Crystal Wagner’s installations are a combination of printmaking, cut paper, and cheap, dollar store objects. Her work has a very organic feel to it, as if we are about to walk through a luscious forest or happen upon a moss patch. This isn’t surprising, as Wagner has spent a lot of time immersed in nature, spending extended periods in Yellowstone National Park and Joshua Tree National Park. The large, site specific works convey the awe-inspiring beauty we experience in places like Old Faithful.
Using items like police caution tape, chicken wire and table cloths, the artist crafts multi-layered and complex forms that occupy walls, floors, and everyday spaces. I’m reminded of green wall technology, in which moss grows decoratively on walls and gardens. It is not only good for the environment, but visually dazzles. This is much like Wagner’s work, which uses what already exists in our world to create a calming, tranquil environment.
Wagner has a formal education in printmaking, and this training works to her advantage. She is able to refine her installations by adding intricate prints of forms that look like vines and petals. It contrasts nicely with her construction, which focuses more on structure and building volume. These are the heart of Wagner’s installation, and tell us the most about the essence of her work.
Artist Kate MacDowell uses porcelain clay to craft her nature-inspired works. MacDowell’s works are realistically sculpted and meticulous. Hollowing out a solid form and building each piece leaf by leaf and feather by feather, she intimately involves herself with the process of building. The works themselves are beautiful, ghostly white and evoke a very serene feeling. Upon a closer examination, however, things aren’t quite right. A large bird has human hands instead of its normal claws, and an apple has a tiny skull inside of it. Mice have ears on their backs. MacDwell explains in a statement, writing:
In my work this romantic ideal of union with the natural world conflicts with our contemporary impact on the environment. These pieces are in part responses to environmental stressors including climate change, toxic pollution, and gm crops. They also borrow from myth, art history, figures of speech and other cultural touchstones. In some pieces aspects of the human figure stand-in for ourselves and act out sometimes harrowing, sometimes humorous transformations which illustrate our current relationship with the natural world. In others, animals take on anthropomorphic qualities when they are given safety equipment to attempt to protect them from man-made environmental threats. In each case the union between man and nature is shown to be one of friction and discomfort with the disturbing implication that we too are vulnerable to being victimized by our destructive practices.
The careful construction and fragility of material MacDowell has chosen coincides conceptually with her work.
Holiday, Vissarion sect, City of the Sun, Krasnoyarsk Territory, 2006
Koryak foothills, Kamchatka, 2000
Newlyweds, suburbs of Novosibirsk, November 2010
A new photography exhibition at the American University Museum wants to show you that Siberia is more than just a cold, barren place. Titled Siberia in the Eyes of Russian Photographers, it paints the Russian region in a different light. Photographs boast impressive landscapes and even some warm weather; We see children swimming and people wearing short-sleeved shirts. Anton Fedyashin, the executive director of the Initiative for Russian Culture at American University, spoke with Slate about stereotypes of Siberia. “Notions of Siberia in the United States come from Hollywood,” he said. “They come from films that emphasize the morbid exoticism of Siberia, the endless white plains, the sparse villages. Those are the kinds of images that are most widespread in the West. Of course, Siberia during winter does look like that, but there’s another side of the story.”
Siberia makes up about 75 perfect of Russia’s landmass, but only 25 percent of its population. The people who live there are described as having an independent spirit, much like pioneers who settled in the American West during the 19th century. The exhibition draws comparisons between the two places. “It’s an image that overemphasizes the negative aspects of this enormous part of the Eurasian continent and one that completely underrepresents the enormous geographical variety, which is breathtakingly beautiful. The exhibit shows that it’s equally as beautiful and eerily similar to the American West.” Fedyashin explains. While many Western photographers chose to accentuate the emptiness of Siberia, the Russian photographers in this exhibition depict a multifaceted place, spanning from the 1860′s to 2011. (Via Slate)
If you have a huge sweet tooth like I do, then the chocolate art supplies by design firm Nendo are probably whetting your appetite. These tubes of paint and pencils are completely edible, and the paint tubes are full of different sweet fillings. You can sharpen the “pencils” and use the shavings to enhance other desserts.
We wanted our plates to show off the beauty of meals and desserts like a painting on a canvas. Based on this idea, our “chocolate pencils” come in a number of cocoa blends that vary in intensity, and chocophiles can use the special “pencil sharpener” that comes with our plate to grate chocolate onto their dessert. Pencil filings are usually the unwanted remains of sharpening a pencil, but in this case, they’re the star!
