Our Favorite NOT REAL ART Stories From 2022
From exquisitely staged photographs to heart-stopping digital collages, NOT REAL ART publishes an array of work from the best and brightest on the contemporary art scene. And while we’re not keen on popularity contests, we do have our personal favorites. Below, readers will find a curated selection of artists, trends, and stories our editorial team loved best on NOT REAL ART this year.
Morgan Laurens, editor in chief
Despite soaring rent prices, I have the luxury of living alone. In my apartment I wear rude combinations of underwear, socks, and cardigans, refuse to do anyone’s laundry but my own, and fantasize about stepping, however briefly, into someone else’s life.
A self-described dark romantic and an indoor kid ‘til the end of my days, I spent the year mooning over others’ lost loves and erotic thrills. Never mind my own—they can wait until next year for reciprocity. Right now I have cashmere sweaters to mend, red wine to drink alone, and a new Taylor Swift album to cry over.
This year I drank too much coffee and didn’t bother with hot meals. I pored over Michelle Luke’s Isolated Lovers series, pretending to be the cat-eyed protagonist of a French New Wave film, carelessly nude, indifferent, and smoking a cigarette, even if the nicotine stains my fingers and makes me retch off camera. I indulged in Betsy Podlach’s shades of flushed pink—calamine, coral, rose—while eating M&Ms in bed, a sure sign of romantic deviance.
This year brought tender ruminations on love, death, and identity. Laura Beth Reese reconnected with her ex-lovers, Erin Naifeh created a theatrical space haunted by cast shadows, and Patty Carroll suffocated her models in thick, mauve velvet. If only I could die trapped under pink velvet. Just imagine the obituary.
As always pain is present alongside pleasure. Sumptuous fabrics envelop an aching heart with sudden and frightening precision. Like a bomb or a love song, these works blow the soul to pieces before wrapping it in plush cloth, cradling it close to the chest, and rescuing it from certain abandonment.
Jenna Eberhardt, associate editor
I think we’re all looking for an escape. Or, at least, a little relief. After years of grief from a raging pandemic and non-stop phone notifications delivering bad news, I only wanted to look at peaceful art this year. Art that felt like hours soaking up the summer sun or sitting by a crackling fire, the burning wood popping sparks into the sky.
I craved levity this year, and a few artists helped provide moments of respite. The Stars Collector’s digital work fulfilled my escapist desires as it pulled me into a celestial romance. “Love is in the air” felt like a bear hug from the universe. Another artist that took me on a journey to the stars was astronomer and artist Dr. Tyler Nordgren, whose Half the Park is After Dark poster series inspired me to go stargazing at one of the national parks.
Elsewhere, Laihha Organna’s sun-kissed designs brought me to Hawaii, as I imagined ducking my head under rolling waves, salt water clinging to my skin and curling my hair. I’m not a surfer, but I’ve always loved the ocean and have definitely dreamt of living in Hawaii (haven’t we all?). Laihha’s “Hawaii Surf Pups'' took me on a much-needed trip to the beach without all the travel and extra sand.
Though their art brings sweet memories and sensations for me, it holds a deeper meaning. The Stars Collector’s work speaks to those nursing another heartbreak, Dr. Tyler Nordgren is passionate about preserving our view of the night skies, and Laihha Organna focuses on sustainability. Art that is simple and sweet sometimes gets a bad rap—one of Matisse’s most controversial quotes is when he said that art is “like a good armchair.” While the uncomplicated romance of their work swept me in, I stayed for the meaning lurking behind the images.
All photos published with permission of the artist(s).
Want to be featured on NOT REAL ART? Email firstname.lastname@example.org with a short introduction and a link to your online portfolio or three images of your work.