Unease Emanates from Alexander Harrison’s Painted Portals to an Uncanny World

March 22, 2023

Grace Ebert

A painting of a thorned roots grasping a bare foot and puncturing the skin

“Land of Infinite Wonders” (2023), acrylic on panel, 16 x 12 inches. All images © Alexander Harrison, courtesy of Kasmin, New York, shared with permission

Through small paintings that often stretch less than a foot, artist Alexander Harrison coaxes scenes of both delicate natural beauty and profound unease. Once-fresh flowers wilt and fall, night descends around a decaying tree with a figure trapped inside, and malicious roots entangle a fleeting foot, puncturing the skin with thorns and cuts. Rendered in acrylic on panel with trompe le’oiel elements that add illusory depth to the tiny portals, the works are brimming with intrigue and mystery about what lies beyond the frame.

The pieces shown here were on view at Kasmin earlier this month in Harrison’s solo show Big World,  a title that alludes to the vast unreality from which he imagines his scenes emerging. Supernatural and uncanny, the works contain recognizable symbols that cite art historical and religious references, while the watermelon of “Down in the Mouth,” for example, draws on the long legacy of racist imagery.  “I see my paintings as another dimension, or a universe that feels like a fever dream as shown through my eyes,” Harrison told Kasmin Review. “I always like to have cosmic symbols in my work, like shooting stars and moons, because that creates distance and curiosity, but I also like to create intimacy by painting the roots under the ground.”

Often reflecting on his upbringing in South Carolina, the artist tends to situate Black men at the center of his pieces, considering the way racism proliferates both American history and life today. In addition to the paintings included in Big World, he also recently completed works featuring Black cowboys and their under-acknowledged legacies. Shown as part of a corrective exhibition at the Harwood Museum of Art in Taos, “Beyond the Horizon” similarly relies on caricature and emanates a sinister, foreboding feeling like that of the works shown here.

To view more of the artist’s paintings, visit Kasmin’s site and Instagram.


A painting of a decaying tree wiht an owl perched on a branch and a man's face peering out from the trunk

“Down by The Old Oak” (2023), acrylic on panel, 7 x 5 inches

A painting of a wooden frame around a man's eyes peering through the frame with a slice of watermelon obscuring his full face

“Down in the Mouth” (2023), acrylic on panel, 8 x 10 inches

A painting of an acorn sitting in a thick wood frame with a tiny sunrise visible through the small window

“Hollow Acorn” (2023), acrylic on panel, 4 x 4 inches

A detail photo of a painting of a wooden frame with an acorn and sunrise at the center

Detail of “Hollow Acorn” (2023), acrylic on panel, 4 x 4 inches

A photo of a painting of a wooden frame encircling wilting flowers and a blue nighttime landscape

“Boo-Hoo Flowers” (2023), acrylic on panel, 6 x 6 inches




Art Craft

Kaci Smith Weaves Colorful Patterns into Miniature Looms Fashioned from Wishbones and Branches

March 22, 2023

Kate Mothes

Wishbones woven with colorful thread

All images © Kaci Smith, shared with permission

In autumn of 2020, artist Kaci Smith was faced with a compound dilemma: daily life was still affected by the pandemic while devastating wildfires spread around her home in Northern California. “The air was so filled with smoke that even my studio became off limits,” she says. “The first branch weaving was just a way to pass some time and do something creative while being stuck indoors.” Smith had previously turned to the craft as a calming and meditative complement to her collage and painting practice, so when she began to forage for twigs that she could transform into delicate looms, she was excited about the possibilities and a new challenge.

Weaving colorful weft threads through plain warp threads, Smith’s interventions suspend web-like miniature tapestries in natural frames. Depending on the size of the branch or the complexity of the pattern, a piece can take several days to complete. A few months ago, she was inspired to utilize a leftover wishbone as “a way to honor the turkey that fed my family on Thanksgiving,” she says, and sources additional pieces online as byproducts of the poultry industry. “Even though tapestry is basically ‘painting with yarn,’ you can never rush it. The very nature of it teaches patience, and there is a special rhythm in the repetition.”

Find more of Smith’s work on her website and Instagram.


Wishbones woven with colorful thread

Wishbones woven with colorful thread

Wishbones woven with colorful thread

A branch woven with colorful thread

A wishbone woven with colorful thread

A branch woven with colorful thread.



