In Daniel Shipp's series Botanical Inquiry, the Sydney-based photographer explores how plants and flowers found at the edges of urban infrastructure fit into our modern world. Shipp collects seemingly unremarkable plants and photographs the subjects in built dioramas, an environment that allows him to manipulate the relationship between foreground and background with a controlled precision. Through this process he is able to create dramatic photographs in-camera, shooting digitally but using old visual effects techniques developed for early cinema.
By highlighting botanical specimens we have culturally labeled “weeds,” Shipp attempts to shift the viewer’s perspective on flora that they might walk past each day. He recasts these marginal plants as the subject of each of his photographic stories, showcasing their knack for survival even in the face of pollution and harmful human intervention.
“There are some beautiful ‘weeds’ that we might walk past all the time,” Shipp explains to Colossal. “I knew that if I could present these often unnoticed plants in the right context that there was potential for storytelling. Next time you go for a walk make an effort to look for plants in places you wouldn’t normally—shopping center carparks, service stations etc.”
Shipp further explained that one of the most beautiful colors he has photographed for the series was found on the underside of the foliage of a plant common to industrial parks across Sydney. The hidden purple was one of the most incredible metallic shades he had ever seen, and it had been sneakily surrounding him for the majority of his life.
Shipp was recently announced as the winner of Magnum and LensCulture's 2017 Fine Art Photo Award. You can see more of his photographs on his website and Instagram, and take a behind-the-scenes look at his Botanical Inquiry series in the short video below. (via This Isn’t Happiness)
Share this story
Working at 1:20 scale, artist Joshua Smith builds in-depth works that capture the layered existences of urban environments in cities such as Hong Kong, Sydney, and Los Angeles. His miniature buildings showcase the details and detritus left by the diverse population of each city, bringing in elements of the city’s workers, inhabitants, and street artists. These marks can be seen through heavily graffitied exteriors, and thoughtful additions like a small table on the roof of one building with takeout food from the tiny Chinese restaurant below.
Smith has been working on this series for the last two years, after stints as both a stencil artist and gallerist. Using several reference photos from a building’s actual site, he utilizes MDF, cardboard, and plastic to create the base of the work, and chooses paint and chalk pastels for the exterior’s details. Smith’s newest four-story work took him three months to complete, often working 8-16 hours a day.
The Australian artist recently exhibited his miniature buildings with Muriel Guepin Gallery at VOLTA Art Fair in New York City from March 1-5. You can see more of his work on his Instagram and Facebook. (via My Modern Met)
Share this story
Hyperrealist painter Kevin Peterson paints fairytale-like interactions of children and wolves, birds, and bears in scenes much different than the pastoral worlds of storybooks. Instead Peterson places the unlikely packs in distressed cities filled with decaying buildings and urban detritus. Despite the worn surroundings, the young girls in the paintings maintain a sense of innocence while they bravely explore the streets with their powerful compatriots.
“My work is about the varied journeys that we take through life,” explains Peterson in his artist statement. “It’s about growing up and living in a world that is broken. These paintings are about trauma, fear and loneliness and the strength that it takes to survive and thrive. They each contain the contrast of the untainted, young and innocent against a backdrop of a worn, ragged, and defiled world.”
The Houston-based artist studied at Austin College in Sherman, Texas where he received his BFA in 2001. Peterson is represented by Thinkspace Gallery in Culver City, California. You can see more of his work on their website and his Instagram. (via This Isn’t Happiness, Faith is Torment)
Share this story
Installed to beautify the space of Vallero Square in Jerusalem, these four interactive flowers bloom and close in a fluid response to the pedestrians that pass underneath their red, over-sized petals. Designed by HQ Architects, the public sculptures are 30-feet tall and dwarf those who choose to walk beneath and around their gargantuan motion-activated blooms.
Depending on the season or time of day, the flowers provide light or shade—a welcomed resource to passengers exiting the nearby tram. When no one is around, the flowers gradually wilt by deflating and effectively ‘closing’ their petals to the city around them.
