And all of the well-known sites are included including that one. Sedlec , the Paris Catacombs , etc, but many that I hadn’t heard of and quite a few that had been destroyed, either by nature or humans, were covered, as well.

Capuchin crypt. Santa Maria d Concezione. Rome.

Capuchin crypt. Santa Maria d Concezione. Rome.

People weren’t all bad, there was a resurgence in charnels in the 19th century where several were restored and some are being restored now. The Eggenberg charnel in Austria has something of a Hannibal touch, where they created an eye shape, as it was meant to be viewed from the top of a well with skulls as the pupil, looking back at the viewer.

by Paul Koudounaris. Eggenberg, Austria Charnel (Beinhaus).

by Paul Koudounaris. Eggenberg, Austria Charnel (Beinhaus).

It’s well-researched and well-written and with maps and notes galore it’s sure to please those interested in unusual facts about history or interesting sites to visit. Or people comfortable with their impending doom (or who want to become so). So if you’re looking for something for that person on your shopping list this holiday season, here’s something to consider.

by Paul Koudounaris. Chapel of Bones. Faro, Portugal.

by Paul Koudounaris. Chapel of Bones. Faro, Portugal.

Koudounaris has a website empiredelamort  that has loads more photos.
He’s also on Instagram under hexenkult.
And on Facebook .

Dahlia Jane also wrote a lovely review, with more photos, on her blog Upon a Midnight Dreary .

Sep
17
2013

Brooke Shaden

by V. L. Craven

Brooke Shaden is a photographer whose art looks more like dreamlike (and occasionally nightmarish) painting.

The Chainless Links

The Chainless Links

 

Looking for Air

Looking for Air

 

The Leaves of Lindin Avenue

The Leaves of Lindin Avenue

 

The Research Laboratory

The Research Laboratory

Some of her work is just plain spooky. For example, ‘The Guiding Spirit’ [below] looks like two girls facing the same direction, one bending forward and the other leaning backward over her. Then you see the girl closest to the camera–her feet are facing us.

The Guiding Spirit Brooke Shaden

The Guiding Spirit

While ‘Moving House’ puts one in mind of the first series of American Horror Story.

Moving House

Moving House

‘The Aftermath’ is reminiscent of Millais’ ‘Ophelia’

The Aftermath

The Aftermath

 

The Feeling of Traveling

The Feeling of Traveling

 

Wild Birds Burning

Wild Birds Burning

 

Battle at Cliffside Hill

Battle at Cliffside Hill

 

Out of the Earth

Out of the Earth

 

The Inconvenience of Spirits

The Inconvenience of Spirits

‘The Sharing Game’ looks like a lost M.R. James ghost story come to life.

The Sharing Game

The Sharing Game

 

To Lift Her Up

To Lift Her Up

 

The Untamed Passage

The Untamed Passage

 

Sleepwalker Brooke Shaden

Sleepwalker

‘The Protector of Magic’ both looks and sounds like a Neil Gaiman novel.

The Protector of Magic

The Protector of Magic

 

The Keeper of Keys

The Keeper of Keys

A lot of her work reminds me of the video for Tori Amos’ ‘Caught a Lite Sneeze’ in the best way. I cannot find the video online, but if you’ve seen it, you know it.

You can find much, much more of her work on her website.

Hat tip to my friend Gary Glass for pointing me to this one. Thanks, Gary!

Jun
18
2013

Sylwia Makris

by V. L. Craven

This week the focus is on Sylwia Makris , a German photographer of gorgeous, ethereal art.

From her portfolio:  Icons .

I thought I’d start with one for the Johnny Depp/Gary Oldman in Dracula fans. You’re welcome.

Timur Karakus by Sylwia Makris

Timur Karakus

This one reminds me of a Pre-Raphaelite painting. I half-expect Ophelia to float by.

