In an increasingly global world, it seems that more is spreading than just information and culture: pollution, for one. Alejandro Duran creates site-specific art out of this manmade resource, staging hauntingly beautiful installations that draw awareness to what he calls “colonization by consumerism.”
“More than creating a surreal or fantastical landscape, these installations mirror the reality of our current environmental predicament,” Duran says in his artist’s statement. Called Washed Up, the project has seen debris from all over the world and, though the colors can be stunningly lovely, the message is unmistakably grim. Swirls of color and organic-seeming patterns and shapes are shaped out of plastic and artificially neon bottle caps.
Duran’s statement describes the way he has mapped the relationship between the world of man and the world of nature, as well as the toll it’s taken on us all:
“Over the course of this project, I have identified plastic waste from fifty nations on six continents that have washed ashore along the coast of Sian Ka’an. I have used this international debris to create color-based, site-specific sculptures. Conflating the hand of man and nature, at times I distribute the objects the way the waves would; at other times, the plastic takes on the shape of algae, roots, rivers, or fruit, reflecting the infiltration of plastics into the natural environment.”
What started out as a simple past time, has now turned into a full on project viewed by thousands of people on social media each day. Frankfurt-based, Brazilian designer Andre Levy first started collecting coins during his travels and with a steady hand and a great imagination, has been turning them into mini artworks for a few years. With a layer of enamel and a bit of patience, the portraits of Kings and Queens long passed away are transformed into colorful cartoon figures, or heroes from comic books.
The ongoing art project is called Tales You Lose, and features tons of familiar pop cultural faces. Levy paints Marge Simpson, The Fantastic Four, Rorschach from Watchmen, Cinderella, Papa Smurf, Amy Winehouse, Apu, Princess Leia, Albert Einstein, David Bowie – you name it, he’s painted it. Levy says this about his coin series:
We are constantly surrounded by pop figures – in films, in music, comics, and even in gossip magazines. They are sometimes our escape from reality, our fantasies. Coins portray something opposite: the real, the everyday.
This project is about individual expression in opposition to massified [sic] thinking, about how our personal passions are more worthy than things that are imposed to us. The paint brings to the faces of kings and presidents borrowed narratives from other famous characters and unleash individual alternative stories.(Source)
Make sure you check out his Instagram account to see new and old miniature paintings and see how many faces you recognize. (Via Honestly WTF)
Like melting wax drips and forms new shapes, so does Januz Miralles’ digital manipulations mold his once recognizable subject. The artist digitally applies paint and illustration to change photographs of faces and bodies into otherworldly beings. The figures in his work are left partially untouched, some with only a mouth or an eye peaking through, while the rest is covered by stunning, organic strokes of paint traveling up and across the composition. Although the women in his work look conventionally beautiful, they look even more alluring with globs of thick, digitally applied paint covering most of their faces. Miralles’ highly textural technique alters each figure’s state of being, as if they are ascending to another world or perhaps disintegrating completely.
His captivating, multilayered work shapes form, personality, and identity with his amazing techniques, created mostly digitally on a laptop. His art is quietly beautiful, as you can get lost in the many swirls of color and texture that he integrates into his work, completely transforming the mood. As the artist digitally breaks down his figures, the structure and details seem to break down as well, as if chemicals have been poured over each face. There is a sense of torment and melancholy that surrounds his subjects, like something is being extracted from them, leaving their bodies through the seeping paint. The deep, psychological effect that Miralles’ work holds draws you in to further examine what it is you are looking at, leaving you in mystery.
Do ever wish that you could take a little piece of the earth with you wherever you go? Well, Colleen Jordan allows you to do just that with her tiny, adorable wearable planters. This seed of an idea started while studying Industrial Design as a student. Naturally having a green thumb, she was inspired to construct creative and convenient ways for people to carry around plants. Now, this is exactly what Jordan has created! Fusing together jewelry design and gardening, she creates small pots in a variety of shapes and colors filled with dainty flora, which are attached to a cotton cord so that they can lie safely around your neck. Other vases function as magnets, fashionable pins, or decorations that attach to your bike.
