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)
With origins that date back as far as the Tang Dynasty (around the year ~700), the Chinese craft of Dongyang wood carving is regarded by many to be one of the most elegant forms of relief carving in the world. The craft is still practiced in a few workshops in the region of Dongyang, China, and most commonly appears as ornate decoration on ‘everyday’ objects such as cases, cabinets, stools, desks and tables.
Perhaps the most ambitious manifestation of Dongyang wood carving is seen on enormous mural-like panels intended to be hung as artwork as seen here. You can see a few more examples via Lustik, Orientally Yours, Michael Lai, and XDYMD.COM
Spanish artist Manolo Garcia constructs towering replicas of renaissance-era sculptures, portraits, animals, and other decorative objects from his expansive workshop in Valencia, Spain. Garcia refers to his practice as ‘artistic carpentry’ and by looking at process photos of the studio’s work, that seems like a fair descriptor. Most of the set pieces, monuments, and sculptures built by Garcia begin with strips of wood that are applied to large architectural armature. The objects are usually so large they are first built in pieces and later assembled on-site.
Last March, Garcia participated in the annual Las Fallas (Fire Festival) in Valencia where a series of large artworks are set on fire at night as part of a Burning Man-esque spectacle. To be fair, the Fallas festivals in their current format pre-date the popular Nevada festival by about 44 years, and may have originated as far back as the Middle Ages.
Containing over 400 precisely machined gears, screws, and aesthetic elements, Derek Hugger’s latest kinetic sculpture Colibri mimics the motion of a hummingbird in flight. Though the motions of flying are unmistakable, the piece has much more in common with a clock than a bird. He shares about the piece:
Every element of motion has been completely mechanized, from the beating wings to the flaring tail. Intricate systems of linkages and cams bring the sculpture to life with a continuous flow of meticulously timed articulations. As each mechanism has been linked to the next, Colibri cycles through its complete range of motions by the simple turn of a crank. This project took me roughly 700 hours and contains about 400 parts.
You can see many more of his moving artworks on his website, and in a refreshingly rare move he also sells detailed instructions of how to make them in his shop. (via The Automata Blog)
The soothing sounds of nature have never been easier to hear after a group of interior architecture students from the Estonian Academy of Arts decided to infiltrate a nearby forest with three giant wooden microphones. The sound-amplifying installation is near RMK’s pähni nature centre, an area where one can currently rest within the grooves of one of three megaphones to intently listen to the detailed rustling of leaves or chirping of birds both near and far.
Valdur Mikita, a writer who has often covered the way Estonian culture is tied to the 51% of forests that comprise it said, “It’s a place to listen, to browse the audible book of nature – there hasn’t really been a place like that in Estonia before.”
According to interior architect Hannes Praks the three-metre diameter megaphones will act as a “bandstand” for the environment around it. “We’ll be placing the three megaphones at such a distance and at a suitable angle, so at the centre of the installation, sound feed from all three directions should create a unique merged surround sound effect,” said Praks.
The structures will not only be available for solo meditation, but also serve as stages for intimate events and protective structures for spending the night in the woods—which in this forest you can do for free. (via Mental Floss)
This immersive site-specific installation by artist Jonathan Latiano (previously) depicts the fate of China’s famous Baji dolphins rendered in driftwood flying through a gallery at the Baltimore Museum of Art. To create the immersive installation Latiano collected bleached and mangled wood from local rivers which he used to form a procession of skeletons. The bony structures materialize from a stack of logs in one corner before gradually dissolving back into component pieces in the other.
Freshwater Baji dolphins (dubbed the “Goddess of the Yangtze”) were once a thriving part of the Yangtze River ecosystem in China, but are now largely assumed to be extinct. The last known member of the species died in captivity back in 2002.
The pieces that I create contrast abstracted human intuition with the reality of our natural environment. I strive to emphasize the areas that exist in‐between the boundaries of defined regions. My work, in many ways, is my own personal attempt to understand my place in the physical universe. I find the poeticism and concepts of the natural universe simultaneously fascinating, beautiful and unsettling. Many of the areas and theories of science that appeal to me, particularly ones that deal with vast expanses of space and time, are so complex that the only way I can truly wrap my head around them is to abstract them. It is through my artwork that I interpret, contemplate and fine-tune these scientific theories and notions on both a universal and personal level.