Skadi van Terror by Sylwia Makris

Skadi van Terror

 

Not everyone can pull off either a neck tattoo or asymmetrical fringe, but you do both admirably, sir. And, per usual, I really want to know what that tattoo looks like.

Tobias Monsieur Guillotine by Sylwia Makris

Tobias Monsieur Guillotine

 

This portrait reminds me of Miss Havisham, one of my all-time favourite fictional characters.

Inga by Sylwia Makris

Inga

 

I love the baroque feel of this one. At first glance, it looks like a painting, rather than a photograph. Marat on his way to the bath.

Luca Thompson by Sylwia Makris

Luca Thompson

 

The ever-winning combination of a (tastefully) nearly-nude, beautiful woman with interesting make-up and awesome tattoos. The skeleton key on her wrist is a bonus.

Denise Miller by Sylwia Makris

Denise Miller

 

A big part of this is the make-up. You get the humanity–the freckles, but there’s also some sort of shading to bring out his marvelous bone structure. He looks like he’s been carved from marble.

Mirko by Sylwia Makris

Mirko

 

The way the fabric is moving makes it look like it was taken underwater, which clearly isn’t the case. Silk and a fan? Her hair isn’t moving? I’m going with just beautiful. Well done.

Sarah by Sylwia Makris

Sarah

Below is a (very small) sampling of some of Makris’ recent work. It’s untitled, hence no captions.

I would like to state for the record that I am in love with the model below, whoever she is. I just want to gaze upon her visage. She reminds me of a cross between Tilda Swinton and Alison Goldfrapp.

04 by Slywia Makris

06 by Slywia Makris

10 by Slywia Makris

14 by Slywia Makris

15 by Slywia Makris

18 Slywia Makris

I believe this set is called Diadema, but don’t hold me to that. Either way, prepare yourself for the beauty:

Diadema 07 by Sylwia Makris
Diadema 08 by Sylwia Makris
Diadema 09 by Sylwia Makris
Diadema 11 by Sylwia Makris
Diadema 12 by Sylwia Makris
Diadema 16 by Slywia Makris
Diadema 20 by Slywia Makris

If you’d like more of her work in your life (and why wouldn’t you?), like her Facebook page .

Apr
09
2013

Nihil: Saints and Martyrs

by V. L. Craven

Recently, I reviewed an excellent book entitled Arcane II . One of the things I liked about it right away was the cover art, which was done by Nihil .

I really dug the work and wanted to share some with you. There’s photography and some types of manipulation and perhaps painting, but it’s often difficult to tell what was actually there and what was added later. That blending makes the artwork stronger and gives the viewer more the think about. It’s really interesting work.

The  Saints and Martyrs  series is evocative. It looks fairly straightforward at first glance, but the more you look, the more there is to see. Some pieces are a combination of Hellraiser/BDSM and classical beauty. Perhaps for the person who is spiritual but accepting of the darker side of humanity, as well.

premier ne des cendres by Nihil

Premier ne des Cendres by Nihil

 

Silence by Nihil

Silence by Nihil

 

Saint Cyanide by Nihil

Saint Cyanide by Nihil

But his urban series is excellent as well.

Urban37 by Nihil

Urban37 by Nihil

 

The photographs of Chernobyl are particularly poignant.

Tchernobyl 10 by Nihil

Tchernobyl 10 by Nihil

 

Tchernobyl 09 by Nihil

Tchernobyl 09 by Nihil

 

Then there’s this impressive tattoo:

Sado Messiah tattoo by Nihil

Sado Messiah tattoo by Nihil

Feb
19
2013

Desiree Dolron

by V. L. Craven

Desiree Dolron Xteriors

Xteriors V 1

 

Xteriors I

 

Xteriors IV

 

Xteriors VI

 

Xteriors VII

 

Xteriors VIII

 

Xteriors XI

 

Xteriors XII

 

Xteriors IX

Dec
11
2012

House with Chimaeras

by V. L. Craven

The Gorodetsky house is in Kiev, Ukraine and is call the House with Chimaeras not because there are terrifying mythological creatures hanging off it (unfortunately), but because there are animals incorporated into the architecture. Gorodetsky was a fan of hunting. This is still frightening:

And impressive.

