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Clara Holt Reimagines Ancient Myths and Decorative Traditions in Vivid Ceramic Vessels
Drawing on the long history of Mediterranean ceramics, Italian artist Clara Holt covers the surfaces of vessels, tiles, and tablets with playful, colorful narratives. Inspired by the region’s ancient decorative pottery like the Minoan octopus flask or Greek and Etruscan vase painting, she illustrates references to mythology, nature, customs, and folklore.
As a child, Holt’s grandparents told stories of Greek heroes and monsters, and she devoured books about the ancient gods and legends. “Mythology fascinated me because it was like a bridge that could connect our present with a dimension far away in time—a time so far away that it could only be told with a dose of fantastic storytelling,” she says. As she grew older, her interests expanded to Nordic lore and the Old Norse sagas. Today, she borrows imagery and motifs from the timeless tales, recontextualizing them into mysterious narratives.
Employing a traditional Italian pottery decoration technique called sgraffito, meaning “scratched,” Holt carefully incises shallow cuts out of the smooth surface of a glazed pot, revealing the outlines of figures, animals, plants, and landscapes. In her series Terracotta Blues, the characters exist within an undefined story that circle around tall earthenware vases, creating “dreamlike scenes and imaginary characters that leave room for interpretation.”
In addition to pots and vases, Holt makes two-dimensional ceramic tiles and panels, and she is currently preparing a new series for an exhibition in Iceland in June. Find more work on her website where she also has pieces available her in her shop, and follow updates on Instagram.
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Vivid Photographs by Cari Letelier Follow the Aurora Borealis Across Iceland’s Night Sky
During the last couple days in February, a series of impressive solar storms sent the aurora borealis as far as California and Western Australia. The lights were particularly brilliant in northern places like Scotland and Iceland where the long winter nights provide ample darkness as a backdrop to the waving illuminations. Chile-based photographer Cari Letelier took advantage of Iceland’s position just a few degrees south of the Arctic Circle to capture vibrant images of the auroras as they traversed the skies above waterfalls, icy expanses, and the Arctic Henge.
The northern lights result from enormous solar events in which the sun emits energized particles that slam into Earth’s upper atmosphere at speeds of up to 45 million miles per hour. Earth’s protective magnetic field redirects the particles toward the poles in a process that produces spectacular light shows. Letelier had been to Iceland once in 2019, but didn’t have much luck finding the phenomena, sharing that when she reached the Arctic Henge, “it was so cloudy and snowing, I told myself, ‘I have to come back and catch this place with the aurora.'”
This time, when she and a fellow photographer learned that there would be a solar flare that was likely to produce a spectacle, they made the seven-hour journey from the southern part of the island in search of sightings and captured some incredible images. “I had to make a decision whether to take the photo or to enjoy the show making mental captures,” she says. “As I wanted to make both, I set my camera to shoot photos for a timelapse while I was watching at the sky.”
Find more of Letelier’s work on her website and Instagram.
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Art Documentary History
Duct Tape and Dreams: The Wild History of SFMOMA’s Famous Soapbox Derby
Art can have many purposes—to be beautiful, to teach, to make us feel—but sometimes, art is just for fun. Such is the case for SFMOMA’s Soapbox Derby, a raucously creative race that sent dozens of artist-designed cars barreling through the streets of San Francisco in 1975, 1978, and again last April.
The idea originated with Bay Area sculptor Fletcher Benton (1931-2019) back in the 70s when he proposed that the museum commission a competition to make art fun and accessible to the public and to provide local artists with funding. SFMOMA agreed to the project, and more than 90 artists were tasked with designing racers and trophies. Rules stipulated that the cars “must coast, that they must not exceed the dimensions of six feet in width and seventeen feet in length, (and) that the vehicle contains an adequate steering and braking system.” Plus, the works should be cost-effective, and the museum offered $100 per car and $35 for trophies.
Thousands of viewers lined the 800-foot winding slope of McLaren Park’s Shelley Drive to watch artists like Ruth Asawa, Carlos Vila, and the collective known as Ant Farm compete. Racers were varied in subject matter and material and included vehicles shaped like bananas, sneakers, enormous hands, and a yellow No. 2 pencil, the latter of which was built by Richard Shaw, the winner in the “Fastest Looking” category of the legendary 1975 competition and the only alum in the 2022 revival.
Shaw features in “Duct Tape and Dreams,” a short documentary produced by SFMOMA and Stink Studios about last year’s event that follows artists as they construct their cars and sail down the hill. After studio visits and glimpses into the construction processes, race day is a riotous, high-energy event that sees a range of mishaps and successful descents for designs like Windy Chien’s rope dome (previously), a googly-eyed backhoe by Girl’s Garage and “Succulent Sally,” a car covered in native plants made by a team of the city’s gardeners.