Jordan’s wearable planters range in style, as some of the pots are a more organic shape with earthy tones, while others showcase a more modern, geometric style with pastel colors. Amazingly enough, all of her miniature plants are generated from a three-dimensional printer. This 3-D printed nylon plastic is later hand embellished and dyed by the artist. The question is, how long can a tiny plant survive while being carried along during your travels around your neck? Although you have to supply the plant, Jordan supplies her customers with what kind of plants grow best in the small vases and also how to keep them alive and thriving. Her unique and beautiful accessories are perfect if you want to keep a little piece of nature close to your heart! (via Ignant)
Using a Cabinet of Curiosity aesthetic, Femke Hiemstra creates a carnivalistic fantasy world. In her oeuvre the roles of humans and animals are blurred placed in odd scenarios which offer humorous and dark tales of sacrifice, war and performance. Taking references from classic novels such as Gulliver’s Travels and ancient folk tales, it’s obvious that these should be made into cinema because the images are so fully animated. However, their 2D nature turns them into fine art illustration and allows the viewer to look further and take a lasting moment to linger in their imagination.
Hiemstra’s play on words further enhance the narrative in her paintings. One called “groupies” is especially humorous showing a female singing apple watched in awe by her grouper audience. It’s a classic example of the type of work Hiemstra makes which combines the bizarre with popular culture to tell stories which recall nursery rhymes and absurdist commentary. Her style brings to mind an artist I was very fond of years ago called Elizabeth Albert. She also used animals in odd narratives to tell stories about human behavior and circumstance.
Hiemstra’s illustrations are created using a light acrylic paint and water. She often tops her work with colored pencils which give it that extra definition. She mostly uses paper or panel but occasionally will paint on old books and wooden antiques like clocks or religious objects. She sells prints of her original artwork at a very reasonable price of 100 euros on average. (via hifructose)
The Unknown Fields Division is a traveling design research studio (directed by Liam Young and Kate Davies) that has sculpted traditional Ming vases out of mud taken from a radioactive lake in Inner Mongolia. This “lake” is a noxious swamp made of debris created in the production of some of our most desired (and idealized) technology items. In an effort to explore the transnational origin of these items — and, indeed, explore the dark underbelly of their creation — Unknown Fields has made each vase proportionate to the amount of waste produced by the following objects: “a smartphone, a featherweight laptop, and the cell of a smart car battery” (Source). The result is a trio of apocalyptic-like earthenware vessels. Their grim, blackened surfaces are covered in a glistening “glaze” that was created when heavy metals contained in the mud melted in the pottery kiln. The vase materials were so toxic that the sculptors had to wear full-body protection at each stage of production, from on-site collection to creation in their London workshop.
These vases are part of Unknown Fields’ greater project to follow an international supply chain of “rare earth” elements (which are used in the creation of electronics) back to their place of origin: the toxic lake in Mongolia. Kate Davies explains the metaphorical purpose of the vases in this investigative journey:
“The vases are a way to talk about ideas around luxury and desire. How both are culturally constructed collective sets of values that are fleeting and particular to our time. These three ‘rare earthenware’ vessels are the physical embodiment of a contemporary global supply network that displaces earth and weaves matter across the planet.” (Source)
When we hold our cellphones and laptops in our hands, we rarely think about their origins. As Liam Young insightfully points out, “terms like ‘cloud’ of ‘Macbook Air’ imply that our gadgets are just ephemeral objects — and this is the story we all want to believe” (Source). We must not forget that such technologies, despite their polish and glamor, derive from earthly materials processed in factories and shipped across the world. Just as Ming vases were once subjected to an international demand based on their beauty and associations with wealth, Unknown Fields’ creations remind us of how such systems of consumer culture are continuing. “The three vases are presented as objects of desire, but their elevated radiation levels and toxicity make them objects we would not want to possess,” Davies explained. “They represent the undesirable consequences of our materials desires” (Source).
