7 Artists Whose Work Will Give You Nightmares

These creators gazed deep into the abyss, and the abyss blinked.
7 Artists Whose Work Will Give You Nightmares

Truly great artists know that art can't be all naked nymphs and guys with puffy pants signing treaties. They understand this one fundamental truth: Art isn't legitimate unless it scares you so hard that it makes you shit out your own soul. Let's all hold hands and run screaming toward the gates of R'lyeh to see their work on display!

Unidentified Artist Turns A Pig's Head Into Paris Hilton's

7 Artists Whose Work Will Give You Nightmares

Wow, somebody out-ghasted Ryan Murphy.

It's not often an amateur surgeon makes the one from Human Centipede look like an underachieving visionary.

Yeah, you're seeing that right. Someone took a decapitated pig's head and painstakingly turned it into a human woman's. Man, look how happy that pig was in the very first snapshot. Then she gave in to society's pressure, turned herself into another cookie-cutter cutie, and all the joy is gone from her face. Some people make themselves pretty on the outside because they don't believe they're already beautiful on the inside. Here, you can have that dilettante philosophy for your stupid Instagram feed:

Some people make themselves pretty on the outside because they don't believe they're already beautiful on the inside.
Taylor Swift, ostensibly

World problems solved, baby!

According to one Reddit group, the woman in the final shot is supposed to be Paris Hilton. Even though it isn't an exact match, the slight inaccuracy is actually understandable -- you'd better replicate her by stretching plastic bags over a bored sparrow's skeleton (but only if the bags previously housed cocaine). Still, that is one conventionally attractive pig.

... I know you're waiting for an "And the swine, too!" punchline, but know that it will never come. I save my Hilton loathing for the banal way she slouches through life.

Is this series an art project? Well ... obviously it is, but did any of this happen? Did a pig just become a decapitated blonde? The source is a magazine called Hurt You Bad, but good luck finding a copy. Like Necronomicons, it's limited to a select run and on display only to those whose magical will may resist its dark urgings.

The creator could be a plastic surgeon or it could be an artist or it could be a maniac. If you read through that Reddit thread I linked to earlier, one person suggests that the pig's head is being replaced by modeling clay (or maybe wax) toward the end, and that makes a lot of sense. The shenanigans of its faux transformation aside, isn't the greater point about what it means for women? And society? And pigs with body issues? Is this why those cartoon pigs are always so happy on butchers' logos? Because they're not Paris Hilton?

7 Artists Whose Work Will Give You Nightmares
julos/iStock/Getty Images

And actually contribute to society?

Lacking a title for this piece, I think we can all agree it's called i am! pig-fuck-meat (Blonde), and then never speak of it again. What does it say about a work of art that the decapitated woman's head on a platter is the least horrifying thing about it? And why am I now picturing this as the pig's head from Lord Of The Flies? And why does that now feel like an erotic novel to me?

Heide Hatry Reminds You Death Awaits

You may have turned a pig into Paris Hilton, but did you hang out with her after you did it? Heide Hatry did. In cannibal restraints, no less.

Perhaps best known for making flowers out of cow vaginas, Hatry's got another project that you can never unsee.

7 Artists Whose Work Will Give You Nightmares
Heide Hatry

Yep, those are flies.

She sculpts lifelike clay women (well, kind of), then covers them in "untreated pig skin." The lips are made out of raw meat, and the eyes are actual pig eyes. Regardless of how it's made, the end result is that none of us will be able to hide when the UnWomen begin to grunt and take their first, unsteady steps.

With all that raw, unpreserved flesh, these sculptures must rot in no time at all, which may be the key to defeating them when they awaken to amass the living for their own art projects.

7 Artists Whose Work Will Give You Nightmares
Heide Hatry

Hogflesh Amy Poehler welcomes you to the scream that does not end.

Hatry crafted these decaying statues to remind you you're going to die: what's commonly referred to in medieval art (as well as these tattoos inside my eyelids) as a memento mori. Although, in this case it certainly seems more like a threat than a reminder.