Design History

Meticulous Flat Lays of Vintage Toys and Miniatures Celebrate the History of Play and Design

March 22, 2023

Grace Ebert

A flat lay photo of miniature toy hands and stickers of hands

All images © Jane Housham, shared with permission

“There’s a feeling I remember which has to do with the seriousness of play, when you were completely absorbed in playing a game with your toys and fully believed in the world you’d created, and it really mattered,” Jane Housham says. “I look longingly back at that imaginative space.”

A writer, artist, and self-described accumulator, Housham continually returns to the engrossing joys of childhood through a vast collection of found objects. Stickers and plastic doll hands, a pantry of non-perishable goods, and a menagerie of animals on wheels are the catalysts for her flat lays. Precisely categorized by color, shape, or theme, each composition highlights the varied styles, functions, and contexts of similar items and becomes a useful and approachable entry into the history of design. “If I’ve acquired a new (to me) little object, that often nudges me to revisit the category it belongs to—a new tiny seahorse or radio will subtly alter the pre-existing set, and the arrangement is always fresh in any case. Seahorses and radios are particular favourites of mine,” she says.


A flat lay photo of miniature red objects

Housham’s mother was a dollhouse enthusiast and passed on her love of miniatures, which inspired the artist to keep a box of treasures as a child that she would frequently sort and arrange. That early experience is the root of her current practice, which is the result of rummaging through massive stores—she estimates there are thousands of objects in her possession at the moment—of vintage toys and tiny items.

Because many of the pieces in her collection are antiques and sourced secondhand, sometimes they’re rusty, scratched, or broken, and a considerable number are made from plastic. Housham adds:

I’m not really interested in new plastic things as I don’t want to encourage the continued spewing out of unnecessary plastic bits and pieces, but I like to save old plastic toys and other secondhand bits and bobs and to celebrate their colours and the ingenuity of their design. Although it’s now understood to be so bad for the world, plastic was a beautiful material in its heyday.

Housham shares a trove of miniature finds and color-coded compositions on her Instagram, Found and Chosen, and sells prints of the flat lays on Etsy. As she amasses more objects and engages with the childhood curiosity and imagination she so deeply values, she does find herself asking one recurring question: “Where will all this collecting end, I wonder?”


A photo of vintage miniature pantry items

A photo of plastic animals on wheels

A photo of vintage pink and blue toys and objects

Four photos of flaty lays featuring miniature animals, figures on bikes, tiny scissors, and cobalt plastic toys

A photo of a shelf of organized vintage objects



Art Design

A Traditional Ukrainian House Outlines a Home Away from Home in Antarctica

March 21, 2023

Kate Mothes

An art installation in Antarctica repurposing a defunct fuel tank into the shape of a Ukrainian rural house

All images © Balbek Bureau, shared with permission. Production supported by Wonder Workshop and Silpo

Off the west coast of the Antarctic Peninsula within an expansive archipelago sits the island of Galindez where the Ukrainian Vernadsky Research Base annually hosts twelve scientists and welcomes more than 4,000 tourists during the summer months. One of the first things visitors encounter is an unsightly, defunct fuel tank perched on the shore that the National Antarctic Research Center wanted to tidy up, so they asked the Kyiv-based architecture studio balbek bureau to envision and repurpose the site into an inviting “home away from home.”

The center commissioned the project in November 2021, three months before Russia invaded Ukraine. Originally scheduled for installation in early 2022, the war forced the firm to postpone until last month, when the piece titled “Home. Memories” was successfully constructed. Conceived as a welcoming sight for resident researchers and travelers, the piece adopted new layers of meaning in the wake of Russia’s aggression, highlighting Ukraine’s distinct culture and history amidst the ongoing assault. balbek bureau’s design is based on a traditional, rural house, incorporating a thin, metal frame around the tank that resembles a pencil sketch, “as if someone, reminiscing, draws their childhood home from memory.”

Along with being a “visual treat” for visitors, the project had significant practical concerns because of its extreme location. The installation had to be easily assembled, resistant to severe weather conditions, and safe for more than 3,500 penguins living on the island— “who love to disassemble constructions into bits used for nests.” The structure had to be able to withstand winds of up to 90 miles per hour, sub-zero temperatures, and around 300 days of precipitation each year.

Complementing the geometry of the outline, a miniature exhibition of resin “time capsules,” or souvenirs from around the country, are on display and include a sample of UNESCO-listed Kosiv painted ceramics, a fragment of an embroidered shirt known as a vyshyvanka, and a lump of coal from the Donetsk region. “We believe that the war will end in our victory, and Ukrainians will create new memories from the safe haven of their home,” shares co-founder Slava Balbek. “And all the way in Antarctica, for researchers and tourists alike, our house will continue to stand strong, a true memento of Ukraine.”

