BB Contest Awards 4

Finally, here are the results of the fourth edition of the Bizzarro Bazar Contest!

All the participants showed that they have a truly out of the ordinary fantasy and, like the other years, I was amazed and moved by the care and commitment that emerge from the realization of these works.
[Small note: among the many works that were submitted, there are some that I reluctantly had to exclude as they did not follow the rules of the contest.]

Let’s start with our parade of oddities!

A nice little fetus in a jar welcomes us, in the naive painting by m.pitturessa.

(m.pitturessa: Instagram)

ElaGhi’s evocative poem is a melancholic twilight vision that the Scapigliati would have loved.

(ElaGhi: Instagram)

Andrea Carrozzo’s memento mori seems to echo some verses of E.A. Poe (A Dream Within A Dream), but here the sand that the skeletal hand cannot hold is actually the dust to which, according to the famous maxim, man is forced to return .

Matteo Ruggeri transformed me into a creature of Italian folklore.
“I imagined it — he wrote me — as a page extrapolated from some bestiary or cryptozoology book, containing a mythological version of yourself, illustrated and duly described in its physical features and, obviously, in its supernatural faculties.”

I love the detail that I have the superpower to remove a cyst with a simple touch, but then I’ll keep it!

Thanks to Greta Fantini, now even Joseph Merrick is among my most loyal readers.

(Greta Fantini: Instagram, sito web)

Stefano Luciani has designed a Bizzarro Bazar deck of cards… perfect for serving your opponent the “dead man’s hand” (A ♠ A ♣ 8 ♠ 8 ♣).

(Stefano Luciani: Facebook)

Inside her wunderkammer (also containing a skull that looks suspiciously familiar) Chiara Toniolo is testing the size of a glass bell to fit her head.

(Chiara Toniolo: Instagram, Facebook)

Valentina, aka Cher Macabre, wondered what a hypothetical Bizzarro Bazar freakshow might look like. “Well, to try to answer the question, I decided to modify a photo a dear friend took of me years ago using one of the skulls in my collection. In working on it, I was inspired by those period images that have been analyzed several times on the pages of the blog.”

(Cher Macabre: Instagram)

Er Cantastorie, who tells stories, curiosities and more or less forgotten characters from Rome, dedicated this delightful rhyming profile to me. It’s twenty years now since I have been adopted by this city, so I can only be delighted by this Roman dialect little poem.

(Er Cantastorie: Instagram, Facebook)

The delicate work of Pamela Annunziata is dedicated to one of the most famous and mysterious figures of all time: the beautiful face framed by this floral pattern is that of l’Inconnue de la Seine, a story I wrote about many years ago.

(Pamela Annunziata: Instagram, Facebook)

Amedeo Capelli has created a colorful automaton in papier-mâché and wood, showing a poor skeleton condemned to a neverending escape from a fox that seems to have come out of The Little Prince. But is it really an escape, or are they just playing together? You decide, in any case the scene is exquisitely… bizarre.

(Amedeo Capelli: Instagram, Facebook)

In Christian Galli’s fantastic illustration, my shrunken head has become part of the collection of wonders of a mutant scientist who closely resembles the protagonist of The Fly.

(Christian Galli: Instagram, Facebook)

Simona Naddeo turned me into a cross between a sideshow barker and a mephistophelian Sgt. Pepper. What more could you ask for?

(Simona Naddeo: Instagram)

In this work by Midnight Mary, the horror vacui materializes in a surprising catalog of objects that we have talked about in the two seasons of the web series, but not only. Impossible not to get lost trying to identify them all!

(Midnight Mary: Instagram)

Literally everything happens in Niccolò Ferrari’s drawing: gosh, I can’t even take my little skeleton in a stroller to the park, without all hell breaking loose.

Before moving on to the winning works, an honorable mention certainly goes to Elena “Psychonoir” Simoni.
I must confess that I was startled for a moment when I first saw this post-mortem portrait, so accurate. Even more so since Elena immediately offered to send it to me: giving a person a drawing of them in a coffin would be considered in bad taste — indeed, a really shocking gift! — in a normal context.

