Art apocalypseFEATURE

Published on December 20th, 2012 | by Elizabeth Coleman


Top 5: End of the World Artists

With the end of the world supposedly just days away, doomsday theories involving earthquakes, meteor collisions, famine, nuclear war, economic collapse and even alien invasion run amok. Horror and beauty have often gone hand and hand in modern art, and artists have recently turned to thematic elements of the apocalypse, death and destruction, resulting in pieces that are at once terrifying and fascinating.

“I think humans prefer to live on the edge of destruction and chaos because it makes us feel more alive and powerful and god-like to overcome adversity,” said photographer Lori Nix, whose dramatic work often portrays scenes of the apocalypse and an abandoned humanity.

Before the Mayan clock sounds the alarm for the end of the world, we give you five of our favorite female artists whose work has the powerful ability to both inspire and horrify through depictions of savage reality, brutal hypotheticals and humanity’s urge to control the chaos.

1. Lori Nix | Photographer | The City

Mall by Lori Nix

(c) Lori Nix

After growing up in the midwest where bomb shelters, missile silos and storm shelters were common, photographer Lori Nix became obsessed with the apocalypse. This obsession is highlighted in her most well-known series, The City, which is Nix’s imagination of an apocalyptic world without people. Nix is what you might call a “non-traditional” photographer since she designs and photographs miniature dioramas instead of natural scenes in the world. Each of the carefully-crafted miniatures showcases places that humanity has abandoned, like decaying libraries, buildings on their last legs and mother nature taking over. Nix’s work is both playful and suggestively dark, beautifully depicting the failings of humanity.

2. Berlinde De Bruyckere | Sculpture Artist | Three Sculptures

Berlinde De Bruyckere

(c) Berlinde De Buyckere, “Liggende I, 2011-2012.” Courtesy of the artist and Hauser & Wirth. Photo: Mirjam Devriendt.

De Bruyckere’s critically-acclaimed art has been deemed “disturbing” and “unsettling,” simultaneously shocking and absorbing the viewer. Using wax and dead animal parts (including horse skin, wool, and hair), De Bruyckere creates large sculptures that look like distorted animals and people, evoking themes of death, the effects of war, and the fragility of life. Her current exhibition, Three Sculptures, on display at Hauser & Wirth Zurich, includes wax sculptures of decapitated figures. Invoking the myths of Artemis and Actaeon, branches and antlers grow out of the translucent skin of the figures in a quasi-symbiotic/parasitic relationship.

3. Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster | Installation Artist | “TH.2058”

TH.2058 by Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster

(c) Dominque Gonzalez-Foerster, Photo: Tate Modern

Gonzalez-Foerster is a French artist and filmmaker whose work includes large-scale installation pieces. One of her pieces — the large-scale exhibition, “TH.2058” — was inspired by the 2005 London bombings and credit crisis. Envisioning London caught in the grips of a futuristic disaster, she filled the Turbine Hall of the Tate Modern with blue and yellow bunk beds to make the space resemble a bomb shelter. The exhibition also had audio tracks of dripping water and corrupted melodies played over a transistor radio, adding to the unease of the room.

4. Junko Mizuno | Manga Artist | Pure Trance

Pure Trance by Junko Mizuno

(c) Junko Mizuno

Mizuno is a Japanese manga artist whose drawing style, which mixes childish sweetness with blood and terror, has been termed Gothic kawaii or kawaii noir (“Kawaii” means “cute” in Japanese). Her first graphic novel, Pure Trance, is set in a post-World War III world. Food supplies have disappeared, and people survive on highly addictive pills called Pure Trance. Girls suffering from overeating disorders are sent to a treatment center run by a homicidal dominatrix.

5. Angela Mercedes Donna Otto | Illustrator

Angela MD Otto

(c) Angela Mercedes Donna Otto

German illustrator and graphic designer, Angela M.D. Otto, plays with humanity’s urge to control chaos and create meaning in the world. She works according to “apophenia,” a term used by psychologists to describe the mind’s will to construct meaning, order, and forms into chaos, like seeing faces in the clouds, or Mother Teresa in a grilled cheese sandwich. Otto creates her work by dripping liquids like coffee and juice onto paper, and teases out the images of splotches and spills with colored ink. The resulting images are akin to a Rorschach inkblot test; only Otto herself has the ability to “see” the meaning of the images, stamping her personal psychology onto her illustrations.

Tags: , ,

About the Author

Elizabeth Coleman is an attorney and writer, born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area. She holds a bachelor’s degree in English from UCLA and a law degree from Santa Clara University School of Law, where she received a certificate in public interest and social justice and served as an articles editor on their law review. Apart from her legal career, Elizabeth enjoys writing short stories and dabbling in art (the messier, the better!), and previously was a regular contributor to SWOOP Magazine. She has recently started working on her first book, a young adult fantasy novel about lucid dreaming and parallel realities. Read her blog at

Comments are closed.

Back to Top ↑