Kevin Cooley creates Controlled Burns, a series of striking images that showcase swirling and imposing clouds of black, white, and gray smoke. Inspired by the communicative purpose of smoke signals during Papal conclave, the series focuses on ideas and actions dealing with communication, specifically human interactions with nature.
Cooley creates and manufactures the images himself, the smoke is real, and so is the fire creating it, but the artist here is rendering an image, controlling it and taking charge of something that can potentially be uncontrollable. The project is indicative of something we are well aware of, particularly our impotence yet possibility to control natural, powerful elements in our world. The paradox makes us contemplate on something we know, but do not really think about often.
Fire is a powerful natural force that we harness for greater good, and it is the only Classical element that we can create on demand. Yet, when out of control, it has the potential for grave destruction. Controlled Burns is a visual representation of this inherit duality, symbolic of our desire to conquer and control, reminding us that sometimes we must fight fire with fire.
Beginning January 11th, 2014, the Kopeikin Gallery will present Cooley’s work in UNEXPLORED TERRITORY, an interdisciplinary exhibition that explores “the limits of human exploration and our desire to conquer and control nature.” Themes range from colonial exploration of the American West, harnessing fire in the form of combustion to launch rockets into space, to anthropomorphic actions of everyday objects such as box fans, and helium balloons.
Arie van’t Riet became an artist by accident. As a medical radiation physicist, van’t Riet experienced first-hand the technological developments in quality image x-rays. One day, a colleague asked him if he could x-ray one of his art paintings. van’t Riet had never done anything like that before, but found that it worked and became curious about what else he could x-ray. Starting with a bouquet of tulips, van’t Riet found that the image resembled a black and white negative. After digitizing the image and using Photoshop to color the image, people began to tell him that he was creating art, and the rest is history. van’t Riet refers to these stunning images as “bioramas.”
“Looking with X-ray eyes to nature. That’s what I like to experience with my X-ray camera. I prefer X-ray objects of ordinary scenes like a butterfly nearby a flower, a fish in the ocean, a mouse in the field,a heron along the riverside, a bird in a tree and so on. Each time it is challenging me to arrive at an X-ray photograph that represents the sentiment of the scene, do raise questions and excite curiosity.”
London-based photographer Bertil Nilsson has created an ongoing photography series titled “Naturally” that explores the dynamism of the active human form within natural landscapes. For this project, Nilsson captures the explosive movements of circus performers and dancers, some of whom are painted or powdered. Bodies are contorted and posed, or levitate, creating a surreal aesthetic that is at once visceral and abstract. Feature Shoot notes, “The nude figures are dressed in intense colors that punctuate each frame, creating another possible layer of interpretational poetry. Set loose in this Eden, the photographer himself gives way to the chaos, each image exploding in an evolution of release.” Nilsson’s work is currently on view at Galerie Wilms in The Netherlands until January 12. (via feature shoot)
Artist Kate MacDowell uses porcelain clay to craft her nature-inspired works. MacDowell’s works are realistically sculpted and meticulous. Hollowing out a solid form and building each piece leaf by leaf and feather by feather, she intimately involves herself with the process of building. The works themselves are beautiful, ghostly white and evoke a very serene feeling. Upon a closer examination, however, things aren’t quite right. A large bird has human hands instead of its normal claws, and an apple has a tiny skull inside of it. Mice have ears on their backs. MacDwell explains in a statement, writing:
In my work this romantic ideal of union with the natural world conflicts with our contemporary impact on the environment. These pieces are in part responses to environmental stressors including climate change, toxic pollution, and gm crops. They also borrow from myth, art history, figures of speech and other cultural touchstones. In some pieces aspects of the human figure stand-in for ourselves and act out sometimes harrowing, sometimes humorous transformations which illustrate our current relationship with the natural world. In others, animals take on anthropomorphic qualities when they are given safety equipment to attempt to protect them from man-made environmental threats. In each case the union between man and nature is shown to be one of friction and discomfort with the disturbing implication that we too are vulnerable to being victimized by our destructive practices.
The careful construction and fragility of material MacDowell has chosen coincides conceptually with her work.
Bristol artist Camila Carlow creates these lovely renderings of human organs by foraging for wild plants, weeds, and the occasional animal part and then sculpting and arranging these various bits of flora. Her series, entitled “Eye ‘Heart’ Spleen,” recontextualizes images of organs such as a heart, lungs, stomach, uterus, liver, and testicles, demonstrating the reflection of internal biological structures with external natural structures. From Carlow’s site, “This work invites the viewer to regard our vital structures as beautiful living organisms, and to contemplate the miraculous work taking place inside our bodies, even in this very moment.” You can order prints and keep up with this particular project’s developments via its Facebook page. (via unknown editors)
The human relationship with the natural world is a complex one that doesn’t seem to untangle anytime soon. With animal life increasingly being abused and habitats encroached upon anxiety is understandably mounting. Artist Chris Musina address these issues in painting and also sculpture. Musina depicts the uglier side of the human/animal relationship. Rather than highlight idyllic scenes of nature, he draws gruesome imagery of animal mistreatment to the forefront. Animal carcasses are often kept as trophies, dead souvenirs of a once living creature. Painting’s tradition of depicting killed animals is extensive – the fox hunt alone, for example, an entire genre. Appropriately, then, Musina’s animal carcasses are not there to be admired but act as animals condemning the viewer. They seem to be holding an accounting for their present condition in the painting as well as in a larger abstract sense. They act as a tool to deconstruct disassociation. Musina further explains his use of painting in addressing ecological and animal issues:
“Dealing directly with our increasingly volatile and uneasy relationship to the natural world, I draw from contemporary animal thought and a deep phylogeny of cultural cues. My work dismantles how we look at animals via “nature morte” painters, philosophy, hunting, museum dioramas, and the like. Manifested in life size compositions full of dark humor and bright color, I am addressing the animal as neither symbol nor object, but as subject, a subject aware of his or her own powerful symbolic nature. Painting represents the bulk of my practice precisely due to its place in the forefront of a history of representing animals. My paintings are populated with animal protagonists who stare back at the viewer in an uneasy gaze; aware of that place in our cultural history– asking for compassion, mercy, or simply to be put out of their misery.”
San Francisco-based metalsmith and neon artist Meryl Pataky has shared with us some behind-the-scenes moments from her studio, as she gears up for her next solo project, Cellar Door.
Working exclusively with elements from the periodic table, Pataky uses a collision of phrase and loose linework to give life to her concepts—silver, copper, iron, carbon, neon and all of the noble gases are integral to her investigations. For her latest collection of work, Pataky is creating a series of signage-based installations that attempt to coexist with natural elements. Matching up blown glass with honey, and pairing neon lettering with leafy underbrush, she explores the effect that context and concept have on her luminous, typically commercial medium. The vivid colors and natural, flowing use of line in her pieces echo a mastery of medium, and her nods to just the right amount of science geekery are playful and perfectly timed.
Marco Mazzoni’s work softly drips with an exquisite ease of darkness. From blooming faces where birds gather to a rabbit draining with butterfly wings, each image surrealistically depicts folklore infused with spiritual healing properties that twist and twirl with our own imaginative connections to nature.
To elaborate, Jonathan Levine Gallery notes, “Mazzoni’s imagery references herbalist traditions and Sardinian folklore of mystical seductresses who enchant, curse and cure. His body of work is a tribute to the legacy of female healers throughout history. These women held an important role in medieval communities yet their ancient knowledge of the natural healing properties of medicinal plants was widely feared by the Church, viewed as witchcraft and cause for persecution.”