The Grotesque and Beautiful World of "Testimony"

By Emily Albertson, Featuring Tara Sellios

Animal skulls with wandering eyes sit on a table as wine pours over their bones. To the right, flying insects swarm above as intertwined skeletons wrestle in the dirt.


These are just a few things evident in Tara Sellios’ photographs. As you get closer, the scene becomes more and more grotesque, revealing dismembered animal limbs and heads, insects crawling through the curvature of naked ribs and spines. For Sellios, this is what she strives towards, “I like making work that is seductive,” she said.


Tara Sellios is a painter, photographer and sculptor from Boston, MA who currently has a show up at Blue Sky Gallery titled “Testimony.” On Friday, March 3rd, she held an artist talk at the gallery, exploring her various influences and explaining her grueling process to create her installations to photograph.


Sellios clicked through images of Baroque era paintings and religious altar pieces, talking about how the darkness and intensity of old biblical tales inspires the chaos in her work. She spent a period of time talking about one of her strongest influences: “The Garden of Earthly Delights” by Hieronymus Bosch. The famous work of art is a triptych created between 1490 and 1510 that depicts heaven, Earth and hell. It’s easy to see Bosch’s influence in Sellios’ work, as both contain an incredible amount of hidden details that pulls the viewer in, revealing a morbid curiosity of mortality, death and sensuality.

Her work also conveys a sense of excess and chaos, shown through overflowing glasses of wine and meticulously placed pieces of fruit and decoration, which is a popular theme throughout her earlier work as well.


“I am a bartender, and have been a bartender for a very long time,” she said. “Sometimes I just stand there and look around me and see how wine and alcohol just cause people to become wild and chaotic.”


While her photographs invoke a feeling of chaos, her process is anything but. Sellios starts with a watercolor sketch to pre-plan her still-life installation. She then starts setting up her scene, using insects and bones she buys online. She has to rehydrate her bugs by soaking them in water and spreading their wings out to dry in order to show flight. She then photographs her scene with an 8x10 film camera. One piece can take her up to 4 months to complete.

As Sellios took us around the room, she talked about how her work has evolved from excess and mortality, to the apocalypse.


“I wanted this new work to be apocalyptic with things dying and the earth drying up,” She said as we gazed at a piece taking over an entire wall; a scene (split into five separate frames shaped like a cross) of a swarm of moths and beetles and other flying insects circling an orb of them. “The insects are taking over and causing chaos.”


When you look at her previous “Luxuria” series and her current “Testimony” work, it’s apparent that she is moving away from the human realm and is finding inspiration in the natural world. As her work explores the hidden plane of mortality and death, it also reveals the ultimate answer: that when everything dies, nature will take over.


You can see Tara Sellios’ work, along with Laura Semivan’s series “Observatory” until April 2nd at Blue Sky Gallery.

You can also see her work on her website

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