Where There's Smoke
Merissa Mann fuses her background in costume design with her love of art history to create alluring paintings, photographs, and soft
sculptures. Her work explores the intersection of eco feminism, horror, and its relationship to various systems of desire. Ms. Mann
visually highlights the interrelationship between bodily and natural systems to emphasize our shared connection with nature. She is
currently pursuing an MFA in Fine Art at Otis College of Art and Design. Ms. Mann received her undergraduate degree from UC Berkeley,
where she graduated cum laude with a BA in Practice of Art and was the first recipient of Certificate in Design Innovation. Her work can be
found online at merissamann.com or on Instagram @merissaonamission.
My work has always been concerned with the plight of endangered species and art’s capacity to examine these issues from a more complex
and nuanced standpoint than classical activism. Through my paintings, staged photographs, and multi-media sculptures, I utilize different
aesthetic and conceptual practices/ methods to seduce the viewer into contending with our current ecological reality. I approach these issues through the various lenses of ecofeminism, science fiction, and kitsch. I’m specifically interested in how socioeconomic constructions of desire influence the way both women and the environment are treated.
Initially, I explored the plight of specific endangered species through the creation of surreal narratives wherein humanoid creatures
or anthropomorphic animals overcame various ecological disasters. I had hoped that the humanization of these species would create pathos
for the viewer and draw attention to the specific circumstances threatening the survival of these species. The paintings create fantastical worlds which reimagine our ecological future. As my work progressed, I began to veer away from traditional narrative tropes. My newer works no longer privilege a central figure, instead depicting a grander biomorphic environment. My latest paintings highlight our shared connection to nature through the visual confabulation of analogous structures across different flora and fauna. Internal organs mimic the shapes and colors of undersea creatures while mushrooms glisten like gangrenous blisters.
Expanding beyond the medium of painting, my staged photography and multimedia sculptures focus on the trafficking and maiming of
endangered species vis-a-vis the reappropriation of historical art imagery, costuming and kitsch aesthetics. Kitsch functions as comedic
relief: it allows the work to address otherwise horrific issues with a sense of humor. In the shark diptych, the overly dramatic make-up,
hair and shoes points to the performative act of seduction which parallels the artificial construction of desire. Certain animals and
their parts are only desirable because particular societies have decided that the possession and consumption of these species
symbolizes wealth, prosperity, and status. Aesthetic notions of desirability are similarly ingrained in the cultural psyche. Ultimately, economic structures profit from exploiting both human and animal flesh.
My work plays with the line between the beautiful and the horrific, challenging our preconceived notions that the abject can’t be simultaneously attractive and repulsive. Non-binary thinking enables us to reimagine our relationship to our bodies and the biosphere, putting the viewer in a new frame of mind. The human centric hierarchy is upended, and other systems are given precedence.
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Karen Amy Finkel Fishof
Born in the Bronx, NY, Karen was heavily influenced by the NY art scene, hanging out in clubs with Andy Warhol and Keith Haring in the 80’s. She apprenticed under artist, Marylyn Dintenfass and was greatly influenced by her thematic color schemes and work practice. Karen attended Syracuse University as a painting major, where she received a BFA in painting including a year abroad at St. Martins School of Art, London, UK, where she first started creating photograms under the same professors that worked with Gilbert and George and showing her paintings in New York.
Karen has been working as a painter, photographer, window dresser and graphic designer creating window designs for Macy’s, Lord & Taylor, Dress Barn Stores and major music labels as well as design for licensed products for Kraft Foods, Simon Malls, Crayola, Nickelodeon, Imax, Cartoon Network and Gameboy after receiving a second degree in Graphic Design.
By pushing the boundaries of conventional black and white photography, I produce large scale, life size, one-of-a-kind photograms, using a variety of techniques, creating imagery as no one has done before.
Photograms provide the medium I need to tell my stories. Through them, I can express ideas about society and mass media. I love the creative process of these works, from the exposure to the development. The magic of seeing the image appear when the photo paper is placed in the chemistry, knowing it was a moment captured with no negative. I relish the anticipation in the darkroom of seeing how various objects live in the light and how light wraps around them and capturing that living dance on 2D, still, photo paper.
I am influenced by all artistic mediums including interior design, film, music, fashion and social media. I've worked in all these areas professionally, and draw from their current trends. The photogram process, the way I'm doing it, allows me to collage these areas together into one cohesive image statement.
L. Aviva Diamond
Aviva Diamond began taking photos as a teenager, inspired by the works of Minor White and Paul Klee. She spent many years as a journalist, reporting and shooting for The Miami Herald, winning a local Emmy in St. Louis, and becoming a network correspondent for ABC News. She later established a successful corporate media training business. In 2014, Diamond joined the Los Angeles Art Association and began exhibiting her work. Her art has been included in shows at the Griffin Museum of Photography, the Palm Springs Art Museum, Annenberg Space for Photography, Neutra Institute Gallery, The Center for Fine Art Photography, the Latino Art Museum and various Southern California galleries.
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My People, is an inclusive collection of paintings of persons affiliated with Judaism. They do not necessarily share a single interpretation of what it means to be a Jew. Some of my subjects follow the strict practice of Jewish law; while others include few if any Jewish rituals in their lives. Some even may not believe in God. The strength in Judaism is that it includes all such people. Perhaps one’s identity as Jewish simply requires the minimum recognition that a peoplehood can only survive with the personal recognition that one is a Jew.
About: My training began at the San Francisco Art Institute, San Francisco, California. Jay DeFeo, Jack Jefferson and Julius Hatofsky, were among highly respected instructors who influenced me. For many years my training and interest lay dormant as I raised a family. However, I always knew it would eventually return.
When I came upon the work of Alice Neel, I immediately knew that I wanted to paint modern paintings of humanity, highlighting our asymmetrical faces and bodies. Our individual features are compelling because they are unique to each individual. I do not paint to flatter my subjects but to pay tribute to their singularity.
My People, features paintings of people with an association to Judaism.