In lunar astronomy, a phenomenon known as libration is the perception that the moon is wavering or swaying in the sky when viewed from Earth. Astrophotographer Andrew McCarthy (previously) wanted to record this fascinating occurrence in high resolution to emphasize the changes in light and contrast across the vast and cratered lunar surface.
For nearly a month, he traveled around the state of Arizona in search of clear skies, dodging bad weather and a dust storm to capture clear images of the moon as it reached its zenith every night. In total, more than two million individual photographs comprise the final timelapse, and each full image in the animation includes between 30,000 and 200,000 image files. A print edition is also available on his website and highlights different features through each phase as the celestial body waxes and wanes.
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Following her series centered around the healing properties of Prussian blue, Portland-based artist Yellena James continues to imagine vibrant ecosystems brimming with fantastical life from land and sea. Her delicate organisms appear to float in washes of pastel colors and evoke coral, kelp, and daisies with an unearthly and whimsical twist.
Recently on view at Stephanie Chefas Projects, James’s Origin series works in this vein and explores the most fundamental aspects of existence. “I attempt to capture the instance of inception and freeze it as though pressing pause in the middle of a chemical reaction, and I wonder if these lifeforms are forced into existence by their own needs and desires or the needs and desires of the forces themselves,” she says. Vivid and full of patterned textures rendered in a mix of acrylic, gouache, and ink, the pieces are alluring interpretations of organisms in the midst of change.
James is currently at work on a variety of projects across painting, illustration, and ceramics, and you can follow her latest projects on her site and Instagram. She also sells prints, cards, and other goods on Etsy.
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Asheville-based artist Judit Just of jujujust (previously) transforms twisted ropes, skeins of cotton, and plush, carpet-like tufts into roving, abstract tapestries. Suspended from skinny wooden dowels painted to match their hanging counterparts, the sculptural textiles tend to swell in amorphous patches and curved lines before falling into thick patches of fringe. Just’s color palettes parallel the contrast in textures, with soft, pastel tones alongside bright, neon-like hues.
The artist is currently working on a large-scale tapestry for Culture Object, which opens on May 10 at Culture Object, and plans to release new pieces in her shop this Friday. See more of her process on Instagram.
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Giant striped characters, the world’s first inflatable fountain, and a mass of towering arches occupy the otherworldly installations designed by ENESS. The Melbourne-based studio creates immersive worlds of whimsical creatures and puffy, illuminated structures that spring from the ground. Often paired with upbeat soundscapes and interactive elements like squirting water and digital eyeballs, the air-filled sculptures are arranged as wonderlands of light and color that at night, bathe the viewer in a kaleidoscopic glow of LED bulbs.
ENESS’s “Cupid’s Koi Garden” (shown below) is on view from April 12 to August 21 alongside 14 artists as part of Pop Air, a collaborative exhibition between La Villette and Balloon Museum, that occupies more than 5,000-square-meters of the Grande Halle in Paris. Follow where the studio’s radiant inflatables are traveling next on Instagram.
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Through intricately woven displays of minuscule glass beads and rhinestones, Big Chief Demond Melancon continues a legacy. He belongs to the tribe of the Young Seminole Hunters in New Orleans, where he was born and raised, and is a leader in the tradition of creating Mardi Gras suits. The “wearable sculptures” are elaborate and celebratory, and Melancon’s works are known for their immense nature and for exhibiting his deft technical skill. Extremely labor-intensive, the garments tend to envelop their wearer in multiple layers and contain more than one million glass beads precisely stitched into evocative narratives of American history.
For nearly three decades, Melancon has also developed a unique visual language that is both entrenched in the 250-year tradition and working to expand the scope of the practice. “The elders, the Indians, and the Black maskers that masked before me, they never saw this as a contemporary art form in the way that I do,” he tells Colossal. “To me, the elders are watching me, and I think what they taught me is different from what I’ve evolved it into.”
Often encircled by feathers, many of Melancon’s suits revolve around portraits of reggae icons, people who were enslaved and subsequently led revolts, and Mardi Gras Indian Big Chiefs who came before him. He’s also started to separate these figurative elements from their more comprehensive counterparts in recent years and has produced an extensive series of standalone portraits. The ongoing collection includes people who have been influential in his life and who have broad cultural relevance, including artists like Basquiat and Frida Khalo, ancient Egyptian queen Nefertari, and Breonna Taylor, a 26-year-old Black woman killed by police in 2020. “I like to teach with my work, and I want to make something that’s very meaningful,” he says. “It’s going to tell you something. It’s going to hit you in your heart.”
Sometimes years in the making, Melancon’s portraits exemplify his commitment to transforming the small, tactile materials into compositions evocative of painting. He references artists like Kerry James Marshall (previously) and Kehinde Wiley (previously) as inspiration and is equally drawn to those working today as he is to the art historical canon. His style emerged “through studying Botticelli and Caravaggio. I like the light in the old-school paintings, in the Florentine art, in the art from the 1700s.”
Beginning with a black-and-white sketch, Melancon always completes his subjects’ eyes first to “try to bring people back to the living stage with the portraits… so they can live, and they can look at me while I’m beading the rest of the piece.” For the artist, this spirited energy and sense of vitality are directly derived from his bold color palettes that compose a floral blouse or radiant, crown-like headdress.
Although Melancon didn’t mask for this year’s Mardi Gras—instead, he helped garner grants for those participating in the festival through his work on the New Orleans Tourism and Cultural Fund board—he’s currently in progress on a suit titled “Amistad,” in reference to the historic 1839 revolt on the slave ship by the same name. He also plans to continue his portrait series and will see “Say Her Name,” the striking rendering of Taylor acquired by the International African American Museum, on view at the institution when it opens this fall in South Carolina. It’s one of many works that Melancon sees as part of his duty to pass down stories to future generations and teach them about those who’ve profoundly shaped the world today. “That’s another piece that I think in this time very important,” he shares. “People should remember her situation, and that’s why I bead.”
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Packed within Rain Szeto’s introspective works are untidy kitchens, cluttered market shelves, and mechanical disarray. The San Francisco-based illustrator finds magic in the mess and chaos of everyday life and imagines solitary activities like hanging laundry on the line or browsing record bins. Dreamy in color, the pieces exude a sense of calm and nostalgia for quiet moments.
Each work is replete with colorful objects stacked and assembled into tight spaces, a style Szeto developed drawing comics in art school. “These details range from technical details, such as electrical mechanisms or a lamp design, to more personal quirks, such as how someone might arrange their garden or a particular plastic stool they might use,” she tells Colossal. “I try to give them a sense of specificity that makes it feel as though these places could really exist.”
Szeto is currently working on pieces for a few upcoming group shows at Giant Robot in Los Angeles, and you can find prints and more of her detailed illustrations on her site and Instagram. (via Booooooom)
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Editor's Picks: Design
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