About Nathaniel Smith

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Nastasja Duthois’ Embroidered Silhouettes

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Artist Nastasja Duthois creates large installations and small-scale embroidered artworks that explore aspects of shadow and negative space. Though composed of thousands of straight sewn lines reminiscent of crosshatching, the final pieces are generally organic in form from the silhouettes of dogs and animals to more complex landscapes.

“My work is done ellipses, gaps and assembled fragments that attempt to re-transcribe experiences and encounters. It restores daily annotations that one way or another have caused me a surprise, empathy, an indistinct disorder, rebellion or indignation choked. I contemplated steps, stopped movements, noted the words of anonymous … I approached … I immersed myself until disappearing collecting many snapshots of collective life that my readings were converted. Cross existences are mixed with reminiscences and personal obsessions, while retaining their opacity and mystery. They reactivated real memory and imagination. What thoughts and feelings aroused places, objects and people became especially experiences of encounter with oneself. I want to watch the world with the attention of the traveler who discovers a country; I’m looking for simple and fleeting wonders.”

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The Spotless Worlds of Norah Stone’s ‘Artificial Utopias’

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Using narratives and visual genres found in art, combined with the clean aesthetics of design and contemporary product advertising, the work of Norah Stone is representative of a generation which has seen both art and design coexisting, flattened by the computer screen, and has no use for their separation. The classic art vs. design question is something that comes up a lot in my daily life but I often find it to be a futile discussion, says the Minneapolis-based Stone, “I guess I just don’t think it’s important to set up boundaries just for the sake of boundaries.”

Norah Stone’s most-recent series, Artificial Utopias, creates thoroughly modern still life scenes, which despite their alluring hyppereal-quality (reminiscent of advertising and pictorial), the distinct sense of disconnect between these spotless digital worlds and our own is unsettling.

Says Stone,

“In a culture where most of our daily routines and habits have been replaced by a digital screen, the scroll, the pixel, and the ability to retouch has ultimately changed our ideals of perfection….As I was working on this project I was thinking a lot about how growing up in the digital generation has subconsciously molded me to be attracted to a certain cleanliness that can only be achieved on screen. Artificial Utopias was a culmination of my own personal experience with the digital world and also the research I was doing on still lives. The super clean, almost surreal aesthetic came from trying to recreate the visceral experience that comes from staring at a screen for a long period of time.”

This play between perfection and illusion, the real and the empty, eventually manifested itself into twin video works as well. “In the video works (below) I was trying to recreate the process of eliminating imperfections through the clone stamp tool. In post production, I spent a lot of time retouching these photos to achieve the cleanliness of a stock photo. I wanted to capture the mundane process of retouching and erasing over and over again until you’re left with something completely different,” says Stone, who perhaps quite telling concludes, “or nothing at all.”

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Collaboration Between Artist And Photographer Yields A New Brand Of “Digitally Handcrafted” Images

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Michael Cina has created a world-renowned career by fusing elements of both design and art into a signature style of technically-sound, visually striking, and uniquely glossy works. This approach has brought massive clients ranging from Facebook to Coca-Cola to MTV, as well as fine-art success. His latest efforts involved opening up control of his personal practice, however, as Cina worked side-by-side, though miles away, with a collaborator. For over a year, Cina and New York-based photographer John Klukas worked together to create a new body of work, which they began to call “digitally handmade” – a true synthesis of each creator’s respective styles. This collaboration yielded some twenty works, which are collected in the exhibition, She Who Saw Deep, at Minneapolis’ Public Functionary.

Beginning their complicated collaborative process with photos of the exhibition’s singular muse in Klukas’ New York studio, Cina then took the images and digitally overlaid his handmade paintings in his Minneapolis studio. Working the files back and forth between the two several times, the finished files were often so large and dense that they were as large as 16GB. These pieces were then printed and mounted, where Cina made final edits by hand – embellishing, spraying, drawing, and painting each piece to give them their own unique finish.

The digitally handcrafted images in She Who Saw Deep are then titled around the loose parallel of the Epic of Gilgamesh, “where the hero passes through the absolute darkness of grief, fear and death to be reborn into the light…the resulting works in this exhibit are both a visual and conceptual interpretation of this classic and universal human story.” Public Functionary, which offered support for the printing and creation of the works, is offering unique, limited-edition prints of these collaborative works, which can be purchased here.

She Who Saw Deep is currently on view now through July 13th at Public Functionary in Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA. 

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Shelly Mosman’s Intensely Personal Portraits

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The strength of the portraiture tradition, and what separates it from documentary photography, lies in the skill of the photographer to attach meaning and the essence of the person in a simple image. Using metaphor, subtlety, and open-ended but vaguely familiar narrative, photographer Shelly Mosman is able to imbue an intensely personal and soft-spoken beauty to her photographs. Drawn to subjects for reasons she says she often cannot immediately describe, Mosman spends a great deal of time with her subjects, waiting for key moments when their personality is revealed through action, or the subtlest of looks or gestures. “Portraiture relies on the smallest mannerisms and expressions to offer narrative,” says Mosman, “I rely on the spontaneity of circumstance.” 

The Minneapolis-based portraitist continues:

“In my photographs I negotiate and characterize the balance between my own vision and the unknown and often powerful potential given by each portrait’s subject. I am drawn to certain people for the simple reason that I know shooting them will give me an image I could never have created on my own, and because my camera can reveal something they may not have known was in themselves.  It becomes a synthesis of us both, captured in a single photograph. These connections with each subject are often too straightforward and immediate to be conscious, but rather they are something that is felt immediately, coming straight from the gut, which is the home of our instincts.”