Giovanni Da Modena Roasts A Prophet

Old Master Giovanni Da Modena (Italian for "Joe Dirt") was way ahead of ol' Boschy in the "bile-churning visions of Hell" game. His 1410 fresco The Inferno tosses all who disagree with Catholic dogma into a circle of Hell so deep that if the demons want to go easy on you, they flay your skin off a little faster before using it as a condom.

7 Artists Whose Work Will Give You Nightmares
Artist so old his official site is geocities

Fitting, since the church says Hell is where people who use condoms go.

Most of Gio's work is your usual Middle Ages subject matter: scrawny people with sour faces thanking God for not smiting them. But, oh boy, when you commission a painting of Hell from him, you are going to get your florin's worth.

The centerpiece is a gigantic Beelzebub devouring sinners even as the head in his diabolical crotch spews them out to begin again. What kind of spatial warp digestive system spits a man out of vagina-jaws before he's even fully consumed? Is this an infinite loop?

However it works, it's a raw deal. You have sex one time with an eye on blocking conception, and you're endlessly shat out of Satan's pelvic mouth for all eternity. Such punishment is flat-out hypocrisy, considering elsewhere in the scene a 15th century PornHub clip is on pause:

7 Artists Whose Work Will Give You Nightmares
Everything on PornHub is pirated

She went to Hell for stealing lemons. Now look at her.

Five men with suspected Al-Qaeda ties were arrested in 2002 before they could enact a plan to blow up the Bolognini Chapel Of The San Petronio Basilica, where the fresco resides. Blowing up a church sounds like something a terrorist might do, but in this case it was secondary to their main goal of getting at that painting. Why? Well:

Does it matter? He's too dead to sue.

That whole "You can't depict Muhammad" thing is just dogma, though.

That's the Prophet being tortured by a demon for ... I dunno, listening to rock 'n' roll or something. Hey, I don't want to be the guy who sides with Al-Qaeda, art vandals, and mad bombers, but I can see how Muhammad being rent to chops by talon-toed ifriti might be insulting to Islam.

Four years later, another bombing was thwarted. Plainly, this painting is indestructible. But in whose hand rests its invulnerability? The good Lord above, or the Devil who is enjoying this mega-sized album cover of his greatest hits?

Anyway, there's a great "How many terrorists does it take to destroy a painting?" joke in here somewhere.

Otto Dix Offends The Nazis

If war is Hell, and Hell is an insufferable nightclub in New York's Meatpacking District, then World War I is the devil's VIP lounge. Otto Dix enlisted for three years in the German army, most of it mowing men down with machine-guns. After the war, he tried his hand at a variety of art styles, always with a focus on violence, decay, death, and all the not-fun kinds of sex. You wouldn't want to hire him to draw caricatures at your office party.

DIX 1912

Otto Dix, smiling.

One of his paintings, Trench, was so contentious for showing war's ugliness that a Cologne, Germany, museum had to display it separately and concealed by a curtain. The mayor of Cologne nixed the museum's purchase -- a legally permissible move because Dix had never declared "No backsies!" Then Mayor Crankypants forced the museum director to resign in disgrace.

At first I couldn't even find a picture of it and assumed it burns out the motherboard of every computer that tries to host it, but eventually I succeeded. Apparently it's possible to take a scan of a print-out of a photo of the original without Hell's armies crawling through the opening created by your belief.

7 Artists Whose Work Will Give You Nightmares

Or do they merely bide their time?

People really hated that painting for showing them what the artist himself had to live through. In fact, apparently nobody knows what happened to it. It appears to have slipped into a private collection via sale, but most people think the Nazis simply burned it. That's right, Otto Dix painted a war scene so ghastly even Nazi warmongers were disgusted by it.

Of course, we all know the real answer is that Hell opened at midnight on the start of World War II to reclaim the painting's incubating power of destruction. By that point, the Nazis had destroyed or sold off some 260 of his paintings. That's probably why he painted Hitler as Envy among the Seven Deadly Sins:

7 Artists Whose Work Will Give You Nightmares

"You Nazis are a real bunch of my last name."

