These Extremely Uncomfortable Photographs Are Guaranteed to Make You Squirm
Take “pleasurable discomfort” in Ambera Wellmann’s darkly humorous juxtapositions.
Images courtesy of the artist.
Distorting reality and finding humor in commonplace things under the lens of absurdity is Ambera Wellmann's bag, without a doubt. You may reel in disgust or burst out laughing as she shifts the focus, alters the context, and changes your perceptions and expectations—all while thematically dealing with sexuality, body image, or something as simple and domestic as a banana. Yes, plenty of bananas.
"I think humor should be dark, and darkness should have humor. It is important to me that there be humor in there somewhere, because I believe in accessibility: humor is a vehicle for that. I never want to take things too seriously or definitively," Wellmann tells Creators. "Try not to do what you think the art world wants you to do, bring your world into the world of art."
Her Instagram, the sole place where her photographic and video work can be seen, began as a personal account where she did what most do—share photos of her amusing friends, as well as some self-promotion.
"One day for fun, I plunked an egg into the middle of a watermelon: it conjured a kind of irrational satisfaction but contained a visual logic that I wanted to continue exploring, probably because the sensation it produced was so similar to resolving a painting. It evolved from there."
Wellmann, a Nova Scotian currently based in Germany, is primarily a painter that also dabbles in porcelain sculpture, but her body of image-based work is growing.
"I do not prefer one over the other, but I use them in tandem to generate a dialogue between the two and allow them to be mutually influential. The photographs and videos on Instagram aim to translate something irrational but palpable—how it feels to paint and how it feels to look at a painting. Painting for me is a kind of unusual glove: it makes you aware of the negative space between each finger," says Wellmann. "It produces a pleasurable discomfort—or discomfiting pleasure, and I use both mediums in a kind of cyclical process."
From the simple sexualization of a banana admiring itself in the mirror, to a Trump-esque wig atop a toilet, Wellmann invites her audience to turn an imaginative and cheeky eye to what are considered normal, everyday things that she cleverly delivers in extraordinary ways.
"When I'm taking photographs I like to use the things around me, objects that are quotidian, accessible and familiar - not just to me but to everyone. This usually ends up being food or my body," Wellmann explains. "I enjoy manipulating context and composition to defamiliarize these things and illuminate the conventions that structure our understanding of, or attraction to them. I try to make materials behave like something other than themselves."
"The photographs are taken quickly. An idea will pop into my head and I'll execute it as efficiently as possible, they are best when they're simple and direct. I work alone, but sometimes I need help. One time I had to build a very long wiener train to pull through a hotdog bun. That was a two-person job for sure."
Ambera Wellmann completed her BFA at the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design with an exchange semester at Cooper Union in NYC, and finished her MFA last year at the University of Guelph in Ontario. You can see more of her work on her Instagram page here, or her website.