Andrew Firth is an Australian artist who turns skulls into creepy, lush landscapes. His work started in 2013, when he decided to channel his ingenuity and spare time into something creative. Each “Bonsai Skull” is artificial, made of PVC plastic cast off of a real human skull. Firth than adorns the dead visages with verdant grass, miniature trees, and graveyards. In one piece, named the “Spring Bonsai Mountain Skull,” a waterfall appears to pour like tears from an empty eye socket. No skull is identical.
Firth’s works are like dark “Treasure Islands,” deriving from his imagination and experience as a boat builder. He creates under the title “Jack of the Dust,” which refers to an obsolete US Navy job designation from the 1800s; this person was the ship’s steward, who worked with the dusty ingredients of flour and biscuits. In Firth’s adaptation, Jack is the name of the skull, and “dust” refers to the matter of death. By upholstering “Jack” in foliage, Firth’s works convey the relationship between rot and rebirth.
Brooklyn based artist Lala Abaddon creates a series of “glitch” like works via intricately weaving printed images. The artist uses a complex and time costuming technique. She beings by creating large format prints, employing tradition analog methods. She then sizes the prints down by making strips of each one by cutting them by hand. Next, through meticulous and calculated pairings, she weaves her prints to become something entirely new and undoubtedly unique. In her artist statement she notes that each pattern is “designed to convey a specific feeling, eventually leaving us with images within images and compelling the viewer to experience alternate realities or states of being.” Her work is inherently postmodern and does indeed achieve a state of “alternate reality.” The artist pulls her techniques and aesthetic from drastically different time periods, traditions, and methods; the ancient technique of weaving, the sort of modern yet now, arguably, outdated, process of using an analog mode of printing, which all add up to create what resembles a digitized image. Her work acts a a sort of pastiche, which, by nature, results in a undoubtedly contemporary notion of experience and existence. She explains;
“This process can take months depending on the complexity of the images and weave structures.Many times her work is mistaken for a digital manipulation, and the discovery of it’s true nature by the viewer is integral to the understanding of her process and purpose; to disrupt order, reconstruct historical notions of photography and weaving, and challenge what it means to create something solely for the purpose of creation.”
Rein Vollenga is a Berlin-based artist who sculpts edgy, lacquer-coated masks and headpieces. Each one is unique, blending imagery that’s both sensual and animalistic; plates cover the eyes, horns grow from the temples, and tentacle-like arms extend in writhing directions. As captured by photographer Jonas Lindström, the masks appear to possess the nude models, turning the architecture of their faces into beautiful, alien forms that crumble humanity into a raw manifestation of itself.
As Vollenga explains in an interview with Yatzer, his inspiration derives from memories of his youth, when he explored the forests of Eindhoven in Holland; the wild animals and dark landscapes became his muses. Using found items, such as toys and dolls, Vollenga cuts and glues them into organic forms, essentially “birthing” new objects. He describes his process further:
“The [new object] is then covered in a layer of epoxy and obsessively sanded and polished until it reaches ‘perfection’ before finally being painted in several layers of colour and lacquer for a glossy finish. My process is very visceral, as I need to feel the shapes. I never make drawings beforehand, because that just doesn’t communicate my three-dimensional thinking—and besides that, it’s great when unexpected things happen during the making of a piece. These surprises can change your perception and perspective in the working process.” (Source)
Vollenga’s works have an erotic flair, coupling the aggressive, smooth-and-sharp forms with the vulnerability of the nude, blinded models. His works are currently on display at the Gewerbemuseum in Winterthur, Switzerland, as part of an exhibition titled Nirvana: Strange Forms of Pleasure. This show features a collection of artists who, similar to Vollenga, explore the influence of the erotic on contemporary art. The show runs until May 8th.
Nebraska based artist Cindy Chinn carves unbelievable miniaturized objects within the lead of carpenter pencils. Chinn’s starting material is less than an inch wide, yet using an X-Acto knife and a magnifying glass, the artist is able to achieve intricate details with a charming folk art-like character. Her most involved piece of the series features a tiny locomotive train that scales the whole pencil. This work even includes a cut out carved portion that acts like a bridge crossing, exposing the train to be the full length of the pencil. The work was created through a process of collage; she carved the 3/16 inch train from the lead of one pencil and then fashioned it within the center of another pencil, adding two other small pieces of lead as rails. Due to the unique size of her work, Chinn incorporates a tiny magnifying glass as a part of her pieces, glorifying the work’s preciousness and inviting the viewer to have a personalized and intimate experience of the minuscule details. Her work tends to portray every day and perhaps even nostalgia provoking objects. For example, a tiny Chuck Taylor shoe, a darling fall leaf, and a hockey stick with a puck. This pencil carving project is just a side project; she is also a multimedia artist with many focuses such as larger scale wood carvings, murals, and paintings. (via My Modern Met)
In a series titled Volutes (Curls in English), French photographer Gilles Soudry captures the haunting images of smoke frozen in time. Set against a black backdrop, the jets and coils unfold hypnotically, creating eerie, translucent shapes that take the likeness of strange creatures: aliens, ghosts, deep-sea invertebrates, and parasites come to mind. The indistinct shapes allow the viewer to make his or her own interpretation of what the smoke has manifested. At once ephemeral and static, it’s like an otherworldly dance that transcends the logic of space and time, or as Soudry describes it, “an aerial choreography [. . .], outlining an imaginary figure which is freezing into crystalline transparency before it scatters” (Source).
