In collaboration with master beekeeper Mylee Nordin and swarms of the honey-producing insects, artist Ava Roth develops elaborate encaustic works that literally visualize the interaction between humans and the environment. The Toronto-based artist stitches small collages with leaves, twigs, rose quartz, porcupine quills, and other organic matter before handing control over to her six-legged counterparts, who faithfully build hexagonal cells around the original piece. Once complete, the waxy inter-species works are brimming with texture and color variances that highlight the inherent beauty and unpredictability of nature.
Whereas previous iterations of Roth’s embroideries used stock hoops at the center, she now enlists the help of woodworker Bernoel Dela Vega, who custom-makes inner and outer frames in the same dimensions that are typical in Langstroth hives. “Each piece requires some kind of border that separates my work from the bees’ work,” she says. “This (change) has allowed me to experiment with different sizes and shapes and has helped to make every aspect of my work hand (or bee) crafted.”
Roth tells Colossal that although it’s possible to manipulate the hive conditions to produce a 3D honeycomb or work with artificial elements, she creates self-imposed limits to use only organic materials and engender environments that mimic those bees would gravitate toward naturally. She explains:
I recognize that Langstroth hives are not a natural habitat for bees, but neither are most of the spaces that humans find themselves occupying right now. Ultimately, this project is about exploring the ways in which humans collide with the natural environment today and finding ways to make making something beautiful from this specific time and place. This means working in cities, in manufactured hives, in the midst of enormous environmental and political despair.
Roth will be pulling multiple pieces from her hives in the next few weeks, and you can follow that progress on Instagram. She also has a few works on paper currently available at Wallspace Gallery in Ottawa.
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Launched in Detroit This Summer, A Black-Led Mural Festival Wants to Revitalize Neighborhoods with Public Art
Murals have long been associated with placemaking because of their unparalleled ability to transform underutilized corridors and city stretches into spaces primed for cultural gatherings, tourism, and subsequently, economic growth. This revitalizing potential is what drives a biannual festival that launched in Detroit earlier this summer as it dramatically altered the urban landscape of the city’s central North End neighborhood.
Back in July, BLKOUT Walls saw the work of 19 muralists produced across the area, which was once regarded as an entertainment hub that produced famed Motown talents like including Smokey Robinson, Diana Ross, the Four Tops, and Aretha Franklin. Participating were visiting artists like Sentrock (previously) and Detroit natives like Tylonn J. Sawyer, Bakpak Durden, and Sydney James, who co-founded the festival with Chicago’s Max Sansing (previously) and Thomas Evans, aka Detour 303.
The resulting works span a range of themes and styles from Sansing’s sprawling technicolor creations to Tony Whgln’s whimsical botanicals to James’s contemporary twist on “Girl with the Pearl Earring,” which turns the iconic Vermeer into a subversive portrait of artist Halima Cassells. Swapping the white gem for a large “D” and cloaking her garment in patches, James’s revision is an homage to Detroit and its people.
Whereas other festivals don’t always prioritize racial diversity or pay their artists, organizers wanted to bake those tenets into BLKOUT Walls’s mission. The Black-led event prioritizes artists of color with the idea of “mirroring the demographics of the city of Detroit and thereby creating a cohort of artists representing equity and inclusion,” a statement says. Beyond representation, though, organizers also recognize the necessity of monetary support as key to lasting change, which James explains:
As an artist, I understand the importance of being paid for my experience and ability, especially as artists are often treated like we are supposed to work for free. What we do as public artists brings economic value to the area as economic development tends to follow, so it is imperative that we be compensated for not only the work we do but also the impact we have on the community and economy.
In addition to rejuvenating the area, BLKOUT Walls was designed for public engagement, with the weeklong festival schedule packed with live painting sessions, talks, walking tours, and a block party to celebrate its close. On the final day alone, it attracted more than 8,000 visitors, a testament to its power to draw patrons to nearby establishments and have a reverberating impact on the local economy.
Now having completed the inaugural event, co-organizer Che Anderson tells Colossal that the team envisions BLKOUT Walls traveling to cities like Chicago, Oakland, Memphis, Boston, Atlanta, and Charleston. “Our intent is to have a biannual festival in Detroit like a family reunion. In between those events, we’d like to host a festival somewhere else in the world to engage other Black communities,” he says.