The paint tubes have an edible label that tell you what flavored syrup to expect. They range from green tea to honey to caramel. Nendo describes their new creation as “…design that combines the childhood excitement of opening a new box of paints and the thrill of opening a box of chocolates you’ve been given unexpectedly.” What a perfect gift for someone who is both a sweets and artist. Yum! (Via This Is Colossal and Yatzer)
In 1951, surrealist artist Salvador Dali teamed up with photographer Philippe Halsman to create In Voluptas Mors or Voluptuous Death. A black and white photograph, this image is simultaneously strange, complex, and alluring. It features a giant “skull,” a living picture that is made up of seven nude female models that took three hours to arrange and photograph. The final product has the artist standing next to the skull, looking like the ring leader of a circus. And, in many ways, he is.
Additional photos have recently surfaced that reveal some behind-the-scenes moments of In Voluptas Mors. Not only do we see the apparatuses needed to hold the models, but we see how the skull was constructed with bodies. From the looks of it, there was a process of getting one section of the skull situated and balanced. This would repeat until the structure was stable enough to be captured on film.
In Voluptas Mors was not the first time that Dali and Halsman collaborated, nor was it the last. They originally met in 1941 and worked together over the course of 30 years. All of their efforts were eventually published in a 1954 compendium titled Dali’s Mustache, an homage to the artist’s facial hair. Check out the upcoming exhibition at The Musée de l’Elysée, which runs from January 29 until May 11, 2014 to see these images in person.
Photographs of abandoned toy factories are haunting. Taken by various photographers around the world, we see what’s happened after production has stopped and employees stop showing up to work. Some places are left in mid-production, while others have been ransacked by graffiti. In other places, they were defeated by nature.
Illustrating a range of factory conditions, the most unnerving photos are ones that depict these places as ghost towns. They feature cracked doll heads, broken doll arms, and soiled teddy bears. There is an air of mystery about them, and beg the question of, “what happened?” Why did they suddenly pick and leave?
What makes these photographs unnerving is the juxtaposition of toys and abandonment. We think of things like dolls and bears as being innocent. They signify childhood, a time in our lives that shouldn’t be so dark. Instead, we see toys having to face harsh realities of time, wind, snow, and more. Nothing depicts this better than the Isla de las Munecas, or the Island of the Dolls (above). While actually a floating garden, this space of land is occupied by several hundred dolls that have severed heads, limbless bodies and with empty eye-sockets. It was originally conceived as a memorial for a girl that was drowned in a canal, but has since fallen in disrepair. (Via io9)
Dutch artist Henriëtte van ’t Hoog’s installations look 3D, but are completely flat. She uses trompe l’oeil to give her work depth, designing space in a way so that our eye is fooled. To do so, she uses geometry and specifically placed and angled shapes, sometimes building out of the wall to create more complex structures. In an interview with Visual Discrepancies, van ’t Hoog describes why she makes her work. Not surprisingly, her explanation is light-hearted. She states:
…I have been poking around for a while hoping to make people aware of color and shape, and of non-existing space. In Joint I [above] transformed a little area into something new and unexpected, joking around with color and shape while not knowing where it would lead – just having fun, and working through ways that would perhaps mislead the audience.
van ’t Hoog’s color palette is light and very colorful, at times sickeningly so. She regularly uses day glo yellow and hot pinks, which vibrate against one another in industrial spaces and white walls of a gallery. Her installations are based on believability, meaning they must be precise; She paints crisp lines and plans the angles of extra walls and surfaces so that her work appears 3D at all viewpoints. Even though there is a lot of planning involved, van ’t Hoog wants to make it look effortless. It’s important to her that the viewer see something unexpected. Later with Visual Discrepancies, she says:
…I hope when people step inside this small space and see the play with the flat and the three-dimensional, the play with the perspective and the triangular objects and how a painted piece of paper is disturbing their expectation, together with the strength of the color, that their experience will hit the roof.
Photographer Sophie Gamand’s series Wet Dog captures portraits of exactly that – wet, half-washed dogs. This amusing series answers the question of what our furry friends look like while they are being groomed. Some dogs fare better than others, and look relatively normal. With others, their hair looks matted or completely covers their face. Each dog in this series looks miserable and wants the beauty treatment to end. Gamand writes about her series, stating:
Wet Dog is a series on dogs being washed during their grooming sessions. The way the water plays with their hair in a very painterly manner, and their facial expressions as the water is poured on them creates striking portraits.
The idea of Wet Dog is a silly one that is light-hearted and amusing. But, just because it is doesn’t mean that the technical ability of Gamand goes unnoticed. All dogs are posed similarly, but Gamand chooses how to capture the essences of their personality. Even though we have never interacted with these animals, a lot can be told about them. One dog (directly above), has water dripping and is gazing both upwards and at the camera. It’s been caught just before he shakes his coat dry. Instead of looking as animated, others remain still with hair matted over their eyes. These dogs looks docile and defeated, and I feel a tinge of sadness. Gamand’s series humanizes these animals in an odd way. With the absence of their four legs, it’s recognize someone we know in these portraits. (Via Lost Moorings and The Guardian)