In the world of inspirational posters and pins, there is much attention given to the idea that one must take on the things that make one uncomfortable: that much of life lies beyond our comfort zones, and that growth can happen only when we are challenged, stretched, pushed and off-balance. Arguably, the same is true in creative fields, in art-making endeavors – what is familiar or commonplace is seldom exciting art or design.
There is also plenty of art makes the viewer feel uncomfortable, and that’s the beauty of it – Kara Walker’s dark silhouettes and imposing A Subtlety come to mind, shedding light on racism and forcing confrontation with our history of slavery and oppression. What makes us uncomfortable can be enlightening and illuminating, productive and progressive.
Other art, though, is more uncomfortable for the subject, and leaves viewers only with sympathy pains.
Such was my initial reaction to the work of Blake Little, who pours gallons of honey over his subjects, resulting in portraits that appear to have preserved the human form in amber. In a video of Little in action, you can watch models buckle and sway under the weight of the liquid, if the thought of the stickiness alone wasn’t enough to make you squirm.
But Little’s results are gorgeous, and the honey holds a singular warmth and shine. It’s beautiful.
Uncomfortable methods can produce humorous results, too. Many photographers have toyed with strong winds in portraiture, with consistently hilarious results.
For Wind, Jonathan Robert Willis points an industrial blower at his subjects’ heads to capture them, mouth contorted and inflated, in the ensuing winds.
Blown Away is Martin Szabo’s recent addition to the world of windswept portraiture, in which he involved a 240mph leaf blower with a photo booth at a party.
There is something to be said for an outside force rendering the subject of a photo incapable of controlling their expression – and arguably, even further than hurricane winds, Patrick Hall has captured models’ completely reflexive responses most fully in his Stun Gun Photoshoot.
Yes, subjects are photographed at the moment they receive a shock from a Taser – delivered by a loved one, whose response is also documented for good measure.
Click through image credits below to view much, much more from these artists.
What’s your favorite uncomfortable art, and what art makes you most uncomfortable?
image credits: 1-Union Jack Creative; 2,3,4-Blake Little, via Hi Fructose; 5,6,7-Jonathan Robert Willis, via Behance; 8,9,10-Tadao Cern, via Facebook; 11,12,13-Martin Szabo; 14,15,16,17-Patrick Hall, via FStoppers