Trained as a photoengraver, Soudry’s work is aimed towards the “photography of matter, surface effects, [and] transparency” (Source). He is interested in shifting outlines and fluid dynamics, combining the fixed nature of the image with figures of immateriality and transience. Volutes captures beauty, mysticism (and indeed, a dark sentience) where otherwise there would just be a thin haze. In this way, Soudry fosters an awareness and appreciation for the beauty and forms that occur on the periphery of materiality and awareness.
Anyone who has ever pursued a liberal arts career has probably heard the opinion: that there’s no future in the arts, or at the very least, it’s going to be extremely difficult. While the latter is probably true (Rome wasn’t built in a day, and so on), the bias against the arts—often in favor of science and the trades—is highly prevalent in our public discourse.
Old Navy recently attracted some heat by releasing two “funny” toddler tees, both emblazoned with the “YOUNG ASPIRING ARTIST” motto, with “ARTIST” crossed out. Scrawled beneath are two alternative career paths: “Astronaut” and “President” (although, really, we don’t think these careers are any easier to attain). Twitter users voiced their offense, and soon after, artist Steve Ogden humorously modified the designs, overwriting “YOUNG ASPIRING OLD NAVY EXEC” with “ARTIST” and “HUMAN.” Here’s a response from the company, as published on artnet News:
“At Old Navy we take our responsibility to our customers seriously. We would never intentionally offend anyone, and we are sorry if that has been the case. Our toddler tees come in a variety of designs including tees that feature ballerinas, unicorns, trucks, and dinosaurs, and [they] include phrases like ‘Free Spirit.’ They are meant to appeal to a wide range of aspirations. With this particular tee, as a result of customer feedback, we have decided to discontinue the design and will work to remove the item from our stores.” (Source)
Overall, the initial designs and the subsequent outcry reminds us that we shouldn’t disparage our artists. For those who are determined, it is plausible to develop a career in such fields—and there is value in it. After all, who could live in a world without art? (Via artnet News)
Cuban artist Rubén Fuentes creates euphoric and surreal ink landscapes that serve as an admiration of nature as well as a quest within a meditative and serene space. Fuentes, inspired by the lush greenery of his homeland, uses his work as a means to sympathize and glorify “all of the ecosystems of our planet.” He greatly uses Chinese shan shui ink drawings as an influence methodically, aesthetically, and philosophically. Shan shui works are known for their beautifully detailed yet simultaneous almost mystical, abstract and dreamlike quality. They are strongly referential to Daoist notions of living in harmony with all— and, similar to the Abstract Expressionist movement — shan shui paintings bend and evolve the notion of what a painting is meant to achieve; these works are a vehicle for less tangible elements such as meditation and philosophy. Fuentes believes that art acts as a means of self reflection, and thus, creating art allows one to practice and improve on one’s ethical behavior and cognitive self. Therefore, the act of creating art is simultaneous, in a sense, to the act of meditation.
Within the statement of his series titled Mind Landscapes, Fuentes’ states that he tries “to represent in my art works an inner strength, a cosmological and telluric force within us that transcends the duality of matter and spirit. The practice of zen, along with a worship of mother earth and the invocation of vital forces in nature, inherited from the past of the native Cubans, Afro-Cuban culture, as well as Chinese Taoism, mark the center of my latest works.” (via INAG)
Artist Heather Dewey-Hagborg uses DNA extracted from items like chewing gum and cigarettes to create three-dimensional portraits. For her project, “Stranger Visions,” Dewey-Hagborg collected discarded trash from the streets of Brooklyn, New York and sequenced them at a biotechnology lab. Through this process, she was able to isolate specific DNA strands, which helped her unravel the ethnic-gender identity of the past users. She used that information to create a sketch of what each of these people might have looked like. This information was then relayed via three-dimensional printer into the final hanging works.
As an information artist, Dewey-Hagborg is interested in the intersection between technology and art but her work is more complex than that. Through “Stranger Visions” Dewey-Hagborg confronts the impossibility of privacy. If even the smallest bit of rubbish can detail what we look like, what else could be used to expose us to the world at large? Is DNA the identity theft problem of the future? (via Design Faves)