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Hanging from the ceiling like candy-colored droplets, the paper-pulp mobiles by Yuko Nishikawa turn a stark gallery into a whimsical dreamscape. The Brooklyn-based artist fashions wide, sloping vessels and punctured rings from recycled packages, old diaries, sketches, and other waste materials, forming individual pods that attach to sprawling metal armature. Ephemeral in material and design, each piece is created with the intention that it will be unassembled and reverted back to its muddled form for resculpting.
With a background in ceramics, Nishikawa switched to paper last year because it’s lightweight, doesn’t require firing in electricity-dependent kilns, and is more durable once dry. The pastels and subtle hues she gravitates toward are inspired by the natural pigments of wool yarn, although she likens her process to mixing paints, saying:
I blended blue paper pulp and red paper pulp, and a bit of yellow paper pulp to make a muted purple paper clay. I combined them at their different blended stages, too ,to make varying textures and color effects. Mushy pulps would make homogeneous colors, while crumbly pulps would have a stippled effect. Finely blended pulps would become a smoother surface when dry, while coarser pulps would become bumpier like oatmeal cookies.
Designed as an invitation to imagine new ways of finding joy, Nishikawa’s works all derive from the idea of piku piku, “a Japanese onomatopoeia that describes involuntary movements caused by unexpected contact,” she writes. “I want my work to make you feel piku piku, tickling something deep down inside you.”
This fall, Nishikawa will open a solo show at Kishka Gallery & Library in White River Junction, Vermont, and will also have work at Main Window Dumbo. Some of her mobiles are currently available through Room68, where she’ll present a new collection later this year. Until then, see more of her pieces and works-in-progress on Instagram.
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Interview: Sara Hagale Discusses the Therapeutic Nature of Her Practice and Why She Doesn't Think About Authenticity
Considering their undeniable relatability, it’s no surprise that Sara Hagale’s witty, whimsical, and at times anxious drawings have amassed an incredible following in recent years, a topic she speaks to in a new interview supported by Colossal Members. Her body of work is broad and idiosyncratic, spanning fanciful bouquets of leggy flowers to smudged self-portraits to quirky characters struggling through life, and it offers an array of emotional and aesthetic nuances that are unique to the artist.
I don’t have to feel goofy all the time in order to still be me. And I’m allowed to draw something that feels right to me in that moment even if it doesn’t match up perfectly with the other work I produce.
In a conversation with Colossal managing editor Grace Ebert, Hagale discusses using her practice to process her emotions in real-time, the impossibility of authenticity, and why she prefers to work with limitations.
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Entangled Figures Grasp a Small Footbridge Above a Philadelphia Street in Miguel Horn's New Installation
Clinging to a concrete footbridge in Philadelphia are two groups of figures in tangled clusters. The striking installation is attached to a 20-foot walkway arched over 1200 Cuthbert Street in City Center and is the latest work of artist Miguel Horn, who is known for his fragmented sculptures and large-scale installations comprised of CNC-cut plates. Each of the forms in “ContraFuerte” features topographic layers constructed with thousands of stacked aluminum pieces—Horn shares much of his process from initial sketches to clay prototypes on Instagram—which fuse together to create figures that appear in the midst of struggle. Similar to the artist’s previous works that directly respond to their location, the oversized piece is designed to “grapple with the task to sustain, or raise up a bridge that spans the width of the street,” Horn says. (via Streets Dept)
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Geometric Shapes and Three-Dimensional Illusions Disrupt Existing Architecture in Peeta's Anamorphic Murals
Italian artist Peeta (previously) uses the interplay between shadow and light to turn flat, monochromatic planes into deceptive three-dimensional murals. His large-scale works sever residences and public buildings with curved ribbons, angular shapes, and geometric blocks of color that appear to jump out from or be built directly into the existing architecture. Spanning locations across Europe, the spray-painted works shown here are some of the most recent additions to Peeta’s extensive archive of abstracted illusions, which shift in perspective depending on the viewer’s positions.
In September, the prolific artist will travel to Fidenza Village in Fidenza, Italy, for his next project, and you can follow progress on that piece on Instagram. Until then, check out his shop for prints, posters, and the sprawling fragmented sculptures that inform his murals.
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Editor's Picks: Art
Highlights below. For the full collection click here.