Encased in white-framed boxes are Crystal Wagner’s intricate cut paper sculptures. Like specimens meant for studying, parts of textured tentacles and honeycomb-esque patterns wrap around themselves as well as non-representational wavy shapes. Wagner’s work is meticulous, and each scalloped edge has its own slightly-curled edge. It’s reminiscent of a dragon or a reptile, but not one that we’ve ever seen before. The vibrant colors feature jewel-toned gradients that push her sculptures from quasi-reality into full-blown fantasy.
These works first made their appearance at the Hashimoto Contemporary gallery in San Francisco in 2014. Her exhibition was titled Synesthesia, and the intention was to explore the psychological realm between the familiar and strange. The gallery writes, “…combining screen printing, cut paper and various dollar store items, Wagner meticulously assembles her sculptures with a sense of organic growth. Allowing her materials to build upon themselves, layer by layer, each structure swells into a mass of movement, as if grown from the soil of another planet.”
Marie-Lou Desmeules is French-Canadian artist currently based in Spain who uses layers of paint and plastic to perform “surgery” on people, sculpting them into bizarre representations of celebrities, world leaders, housewives, bondage, and more. Encounter Desmeules’ creations and you will undoubtedly look twice (or thrice): her “living canvases” are alarming and oftentimes grotesque. The slabs of paint make her sculptures look as if their skin is about slough off like wax in a fire, leaving a mouldering skeleton beneath (when, in fact, there is real flesh and bone). The glued-on hair also lends to a creepy, cadaverous effect. There is a tangible element of satirical humor, as well; from Obama’s Mickey Mouse ears, to fashion icon’s Karl Lagerfeld’s melted face, to the manic smile of a woman on a blind date, Desmeules has done a brilliant job exploring the line between disgust and delight.
Shock and intrigue aside, Desmeules’ choice of “living portraiture” is rife with social commentary. By disfiguring admired cultural icons such as world leaders and celebrities — people who always appear to be perfectly composed — she playfully “dethrones” them, unveiling them in all their flaws and fleshly humanity. As John J. Staughton writes:
“Celebrities are praised for their beauty and perfection, yet that isn’t what makes them so desirable or recognizable, as Desmeules’ work shows. It is actually the very fact of their fame and prominence that draws us to them; they are as grotesque and outside the realm of normalcy as anyone with a humpback or a facial deformity. Our attraction is just as powerful in the opposite direction.” (Source)
As a further comment on standards of beauty and perfection, Desmeules calls her sculptures “surgeries.” Instead of a scalpel, her instruments are her paint brushes and hands, moulding “normal” people into “idolized” figures who end up mutilated by projected aspirations of status and beauty; what was once venerated and desirable becomes ludicrous and revolting. Desmeules’ work is a sobering — and amusing — reminder of the power of the image to influence and deceive. (Via Juxtapoz)
A beautiful drawing lures you in. It enamors and feeds an aesthetic which is similar to falling in love. The senses are heightened and you feel good. It allows you to breath and stop for a moment and reflect. It acts as an aphrodisiac brought on not only by creator but viewer who enables it to live.
Jillian Dickson creates drawings filled with love. After giving birth to her son she reflected on the powerful connection between us and nature. This spawned a series which entwined placentas and umbilical chords with delicate budding flowers, insects and plants. Like the connection between mother and child the parts symbolize our union to every living thing in the world. In a weird way, the drawings recall The Matrix. There’s something deeper to be found behind expertly rendered flowers and parts which cannot be seen but felt.
The floral arrangements in Dickson’s drawings bloom off the page in round shapes resembling mandalas. The ultra detailing giving them not an artificial but almost surreal touch. Done in colored pencil, the fine point and light stroke needed to produce these intriguing pieces of paper preoccupies most of Dickson’s studio practice. They are labor intensive and done with much thought and care. Some past projects have involved two elephants, tumors and plants, hanging bodies and pastel babies. She has exhibited all over the world including The Louvre in Paris for Drawing Now and Manifest Drawing Gallery in Cincinnati, Ohio. She currently lives in Chapel Hill, North Carolina and works part time at Elon University.
When photographer Klaus Pichler was moving out of his old apartment in Vienna, he noticed something peculiar about the dust on the floor. In the living room, dust bunnies were red while the mitesin his bedroom were light blue. This led to something of an epiphany for Pichler, and he realized that dust isn’t always gray like we so often see – there are varieties. Inspired by that experience, the photographer started a years-long series that chronicles the accumulation of different dust particles. Aptly titled Dust, it recently culminated into a book of the same name.
Pinchler’s dust gathering was similar to collecting specimens to study. He retrieved them with tweezers, placed each in their own Petri dish, numbered, and inventoried them. Photographing the dust proved trickier, and it required Pinchler renting an expensive 120mm macro lense and capturing them all within 24 hours. They were left unaltered and their tiny, exquisite beauty shines in these up-close images.