Mosman is currently in the midst of a Kickstarter campaign to raise money for an upcoming exhibition titled Mercury. The show will feature new black and white works, printed with a long-standing (though rarely used) silver gelatin contact technique, overseen by a master printer. They will then be framed in a specially designed cast resin frames, the results of a collaboration with two sculptors. For more information or to donate, click here.

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80′s And 90′s Pop Culture Transformed Into Darkly Prophetic And Nostalgic .Gifs

There is no doubt that the current resurgence of the .gif medium is indicative of how image-based and internet-dependent our networked society has become. Born of and propagated through the Internet, .gifs offer a perfect medium for our constantly consuming Share-Culture, a culture that artist Mark Vomit masterfully samples from, and takes particular pleasure in critiquing. Inspired in equal parts by nostalgic ’80s and ’90s ephemera and modern Internet imagery, Vomit’s aesthetic has made him a leading voice in a new online visual arts movement, despite his often apathetic and apocalyptic style.

When asked via email to describe his motivation, as well as his aesthetic, Vomit responded adroitly:
“1. Mark Vomit is documenting the Apocalypse.   
2. Mark Vomit manipulates images and sounds.  
3. You Have No Voice, You Have No Choice, the New Order Nation has Taken Over and 
Everything You Like Is Wrong. 
4. Vomiting is the involuntary, forceful expulsion of the contents of one’s stomach through the mouth and sometimes the nose. 
5. Manipulate: to use or change in a skillful way or for a particular purpose. 
6. Studies in Post 20th Century Culture and Media.”

This philosophical and aesthetic difference made Vomit (who also performs in the the art-doom-rock band Bollywood) a competitive contender in a recent head-to-head tournament of the world’s best .gif artists organizes by the influential new media art and tech site VIA. Considering the often too-cutesy and completely referential (read: unoriginal) work which proliferates Tumblr  posts, it serves as a refreshingly radical reaction to have an artist defacing and exploring the medium with a grittier, grimier approach.

Mark Vomit‘s .gif work will be featured in Post Physical | Visual Reactions to the Post-Internet Age, which opens June 28th, 2014 at SooLocal in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The exhibition runs through August 10th. More information at the event page here.

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Beautiful Fordite Stones Made With Layered Paint From Old Car Factories

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Years ago, the American automotive industry was an unparalleled success not only in productivity, but also in the quality of their beautiful car designs. Unbeknownst to these automotive designers, they were also creating something beautiful that would last long after the processes they pioneered went extinct. Fordite (or Motor Agate, or Detroit Agate) as it has become known, was created by the process of hand-spraying cars with enamel-paint. A byproduct of the process, paint slag called “rough” was baked in the ovens, which hardened the automotive paint, creating layered slabs which crafty autoworkers realized could easily be polished, much like the naturally occurring agates they so resembled. Since this process has long been , these remaining stones have found a particular following, as they can never be created again.

Johnny Strategy, who documented much of the story for Colossal, writes, “Old car factories had a harmful impact on the environment, releasing toxic chemicals into the air, land and water. But it wasn’t all ugly. Oddly enough, one of the by-products of car production was Fordite, also known as Detroit agate. The colorful layered objects take their name from agate stones for their visual resemblance. But instead of forming from microscopically crystallized silica over millions of years, Fordite was formed from layers of paint over several tens of years. Back in the day, old automobile paint would drip onto the metal racks that transported cars through the paint shop and into the oven. The paint was hardened to a rock-like state thanks to high heats from the baking process. As the urban legend goes, plant workers would take pieces home in their lunch pails as a souvenir for their wife or kids.” (via mymodernmet, fordite.com, colossal)

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Tara Donovan Transforms Index Cards And Plastic Rods Into Incredible Organic Sculptures

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Untitled, 2014. Acrylic and adhesive.

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Untitled, 2014. Styrene index cards, metal, wood, paint and glue

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(detail) Untitled, 2014. Styrene index cards, metal, wood, paint and glue

Tara Donovan (previously featured here) has famously used inorganic materials to emulate organic shapes, resembling hives, mountains and other natural configurations. Her most recent exhibition, Tara Donovan, at Pace Gallery’s Chelsea, New York, expands on the artist’s use of inventive materials, including index cards, a first for Donovan. Featuring two large-scale works, “the artist continues to explore the phenomenological effect of work created through the accumulation of identical objects” 

The former Macarthur Foundation ‘Genius’ Grant recipient is known for her commitment to process, inventive materials, and evocative installations.  Says Donovan,

“There is a sense I get of wanting to choreograph someone’s experience of my work, because the surfaces of my work do often shift and follow the perspective of the viewer, there is a perceptual movement that coincides with a person’s physical movement within the gallery space.’”

(via from89 and designboom)

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Noah Kalina’s ‘Internet/Sex’ Photo Series Of Composite Copulation

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Though he is perhaps most famous for his internet sensation photoseries, Everyday, where he has taken a photo of himself daily since 2000 (and which was then turned into a stop-motion video which went viral), Noah Kalina‘s work actually possesses a very distinctly subtle, and personal feel. In the series Internet/Sex, taken between 2007 and 2009, Kalina pairs empty hotel rooms, illuminated only by computer screens, and composite photography which suggests naked couples having sex. The dynamic of the empty and occupied rooms, when paired together, connect a portrayal of the inherent loneliness and longing of the human condition.

Kalina, who is based in Brooklyn and Lumberland, New York, has not explicitly said what these photos are documenting, it can easily be implied that these intimate moments with open computer screens simulate the connections and separations that both sex and connection through the internet offer. Taking place in various hotel and motel rooms, the series seems to suggest a lonely traveller, using their computer to make a primal, human connection. Surprisingly, the open screens and the desire they represent offers a loneliness more lewd than photographing sex.

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