Husband and wife visual artist team Hillerbrand+Magsamen crafted a series of twists on the traditional mandala. More commonly known through the Tibetan sand mandala, the original, ancient process consists of intricate patterns of sand that are later destroyed. Hillberbrand+Magsamen’s interpretation is similarly meticulous, but has a pop culture twist. Using things like books, Legos, shoes, sippy cups, things that are blue and others green, they arrange these objects in a circular, radiating formation. This light-hearted assemblage has a deeper meaning to the artists, who explain:
Loosely translated to mean “circle,” a mandala is far more than a simple shape. It represents wholeness, and can be seen as a model for the organizational structure of life itself–a cosmic diagram that reminds us of our relation to the infinite, the world that extends both beyond and within our bodies and minds. We have created mandala’s within our own home out of the stuff we have found lying around in our own creative exploration.
So often, we get caught up in the hustle and bustle of everyday life. The act of creating these works is a slow, meditative process. As these objects form a circle, there is consideration to not only placement, but the associations we have to them. It allows us to think about how the things we own are a reflection of who we are. (Via Faith is Torment)
Though it might look like any other Polish chapel from the outside, the Kaplica Czaszek chapel sets itself apart: behind a humble pair of wooden doors, it contains the bones of thousands. After visiting shallow grave sites commemorating the fallen soldiers and civilians killed in the Silesian Wars, the Thirty Years’ War, plagues, and cholera, a local priest named Vaclav Tomasek collected and cleaned skeletal remains, embedding them in the chapel walls.
Constructed between 1776 and 1804, the building’s architecture stunningly deconstructs the human skeleton; skulls and leg bones are meticulously arranged over the ceilings and walls, while other bones are hidden behind a trapdoor and kept in a crypt. The repetitive patterns that emerge from a single human bone laid out a thousand times over serves to remind us of our connectedness; while each individual femur or cranium stands in for a deceased individual, it takes on a deeper, more universal meaning as part of this expertly-constructed whole.
Within this celebration of oneness, Tomasek set apart strange and unusual bones, placing them on the church altar. Alongside the skull of a mayor and the chapel founder, sits a skull morphed by syphilis, one of a rumored giant, and a few penetrated by bullets. In this way, the structure daringly elevates the macabre—and those who suffered from uncommon maladies—to the spiritual level of relics left behind by local religious and political leaders.
Within the context of the church and its representations of the Virgin Mary and Jesus Christ, the remains offer a potent juxtaposition between the spiritual and the corporeal. Visitors cannot escape this powerful reminder of mortality, but if they so wish, they are poignantly invited to consider the possibility of salvation and eternal life. (via Lost at E Minor and Smithsonian Magazine)
In the late 1930s, Dr. Seuss (Theodor Seuss Geisel) brought his imaginary creatures to life, sculpting them out of wood, mounting them on the wall, and imbuing them with a haunting realism by incorporating real animal parts. The remains of deceased animals came from his father’s workplace, the Forest Park Zoo.
After their construction, the creatures, bearing delightful names like the “Andulovian Grackler” and the “Two Horned Drouberhannis,” were sold as a collection under the title “Collection of Unorthodox Taxidermy.” After living in a child’s bedroom, the pieces were retired to an old barn and resold in 2004. The Chase Group later made resin copies of many of the works. Some of these pieces are available for sale on eBay.
Each sculpture stays true to Seuss’s touchingly earnest connection with the imaginative realm of childhood. The animals, though mounted on a wall, maintain a poignant emotive ability; the marriage of raised brows and mellow smiles with the antlers of genuine beasts makes the works magically vital, communicative— and somehow— real.
The profound soulfulness of the work is only enhanced by its hints of morbidity. In what is perhaps a critique of taxidermy practices, the prolific artist chose to present these fantastical creatures within the context of human domination, forcing viewers to reconcile our desire to believe in magic with the knowledge of environmental destruction. In this way, the aging of the works has not detracted from their potency but has serendipitously heightened it; years after the prolific author’s death, we are asked to search these faded faces for indicators of bestial personalities and traces of the beloved artist’s hand. Take a look. (via This is Colossal and the world’s best ever)
A woman sits alone beneath hundreds of dangling scissors; they teeter above her, metallic mouths open and sharp edges facing downwards. Calmly, she sews. As part of 2011’s The Mending Project, the performance artist Beili Liu put herself in this position, asking audience members to cut away portions of a large piece of fabric and patiently threading it back together.
In juxtaposing the feelings brutality and danger evoked by the scissors with the softness and careful mending of fabric, the performance symbolizes the cyclical process of violence and healing. The scissors are ominous, and yet Liu performs patiently. The work relies upon a symbiotic relationship between destruction and creation; without the audience’s cutting of the sheet-like fabric, the artistic process would not take place. The work is uncomfortable and dangerous, but at the same time, Liu’s re-threaded tapestry, which begins to cover the floor, is strangely comforting. Ultimately, the solace of the artist’s concentrated mending rivals the aggression of the scissors.
