When European settlers arrived throughout the 18th and 19th centuries and rapidly expanded their territory across North America, the prevalent belief was that of Manifest Destiny. Specifically, that American settlers were destined to expand throughout the continent by any means necessary regardless of cost, environmental impact, or the devastating harm to Native American populations. The artwork of the period, primarily sweeping landscapes influenced by the European pastoral tradition, did well to capture the pristine beauty of the previously undocumented continent, but completely glossed over the reality of what was really happening.
In her log paintings, artist Alison Moritsugu faces that strange juxtaposition head-on by choosing a literal meataphor—the remains of downed trees—as a canvas for her bucolic oil paintings of the countryside where that very tree may have once originated. A fantastic collision of art history and environmental awareness. The rough edges of the cut branches and trunks appear like windows into the past, telling a story that the tree’s rings alone cannot. She shares via her artist statement:
Painters throughout art history from the Northern Song, Baroque, Rococo and Hudson River School tailored their depictions of nature to serve an artistic narrative. Today, photoshopped images of verdant forests and unspoiled beaches invite us to vacation and sightsee, providing a false sense of assurance that the wilderness will always exist. By exploring idealized views of nature, my work acknowledges our more complex and precarious relationship with the environment.
It should be noted that Moritsugu uses salvaged log segments from naturally fallen trees, or trees that would otherwise be turned into mulch. You can see a collection of new work starting November 12th at Littlejohn Contemporary in New York. (via My Modern Met)
Guy Laramée‘s (previously) new series Onde Elles Moran (Where They Live) captures the mystique of the native birds of the Brazilian region Serra do Corvo Branco (Range of the White Raven) through both portrait and carved landscape. The series contains nine sculptures sourced from secondhand bookstores within the country—tomes of the Classicos Jackson which is a series of literature classics published in the ‘50s in Brazil. The rich linen covers inspired the palettes of many of the portraits, the original colors working their way into Laramée’s artistic remodeling.
Although Laramée had originally planned to photograph the vast canyons of the region during his 4-month visit, the diversity, songs, and liveliness of the native birds kept persuading him to eclipse the beautiful scenes with their portraits. The series is dedicated to these birds and their habitat, each book containing a portrait of one on the cover against a faded background and an environmental carving into the pages of the book on the opposite side. The size ratio of the bird to corresponding landscape highlights the creatures’ importance, acknowledging their role as the true owners and rulers of the region.
“Being in the company of these lively beings were one thing, painting them was another story,” explained Laramée while discussing his process. “They became like ghosts on a theater backdrop, posing in front of wallpaper, looking at a vanishing scenery.”
Laramée hopes that this series exudes the stark differences between Man and bird, recognizing that we do not live within the same world. Man’s world has been transformed into an object from which we now feel alienated he explains—we live within our heads and books, not the canyons or earth. “Maybe where they live is where we should live,” says Laramée. “In the solitude of virgin landscapes, we might rediscover our intimate relationships to the world.”
Laramée is represented by JHB Gallery in New York City.
Working along a single stretch of coastline in Sian Ka’an, Mexico’s largest federally-protected reserve, artist Alejandro Duran collects countless bits of trash that washes up from locations around the world. So far he’s discovered plastic debris from dozens of countries on this shore of the Caribbean coast which he utilizes for site site-specific installations for an ongoing project titled Washed Up. By creating aesthetically pleasing landscapes from a disheartening medium, it’s Duran’s hope to create a harsh juxtaposition that draws attention to the global catastrophe of ocean pollution. He shares in a statement about Washed Up:
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.
More than creating a surreal or fantastical landscape, these installations mirror the reality of our current environmental predicament. The resulting photo series depicts a new form of colonization by consumerism, where even undeveloped land is not safe from the far-reaching impact of our disposable culture.
Duran just received the Juror’s Award from CENTER for his efforts, and has upcoming exhibitions at Habana Outpost in Brooklyn and at the XO KI’IN Retreat Center. (via This Isn’t Happiness, LENSCRATCH)
Built in the late 1880s, Holland Island House was the last surviving structure on an rapidly eroding island in the Chesapeake Bay. The island’s inhabitants were forced from the island in the 1920s, but this one Victorian structure stood for decades as the land around it disappeared. After numerous attempts to save it, the house finally collapsed into the ocean in October of 2010.
In her stop-motion short The Ballad of Holland Island House, animator Lynn Tomlinson shares the story of the house through an innovative clay-on-glass animation technique. Every single frame was painted by hand with clay and photographed, a medium that lends itself perfectly to depicting ocean currents, memory, and the passage of time. Music by Anna & Elizabeth.
Street artist Louis Masai Michel is on a one-man mission to raise awareness of the plight of the humble honey bee through his Save the Bees mural project . The murals began shortly after Michel returned from a trip to South Africa where he was painting endangered animals, when he began to learn about about bees and the grave implications of colony collapse disorder. He immediately set out to paint a series of murals incorporating bees on walls around London in May of last year, but the endeavor proved wildly popular and has since spread to Bristol, Devon, Glastonbury, Croatia, New York, Miami, and New Orleans. Many of the bee works were done in collaboration with artist Jim Vision, including pieces in Shoreditch, Bethnal Green, and Hackney.
Michel is currently taking a break from bees to open a show of unrelated artwork at Lollipop Gallery later next month, but plans are in the making for a phase two sometime next year. You can see more of his bee work in this gallery.
We learned about this Michel’s #SavetheBees work through a collaboration between Sony’s #FutureofCities project and photographer Abbie Trayler-Smith who has been documenting urban beekeeping in London. You can read a short interview with her here.
Photo by Abbie Trayler-Smith courtesy Sony’s #FutureofCities
Photo by Abbie Trayler-Smith courtesy Sony’s #FutureofCities
Update: Updated to include information about collaborating artist Jim Vision.
Rio de Janeiro
As part of a new exhibition in Venice that explores the relationship between cities and inhabitants, digital artist and illustrator Istvan (previously) created a series of city maps that seem to bleed into their surroundings. The works aren’t scientific by any means, but are meant as a representation of how cities might affect the local environment. The maps were created digitally and printed on large slabs of acrylic glass for display as part of Contemporary Venice through January 2015. You can see much more over on Behance.
Installed earlier this month on the western coastline of New Providence in Nassau, Bahamas, “Ocean Atlas,” is the lastest underwater sculpture by artist Jason deCaires Taylor (previously), known for his pioneering effort to build submerged sculpture parks in oceans around the world. Taylor’s cement figures are constructed with a sustainable pH-neutral material that encourages the growth of coral and other marine wildlife, effectively forming an artificial reef that draws tourists away from diving hotspots in over-stressed areas.
Towering 18 feet tall and weighing in at more than 60 tons, Ocean Atlas is reportedly the largest sculpture ever deployed underwater. The artwork depicts a local Bahamian girl carrying the weight of the ocean above her in reference to the Ancient Greek myth of Atlas, the primordial Titan who held up the celestial spheres. The piece was commissioned by B.R.E.E.F (Bahamas Reef Environment Educational Foundation), as part of an ongoing effort to build an underwater sculpture garden in honor of its founder, Sir Nicholas Nuttal. You can see a bit more over on Atlas Obscura and at the Creator’s Project, who are working on a documentary about the piece.
Update: Creator’s Project just published their coverage of Ocean Atlas.