Piccinini’s sculptures deal with an extremely varied subject matter, including malformed motorcycles and bizarre hot-air balloons like theSkywhale. But this Sierra Leone native (now an Australian citizen) mostly creates sculptures that make you uncomfortable to look at photos of, let alone stand in the same room as. There are works like the 2004 pieceUndivided (pictured), in which a humanoid with back plates and baby animals emerging from its back cuddles a human child. It’s all the more unsettling its element of trust and affection, as if a child’s innocence is being cruelly used against it.Perhaps the highest profile credit Piccinini’s work ever received (if a less than auspicious one) was when, as Snopes.com reported, photos of her piece The Young Family were distributed online via chain email. Various lies were attached to the sculpture—for example, that it was a “malcat,” supposedly a dog-human hybrid being illegally imported into the USA. While people who forward chain emails aren’t known for their hardnosed critical reasoning, it’s still a tribute to Piccinini’s skill at manipulating fiberglass, silicone, and hair.
Mark PowellAustralia seems to offer Poland legitimate competition in terms of inspiring horror artists, as Powell’s Melbourne pieces are some truly disturbing work. His 2012 show of “miniature environments where imaginary beings evolve, devolve, consume, excrete, multiply and decay” is shocking even in this fairly jaded day and age. His earthtone environments and textured creatures are appallingly convincing, and the body language of the figures is precisely designed to make the situations look more normal for them, and thus more believable for us.Like our earlier artists, the internet has not hesitated to steal images of Powell’s art and invent other contexts for them. The aforementioned SCP Foundation took the disgusting (but oddly homey) image above and made it part of a story called “The Flesh that Hates.” The popular short horror story “The Russian Sleep Experiment” also had that image attached to it, by creators of horror videos like this one. It’s no surprise that Powell’s dioramas made such an impression. While the other artists featured here made stomach-turning statues and demonic beings you can look at, Powell exhibited visions of hell you could walk through.