From police stations to subway stations and pet stores, each gathering of dust has its own idiosyncrasies. The pet shop, for instance, has tiny, brightly-colored feathers and wood chips for the animals. There’s less hair in it than the police station, which has threads, metal, and leaves swirling around in a matted ball.
Dutch artist Art Van Triest plays a dangerous game. He encourages people to break the law, just by fitting a jigsaw puzzle piece together. After tracking down different weapons that are illegal to possess (Kalashnikov, Pistol, Machete), he uses a water cutter to splice them up into traditional jigsaw puzzle piece shapes.
For Triest it is important for the work to be made out of an actual weapon, and for the person solving the puzzle to be committing an illegal activity. He tells The Creator’s Project:
According to Dutch law, it is illegal to have any object that can be mistaken for a weapon, even when that weapon it is no longer useable… [to possess] a non-working gun-like object is already prosecutable. As an artist I think it is interesting to create work that embodies a kind of friction, an object that is at once a toy and a weapon. (Source)
Triest creates many different games and playful art pieces he wants the audience to interact with. He aims to change how people perceive everyday items they would normally avoid. In one piece (Dubbellloops / Shake Hands) he has welded two guns together and asks people to hold one trigger at the same time, as a method to ‘get to know each other’. In his installation Platoon, he places visitors looking directly down the barrel of a firing squad and has lasers following them around the space. Exploring the border between ‘object’ and ‘weapon’, Triest turns normally dangerous items into harmless, even playful ones.
Exploring turning other unsuitable objects into puzzles, Triest has a bright idea for his next project, that I’m sure will attract a lot of curious people wanting to solve it.
Artist Serra Victoria Bothwell Fels converts reclaimed wood into unimaginable installations that will leave you lost in their endless, repeating triangles. She builds these spaces in settings as diverse as a convent, an abandoned secret society hall, and the Palais de Tokyo in Paris. The reclaimed wood used to build these impressively complex structures, mostly lath wood, is from unused building materials that Fels finds behind old plaster walls. This Brooklyn based artist says she has always been interested in building mechanics and how things work, which explains why her process exemplifies this curiosity as she takes pieces of the whole to create an entirely new and intricate structure.
Her process starts by creating a blueprint of the future piece, which is an artwork in itself. She then begins to use the found wood to create structures that contain abstracted patterns. Using mostly triangles, each of Fels’s pyramid shaped installations are both organic and geometric. The receding triangles and repetitive lines pull you in and demand your attention. Each triangle in her installations seems to build off of itself, as it spreads and grows across each wall like moss. The structures beautifully transform and morph its surroundings into an entirely different environment that the viewer can often enter. The artist develops her inspiration from vast landscape and cathedral ceilings, both of which are apparent as her immense artwork adds a dramatic vastness to the space it inhabits. These cave-like installations are a wonderful way to make stunning use of salvaged material!
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Designer Becca McCharen is the creative brain behind Chromat, a NYC fashion label that artfully merges fashion, design, architecture and — more recently — technology. Chromat’s designs are more conceptual than practical, but still beautiful and wearable: steel dresses, caged masks, and coiled skirts are but a few examples from the label’s fascinating repertoire. Driving Chromat’s unique look is McCharen’s background in architectural theory and urban design. During her studies in architecture at the University of Virginia, she became very interested in scaffolding and building exteriors, especially those whose structure or wiring was visible on the outside (Paris’ Centre Pompidou is one such example). Wanting to experiment with art, fashion, and human “architecture,” McCharen moved to NYC in 2010 and began her “structural experiments” for the body. (Source)
Caging, straps, and corset boning have always been integral to Chromat’s work, but for Autumn/Winter 2014, the design company introduced another element into the art/fashion/architecture triad: robotics. Their new line was called Bionic Bodies, inspired by a love story McCharen envisioned between a human and a robot. The result? Bodies scaffolded like bionic arms and exoskeletons, chromed ribcages studded at the seams, and, most strikingly, faces and bras illuminated with blue LEDs. When the lights are off, the cyborg effect of the LEDs is eerily sexy; have a look at Chromat’s runway video above and see for yourself.
What McCharen and the Chromat crew are creating is more than just experiments in fashion and architecture — their work is fascinating from a theoretical perspective, as well. Absorbed in our daily experiences and emotional lives, we forget that we are, in fact, bones wrapped in muscle and flesh, propelling ourselves through space by the miracle of physics. By engineering such structures on the outside of the body, Chromat celebrates such functionality and mechanical perfection. The parallel between structural facades and fashion is interesting, as well, if we understand fashion as a way to construct our identities and shift the way people interact with us. Like the exterior of powerful structures, Chromat’s revolutionary works exude strength, self-assurance, and impermeability — hence the eerie power and unsusceptible beauty of McCharen’s cyborgs.
Check out Chromat’s online store here. VICE conducted a fascinating interview with McCharen about her Bionic Bodies line. For a discussion of Chromat’s upcoming Spring/Summer 2015 line, read The Glass Magazine’s article.
Credits: A big thank-you to photographer Koury Angelo, who let me share his incredible pictures from the MADE runway show.