Capturing the streets lined with spectators, the documentary is a reminder of what life was like before digital connection became ubiquitous and that art can be both playful and foster meaningful connection. “Art is not just in a white cube,” writes Tomoko Kanamitsu about the derby. “It can be a car made of bread that disintegrates halfway down a hill on Shelley Drive. Art can be anywhere and everywhere.”
SFMOMA hasn’t yet announced plans to host another iteration, but you can brush up on your derby history by watching “Duct Tape and Dreams” and diving into the photo archive in the meantime.
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Miniature Figures Carved in Wood Cradle Colorful Silk Lace in Ágnes Herczeg’s Tender Sculptures
Delicate silk threads laced around tiny wooden armatures compose intricate scenes in Ágnes Herczeg’s sculptures. Using branches from fruit trees like wild cherry or pear or foraged driftwood from the banks of the Danube River near where she lives, the Hungary-based artist (previously) meticulously carves the gentle curves of figures, animals, and domestic objects to tell stories about home, traditions, and daily life.
Throughout the past year, Herczeg has focused on woodcarving, enjoying the process as she learns along the way. “I really tried to make as thin and intricate pieces as I can by hand… I really love this process,” she says, sharing that the details provide “even more opportunities to show new stories and compositions.”
Find more on Herczeg’s website, where she also regularly updates her shop with available pieces, and you can follow her work on Instagram.
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The Other Art Fair Returns to Chicago Featuring More Than 100 Artists
The Other Art Fair is set to return to Chicago from April 27 to 30, showcasing its annual weekend of independent art, workshops, and community-driven exhibitions.
The fair’s signature series has been running since 2011 with local editions held in London, Los Angeles, New York, Dallas, and Sydney. Presented by Saatchi Art, The Other Art Fair aims to break down the stuffy and tired gallery art scene, making the art marketplace accessible to both independent artists and local communities. Each fair features more than 100 independent and emerging artists and offers art at nearly every price point. It also combines art with live performances, immersive installations, food trucks from popular local vendors, and a bar, creating a lively neighborhood open house art party atmosphere rather than the typical expos.
The Other Art Fair runs from Thursday to Sunday and offers a unique vibe each day. On Thursday, opening night attracts the fair’s loyal community members, serious art buyers, and collectors who want to get a first look at the art before the weekend crowds arrive. Friday is known for the late-night party, which features local DJs, a bustling bar scene, and the fashion-forward art community coming out to play. Saturday is probably the busiest day, with weekend warriors scouring for artwork fueled by local coffee trucks and city dwellers meandering through for some casual late-afternoon shopping and cocktails at the bar. On Sunday, there’s something for everyone, from groups getting post-brunch steps in to the stroller set and solo fair-goers looking to get lost in unique art for the day. With four days of the fair, there is something for everyone, no matter what your scene is.
The fifth edition in Chicago features 102 artists with an even mix of popular local Chicago artists, artists from around the globe, and female and BIPOC artists—among whom 60 percent are showing at the fair for the first time. Confirmed exhibitions include CUT, COPY, PASTE from All Star Press Chicago and When I Think of Home from Pigment International. Additionally, fair-goers can participate in Chicago Collage community workshops. There are always surprises on-site and last-minute additions, so follow @theotherartfair on Instagram to stay updated.
The Other Art Fair Chicago takes place April 27 to 30 at Artifact Events in Ravenswood. Weekend tickets start at $15.
Learn more at theotherartfair.com.
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Jukhee Kwon Revives Abandoned Books in Elaborate Paper Sculptures and Installations
In elaborate sculptures that range from a few inches to several feet, South Korean artist Jukhee Kwon explores the duality of destruction and recreation to give new life to abandoned books. Painstakingly manipulating old tomes by hand, she constructs intricate tendrils and chains of paper still attached to the spines, cutting between the lines so that the text remains legible and merges into new narratives.
Currently based in Italy, Kwon finds books published in Italian like Guerra e Pace—or War and Peace—to provide the starting point for her work. In others, the title of the book is obscured completely by loops and curls of paper. The artist repetitively twists, ruffles, weaves, or links the pages, creating a variety of meshes and draping forms that cascade from the binding and vary greatly from one piece to the next. In “Meditation,” she incorporates the craft tradition of jong-i jeobi, the Korean word for origami, and the original marker ribbon provides a focal point in “Red Circle Book.”
Kwon suggests there are numerous ways to comprehend what we see. A flower could also be a medallion; a series of curtain-like columns mimics waterfalls; and woven webs form baskets or provide the shelter of nests. Paralleling the way great writing contains multiple layers of meaning, the artist is interested in exploring different interpretations, visualizing how thoughts and experiences metaphorically unfurl and blossom.
If you’re in London, you can explore Kwon’s solo exhibition Liberated at October Gallery through April 22, and follow her on Instagram for updates.
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Editor's Picks: Animation
Highlights below. For the full collection click here.