In September, people visiting the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County (NHM) will be able to view North America’s largest collection of ancient Egyptian and Peruvian mummies. Titled Mummies: New Secrets from the Tombs, the touring exhibition from The Field Museum in Chicago features over 20 preserved remains ranging as far back as Pre-Dynastic Egypt and Pre-Incan Peru—which means these are some of the oldest discovered mummies in the world. Accompanying the mummies are archaeological artifacts also found in the tombs, such as sarcophagi fragments, limestone canopic jars containing the deceased’s vital organs, and a beautifully fierce double-spouted jar with the face of a jaguar.
In the following statement from the press release, NHM President and Director Jane Pisano explains the exhibition’s goal: “The role of a natural history museum is to serve as a laboratory for the exploration of our natural and cultural pasts, and science is our pathway. Mummies: New Secrets from the Tombs uses modern science to challenge and help to unravel what we know about these ancient peoples and their cultures, and in doing so, offers the world an intensely up-close look at The Field’s preeminent collection of mummies, many of them tucked safely away in vaults for over a century.”
As Pisano remarks, what makes this exhibition exciting (aside from its awe-inspiring collection) is its unique examination of cross-cultural methods of mummification, as well as the specific focus on the individuals occupying the coffins. Mummification is often solely associated with Ancient Egyptian ritual practice, but in fact mummies have been found all over the world. In Peru, mummification began 2,000 years before Egypt. While both cultures’ methods are equally fascinating and ingenious, differences can be traced. In Peruvian mummification, for example, there are signs that the coffins were opened so that food and drink could be replenished; in Egypt, the tombs were meant to be sealed for eternity. In addition, the exhibition also profiles the deceased using information gathered from CT scans and X-rays. Among the mummies is a woman and her child, a brother and sister, and the “Gilded Lady,” a 40-year-old woman from the Roman era.
This is the first time the mummies and their artifacts have left The Field Museum, so be sure to take the opportunity to see this fascinating collection. The show runs from September 18th to January 18th. You can learn more on the NHM’s website.
Artist Soo Kim severs, cuts, and reconstructs photographs until they become a more ethereal, delicate version of what they once were. Kim’s work portrays buildings fading away, and creates new geometric forms from different objects. Her cityscapes turn into beautiful framework of a concrete jungle after she slices them into their new form. They become a new, unique style of architecture and design that is created from layers of hand altered and manipulated photographs. Her highly architectural work examines these manmade forms in the midst of their environments. She often snips away at the manmade structures, but leaves the lush landscape in the background alone.
Often using photographs of scenes from different cities all over the world, these once extremely diverse places now are stripped down to their bones where they look somewhat similar. Soo Kim’s hand-cut structures unify these contrasting places, creating a balance of harmony. The incisions in her layered and cut two-dimensional work form a sense of volume, a three-dimensional element is added with her manipulation of foreground and background. Soo Kim’s art can often be more abstract, creating more vividly colored work with the same incredible cutting technique. Not always focused on architecture and manmade structures, the artist’s body of work also includes several ephemeral scenes of nature. With a light and airy palette, her tree branches droop, curve, and jut out of the composition in every direction, creating an amazing sense of depth. Make sure to check out more of her work on Angles Gallery’s website, where she is represented.
Maricor and Maricar, two twin sisters based in Sydney, design and hand stitch vivid colored quotes and phrases written in bold typography. The result is fresh and bright. They work as a team on sewn animations, illustrations and hand embroideries, coming up with unexpected color combinations. They work is most of the time commissioned for renowned international magazines within the publishing and advertising field. The latest embroidered pieces the artists created were quotes and bold statements. The words Love, You gotta keep cheering, Not everybody’s cup of tea and Shut up I’m dreaming are playfully displayed on monochromatic backgrounds.
Their embroidery making process starts off with a sketch. With the help of digitalization or the use of watercolors they fill the typos with vibrant gradient schemes. The design is usually traced onto cotton or linen based fabrics before the needle work; rendering a tactile 3D effect. Both equally involved in projects, they make sure their ideas are always original and pushing the technical limits of embroidery. They find inspiration in other designer’s work and take great pride in the fact that they have a unique and talented skill.
Ikenaga Yasunari paints tranquil portraits of women immersed in elegant floral patterns. His work is a curious blend of traditional Japanese-style paintings (nihonga) and modern imagery. Whereas nihonga manifests itself in Yasunari’s bold, monochromatic contrasts and the absence of outlines in the patterns, the subjects are all donned in modern clothing, and their hair and makeup also convey a distinctly contemporary style. Yasunari’s chosen materials are based in tradition, involving a combination of sumi-ink (soot ink) and mineral pigments painted on linen cloth. In exploring modern subjects using traditional techniques, he reinvests an older cultural, artistic practice with an ongoing significance.
The beauty of Yasunari’s work arrives in the interplay between complexity and serenity; much like Gustav Klimt’s decorative paintings wherein patterns coalesce around a highlighted female figure, Yasunari’s works strike a balance between the undulating, seamless background and the subject embraced in its flow. The gentle sepia tones likewise enhance the paintings’ quiet, almost autumnal, atmosphere. Blending gentle imagery with harmonious compositions, Yasunari’s works are meditative portraits embodying youth, reverie, and dreams.