Wikipedia page

Nov
13
2012

Modern Vanitas

by V. L. Craven

‘Still Life Infinite Vanitas’ Kevin Best

As evidenced by the gallery page of Vanitas paintings, I’m rather a fan of the macabre and beautiful still lifes. I find the warmth and depth of the paintings appealing.

Whilst building my gallery page, I came across some modern Vanitas art.  For example, the person who did the piece above,  Kevin Best , does amazing work .

Likewise lovely:

‘Vanitas Symbols’ Jose Picayo
shot on 8″ x 10″ Polaroid film and printed as digital pigment photographs on canvas

 

‘Vanitas’ Kalico the Kat

Mar
28
2012

Ladies

by V. L. Craven

Tasteful nude photography

Robert Farber

(check out his site )

Vanessa Salle

Phillippe Guillaume

Richard Warren

 

Mar
26
2012

Libraries

by V. L. Craven

Stunning Images of Libraries from Around the World
[All of these images are beautiful; none of them are mine.]

Austria

Stiftsbibliothek Klosterneuburg Austria

 

Stiftsbibliothek Klosterneuburg Austria

 

Osterreichische Nationalbibliothek, Vienna

 

Oesterreichischen Nationalbibliothek, Vienna

Belgium

Universiteitsbibliotheek Utrecht

 

Universiteitsbibliothek Utrecht

Brasil

Royal Portuguese Reading Room, Brasil

 

Royal Portuguese Reading Room

 

Biblioteca Nacional Rio de Janeiro

Canada

Library of Parliament, Ottawa

Czech Republic

Strahov Monastery Library in Prague

Interactive, 40 gigapixel, panorama of the Strahov Library in Prague .

Narodni Knihovna Prague

England

Guess what this is a picture of. Go on, guess.

 

British Library, London


 

Arts End, Oxford University

 

Bodleian Library Old, Oxford University

 

Duke Humfrey’s Library in the Bodleian, Oxford University

France

BNF, Paris

 

BNF, Paris

Germany

Herzogin Anna Amalia Bibliothek

 

Herzogin Anna Amalia Bibliothek Weimar

 

Deutsche Bibliothek Frankfurt

Ireland

Central Catholic Library, Dublin

 

Marsh’s Library Dublin

 

Marsh’s Library, Dublin

Italy

Biblioteca Angelica, Rome

 

Biblioteca Angelica, Rome

 

Biblioteca Seminario Patriarcale, Venice

Netherlands

Handelingenkamer, Netherlands

 

Rijksmuseum Research Library Amsterdam

 

Librije Walburgskerk Zutphen, Netherlands

Norway

Deichmanske Biblioteket , Oslo

Portugal

Biblio Coimbra, Portugal

 Scotland

University of Edinburgh

Playfair Library Hall, University of Edinburgh

 

Playfair Library Hall, University of Edinburgh

Spain

Biblioteca de la Real Academia De La Lengua, Madrid

 

Biblioteca de Palacio e Convento de Mafra

 

Biblioteca Menendez Pelayo Santander

Sweden

Stadsbiblioteket, Stockholm

 

Stadsbiblioteket, Stockholm

Switzerland

Juristische Bibliothek, Zurich

 

Juristische Bibliothek, Zurich

 

Stiftsbibliothek St Gallen

 

Stiftsbibliothek St Gallen

United States

New York Public Library Reading Room, New York City

 

Patience and Fortitude, the New York Public Library lions

 

Pierpont Morgan Library, New York

 

Andrew Dickson White Library, Cornell University

 

Chancellor Green Library, Princeton

 

George Peabody Library, Johns Hopkins University

 

Linderman Library at Lehigh University

 

Meskill Law Library, University of Conneticut

 

University of Michigan Law Library

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