Explore in-depth documentation of the process from start to finish on the studio’s website.


An art installation in Antarctica repurposing a defunct fuel tank into the shape of a Ukrainian rural house

An art installation in Antarctica repurposing a defunct fuel tank into the shape of a Ukrainian rural house

An art installation in Antarctica repurposing a defunct fuel tank into the shape of a Ukrainian rural house

An art installation in Antarctica repurposing a defunct fuel tank into the shape of a Ukrainian rural house

An art installation in Antarctica repurposing a defunct fuel tank into the shape of a Ukrainian rural house

An art installation in Antarctica repurposing a defunct fuel tank into the shape of a Ukrainian rural house

An art installation in Antarctica repurposing a defunct fuel tank into the shape of a Ukrainian rural house

An art installation in Antarctica repurposing a defunct fuel tank into the shape of a Ukrainian rural house    An art installation in Antarctica repurposing a defunct fuel tank into the shape of a Ukrainian rural house




Magic and Myth Arise from Kristin Kwan’s Surreal Oil Paintings

March 21, 2023

Grace Ebert

A painting of a nude woman surrounded by oyester mushrooms, only her shoulders and face visible

“Oyster.” All images © Kristin Kwan, shared with permission

Kristin Kwan coaxes the magic out of nature in her dreamlike oil paintings. Emphasizing a quiet surrealism centered on plants, animals, and Earth’s landscapes, her works draw on allegories, symbolism, and myth. Suffused with fantastical details, each painting begins “devoid of meaning,” Kwan shares, saying that while they reflect her own musings, she hopes the resulting pieces are open-ended. “I like to think of a painting as some kind of communal scaffold or trellis that meaning can grow on, my own alongside viewers,” the artist recently told Beautiful Bizarre, which awarded her the 2022 art prize for “The Golden Afternoon” shown below.

Kwan is currently preparing for two group shows, one in May at Tugboat Gallery in her current city of Lincoln, Nebraska, and another in August at Seattle’s Roq La Rue. She also has a solo show scheduled for December at Nucleus in Los Angeles. For glimpses into her process and studio and to keep up with her latest works, head to Instagram.


A circular painting of a toad with a massively bulging throat sitting on a mushroom


A painting of a cat holding a yellow bird in its mouth and holding up its right paw

“The Magician”

A circular painting of a young woman wrapped in foliage

“You Are Here”

A painting of two young girls, one facing the view and the other with her back to the viewer, their braids intertwined

“Gemini Season”

A painting of a deer wiht its antlers in the clouds


A circular painting of a unicorn lying down in a sea of mushrooms


A painting of a young girl eating a honeycomb with a fiery sun in the backdrop

“The Golden Afternoon”




Clever Illustrations by Nash Weerasekera Highlight Ironies and Anxieties of Everyday Life

March 21, 2023

Kate Mothes

An illustration of a figure painting a silver lining on a cloud

All images © Nash Weerasekera, shared with permission

Influenced by what he describes as a “healthy level of cynicism,” Melbourne-based artist Nash Weerasekera taps into the subtle ironies of everyday life. His digital illustrations often center on seemingly paradoxical circumstances like a figure meditating on top of an overturned car or a young girl in a bathing suit seated on an ice floe. Largely focused on the nature of work, social interactions, and domestic responsibilities, his humorous scenes visualize endless to-do lists, running out of time, or a satirical take on a favorite phrase of optimists everywhere: every cloud has a silver lining.

Weerasekera shares that he “thinks” better on paper, so every piece begins with a physical sketch. His illustration practice stems from a background in street art in his home country of Sri Lanka that blossomed into acrylic painting when he moved to Australia. During pandemic lockdowns when it was a challenge to gather materials, he began to experiment with digital techniques and increasingly collaborates with commercial clients.

Weerasekera is currently illustrating a children’s book, and you can find more of his work on Instagram.


An illustration of a figure with Post-It notes stuck on his face

An illustration of figures walking with umbrellas

An illustration of a figure sitting on an overturned car and meditating

An illustration of a girl in a bathing suit sitting on an ice floe with a penguin, looking at glaciers

An illustration of a tiny figure running around the face of a watch like a race track

An illustration of a figure submerged in a sick full of dishes

An illustration of a tea bag full of pills, steeping in a mug

An illustration of a figure with her mouth open extremely wide

An illustration of a figure whose body has been modulated into shelves