But with Bizzarro Bazar I tried to create a space in which normality is questioned, as well as taboos and the very concept of “good taste”. For this reason, Elena’s kind gift seemed to me a gesture that was anything but disrespectful, one that is possible only on the account of a profound affinity; the kind of complicity that I’ve felt with many of those who follow my work.
And then this small portrait, on closer inspection, has its own particular sweetness. Maybe I’ll keep it, as a memento mori, above my desk…

(Elena Simoni a.k.a. Psychonoir: Instagram, Facebook)

Terzo premio

When I kicked off this blog 12 years ago, I would have thought everything except that I would become the protagonist of a detective story.
Instead, according to Ingrid Atzei, “in Italian fiction, in my opinion, a protagonist with your interests and skills could be declined in many different ways. In fact, to date, we have a whole catalog of eccentric law enforcement consultants, but we still don’t have an expert on the uncanny and… it would work so well! “

Thus, in her short story La danza, she cast me in the shoes of an “expert in oddities” who’s called to assist Commissioner Stevelli in the investigation of a series of mysterious deaths that occurred in a remote Sardinian village, and which appear to be connected to ancestral pagan rites.

You can download the PDF of Ingrid Atzei’s story (in Italian) by clicking here.

Secondo premio

Andrè Elragno Santapaola has created a small anatomical text in the literal sense of the term, whose incredible pages are made of vascularized flesh, bones, tendons, adipose masses. A visceral book that is like a glimpse into the fragility of the body and its inconceivable ravines.
There are three quotes that punctuate this Cronenbergian anthology of flesh: a sentence of mine on the concept of autopsy, a splendid passage by Gottfried Benn, author of Morgue and other Poems, and finally the verse from Ecclesiastes from which the concept of vanitas was born.
“The individual pages — as Andrè explained — were sculpted with MonsterClay and subsequently copied in white epoxy resin and painted with acrylics and oil colors. The “leather” cover was created using various layers of latex, painted with very thin layers of diluted acrylic.”

(Andrè Elragno Santapaola: Instagram, Facebook)

Primo premio

Lola specializes in the creation of themed miniatures, inspired by music, literature and the world of cinema.
For Bizzarro Bazar she composed this delightful mini-wunderkammer that is a feast for the eyes: between mandrake illustrations, movie posters, ex voto, anatomical plates, copies of the Necronomicon and vintage photos, the level of detail is amazing.
Not only has Lola miniaturized my books, but just look at that vial that seems to contain one of the fetuses from His Anatomical Majesty… an entire world collected under a glass bell.
Everything is finally sealed with a quote from one of my favorite passages by Mandiargues… truly astonishing.

(Lola miniature: Instagram)

If you liked some work in particular, be sure to show your appreciation to the authors in the comment section.
In the coming weeks I will also post these beautiful works on social networks.
Thanks again to everyone for putting a smile on my face and awe in my heart, and I hope you enjoyed it too!

A Nostalgia For What We Lose: Interview with Nunzio Paci

The hybrid anatomies created by Nunzio Paci,born in Bologna in 1977, encountered a growing success, and they granted him prestigious exhibitions in Europe, Asia and the US.
The true miracle this artist performs on his canvas is to turn what is still usually perceived as a taboo – the inside of our bodies – into something enchanting.


But his works are complex and multilayered: in his paintings the natural elements and creatures fuse together and as they do so, all boundaries lose their meaning, there is no more an inside and an outside; each body explodes and grows branches, becoming indefinable. Even if besides the figures there still are numbers, anatomical annotations and “keys”, these unthinkable flourishes of the flesh tend to checkmate our vision, sabotage all categories and even dismantle the concept of identity.

But rather than just writing about it, I thought it best to interview Nunzio and let our chat be an introduction to his art.

You began as a street artist, in a strictly urban environment; what was your relationship with nature back then? Did it evolve over the years?

I was born and raised in a small country town in the province of Bologna and I still live in a rural area. Nature has always been a faithful companion to me. I too did go through a rebellious phase: in those years, as I recall them, everything looked like a surface I could spray paint or write on. Now I feel more like a retired warrior, seeking a quiet and dimly lit corner where I can think and rest.

In the West, man wants to think himself separated from nature: if not a proper dominator, at least an external observer or investigator.
This feeling of being outside or above natural laws, however, entails a feeling of exclusion, a sort of romantic longing for this “lost” connection with the rest of the natural world.
Do you think your works express this melancholy, a need for communion with other creatures? Or are you suggesting that the animal, vegetable and mineral kingdoms have actually always been inertwined, and all barriers between them are a cultural construct, an illusion?

I think my work is about “longing for what we constantly lose” – voices, perfumes, memories… I often have the feeling I’m inventing those fragments of memories I had forgotten: I believe this is a form of self-defense on my part, to survive the melancholy you mention. For this reason, through my work, I try to translate what cannot be preserved through time into a visual form, so that I can retrieve these memories in my most nostalgic moments.

