English-born photographer James Mollison was asked to come up with an engaging project that was powerful enough to bring awareness to Children’s rights. Given this thought, Mollison was compelled to capture the more private side of children all over the world- he photographed their most personal and private possession, the place in which they sleep.
“It occurred to me that a way to address some of the complex situations and social issues affecting children would be to look at the bedrooms of children in all kinds of different circumstances”
Where Children Sleep, a book in which he published these photos along with an extended caption that tells the story of each child, shows a variety of space and a variety of children – some are living in abject poverty, lacking basic food and sanitation, while others are more fortunate by being born in a country where those things are guaranteed and usually taken for granted.
“From the start, I didn’t want it just to be about ‘needy children’ in the developing world, but rather something more inclusive, about children from all types of situations.”
There is a long-standing tradition of artists blurring the boundary between art and design. With institutions such as MOMA featuring an entire department devoted to architecture and design, it is considered an important part of art history and culture.
I recently heard New York Times art critic Roberta Smith lecture and she mentioned that it’s a shame our society doesn’t place more emphasis on visual literacy education. If we did she believes that everything in our world, from buildings to city layouts, to objects, would be more aesthetically pleasing. Here are some instances of artists who emphasized the concept or appearance of an object rather than simply its function, bridging the gap between art and design:
Donald Judd, one of the leaders of Minimalism, has an amazing legacy in design. Another well-known architect who creates highly designed furniture is Frank Gehry. Roy McMakin is a Seattle-based artist who usually incorporates an element of verbal pun. McMakin’s designs feature an overarching investigation of how perception influences meaning. Hannes Van Severen and Michael Beitz both create captivating, surreal furniture. Artists like David Shrigley and Adam McEwen work humor into their design-work. Even artist Yves Klein has a table, created under the direction of his widow, that features his famous blue. Damien Hirst designed a chair replete with his signature butterflies and Yoshitomo Nara designed “doggy radio,” a fully functional radio in the form of a dog.
It’s not uncommon for artists to create functional objects, but those objects do often stand out for their elevated level of design and conceptual consideration. If indeed everyone put as much thought into form as they did function the world would probably be a much better looking, or at least a more visually interesting, place.
Designer Nickolay Lamm has designed a “Normal Barbie,” who has the same body issues as “regular” people. This doll, called Lammily, comes with stickers to show acne, tattoos, stretch marks, and other imperfections that make us (and her) human. Now, before you rush out and buy one for every child in your life, it’s probable this design is tongue-in-cheek, and questionable how much kids will enjoy it at first.
However, it is a good barometer to measure ourselves against. Barbie- the old school Barbie I had growing up- embodies the idea of perfection, one that is fed to children at a very young age and subconsciously produces vast feelings of inadequacy and the idea that woman should measure up to specific proportions, proportions that aren’t even attainable. Everyone knows that Barbie’s curves cannot exist on a real human’s body. So why do we form her that way? What role models are we giving our children and what does that say about our society? Food for thought.
Here is some more about Lammily:
“A sticker pack that comes with the doll allows kids to apply all the sorts of skin imperfections that real people have, teaching kids that they don’t have to aspire to or value the unrealistic body images promoted by Barbie or Ken dolls. And, judging by the reactions of the 2nd-graders Lamm showed his doll to, the message has been received with open arms!”
London photographer Jasper James has visited some international meccas: New York, London and Beijing, trying “to get as high up in the city as possible to give [him] an overview and a sense of scale to the size of the city,” and to to combine the micro with the macro- the individual and the cityscape into one shot. Even though I’m in China right now, I’ve yet to see the beautiful same view as he’s managed to capture in these shots.
Australian sculptor, Paul Kaptein creates unusual but skillful wooden sculptures that question our ability to look past missing pieces in the bigger picture. Kaptein, interested in the Buddhist term sunyata (Sanskrit word for ideas of emptiness as a way to achieve wholeness), integrates (and questions) notions of substance, emptiness, and temporality into his highly skilled pieces of wooden work.
By seamlessly incorporating empty gaps (usually long empty rectangles) into busts and entire recreations of human bodies, Kaptein imposes the viewer with questions as to why these pieces are missing. The simple fact that viewers will directly and promptly question this characteristic first, further enables Kaptein’s interest in challenging the viewer’s resistance, and/or apprehension to accept something that is not complete. The main idea here relies on getting the spectator to react to Kaptein’s work for what it is: seamless, beautiful wooden sculptures that happen to be missing a piece or two.
It can also be said that these gaps are indicative of conceptions of time:
I’m exploring the notion of the now as a remix of past and future potentialities. This facilitates a renegotiation of perceptual truths resulting in an expression of things not quite truth, yet not quite fiction.
Belgian documentary photographer Alice Smeets has traveled the world and covered everything from war to famine. However her series on Witchcraft has blown me away! This series captures the life and practices of the modern witchcraft practitioner by pulling back the veil on this ancient yet taboo tradition. Smeets says about this project:
“Modern Witchcraft is practiced across Europe, the USA and the rest of the Western World. It is extremely diverse; with beliefs that range widely from polytheism to animism, to pantheism and other paradigms. The largest movements of this self-termed Neo-Paganism are Wicca and Druidism; the followers of which call themselves Witches or Druids, sharing beliefs of Magic, Witchcraft and Nature’s Power. They respect their environment and celebrate eight Sabbats in the Wheel of the Year where they praise the divinities of nature. They often hold rituals – called Esbats – on the Full Moon. In part, they return to some of the old Celtic traditions.
While Wicca is a very young religion – formed by Gerald Gardner not more than 50 years ago, its roots are much older than Christianity. It has no relationship to Satanism, which is one of many misconceptions held by the public. Ancient pagan beliefs have begun to make their way into the Neo-Pagan community in many ways, making our spiritual path a very deep one, rooted and grounded in the very earth that supports us. From its origins in England it is now widely spread across Europe, America and the rest of the world. At the present time, Neo-Paganism is a large network of small communities with its own organizations, festivals, magazines, shops, workshops, gatherings and ceremonies. Witches can be found everywhere: in the supermarket, in the streets, as well as in our own neighborhood. And you would not know these Witches unless you were told who they were or were one yourself.”
Born into a long bloodline of creatives, illustrator Treasure Frey’s work of collage/ drawings is certainly something to watch for. Her work reminds me a lot of the awesome animations from Monty Python, except with the intricate combination of beautiful mark-making with varying line weights, loops, and brightly colored shapes, she has made a killer style of her own.