Not Your Grandma’s Artist

Last week, I wrote about Grandma Moses. This week, I’m going to write about an artist your grandma probably won’t like. Well, maybe she will. I don’t know your grandma.


ABOVE: Joel-Peter Witkin, Still Life, Marseile, 1992, black and white photograph

I dig the macabre, watch creepy movies, and enjoy creepy art. Of all the creepy art I’ve seen – and I’ve seen my fair share – none is creepier than that of photographer Joel-Peter Witkin. Seriously. The picture shown here is about the safest I could find. If you want to see more, google him, but be forewarned, he is definitely not safe for work.

As with most disturbing art, Witkin’s work openly confronts death, but it does so while questioning other things such as morality and body image. Academically, within each piece are odes to the histories of photography and art itself. Technically, everything appears aged, and each photo reads like a Baroque painting.

Beyond imagery, I think what draws me to the work of Joel Peter-Witkin is the artistry itself, because, if you can look past its general gruesomeness, the composition and overall mood of his photography is spot on. Other images found on the internet may be more disturbing, but they’re not necessarily art. Joel-Peter Witkin is an artist, and a talented one at that.