The Mending Project also centers around ideas of women in art. Upon until Judy Chicago and still to this very day, women’s craft work has been scoffed at and rejected by museums and galleries. Liu’s work helps to change all that; here, she embraces sewing as “a woman’s work […] a traditional woman’s craft,” and she lends the art form an unexpected hardness and edge. In this picture of femininity, the woman and her work aren’t weak but powerful; through her careful process, she works with the notion of danger and transforms it into something unexpected and, in many ways, not frightful. In her own words, she, the woman, “is the one who […] creates,” finding resilience and fertile power within an unsettling context. (via This is Colossal)
Jiang Pengyi‘s latest series, Everything Illuminates, sees the artist mixing fluorescent powders with liquid wax, and applying it to various, commonly-found objects. Pengyi then documents these applications, capturing in a time a brief moments where the objects were not just illuminated, but focused on for consideration through art. According to the Hunan-Province-born artist’s statement, these images “suggest the artist’s changing focus back to original form and shape, at the same time reflect his current state of mind.”
Pengyi was recently selected to participate in Artshare.com’s group showing of note-worthy Chinese artists born between 1977 and 1987, called Another Light. The show’s catalogue references the artist’s past works, which focused on the rapidly-evolving city and industrial spaces in China, and a slowing down in focus for his newer works, where each object becomes precious and unique. “In Jiang’s Everything Illuminates series, the mystique of autonomous objects is revealed in delicate depiction…Through the passage of time, these objects slowly take on their new forms on film and emit individual signals from their uncommon glow, as they emerge in a bewitching existence.” (via skumar and mymodernmet)
A memorial to the victims of the worst mass shootings in modern history was recently announced, as the country revealed the selection of a design by Jonas Dahlberg. Almost three years ago on the island of Utøya, Norway, a gunman set off several bombs and killed 77 people. Rather than erecting a building or edifice in remberence, Dahlberg’s submission chose to focus on nature itself, separating the end of the island with a man-made fjord where the shooting took place. Across the channel, the names of the victims will be etched in stone, which will be seen by visitor’s in the viewing area. Separated from them physically, Dahlberg explained, “The concept for the Memorial Sørbråten proposes a wound or a cut within nature itself. It reproduces the physical experience of taking away, reflecting the abrupt and permanent loss of those who died.”
The Swedish designer’s submission was unanimously selected (his project description can be read in full here) Dahlberg explained the presence and loaded feelings upon visiting the future building site, ”An emotional observation informs my overall concept. During the initial site visit to Utøya, I noticed how different the feeling was of walking outside in nature, compared to the feeling of walking through the rooms of the main building. The experience of seeing the vacant rooms and the traces of extreme violence brought me — and others around me — to a state of profound sadness. In its current state, the building kept close within it the memory of the terror acts of July 22, 2011. Like an open wound.” (via gizmodo)
For the last few years, Japanese artist Jun Kitagawa has installed large zippers in public spaces. Sometimes they are painted on the wall, but more often and impressively, they are placed as sculptures in the middle of rooms and in public ponds. There, the ground looks as though it’s opening up and going to swallow you whole. Kitagawa has fashioned larger-than-life zippers, complete with his name on it (akin to the popular manufacturer YKK). Between the giant zipper’s teeth you can see what’s below, like wooden beams or most of the time, a dark void.
Kitagawa’s work plays into the wonder we have of what lies beneath the surface, and is a metaphor for making light of the unknown. The giant zipper reveals what can’t easily be seen, and what we often wish that we could. Even if the zipper is “open,” many times the artist fills it with nothing, saying that the truth or reality isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. (Via Colossal)
The always-colorful work by Erin Rachel Hudak has the distinct ability to seduce with its bright and vibrant appearance. Hudak consistently produces work that looks happy and exudes love. The attraction, while complete, can be somewhat misleading, and upon closer inspection Hudak has often encoded a message, lesson, or suggestion hidden within the colorful work.
“Love You Forever,” a temporary installation in both New York and Idaho, included mylar balloons. An adoring public service announcement in both locals, the installations became celebrated destinations. However, despite the message of everlasting adulation, the installations were completely fleeting. On the one hand the works were romantic and beautiful gestures, or from another perspective they were impossible promises.
Often Hudak entertains such distinctions, juxtapositions and opposites—using the way ideas are defined by separation from other ideas. The concept is almost always referencing, or completed by, the viewer. Her outdoor installation-to-be at Paul Artspace in St. Louis involves a mirrored sculpture that reads “You Are My Reflection,” involving the viewer in a process of self-analysis. Combined with a rich visual vocabulary involving metaphors and language, Hudak’s works are always highly symbolic.
Catch her latest installation at the SPRING/BREAK Art Show taking place this weekend in New York. ”Waterfall Wall” installed in the stairway of the SPRING/BREAK space is a cascading barrage of color and reflective surface. It is the visual manifestation of Hudak’s observations about power, freedom, access and restriction.