When not depicting the inhumanity of war, he focused on sexual violence, which German has a single word for because it's German: lustmord. Dix painted Juvenalian satire just to prove it's not synonymous with humor.

He particularly protested the inhumane treatment of the wretched: veterans, beggars, the disabled, prostitutes. The real monsters are the society that walks past them.

DresT 1

Probably the most work-safe yet disturbing result for "German skat" Google has to offer.

So, yeah, his homeland put him through the meat grinder twice and spent the years in between resenting him for pointing out its failures. Despite that, he received a slew of awards in the last decade of his life. And in 2012 a bunch of his work resurfaced. Huzzah! A victory for Otto Dix is a blow against Hitler!

7 Artists Whose Work Will Give You Nightmares

Zdzislaw Beksinski Paints Hell, Goes Through It

Zdzislaw Beksinski's style was described as "dystopian surrealism," which is an understatement akin to describing battery acid as a potent exfoliant. He divided his own work into "Baroque" and "Gothic," although I would suggest it's a new school called "Uncontrollable Shrieking."

His paintings and photography show a fixation on obscured identity in the form of bandaged, bleeding faces, missing faces, and the nightmare kindling that is torn doll faces.

7 Artists Whose Work Will Give You Nightmares

I should have mentioned it also weeps blood and blots out the sky.

Imagine the horror stories suggested by his visions. Look at this Church Of The Saponified Capillary in the dead desert. You just know every one of its priests can lick the flesh from your bones in 10 seconds:


Blight. It's all blight. There is no hope anywhere.

Or this literal night mare, entitled Dark Horse, which looks like Paul Klee and Stephen Gammell spliced a caiman onto a bull. If the apocalypse ever happens, God will have to create a fifth horseman, because the first four aren't qualified to mount such a hell-steed.

7 Artists Whose Work Will Give You Nightmares

And its name that sat on him was Insanity.

And yet ... his work's kind of nice, in a way. Apart from the obvious talent, it feels like the artist identifies with us, the viewer, or the oppressed subjects. Like, sure, here comes Baalmarqatziz, the anti-god whose face is a black hole, but the point of view is the man on the street's. Relax, bro. We will have a voice in the fires of his endlessly burning reign.

7 Artists Whose Work Will Give You Nightmares


Beksinski didn't examine his own work much, but he did feel people took it wrong. It wasn't to be taken too seriously and was often optimistic. (Ha! Told you!)

In most pictures you find of him, he's got an affable smile. And why wouldn't he? He got all his darkness out in paint. It's like how Stephen King's just a regular dude around Bangor who very rarely summons the Elder Gods through his work anymore.

7 Artists Whose Work Will Give You Nightmares

Some people just can't take a joke.

Unfortunately, his life did not end well. First, he lost his wife. Then, a year later, his son. The younger Beksinski committed suicide on Christmas Eve, and his poor father discovered the body. Six years later, he was stabbed by his caretaker's son after refusing to lend the young man the equivalent of a hundred bucks.

I guess we all learned something today. People are worse than anything Beksinski ever envisioned. On the other hand, he wasn't devoured by the oppressive forces that surround us all, so count that in the plus column.

7 Artists Whose Work Will Give You Nightmares

God is a comedian devouring an audience too skitter-legged to laugh.

Frederik Ruysch's Hell-Baby Deluxe

There's grim art and then there's working in a medium so despairing that it crushes dreams that are still in raw-material form.

Frederik Ruysch was a Dutch anatomist in the 17th and 18th centuries who worked entirely in the medium of human body parts. Mostly babies. Stillborn babies, to be honest. And boy did he have a knack for finding them.

7 Artists Whose Work Will Give You Nightmares

Granted, that era was a big ol' pile of fetal corpses, but it was still probably awkward collecting them.

Ruysch didn't just stage some skeletal homunculi and call it a day. No, just like indigenous peoples, he used every part of the baby in his dioramas. His lush compositions featured foliage made of veins and lung tissue and depicted his subjects weeping into handkerchiefs made of membranes from the human brain.