A book filled with natural, unretouched images of naked women. Matt Blum and his wife Katy Kessler have both collaborated on the Nu Project, a concept and a book re-defining the beauty of the body. In the intimacy of their own homes, women over 21 unveil their bodies, as it is, with no artifice. Matt Blum, the photographer, shows up without knowing anything about the woman. The only requirements are no clothing, no make-up and only natural lighting.
There’s been nothing but positive feedback from the women involved and the women witnessing the project. In a digital world where the use of photoshop is standard, it is refreshing to watch women feeling comfortable within their own skin. The Nu Project is changing the way women see themselves. It gives them the opportunity to relate to other women’s insecurities and hopefully realize that their body is beautiful. These photographies of ordinary women shot in their environment reflect honesty. They do not only show their body as it is; they also reveal their inner personalities, the soul behind the flesh; sending the message that a body is an envelope and that true beauty is what shines and enlightens the shot.
The project launched in 2005, and a book has already been printed. As the phenomenon continues to grow on social media, Matt and Katy decided to edit a sequel which will come out if enough funds are collected, follow the instructions on the Nu Project website to help a beautiful project come to life.
French artist Fabian Mérelle creates surreal illustrations that are as nightmarish as they are beautiful. Rendering incredibly detailed scenes with a dark side, his depictions of monsters and strange creatures are reminiscent of Goya’s more sinister illustrations. Fabian Mérelle constructs fantastic and elaborate scenes of dreamlike proportion, stretching the imagination and filling our minds with mystery. Each scene is like a fairytale or fable that may not have a happy ending. The foul creatures that invade Mérelle’s intriguing work seem to have come from mythology or legend.
The drawings are showing an obsession for detail veering on mania and pointing out the precision of a line layed minutely with China ink. If he pays homage to the Little Nemo comics, he projects the spectator in a universe much more complex, mixing evil spirits, watches and childhood fears. -Fabian Mérelle
Many of Fabian Mérelle’s drawings are somewhat simple in nature, but speak volumes to the artist’s skill once we examine the attention to detail made with ink. His muted palette is balanced with a shadowy atmosphere and a hazy mood. What is so amazing about the artist’s work is that even the most bizarre subject is anatomically correct, even with gargoyles picking at the figure’s body, an elephant standing on its back, or when the figures is halfway turning into a fallen tree. Although holding an ominous tone, Mérelle’s illustrations captivate us and throw us head first into childlike imagination.
PUTPUT is a Swiss/Danish artist duo based in Copenhagen who explore the perceptual effects of putting everyday objects in surprising contexts. In an installation called “Fruitless” at Lust and the Apple Gallery in Temple, Scotland, they have created a “greenhouse” of faux plants. From a distance, the glass structure appears to be brimming with verdant life, but upon closer inspection, the pots are filled with “dead” objects, such as toys, grooming products, and other household goods. Arranged together in their pots, the objects take on a new meaning; suddenly their design supersedes their banal utility, allowing the viewer to appreciate and contemplate the various shapes and textures that otherwise go unnoticed.
In the above video, the artists ask a compelling question: can an object dream? And if it does, would it dream of being something entirely different? Empowered by their new “purposes,” the items take on an illusory life; two recorders, placed in dirt, seem to channel the energy of young bamboo, while elsewhere, bag clips appear to sprout with an eager vitality. The pseudo-consciousness of the objects arrives through a radical shift in our perception of them, but just like the barren materials that compose them, the faux plants’ dreams are “fruitless”: “We tried to fulfill that dream of an object to be something completely different—which it never will be,” the artists explain. Nevertheless, PUTPUT has arranged a fascinating exercise for transforming everyday objects into something more beautiful and profound.
We featured the illustrations of Australian artist Tom Littleson (aka, Dilly) in 2011, and he is also one of the artists featured in Beautiful/Decay’s Book 9, which examines the seven deadly sins through the lens of contemporary art. Dilly’s illustrations fall into the “Wrath” category, but there are many more incredible artists to explore in Book 9, including Jeremy Kost’s sexually-charged and explorative Polaroids (Lust), and Libby Black’s colorful paper sculptures of coveted, material possessions (Envy). For centuries, the seven sins have influenced the Western imagination in discerning “good” behavior from “bad” impulses, and Book 9 gives you the exclusive opportunity to see how groundbreaking artists are navigating these distinctions in the present-day world.
Dilly’s illustrations are a drastic combination of immaculate detail and excessive rage. In a series titled The Mind’s Apocalypse, Dilly has drawn the hyper-realistic portraits of various men, capturing everything from their individual hairs to wrinkles and beard scruff. The contemplative beauty of these pieces, however, is shattered by the grotesque, self-mutilating acts the men are engaged in; with expressions of passion and madness, they tear open their own skin, self-cannibalize, and anoint themselves in blood. Some of them are screaming in what could be pain or rage. The greyscale faces with bright red gore are brutally beautiful, and despite their stomach-turning intensity, it is hard to look away.
Limited copies of Book 9 are still available on the B/D shop. Click here to grab yours before they are gone for good.