Yours are autoptic visions: why do you feel the need to dissect, to open the bodies you draw? As the inside of the body is still a taboo in many ways, how does the public react to the anatomical details in your works?

I need to be selfish. I never think about what the audience might feel, I don’t ask myself what others would or wouldn’t want to see. I am too busy taming my thoughts and turning my traumas into images.
I can’t recall exactly when I became interested in anatomy, but I will never forget the first time I saw somebody skin a rabbit. I was a very young child, and I was disturbed and at the same time fascinated – not by the violent scene in itself, but by what was hidden inside that animal. I immediately decided I would never harm a living being but I would try and understand their “engineering”, their inner design.
Later on, the desire to produce visionary artworks took over, and I started tracing subjects that could be expressive without offending any sensibility. But in the end what we feel when we look at something is also a product of our own background; so generally speaking I don’t think it’s possible to elicit am unambiguous sensation in the public.

You stated you’re not a big fan of colors, and in fact you often prefer earthy nuances, rusty browns, etc. Your latest woks, including those shown in the Manila exhibit entitled Mimesis, might suggest a progressive opening in that regard, as some floral arrangements are enriched by a whole palette of green, purple, blue, pink. Is this a way to add chromatic intricacy or, on the contrary, to make your images “lighter” and more pleasing?

I never looked at color as a “pleasing” or “light” element. Quite the opposite really. My use of color in the Mimesis cyle, just like in nature, is deceptive. In nature, color plays a fundamental role in survival. In my work, I make use of color to describe my subjects’ feelings when they are alone or in danger. Modifying their aspect is a necessity for them, a form of self-defense to protect themselves from the shallowness, arrogance and violence of society. A society which is only concerned with its own useless endurance.

In one of your exhibits, in 2013, you explicitly referenced the theory of “signatures”, the web of alleged correspondences among the different physical forms, the symptoms of illness, celestial mutations, etc.
These analogies, for instance those found to exist between a tree, deer antlers and the artery system, were connected to palmistry, physiognomy and medicine, and were quite popular from Paracelsus to Gerolamo Cardano to Giambattista della Porta.
In your works there’s always a reference to the origins of natural sciences, to Renaissance wunderkammern, to 15th-16th Century botanics. Even on a formal level, you have revisited some ancient techniques, such as the encaustic technique.
What’s the appeal of that period?

I believe that was the beginning of it all, and all the following periods, including the one we live in, are but an evolution of that pioneering time. Man still studies plants, observes animal behavior, tries in vain to preserve the body, studies the mechanisms of outer space… Even if he does it in a different way, I don’t think much has really changed. What is lacking today is that crazy obsession with observation, the pleasure of discovery and the want to take care of one’s own time. In learning slowly, and deeply, lies the key to fix the emotions we feel when we discover something new.

A famous quote (attributed to Banksy, and inspired by a poem by Cesar A. Cruz) says: “Art should comfort the disturbed and disturb the comfortable”.
Are your paintings meant to comfort or disturb the viewer?

My way of life, and my way of being, are reflected in my work. I never felt the urge to shock or distrub the public with my images, nor did I ever try to seek attention. Though my work I wish to reach people’s heart. I want to do it tiptoe, silently, and by asking permission if necessary. If they let me in, that’s where I will grow my roots and reside forever.

 

Werner Herzog, a filmmaker who often addressed in his movies the difficult relationship between man and nature, claims in Grizzly Man (2006) that “the common denominator of the universe is not harmony, but chaos, hostility, and murder”. Elsewhere, he describes the Amazon jungle as a never-ending “collective massacre”.
As compared to Herzog’s pessimistic views, I have a feeling that you might see nature as a continuum, where any predator-pray relationship is eventually an act of “self-cannibalism”. Species fight and assault each other, but in the end this battle is won by life itself, who as an autopoietic system is capable of finding constant nourishment within itself. Decomposition itself is not bad, as it allows new germinations.
What is death to you, and how does it relate to your work?

As far as I’m concerned, death plays a fundamental role, and I find myself constantly meditating on how all is slowly dying. A new sprout is already beginning to die, and that goes for all that’s living. One of the aspects of existence that most fascinate me is its decadence. I am drawn to it, both curious and scared, and my work is perhaps a way to exorcise all the slow dying that surrounds us.

You can follow Nunzio Paci on his official website, Facebook page and Instagram account.