Share this story
Last November, florist Lisa Waud went to a public auction and purchased an abandoned house in Detroit, Michigan—sight unseen. Crumbling and condemned, the aging duplex was filled knee-high with trash, broken bottles, and even a dead dog. Her winning bid: $250. But Waud had a vision. She planned to invite florists from Michigan, Ohio, New York and Canada to fill the house with a temporary art installation of 36,000 flowers. This morning, Flower House opens to the public.
After a year of planning and three days of solid labor from dozens of volunteers, Flower House now contains room after room of independant flower designs and installations that flow together to create an immersive blooming environment. The piece is part art installation, part memorial to Detroit’s history, and an effort in sustainability and responsibility to American-grown flower farms.
Waud estimated the entire endeavor may cost up to $150,000 but when flower suppliers California Cut Flower Commission, Mayesh and Nordlie learned of her plans, all three offered to donate their flowers.
Flower House will be opened to ticketed visitors from Friday until Sunday. When the installation is finished, Reclaim Detroit will demolish the house, leaving only an empty field. Materials taken from the structure will be repurposed into new objects like cutting boards, guitars, and tables. Waud intends to then utilize the land as seasonal farm to help supply flowers like dahlias and peonies for her floral business Pot & Box.
Share this story
From 1975-1980 Activist Adam Purple Built a Circular Urban Garden in New York that ‘Knocked Down’ the Surrounding Buildings
In 1975, artist and social activist Adam Purple, known for his permanent purple attire, looked out his window in the crime-ridden Lower East Side of New York City to witness two children playing in a pile of rubble. Struck by his own memories of a childhood spent barefoot in rural pastures and forests in Missouri, he suddenly wished these children could feel the dirt beneath their own feet in a safe, debris-free environment. Almost immediately he began work on the Garden of Eden.
Over period of five years, Purple worked continuously to build a concentric garden that would eventually grow to 15,000 square feet. As nearby abandoned structures were torn down the garden continued to grow, a process he metaphorically likened to a garden that knocked down the buildings around it. He physically hauled bricks and building materials away from the site, and hauled in manure from the horses in Central Park.
The Garden of Eden not only provided safe haven to the community, but also produced food in the form of corn, berries, tomatoes, and cucumbers. By the early 80s it had become a famous and beloved landmark in the Lower East Side.
Unfortunately the city of New York never officially recognized Purple’s garden. While other local parks were clearly marked on official city maps, the Garden of Eden space was always labeled as ‘vacant’. Despite pleas from the community, the entire garden was razed with bulldozers in just 75 minutes on January 8, 1986 to make way for development.
Purple himself narrates his story in this thoughtful video by Harvey Wang and Amy Brost from back in 2011. Sadly, he died two weeks ago at the age of 84, and there is currently a fund-raising effort to collect money for his burial and to erect a memorial near 184 Forsyth Street where the garden once stood.
You can see more photos and read more about Purple in this book, also by Wang & Brost.
Share this story
Housed in the former home of the 10-story International Shoe Company, the sprawling 600,000 square-foot City Museum in St. Louis is quite possibly the ultimate urban playground ever constructed. The museum is the brainchild of artist and sculptor Bob Cassilly who opened the space in 1997 after years of renovation and construction. Although Cassilly passed away in 2011, the museum is perpetually under construction as new features are added or improved thanks to a ragtag group of 20 artists known affectionately as the Cassilly Crew.
So what can you find at the City Museum? How about a sky-high jungle gym making use of two repurposed airplanes, two towering 10-story slides and numerous multi-floor slides, a rooftop Ferris wheel and a cantilevered school bus that juts out from the roof, subterranean caves, a pipe organ, hundreds of feet of tunnels that traverse from floor to floor, an aquarium, ball pits, a shoe lace factory, a circus arts facility, restaurants, and even a bar… because why not? All the materials used to build the museum including salvaged bridges, old chimneys, construction cranes, and miles of tile are sourced locally, making the entire endeavor a massive recycling project.
If you have kids (or are a kid at heart) and live in the midwestern United States or have any other means to get to St. Louis, if you aren’t immediately planning a trip to City Museum, you’re missing out on life. On my first visit last year our family hardly left the museum for two days. It is the complete antithesis to commercialized theme parks like Disneyland.
Share this story
Editor's Picks: Humor
Highlights below. For the full collection click here.