The vases will be on display at the Victoria and Albert Museum “What is Luxury?” exhibition, which runs April 25th to September 27th. Accompanying the exhibition is a film by Toby Smith, which documents Unknown Fields’ journey from container ships to factories to the radioactive lake (the trailer can be viewed above). Visit the Unknown Feilds’ website for more explorations of remote landscapes with surprising (and unsettling) intersections with our daily lives. (Via Fast Co.Create)
Artist Dean Monogenis paints landscapes that fuse modern buildings with geometric shapes. The abstract compositions often feature the architecture suspended in midair, connected to giant rock formations, or structural patterns.
Monogenis’ colorful and minimalist paintings came to life after witnessing the fall of the World Trade Center in 2011. “ Subsequent to that day,” he writes, “I began to see buildings organically in terms of birth and death.” The artist continues:
Interestingly the post 9/11 period was the beginning of a world wide building boom. At the time I lived in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, where the breadth and pace of this development felt like an invasion. Buildings grew nearly over night like mushrooms or mold before my very eyes. I found it simultaneously engaging and frightening.
This construction had little regard for continuity or urban planning:
After overcoming my initial shock, I began to distance myself and consider the situation aesthetically. I interpreted the randomness as more akin to the shantytowns in Jamaica or the Favelas in Rio. I took notice of the simplicity and planer forms of the skeletal structures as they ascended upward. Brightly colored building materials like netting and scaffolding, became interesting to me. I thought if there was a way to distill the temporary and all its ephemera, isolating key pieces into my work, then I would be able to elevate the visual indicators that speak to this period of transformation.
Monogenis usually paints on wood or plastic panels and uses customized stencils of graphic elements. He’ll paint the sky last, but isn’t afraid to sand and rework areas if something doesn’t look right. This allows him to create precise work without forfeiting the spontaneity that’s inherent in painting. (Via Supersonic)
Award winning photographer Blake Little completely transforms the classic nude figure into a sleek, sticky, sculptural entity in his series Preservation. Little, known for his skills as a portrait photographer, captures each of his subjects after he pours gallons of honey onto their nude bodies. With its use of honey, this seductive and sticky-sweet series has a unifying element that breaks down the differences in the subjects. Little’s models are extremely diverse with a wide range of body types. However, the honey breaks down the unique and personal details of the person and allows them to become a more universal, timeless figure. They all adopt an ageless beauty that one might see in classic, Greek sculpture.
It is no coincidence that Little has chosen the title Preservationfor a series that takes contemporary subjects and gives them a more classic and traditional look. By transforming a unique body into an archetypal figure, they can withstand the test of time. They are now one of the unforgettable figures in art history such as Venus of Willendorf. Not only does this amazingly transformative honey preserve the importance of the figure, but also it allows the figures to look as if they have been literally preserved as they are encased in honey, not unlike the citizens of Pompeii preserved in ash.
The dripping, glossy texture is palpable in this incredibly intimate and tangible series. Preservation were on view at the Kopeinkin Gallery in Los Angeles from March 7th to April 18th, where the photographer is represented. Blake Little’s book Preservation, containing sixty-eight photographs of his honey-filled nudes, is also available. Here is an excerpt from the Forward of Little’s book, written by Kenneth Lapatin, Associate Curator of Antiquities at the Getty Museum.
Since its invention in the 1800s, photography has been employed as a key tool of archaelogy, caputuring images of not only finds, but also the very processes of recovery. Its capacity to record the details of perishable objects – to preserve them – is evident in historical photographs of now degraded artifacts and of excavation sties, many substantially transformed by the very act of digging them and scarcely recognizable today. But today we are also well aware that photography can be far from objective; that it can be manipulated; that it can create something entirely new, original, and surprising.