Why were they weeping? Because death comes for us all, obviously. Every inch of his artwork was a memento mori, never letting people forget the Grim Reaper will come to purify them. This is a man who picked apart the corpses of children that never enjoyed one breath of air so that they could spend eternity dreading death with accessories made from their own body parts.

7 Artists Whose Work Will Give You Nightmares

Lady, are you gonna use that, or can I ... ?

In fact, the only part of these works that wasn't made from a baby mourning its own death was the mayfly some of them held, a symbol of our entire lives being but a single day in the maw of eternity.

Ruysch's crazy train didn't just leave the station; it derailed on the bridge over the canyon. I mean, try explaining to any other species that we dissect our own children and then preserve them as wailing visions of death to come.

He made "about a dozen" of them, which I think we all know means 13. If they're ever arranged in a circle to face each other, every raven on Earth will drop dead.

7 Artists Whose Work Will Give You Nightmares

And they are the lucky ones, for they shall not weep to behold the death of hope.

Anyone else think he went too deep on this one? Imagine what a more chilling reminder of death this would be if he mixed their cremated remains into ink and illustrated a children's book about learning to grow and thrive, then only revealed his materials on the last page.

Now don't think this was Ruysch's only interest. He also kept busy decorating his jars of animal specimens with completely unrelated scenes from history. At this point, that's as close as you can hope for a welcome return to normalcy.

Unfortunately, none of those remain, so we're left with only his third hobby, which is straight-up decorating the (again, fetal human) corpses that he didn't disassemble and jarring them. You know, just in case you get a craving after the stores have closed.

Chris Mars Attacks

What do you do after you invent grunge? Well if you're drummer Chris Mars, you paint a lot of really thoughtful yet gruesome musings on what lies beneath our endlessly decaying physical forms. Then you appear in a list on Cracked, which has got to be the center jewel in your artistic crown.

His work often criticizes this lousy world's villains. Take, for example, this school of elderly men with primeval fish bodies vomiting up tumescent hearts.


By the time you notice the shadowy imp, it's actually cute by contrast.

You'd probably guess that painting is called Evil, thanks to the inhuman voices whispering that word endlessly as you gaze into its depths. You might have a harder time with The Poor Steward, which features inveterate liar and embarrassment to his faith and family Pat Robertson:

Jonathan Levine Gallery

This is what The 700 Club actually looks like in hi-def.

But what about this work?

7 Artists Whose Work Will Give You Nightmares

Don't we all feel like this before coffee?

Yeah, think on that one for a second.

A vast amount of Mars' work deals with his brother's ordeal with schizophrenia. When he was just 5 years old, his teenage sibling was taken away, and young Mars was not at all impressed with the care that his beloved brother received or how it was handled at home. Pictures like the one above, as well as this ...


Don't we all look like this before coffee?

... are how the artist tries to understand and express his brother's world. Even though the first glance might make the viewer recoil, the work actually wants you to empathize with the subject. He told The A.V. Club:

"Visually through my work, over and over, I'm trying to create characters that are -- to some people they may be monstrous, and I hate that word, because I think they're just unique. Misfits."

So, yeah, he's humanizing figures you might at first mistake as monstrous, and he's finding the beauty in what makes folks different. He's taking you down to the depths only so that you'll appreciate the view once he leads you back to the top of the human soul: Chris Mars just taught you empathy.

Brendan McGinley drew a demon for a horror anthology once. He also discovered the much scarier 5 Weird Search Terms You Used, You Ninnyhammer. Here's his stupid Twitter feed: @BrendanMcGinley.

Brendan stared damnation in the eye before in 5 Reasons The Scariest Thing Ever Written Is A Kids' Book.

If you enjoyed those paintings of suffering and hellfire, you may be a monster, but you may also like 8 Real Photographs That Prove Hell Exists On Earth. If those aren't enough hellscapes for you then check out The 8 Creepiest Places On Earth and also seek help.

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Imagine being trapped aboard the doomed Titanic on an icy Atlantic. . . with the walking dead. Check out Chris Pauls and Matt Solomon's Deck Z: The Titanic.

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